The next decade of LSA innovation

At AirVenture Oshkosh this year, the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) mounted a very visible celebration of Light-Sport or Sport Pilot-eligible aircraft. The exhibit drew dense traffic throughout the week by offering a large cross section of the aircraft types and configurations available since the FAA loosened its control over the process of approving new aircraft for sale to the public. It was the 10th anniversary celebration of Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft (SP/LSA).

EAA’s collection of aircraft tells only part of the story of what might be expected in a second decade.

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Is this the new GA?

The word “legacy” is often used to refer to products that are dominant today but threatened by disruptive influences. Legacy airlines, for example, are today’s largest carriers but ones burdened with aircraft bought earlier and with labor contracts negotiated years ago. Legacy connotes power, but also vulnerability.

The same logic can be applied to general aviation. Cessna and Piper are certainly legacy manufacturers. Decades back both become larger corporations increasingly distant from the original work of Clyde Cessna or William Piper. Others have already succumbed to market forces or have materially changed. Think of Beechcraft or Mooney. Both are quite different organizations from what Walter Beech and Al Mooney once created.

All this reflects normal developments that happen over time. Legacies can be good, even great, but one fact is true: Legacy cannot stand still.

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A quarter century of power

In 1989 something remarkable happened. You might remember the fall of the despised Berlin Wall that separated Germany. Certainly that was a remarkable event in human history, but it wasn’t the only noteworthy occurrence that year. Not far away in Wels, Austria, something else happened that, for pilots, was also important.

In 1989, Rotax Aircraft Engines introduced its 912 engine. [Read more...]

A solid beginning towards collaboration

Various events are bubbling to the surface as we approach the 10th anniversary of the Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft (SP/LSA) rule this summer. One of these activities occurred at SUN ’n FUN: The USUA/LAMA Safety & Industry Light-Sport Conference.

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Seaplane LSAs take off

Many have now heard that the Light-Sport Aircraft industry achieved an impressive benchmark in its first decade. As the newest aviation segment approaches its 10th birthday in the summer of 2014, airplane designers have created and gained FAA acceptance for 134 models, a pace of more than one new design every month for 10 years running. No one has claimed a more active period in worldwide aviation since 1903 witnessed the Wrights making their first flights.

Yet even within this ocean-swell of engineering, flight testing, manufacturing and marketing, the industry is gearing up for a secondary wave.

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The next wave in LSA

Even as we come to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft rule in 2014, many general aviation pilots have only recently become fully aware of this large and growing fleet of more than 134 designs.

Let me repeat: That is 134 new aircraft models in less than 10 years, a pace of more than one new aircraft model every single month for 10 straight years. I doubt anyone can show an example of more breathtaking development in all of aviation history, worldwide.

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Getting ready for the Sebring LSA Expo

People are arriving in Florida for the kick-off of the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Florida, Jan. 16. As we enter the last-minute rush to head to the 10th Sebring LSA Expo, as it is known, a few news items arrived and I’ll run through them so you have some idea of what will be present at the LSA event.

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Why LSA registrations were down in 2013

A number of people have asked about an updated sales report for 2013. While remembering that we report registrations, not sales, last year was a different sort.

Registrations were down from 2012, with the exception that CubCrafters remains the registration (and presumably sales) leader. American Legend and its Cubs also showed more activity than previous years. Beyond the yellow taildragger squadron, it’s something of a mixed bag.

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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. [Read more...]

Skycatcher and the future

At the NBAA show this fall, multimillion dollar business jets and working aircraft were the focus. No surprise. After all, the organization is the National Business Aviation Association. While I’ve attended a few times (and am always stunned by the size of the exhibit hall and the opulence of the displays), I was caught off guard when I heard that some reporters asked Cessna’s President and CEO Scott Ernest about the Skycatcher.

One thing that did not surprise me was Ernest’s comment: “No future.”

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