What’s ahead for LSA in 2014?

True for most of aviation, the Light-Sport Aircraft sector may not recall 2013 as a banner year.

However, it was a year of movement in the right direction with a few enterprises doing well. It was also a year when the locus of activity continued a steady pace progressing from European manufacturers to U.S.-based producers.

Of particular note, CubCrafters (pictured above) enjoyed a second record year and iconic kit builder, Van’s Aircraft, made a deeper commitment to a fully built Special LSA with its RV-12 (following delivery of some 250 kit versions). American Legend also bounced back from slower periods to log a number of sales.

Some of the leading non-U.S. producers also had a respectable, if not spectacular, year. Reasonably well-selling LSA models include: Czech Sport Aircraft’s SportCruiser, Tecnam’s P92 and P2008, Pipistrel’s Alpha and Sinus, Flight Design’s CTLS and CTLSi, Aerotrek’s A240 and A220, and Phoenix Air’s LSA motorglider.

The latter, like Flight Design models, surely would have logged even more FAA registrations had not both companies been hobbled by delivery shortfalls.

Other than CubCrafters, no LSA company had a year close to previous levels, but the top companies are well positioned to move forward in the improving economy America seems finally to be enjoying after several difficult years.

Beyond the established players, 2013 appeared to be the year of the Light-Sport seaplane, exemplified by a secondary wave of either clean-sheet designs or upgraded proven amphibians. More than 20 models are either being sold today or in the development pipeline.

Icon’s A5 is leading this charge despite a lengthy period between product announcement and production commencing. However, the sleek airplane has been marketed so successfully that it appears to have inspired competitors from home and abroad.

Icon A5

Icon A5

Industry followers expect several new airplanes to reach customers in 2014 joining aircraft currently on sale, such as SeaRey, SeaMax, and a small flock of floatplanes.

Two more LSA seaplanes, Mermaid and Freedom, have previously won FAA acceptance although company changes have stalled their reentry to the market.

In 2014 the LSA industry will celebrate a milestone birthday.

At AirVenture 2004, FAA finally made its announcement (after two years of thinking it would be that year) signaling the birth of Sport Pilot and Light-Sport Aircraft.

Two absolute certainties were realized following that major change for the agency: (1) A change of regulatory requirements permitted a flowering of new designs like never before with more than 130 models introduced, representing more than a new LSA model every month for all 10 years; and (2) the concept was so sound that it began traveling around the world — a progression still underway — plus it encouraged the FAA to consider industry consensus standards as part of a rewrite of Part 23, the costly regulations governing Type Certified airplanes, which could trigger a rush of new models and new innovations among larger aircraft.

Looking farther forward, of new four seaters likely to be spawned by the Part 23 rewrite project, LSA manufacturers might come to lead this category as well. Companies such as Evektor (Cobra), Tecnam (P2010), Flight Design (C4), Pipistrel (Panthera), The Aircraft Factory (Sling 4), plus a couple others not yet unveiled to the public, are aiming to meet the new guidelines.

C4

C4

With projected prices far below a new Cessna 172 or Cirrus SR20, these brands — virtually unknown to Americans before 2004 — may end up at the front of another parade of new designs. Every one of these are international companies, but I believe it highly likely we’ll see new American entries in the four-seat class. Plus, some of those referenced above may become “Made in the USA” airplanes even if the designs originate overseas.

SebringExpoLogoA place to see nearly all aircraft in the LSA fleet and an event itself celebrating its 10th year is the Sebring U.S. Sport Aviation Expo, also known as the Sebring LSA Expo. The LSA industry’s leading trade show takes place Jan. 16-20 in the center of Florida and will host all the airplanes you expect and surely a few surprises.

Finally, if I may be so immodest, an online publication focused on LSA plus light kit aircraft is my own ByDanJohnson.com. As with the other anniversaries, this website will also celebrate its 10th birthday, having gone live on April 1, 2004. Fortunately, it turned out not to be an April Fool’s Day joke as visitor traffic to the site set new records throughout 2013.

Comments

  1. Check http://www.atol.fi. ATOL is for American adults, fuel and luggage.

  2. Hey, if you don’t like LSA or Sport Pilot, go hang out with your own crowd. These negative comments do nothing more than show newcomers how unwelcome the aviation community can be and segmented into the “I’m better than you are” child like behavior clicks. Good God, be happy people are flying and keeping the local airport open regardless of their choices.

    • Hi Jay – well stated! AS Jamie mentioned in a prior article – “one size doesn’t fit all”!
      Or simply; Granada, Vega, and Duster owners welcomed – and so are the tow trucks and drivers that follow them!

  3. LSA has missed the mark because of poor planning in specifying the class parameters.
    There is a point where the romantic vision of flying and owning an LSA and the practicality of owning and flying an LSA intersect on an ascending graph and that point shows the short fall.
    The romantic dream of flight is strongly connected to the dream of travel and adventure. And the truth is, because of the specifications of the class, the weight limits just don’t allow 2 American adults to fill the tanks with fuel, through 50 lbs of luggage and kit for each person in the back and take off on that 7 to 10 day journey to the mountains or vacation to the coast. Once the aircraft are properly equipped there just isn’t the load carrying capacity. Very very few LSA have a true real world capacity to carry 2 typical American adults, their bags and full fuel. They can brag about load limits in their adds and brochures as much as they want but the truth is once they are equipped and on the runway most of them are limited to about 360 to 400 lbs which in today’s America is 1 man and 1 woman wearing warm weather clothing. Which brings us right back to where we were before, which is buying a highly used 172 or Tri-Pacer and a private pilots license. Even the A240 which has among the highest useful loads is limited to 90 lbs of gear when it has a 200lb man and a 160 lb woman and that is in its lightest configuration. Add a few more features make that two grown men of 200 lbs apiece and even that goes away very quickly. There are some LSA that can’t even carry two adult men with full fuel. They Cessna Sky Catcher was a glaring example of that. Some LSA flight schools won’t take students over 220 lbs. That was a big guy 30 years ago but not today. No the weight limit is killing the class, not the speed limits or the fact they can only carry 2 people.

  4. Look for 2014 to be a banner year for US LSA manufacturers with 2015-16 even better. US LSA manufacturers are shut out of the European market by EASA trade protectionism while off-shore airplanes flood the US. Most of those “130+ new models” have come from overseas and, quite frankly, do not meet ASTM LSA standards.
    What to do? US manufacturers are very capable of rising to the occasion, because the US has always lead aviation worldwide. Look for more US models that are highly sophisticated with greater operability and lower cost. The recession is closing out and US made LSA airplanes are going to see vibrant growth over the next three years. Look for that “Made in America” label, support US jobs and better quality LSA aircraft that will personify the original high expectations of the LSA category. It’s happening now!

    • Nice comment Eric.

    • Eric;
      well, it looks like the “consensus” here is narrowing to; what the LSA isn’t, what it is, and WHAT it isn’t or should be! Your thesis is the limitations of the LSA -iF one is going to look for a x-country machine – I agree! That said, here again we get back to “missed” marketing – the flight school operator, the BEST prospect, doesn’t require a bird with 35+ gal of fuel (reduced to 22 -24 gal – nets greater payload) or the capacity for two 200 lb “adults”+ baggage. Simply here’s where , in my opinion, the manufactures didn’t have the vision to identify the biggest (gap) in the market: the flight school; who desperately needed a replacement (economical) for the aged C-150/152 and generally more efficient than the “172″. Who NEEDS a 172 for training – only if your student has difficulty “fitting” into the 172! Operating cost is substantially reduced, thus so does the total training cost to the student/customer – a “win-win” – right?
      After reading and following the readers of this fine publication, geared toward the “social” or recreational aviator, YES, you too Len, segment of GA, my observations and conclusions and assessments are this:
      1. GA (recreational) is to “expensive”!
      RESPONSE: the benefit (aircraft use) does not equal the cost
      SOLUTION? Create more aviation type “social” clubs (non-aircraft ownership) with VOLUME memberships. It’s NOT about flying (hands on -the plane) – it’s more about a shared interest (emotional)with ZIP utility value – so WHO needs a plane?
      Those interested (can afford or have need) “opt” for flight time; an “upgraded” membership is desired for additional minimal expense.
      2. Over supply – low demand – aircraft “retail” providers and GA airports
      RESPONSE: The “industry” needs to accept that “demand” is limited for a myriad of reasons and NOT associated with cost, but more of a “need” or one of “cost/benefit”.
      RESPONSE: Limit or decease supply in under served (unjustified) markets (poor demographics) – Increase/grow demand (good demographics) in those markets.
      SOLUTION: Identify WHO is the BEST prospect and “target” advertising/promotion in reaching those potential buyers and FUTURE long term pilots/aviation consumers.

      NOW to LSA and how it -given the specs of the FAA as of Sept 2004, and how to SELL It!
      1. Educate flight schools (if receptive?) on how to SELL the LSA program – get the “prospective student/customer” in the door! Major “selling points”; A. Lower cost. about HALF, than Private – and 80%+ of the benefits! B. Can be done in as little as 30 days, – finances, time, and weather permitting.
      C. 3/4 quarters the way to the Private* – if and when needed OR wanted!

      And YES – I’m all for LSA – when it can be properly sold by the manufacture to the QUALIFIED marketing/sales oriented FBO/flight school – perhaps the “dropout” rate will then go from 80+% to 10-15%?

      * assuming no serious issues for 3rd class medical

  5. One reason there is so much new development in the LSA market is the fact that so few existing production airplanes met the max weight requirements. If your objective is to spur new develpment then mission accomplished. However, if your objective is to get more people into general aviation at lower cost it would have made more sense to use a higher weight limit that would allow for existing airplanes like the Cessna 152 to be considered LSA. Used airplanes are a lot cheaper than brand-new ones. Plus a heavier airplane makes for a better trainer because, all other things being equal, it is a little more stable.

    • HI Phil; Yes – good and valid points – except LSA is ALREADY (manufactued) here – now how do we market it– THAT’s the question! Problem is dated back to NOT one major single manufacture has ANY real interest (Cessna’s LSA departure?) in the LSA or
      light plane business – high risk and questionable Return On Investment.

      Until which time the “industry” finds a willing and commited partcipant in this market, the so called “pilot” (aviation consumer) will continue to decline. Back to Kent’s earlier commit(s); “resurected airplanes”, i.e. 152, simply aren’t going to be acceptable to the new breed/generation (high tech/low touch) of pilots/aviation consumers!

  6. The LSA category has been a dismal failure, and we all know it. For such an attractive category for aircraft development, the fact remains these airplanes aren’t selling. On top of that, Light Sport pilot licensing is nothing I would dare write home about, so what is going on out there?

    We shall soon find out with the ICon A5 if they are players or fakers, because I can assure you, with all the marketing they have done, they have people interested and back orders….very similar to what Cessna had for back orders with the Skycatcher. As many of the LSA manufacturers provide a unique airplane that SHOULD sell, the fact remains they are not selling.

    Where is the problem? The problem is marketing and sales is where the job gets done, not in the emotion of what a pilot experiences. Most of the LSA manufacturers spend huge amounts of capital on the project, but forget that actually selling the product is what it is all about. The industry is fragmented with little or no leadership in this area. Most manufactures don’t understand the important element of selling, whether it is the dealership network, or training people how to sell and close deals.

    If the sales network was developed properly, and there was a guideline put in place that took the prospect from the research phase to the ownership end game, the light sport pilot certificates would be EXCEEDING everyone’s expections. It is interesting to study a flight school, with most of them DESPISING any mention of the LSA, and yet, everyone in the industry tries to figure out why it was a dismal 2013 for the manufactures?

    Seems crazy, but this is where the REAL problem needs to be resolved!

    http://www.get-aviation.com

  7. LSA?
    The entire industry has “missed the mark” from day one!
    Typical of GA ventures; The build “FIRST – market LATER” is another example of “over production” (130+makes/models of LSA’s?) Is there ANY rational logic to the builders of these birds – try convincing me and other emotionally mature adults! Like it or not, the lack of pilots or FUTURE “aviation consumers” lies squarely on the incompetence of many flight school owners/flight instructors. WHY the 80+ percent drop out rate? Many believe, they’re PASSION for flying ALONE is adequate enough and the “product” (training/aircraft) “sells itself”! Is there ANY esemblance of a presentation or “interview” to the potential student/customer – what’s that?
    QUAIFYING the prospects NEEDS are first and foremost!
    OK – lets try this; “prospect” early 60′s- (walk in) “Hello, I would like to get some information on flight training”?
    CSR (Customer Service Rep) “I think we can help you – would you like coffee or a cold drink? (make the person feel “at home” and comfortable) IMMEDATELY!
    I think our MANAGER (creditable) is here and he/she will be able to present you with the OPTIONS (LSA, Private, etc) and what’s involved in getting YOUR license!
    Potential student/customer – NOTE: He/she is IMPRESSED all ready – I’m seeing a MANAGER – not just “anybody”!
    MANAGER: (in his/her private office)” Well Mr/Ms_______, thank you for stopping by! May I ask what you’re MOTIVATION or purpose is for getting a plots license ? ( in sales – this is called “discovery”).
    Potential customer: “Well , I’ve always had this idea about flying and how much quicker I could get to my vacation home IF I had a pilots license and possibly BUY an airplane”.
    NOTE: This “prospect” IS SERIOUS!!!! They have the motivation (reason to learn AND buy an airplane!
    MANAGER: “Let me ASK you this – would you be able to devote 3-4 lessons a week – this way we can get you to the LSA in about 60-90 days, or go on to the private in an additional 30-60 days? NOTE: HERES where the “selling” comes in: The LSA may or may not do it given his/her needs to get to the vacation home , assuming it more than 200+ miles away), however, EXPLAINING the pro’s and con’s of each (cost/benefits) – but, in this case, the Private is more likely going to be the “ticket”.
    Potential customer: “Can I start with the LSA program, and then decide if I wish to then go on to the private course?”
    MANAGER” Yes, that makes a lot of sense – matter of fact many of our students are doing just that!
    Potential customer: ” How soon can I get started?
    MANAGER: ” Do you have a little time today – I’ll try to get you up for an introduction flight since the weather is so nice”?

    AND so it go’s!

  8. Gary Hoffman says:

    I am disappointed that there was no discussion in this article regarding the current state of the Cessna 162. It would be interesting to know what Cessna has in store for this platform.

  9. Len Assante says:

    Kudos to Dan Johnson on a solid summary of the state of LSA as we enter 2014. A mature industry embracing both changes in the regulatory environment and the marketability of affordable new technologies can better serve the needs of our customers -current pilots and the millions we think could be attracted to aviation with modern methods and technologies.
    In his reply, Kent Misegades also hits the nail square on the head. Tired old airplanes, flight training models that don’t embrace cutting edge student success and retention strategies, and “the best technology the 1940′s had to offer” just does not cut it these days.
    Go to Sebring, check out the cutting edge of aircraft, technology, ownership management and flight training. See you at Expo!

  10. Kent misegades says:

    LSA and homebuilts are the only sectors of GA that are growing. Dan Johnson and his colleagues at LAMA deserve great praise for proving the naysayers wrong on LSA and the Sport Pilot issues. Most GA airports in my state of NC are very quiet these days, mainly due to the high cost of Avgas and Conti used weak economy. The most active flight schools are those with modern LSA aircraft, which make the old spam cans used by others look primitive by comparison. Try explaining to a young professional who drives a new sports car to his flying lesson that he needs to learn all about carb heat, a primer, leaded fiels, mixture controls, VORs, etc. Our ancient technology is a huge turn-off. Modern LSA aircraft and their advanced mogas-burning European engines are far more appealing to the next generation. Thanks for all you are doing, Dan!

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