The year started with hope. As 2022 arrived, America and most countries (China excepted) were emerging from two years of difficult lockdowns and Covid. The good news was that a flood of money from the U.S. government had buoyed the stock market and I’ve long observed that in a rising equities market, LSA and SP kit aircraft sell well. No one thinks this is because anyone sells stock to buy a Light-Sport Aircraft. Rather, it’s something economists call the “wealth effect,” where rising asset values give stockholders confidence that good times are here and they can buy an airplane to have fun. Then… Russia invaded Ukraine and global markets trembled. Despite a year of war, of plunging stock markets and sky-high energy prices, of protests and riots in multiple countries, plus on-going supply chain strains and lingering Covid fears, the light aircraft nonetheless grew by a very healthy 18%, after rising 10% in 2021.
Let's Unpack the NumbersI am using a different approach this year, partly to give added perspective given the challenging start to the 2020s. You can get so much detail on our Tableau Public market share data website — with an enormous THANKS! to Steve Beste for his faithful, timely, and precise work to present this info — that I felt it useful to summarize the results from my point of view. I grouped all the light aircraft data into these categories:
- Combined Results, all categories, including fully-built, kit-built, factory-built kits (ELSA), and others, even portraying how FAA's 1990s-era Primary Category touches this segment.
- SLSA and ELSA are presented as a group because all must start out identical to the SLSA model first accepted by FAA. After an ELSA owner takes delivery, that person can make changes without factory approval but then loses the chance to offer compensated flight instruction or rental of their aircraft.
- SLSA-only covering only ready-to-fly, separated from ELSA. SLSA can be used for compensated operations like flight instruction and rental.
- EAB and ELSA are shown as a group because in both cases the owner can alter and maintain the aircraft.
- EAB-only separates the ELSA out of the strictly homebuilt segment.
- ELSA are also shown separately as they can become quite different from the SLSA as which they began life. An owner can change avionics, interiors, add equipment, or even change the engine on an ELSA.
- Two remaining, smaller categories include Experimental Exhibition category, used mostly by Pipistrel for its motorglider models, and the Primary Category that presently counts only AutoGyro. Models that pursued Primary Category back in the 1990s (example: Quicksilver GT500) have not continued with that approach.
* I used brand names and model names interchangeably in this article choosing the most common term to identify the subject. If you want more detail, type one or more words into our blue search bar at the top of the page to find any of the thousands of aircraft on this website.