What a way to start the year. Officials from Piper Aircraft called a press conference on the opening day of the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Florida, and, like no other I’ve seen after attending all six Expos, the media turned out in droves. Cameras clicked constantly, videos whirred, and recording devices captured every word. It may not have been as spectacular as Apple’s iPad media event, but it generated the same kind of intense buzz.
Here’s a few facts I haven’t seen in the other generous media coverage: Piper is a 72-year-old much-storied producer of 140,000 airplanes. It has certified 160 models (50% more than the incredible output of all LSA producers combined). The company’s iconic Piper Cub inspired two replica LSA producers, American Legend and CubCrafters, whose aircraft comprise two of the top five among all LSA manufacturers…and the only two of the top eight LSA that are built in the USA.
As recently as last summer no one forecast Piper’s entry, again illustrating the dynamic and fast-developing nature of LSA. But the company is gung-ho on the LSA sector. CEO Kevin Gould said, “Piper is entering what is undeniably one of the most exciting market segments in general aviation.”
Piper took a different approach from Cessna — choosing to distribute an established LSA, Czech Sport Aircraft’s SportCruiser — and didn’t make the errors of Cirrus, which took so long to “Cirrus-ize” the SRS that the economy put the project on hold.
In a move I consider savvy, Piper will keep all existing SportCruiser dealers, adding them to 27 Piper dealers, 65 service centers, and 2,500 field personnel.
For more on Sport Pilot and LSAs: ByDanJohnson.com