When the Sport Pilot/Light Sport Aircraft rule was in its early stages, the people behind the movement noted it was based in large part on a similar certificate already available in Europe, so is it any wonder that many of the LSA in America are Euro imports?
Two companies that already have significant chunks of the LSA market are Evektor America, importers of the Czech-built Evektor SportsStar, and Flight Design USA, the North American distributor for the CT, a high-wing German design that has consistently outsold its competitors, claiming more than 20% of the market in the United States.
Evektor, which was the first LSA to get certification, targets Special LSA — that is LSAs that are approved for flight training.
“We began working with Evektor a year prior to LSA being a reality, so we have been in this over three years,” explains Scott Andrews, director of marketing for the Texas-based company.
The low-wing design of the Evektor is proving popular with flight schools, according to Andrews.
“In our minds the flight training market is an extremely important part of the category,” he said. “We are definitely the dominant trainer right now. We have over 23 aircraft being used by flight schools around the country, but we also have a significant part of our customer base that are end users. I would say that it is 60% end user and 40% flight schools.”
Flight Design has just begun targeting flight schools, says Tom Peghiny, president.
“The initial push was to position the aircraft as an affordable and palatable alternative to a more expensive aircraft,” he explains. “Acceptance has been limited so far by flight schools and we are working to make the aircraft more suitable for fleet sales.”
According to Peghiny, statistics culled from FAA registrations indicate that Flight Design enjoys 21% of the LSA market by virtue of 153 U.S.-registered aircraft.
The CT has a German certificate of origin, but the labor is done in the Ukraine, Peghiny notes. The airplanes are shipped to Germany for finishing and test flights, then shipped to the United States.
Peghiny compares the CT to a sports car, noting that most of the drivers of sports cars are older individuals who have the discretionary income to get what they want and don’t need extra seats.
“About 60% of our customers are those pilots who owned a Mooney or a Bonanza or a Cessna 210 and realize that they don’t do a lot of business flying anymore and the family is grown but they still want to fly,” he said.
Peghiny stresses that one of the key considerations for importers of LSA designs is ensuring that their customers have good support.
“We have made a lot of progress creating an incredible service network with a whole business structure around seven distributors,” he says, adding the company also has worked with Aero Technical Institute to develop a CT-specific training course.
Andrews agrees, noting that support and service are especially critical for companies that use LSAs for flight training.
“We always thought product support was an important part of our efforts,” he says. “You can’t have a flight school with income-earning aircraft on the ground. We have a high level of product support. We give our flight school customers the same kind of support that we give our end users.”
TRAINING DISABLED PILOTS
An even smaller niche in the LSA training market is the training of disabled pilots. That’s where the Tecnam Arrow has its place, notes Jon Hansen from the Hansen Air Group in Kennesaw, Georgia. The company is the distributor and seller of the pusher-prop tandem LSA that can be outfitted with hand controls for the pilot who can’t use his or her legs.
“We are seeing a large demand for training,” Hansen says. “I have one or two calls a week from people wanting to get Sport Pilot training.”
During AirVenture two wheelchair-bound pilots who earned their Sport Pilot certificates in a Sky Arrow were honored (See separate story on Page 28).
Hansen notes that both men earned their certificates in under 30 hours, which proves that the time line set forth for achieving a Sport Pilot certificate — 20 hours — is within reach, unlike 40 hours for a Private Pilot rating, which is rarely done by the disabled.
“They were able to do it in 20 to 25 hours,” he says. “That shows people that it can be done.”