Go negative…or work together?

It is true that a pilot of one type aircraft may not know much about nor (therefore) care much about another type aircraft. Ultralight pilots and turbine pilots may not seem to have much in common. Sailplane pilots and crop dusters, likewise. Powered parachute enthusiasts seem on the opposite side of the spectrum from airline pilots.

Yet, regardless of our interests — or even the country in which we live — pilots as a whole are more alike than different in one critical way: We all love flying and we treasure the freedom and beauty flying can provide. So, why do some aviation groups disparage other groups? Why do fixed wing and rotary wing or powered and unpowered pilots sometimes engage in heated arguments? The reasons are many and as varied as humans are different. Fine … we have to accept that we are different. Yet should editors and aviation leaders act more professionally? I think so.

Recent aviation editorials have questioned the value and viability of Light-Sport Aircraft. Other than to create controversy to boost readership or viewership, I can’t think of a good reason why one editor blasts a group … at least without good cause.

Is the LSA industry in “critical condition?” Can it be true that industry consensus standards “didn’t work?” Based on what information, I have to ask?

I’d like to reply to those naysayers going negative on Light-Sport. I’d specifically like to briefly focus on the safety, utility, and the future of Light-Sport. If you wish to see our response in video form, click here.

SAFETY — Why do we certify aircraft? Why do companies institute quality control? Why do we have detailed documentation of manufacturing processes? All these efforts attempt to bring safety to airplane operations. Are LSA perfectly safe as a result? No. Yet FAA officials repeatedly refer to LSA safety with this word: “Acceptable.” Safety can always be better but to say industry consensus standard “didn’t work” is a wrongheaded value judgement, I believe. Indeed, FAA is sufficiently impressed that ASTM committee F44 formed recently to do for Type Certified aircraft what the F37 committee achieved for Light-Sport. Evidently FAA does not agree that industry consensus standards “didn’t work.”

UTILITY — We will soon post a video about LSA being used in one of the harshest of aviation environments: flight training. We interviewed several producers who cited multiple examples of LSA with 1,500, 3,000, even 4,000 hours and more, all acquired in flight instruction. Some had 10,000 or many more landings yet they’re holding up well (with good maintenance, of course). They also stated that economically, both from operation cost and purchase considerations, LSA make money for flight school operators. In other tough duty, several LSA have successfully circumnavigated the Earth. Obviously, LSA are reasonably durable and can be used to fly long distances.

THE FUTURE — The first LSA came on market less than eight years ago, so it seems a bit soon to say the LSA market “will never be strong.” Did the new segment solve all of aviation’s growth problems? No. Will it, in time? Perhaps not, though maybe. Was that ever a realistic assumption, given that aviation has been working to solve the growth problem for decades?

Meanwhile, the incredible diversity of Light-Sport are offering current pilots a broad variety of choices and have indeed brought new people to aviation. So, rather than going negative about any one class of aircraft, I urge aviation leaders to be the professionals they are and to jointly among all aviation sectors seek solutions for aviation outreach. Throwing darts at one another isn’t what’s needed. Aviators with an audience can — and should — do better, in my humble opinion!

In the interest of fairness and balance, I invite you to read the original Flying article and make your own judgement about the editor’s thoughts. Meanwhile, thanks for considering our view


  1. larry maynard says

    Yeah, what do you expect from an old worn out “spam can” guy? Flying Magazine is all about jets and other high priced airplanes that very few of us could ever afford. Same thing with car magazines that keep doing stories on very expensive cars that very few of their readership could ever dream of owning. I think there is some jealousy in his rantings. Wow, you mean you can actually buy a new airplane for less than $150,000? Has anyone checked out the price for a new C172 lately? The Cessna is an old worn-out design that no self respecting sport pilot would ever fly accept thru necessity. Yet, he and his ilk think that they are wonderful. Go figure.

  2. says

    I’m flying again because of LSA, but not because I rent or bought an SLSA. Like new aircraft throughout my 30+ year flying adventure, they are way too expensive. But the LSA rule lets me fly a re-purposed 2-place “fat” ultralight trainer now registered as an ELSA, with my drivers license as proof of medical fitness.

    Back in my GA days (SEL commercial, instrument) the planes I was able to purchase with after-tax dollars from a non-aviation career salary were well used, 20+ years old, with mid-life TBO rebuilt engines and working steam gauge instruments. A portable black and white GPS clamped to the yoke was really nifty. I flew safely all over the western half of the nation on family visits and vacations.

    My “new” plane is 15 years old. It’s aircraft engine evolved from a snowmobile engine. I can only fly daylight, VFR, which is fine with me. At 90 mph, it is 30 mph slower than my last GA plane, a Cherokee 140. But it climbs better, has much better visibility, and is much more economical. My glass cockpit is an iPad, strapped to my knee, with a choice of two fabulous flight navigation programs. Redundancy is a portable color GPS snapped into the panel. A mode S (yes, mode S) transponder gives ATC everything they want to know about me when I call for flight following.

    Someday the new LSA’s of today will be available used, with mid-life rebuilt engines and outdated glass cockpits at prices affordable by the generation of new pilots who will be coming along after I’m gone. And my old Cherokee 140 will be an antique. I’m guessing that my ELSA will still be flying and bringing pleasure to someone else with the urge to fly but hindered by a budget that must put many other things first. Maybe it will be someone who will find the money to take instruction in a well-used SLSA after getting the kids through college. And after earning that precious certificate, that person will search the market and find an airplane he or she can barely afford and go for it.

  3. says

    LSA – how much time have you got?
    OK- here go’s!

    1. The entire LSA industry seems to have followed an outdated approach to marketing thier products – build FIRST ,”we think mentality”, then find a WAY to market the product” AFTER its been built!
    2. The term”or methology used today is called the “marketing concept”; simply EXTENSIVE market research is performed BEFORE the product is produced and the NEED by the consumer, and in this case, present and FUTURE aviation consumers, has been determined – or potential DEMAND.
    3. I believe, and I think most aviators, recreational or professional, would agree, that the original premise was that a “huge” up taped market existed for LSA in the aging pilot population AND many of which a “minor” medical issue would suffice by way of valid USA drivers license.
    4. So WHY didn’t thousands of AARP members and weekend aviators flock to the nearest LSA dealer ? Lets think about WHY this ‘demopgraphic” isn’t the BEST prospect for a $135k+ LSA. A. Most, if not nearly all potential buyers, are on a FIXED income, and the “opportunity cost” is a tremendous trade-off to switch an investment from a high yield mutural fund or 4 Star rated stock – the LSA investment goes DOWN – big time (depreciation?) whereas the fund/stock may at least “hold it’s own”, ideally, even given the last 5-6 years of questionable earning.
    B. Since this, “recreational flyer” doesn’t really have a NEED, more of a WANT. he/she can certainly do without it – right?
    5. So WHERE is the biggest potential market – FLIGHT TRAINING – thats where – like Don cited earlier!
    WHY, you ask? OK, our Cessna friends produced over 30K “150/152’s” between 1959-85 and pushed “Discover Flying – at $5 for the ‘introductory flight” in the 1960’s!
    6. But Cessna, over 30 yeras ago, virtually abandoned the structured CPC system, which left an “unmonitored” and non-structed marketing/management system, at the most important entry level aspect of GA – that of the flight school – where ALL future GA cosumers, LSA included, are “born”; the Citation jet line had more promise and MORE profits – so why not focus our efforts where the $$ is – profited motivated executives weren’t anamored with airplanes; thier objective was to IMPROVE the bottom line or ROI – “will just continue to “appease” the light plane crowd – besides – we wouldn’t want ole Clyde rolling over in his grave”!
    7. But Cessna, unlike your average LSA manufacture, had an “upsell” or a progressive line of other aircraft AFTER one learned to fly the 150/152; the 172, 182, 210, etc. LSA is much like the Kia or Hyundia line when they first came ashore here in the late 1980’s, a “low end” ONLY model line – but once these Korean’s folks had a brand loyality, than came the larger models – a “natural’ upsell – or as the old saying goes; “the best customer is the ONE who is previuosly been sold”.
    8. I’ll try not to offend all the brillant, skilled and talented “pure pilot types”who own and operate flight schools, but frankly, very few are motivated by MONEY or profit – the FIRST principal any true business person is in business for – and ideally, enjoying what they do. Not the case wilth MOST in any “business” (excluding major FBO chains,etc) of GA – “passion” reigns supreme – profit – what’s that?
    9. My “sugestion” for curing GA and creating FUTURE aviation consumers? Someone in the GA industry has to SEE the value in the flight school as the PRODUCER of much of the future of GA – you say we need more pilots – a HALF truth – what we NEED is more aviation $$$ consumers, WHO, incidently are pilots, and willing to BUY (and not free load in the lounge) the products and services of the FBO/flight school or as I’ve labled, the “Aviation Retail Provider” or ARP.
    AND only then, when you have businees people FIRST and aviation enthusiast SECOND will the entire industry survive – and I’ll got on record with my thesis!

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