We have a new year upon us. With our new reporting capabilities for LSA and SP kit market shares, we can now quickly report results from 2019. A huge thanks to our supreme “datastician,” Steve Beste for making such swift and accurate reporting possible. I assure you that I’ve looked high and low for every year LSA have existed to find no comparable information. As always, be advised that our data comes from FAA’s aircraft registration database. That means it is impartial — hopefully meaning reliable and dependable — but it also means some massaging of the information is needed to be completely accurate. (See this article for more detail on the effort involved; it is not trivial.) Steve’s valuable ability to manipulate database resources combines with his knowledge of light aircraft to make an unbeatable combination. As much as any data allows — and as the saying goes… “you can take this info to the bank.” It’s solid!
What’s Happening in Light-Sport Aircraft and Sport Pilot Kits? Here’s Our 3Q19 Update.
2019 Is a Good Year (so far)We're only three quarters through the year but extrapolating from the first three quarters and assuming a steady pace (which is not a guarantee, of course), we see that all of 2019 should result in 724 new aircraft registrations in the light aircraft sector defined (by us) as Light-Sport Aircraft and Sport Pilot kit-built aircraft. This is up more than 10% over 2018, which was up over 2017. The industry is having a good year and more pilots are flying these aircraft. One caveat in this positive result is that the fourth quarter of the year is typically slower with winter in the north and plenty of non-flying holiday activities drawing interest. Why? We don't claim to have all the answers but regular surveying of exhibitors at airshows revealed that many sellers say, "The market is good. People are buying." Of course, this is anecdotal not scientific but we heard it from enough vendors to believe they're feeling good about their enterprises. Many pilots backed up this finding with their own, personal assessment. If you want to do your own analysis, you certainly can using our completely free-of-charge Tableau Public web page** assembled for us and maintained to perfection by Steve. We vigorously encourage you to look for yourselves. Don't take our word for it. The data comes directly from FAA's aircraft registration database, then expertly massaged by Steve so the rest of us can make sense of it. To this data source, I apply my own decades of experience in the sector to make some observations.
Breaking GoodFirst, let's look at two broad categories: First is a grouping of all Light-Sport Aircraft — both Special (fully built) and Experimental (different from Experimental Amateur Built) — and, secondly, a defined flock of Sport Pilot kit-built aircraft*. This is the first time you've seen this because earlier, we segmented SLSA from ELSA from SP kits. This made it appear kits were growing faster than the LSA groups. In fact, they are nearly matched with kit-built aircraft. Viewing all light aircraft as a group, Steve noted, "The same six brands continue to lead the pack." He refers to the full fleet of light aircraft a Sport Pilot may fly — led by kit-built aircraft producers: Zenair/Zenith, Van's, Rans, Sonex, and Kitfox plus SLSA builder, Icon. Immediately under these six powerhouses of light aviation are five close contenders Searey-maker Progressive Aerodyne, AutoGyro, Just Aircraft, Powrachute, and Magni Gyro. While Progressive Aerodyne does well in both kits and fully built seaplanes and while Powrachute sells both as well, the rest are all kit makers. To look up any producer to learn more, use our Search capability (especially "Advanced Search") or go to our ever-popular SLSA List. Kit aircraft remain strong in the USA. This segment existed for many years before LSA came along although we only count since 2005*, while Light-Sport Aircraft go back no further than 2005. Honestly, one surprise about SP Kits and LSA is how close the two primary groups are.
Diving DeeperSteve made a few other worthwhile observations. Among the increasingly active gyroplane community, "The low-cost Tango is coming on strong. It used to come with a Rotax 582 but their website says it now has a Yamaha FI engine. 4-stroke, 3-cylinder, fuel-injected, 1055cc, 130 horsepower engine." AutoGyro, Magni, and U.S.-based SilverLight lead the among gyroplanes but Tango's appearance suggests the market is open to newcomers, especially when they have good pricing. Using Tableau Public, you can go deep the weeds about any one subgroup by using the blue boxes on the left column to click or unblock lists. The site is amazingly versatile if you spend a bit of time with it. If you own an aircraft included in this analysis, you can absolutely find it; see for yourself. Another newer entry Steve highlighted was the Goat trike. He wrote, "Denny Reed’s [Wild Sky] Goat is a surprise success. He positions it as a super-tough outback machine." Denny is a deeply experienced trike pilot with more than 8,000 hours of instruction given. He finally made his own trike and it is one brute-tough machine. See more in our article and short video. Goat uses wings by North Wing, as do many other trike brands, but the Washington state producer is also having a better year for its SLSA trikes. Evolution Trikes' Revo sales are off a bit but they are highly focused on their fully-built Rev Part 103 trike and their new RevX. The latter is a kit; the former will not show up on FAA's registration database as Part 103 vehicles need not be registered.
Fixed WingersSteve is a trike owner and pilot. I also enjoy these "alternative" LSA (trikes, powered parachutes, and gyroplanes). I have enjoyed flying several models of each of these types and find much to love about them …significantly, they can be less expensive than almost any fixed wing aircraft. Are you unsure about "alternative" aircraft? You know the line: "If you haven't tried it, don't knock it." However, fixed wing continue to be, by far, the biggest group of LSA (partly as very few kit-built aircraft are "alternative" types). Among Special (fully built) LSA, Flight Design continues atop the ranking. They enjoyed a phenomenal start back in 2005-2006 and have never lost their leadership position. American Legend, Czech Sport Aircraft, CubCrafters, Tecnam, and Aerotrek (FAA still uses their Aeropro European brand name) remain very strong players in the top ten. However, some newbies are moving up the rankings. Through their start into serial production was long coming, the slickly-marketed A5 LSA seaplane has moved into the #2 position for 2019 (after Van's, which relies heavily on ELSA). Another up-and-comer is Vashon and their well-priced Ranger. BRM Aero and their Bristell are also making good strides upward. TL Aircraft, rep for the Sting and other TL models, is reviving that much-admired stable of aircraft. Meanwhile, Cessna continues to drop following the company's decision to exit the LSA space and crush all remaining aircraft, engines and all. Remos is another that is fading from its earlier strength.
A Quarter to GoAs we head into the final quarter of 2019 — and the final LSA show of the year, the DeLand Showcase — we will report the full year shortly into January 2020. The good news is that aircraft are selling, pilots are flying more than ever, and safety remains quite good. That's reason for celebration. Blue skies!
* "SP Kits" means Sport Pilot kit-built aircraft. Going deeper, "SP Kits" refer to amateur-built aircraft that can be flown by a pilot possessing a Sport Pilot certificate or exercising the privileges of Sport Pilot (meaning, for one, no aviation medical is required) while holding a Private Pilot certificate or higher. Since Sport Pilot, as a form of pilot license, only arrived in late 2004, we count all applicable kit-built aircraft that can be flown by a Sport Pilot. Although some of the same aircraft existed before January 1, 2005, we omit them as it cannot be said those older aircraft could be flown by someone with a Sport Pilot certificate. This also evenly and fairly compares SP Kits with SLSA and ELSA. ** When using Tableau Public — and please do so! — be advised this may work best on your desktop or laptop. The effort called "responsive" to make pages work on smartphones and tablets does not portray the information as conveniently.
This website seeks to offer a reliable source of market information for Light-Sport Aircraft and Sport Pilot kit aircraft as a service to the light aircraft sector. If you follow light aviation intently as many readers do, knowing what aircraft and subgroups (within LSA and SP kits*) are thriving or stumbling can be of great interest. Thanks to our fantastic “datastician,” Steve Beste, we know more now than we’ve ever known about aviation’s recreational aircraft segment. You simply cannot find this information anywhere else. With Steve’s superb help, following are a few stories within the numbers. If you don’t care about market shares and just want to hear about aircraft, we won’t keep you waiting long. However, for many, these figures are quite valuable and this is the only place you will find them. Let’s dive in… 2019 Is a Good Year (so far) We’re only three quarters through the year but extrapolating from the first three quarters and assuming a steady pace (which is not a guarantee, of course), we see that all of 2019 should result in 724 new aircraft registrations in the light aircraft sector defined (by us) as Light-Sport Aircraft and Sport Pilot kit-built aircraft.
Latest Update on FAA’s Plan to Change Light-Sport Aircraft Regulations — July 2019
LSA Is a Success StoryFor 15 years Light-Sport Aircraft and their producers have proven themselves, LAMA argued. FAA concurred; the agency has often referred to the safety record as "acceptable," reasonably high praise from regulators. “A lot of [the rule change] is based on the [generally positive] experience with LSA,” FAA noted. They also said the revised regulation will be “less prescriptive, more performance-based.” This is seen as a deregulatory effort by the agency. Regarding the much-anticipated max weight increase, FAA refers to a "Power Index." This term means a formula-based method to replace maximum takeoff weight in the definition of a LSA, involving wing area, horsepower, and takeoff weight. FAA is also looking at up to four seats, “for personal use and for flight training.” Airspeeds — referring to maximum horizontal and never-to-exceed speeds (Vh and Vne) — may be higher than in the current rule, but will still be limited. Neither will FAA be prescriptive about (that is, tightly defining) powerplants. The 2004 version of the LSA rule prohibited electric motors because rule writers wanted to discourage turbine power and therefore specified reciprocating engines, which knocked out electric. FAA will now consider both electric and hybrid. Yet FAA was clear, “Movement of people for hire (such as the multicopter air taxis proposed by numerous companies) is not part of this.” FAA is also reviewing what type of mechanics (LSR-M or A&P) can do what kind of work on specific systems of aircraft (examples: in-flight adjustable prop or electric propulsion systems).
When Will the New Rule Emerge?One of the most-asked questions is when will this rule be announced, meaning when will an NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rulemaking) be published for public comment. The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 includes a deadline of 2023 for implementing a key mandate that suggests the longest it should take. Once an NPRM is published, a comment period follows to hear from the public after which FAA needs time to address the concerns raised during that comment period. After closure of that comment period, the FAA has 16 months to publish the Final Rule. Throughout the LAMA/FAA teleconference some ideas were repeated by FAA personnel…
- “The former (current) regulation “was unnecessarily restrictive.“
- FAA wants the revised regulation to “allow the industry to do more.”
Update on LAMA's Specific RequestsOver the last few years LAMA made several specific requests: aerial work or commercial use of LSA; fully built gyroplanes (only kits have been permitted); single lever control for in-flight adjustable props; and electric propulsion. LAMA also supported the idea of increased weight. Each of these was explained via a detailed white paper submitted to the agency followed by more discussions with FAA executive management over several meetings in Washington DC. “All of these requests are on the table,” FAA acknowledged in the June teleconference. Of course, this does not mean all are certain to be included, but they represent a “huge opportunity [for industry and for pilots].” Gyroplanes — Special LSA (fully-built) gyroplanes are part of what is being considered for the new regulation but this remains a work in process. LAMA presented new arguments, assembled safety data that FAA requested, and kept up the pressure resulting in its inclusion in the proposed new regulation. Weight Increase — Yes, weight will increase. The often-mentioned "3,600-pound gross weight" number is irrelevant, however, because FAA will use the power index as mentioned above. Under this more performance-based approach, LSA manufacturers would have more flexibility in making trade-offs among these parameters to meet a new power index limit. That new limit is intended to allow for up to a safe, robust, four-seat airplane. “All this is seen [within the agency] as relieving on industry; enabling, not tightening the screws,” said FAA. Aerial Work / Commercial Use — The topic of for-hire work in LSA involves another group — Flight Standards Service. Most of the proposed changes originated with Aircraft Certification Services office. “The Flight Standards people are considering [aerial work],” said FAA. This important topic has been a priority for LAMA because it could become a vital activity to keep manufacturers healthy by expanding their capabilities and the markets they can serve. Pilots could also gain as this would provide more compensated flying jobs and business opportunities. Electric Propulsion — Not only is electric fully on the table, but hybrid power involving both gasoline and electric is envisioned as well (though ASTM standards for hybrid have yet to be composed). Notably, the discussion did not involve batteries. Single Lever Control (in-flight adjustable prop) — The concept for Single Lever Control (SLC) is that the prop adjusts automatically based on information supplied by instruments and the engine such that the system “knows” what prop pitch might be optimal. A pilot puts the throttle where needed (full forward for takeoff) and the prop adjusts. At altitude, the system also knows this and can adjust to a cruise setting. While SLC is more complex and currently more costly, LAMA believes continued development will lower costs. However, SLC does not raise the workload of the pilot, thereby staying with the “simple, safe, and easy-to-fly” mantra. LAMA is "very pleased with the FAA’s open attitude and willingness to consider important changes that industry and the flying community seek."
Many have asked about progress on FAA’s proposed rewrite of the Light-Sport Aircraft regulations. Following a lengthy teleconference at the end of June 2019, LAMA, the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association, provided another update. The update to industry covered a lot of ground but here we’ve tried to make it a quicker read. Two key points: First, FAA is in the early stages of this rulemaking; at least minor changes are certain. FAA itself does not know all the specific details of the proposed rule at this time. Secondly, the steps reported here come from actual rule writers but their effort has support from top FAA leadership. Driven by a Congressional mandate we know this will go forward. LSA Is a Success Story For 15 years Light-Sport Aircraft and their producers have proven themselves, LAMA argued. FAA concurred; the agency has often referred to the safety record as “acceptable,” reasonably high praise from regulators.
Light-Sport Aircraft and Sport Pilot Kit Market Shares in 2019
Five Months In Combined ReportThe first chart reflects both LSA and SP kit registrations through May of 2019 and also depicts the equivalent performances for the full years of 2017 and 2018. What the chart suggests is that 2019 is a solid year with the light sector on track to hit 725 aircraft for the year, up about 5% over last year and up more than 10% over 2017. For space reasons the chart only shows ranks 1–18 but all are available on Tableau Public. Digging deeper, the chart shows that longtime market leader Zenith/Zenair lead by a substantial margin in 2017 and 2018 but that gap may be narrowing for 2019. Please keep in mind that a kit company completes a sale long before the aircraft gets registered and appears on FAA's database. Also, a kit sold may never be finished. Conversely, Icon's 27 registrations this year are for ready-to-fly aircraft although that does not mean they were registered by the end customer. The leading LSA builder so far in 2019, Icon is on pace to register 65 aircraft this year, up 38% over last year. American Legend, which operates both in the RTF and kit business, is ticking upwards. They may hit 29 registrations, up 140% over last year. Arion is another both-ways manufacturer looking to have a much improved 2019 while newcomer Vashon should double last year's registrations. Strong SP kit suppliers include Kitfox, Vans, and Rans — no real surprises but here's a couple observations. Kitfox is on a pace to hit 70 registrations this year, up about 80% over 2018. Van's Aircraft is headed to 60, up 50% over last year. Rans will remain about even. Remember, we only count aircraft that can be flown by a Sport Pilot or a higher-certificated pilot with no medical. Van's, for example, sells many more kits but most won't meet that criteria.
Separating LSA from SP KitsFlight Design continues its recovery, on pace to increase from last year's low number by 50%. Now that we can separate CubCrafters RTFs from kits, the CT maker is back atop the all-years SLSA rank list. Number two producer, Czech Sport Aircraft should be about even from 2018 but is well off their 2017 registrations. Powrachute and AutoGyro slipped from stronger performances in recent years. On the downside, Glasair suspended production for their Merlin that never found reception in the market. Looking at cumulative registrations, Zenith/Zenair clearly holds the top spot among Sport Pilot kit aircraft sellers. Rans, Sonex, and Kitfox are the next big producers in the light kit space, followed by Quad City and Just Aircraft, trailed a bit further back by Searey maker Progressive Aerodyne, CubCrafters, and Quicksilver.
One More Thing: ELSA FactorYou might see that kits appear to be the larger enterprise over fully-built LSA. That's correct, but consider the kit companies have been building their business and networks for far longer and they have lower price points …although you obviously must invest a good many hours to complete a project and some will get discouraged along the way and never finish the job. Yet the real surprise comes when you look at our final chart of this article. Kits appear ascendant since 2013, especially when compared to Special LSA that seems to have found a stable registration rate of around 200 aircraft per year. However, when you combine SLSA with Experimental LSA, you can see that all LSA types number closer to 300 units per year, compared to all SP kits at just shy of 400. Specialty registrations like Experimental Exhibition are steady but at a far smaller unit count. Any ELSA must be shipped from the factory as a bolt-for-bolt copy of the SLSA model, as required under the regulation. No producer can sell an ELSA without first getting approved for a SLSA, so to my mind, combining SLSA and ELSA makes for a fairer comparison to Sport Pilot kit aircraft. If you love these numbers, please visit Tableau Public. You can learn a lot more about the vibrant light aircraft sector. Enjoy! Disclaimer: These reports rely on FAA’s registration database. We believe this to be a reliable resource but it presents data that are different than what any company reports in sales or deliveries. Over time, these two sets of data draw closer but will not precisely mirror one another. Data presented on Tableau Public are arranged according to a defined method explained on that page (see button labeled “Where the numbers come from”).
A funny thing happened on our way to quarterly reporting of LSA and Sport Pilot kit market shares. Our first quarterly report in many years should have come about April 1st. It did not. That date came as Sun ‘n Fun was getting underway separated by only one day from the German Aero show. So involved were we in those season-starting events that we just blew past the date. Five Months In Combined Report The first chart reflects both LSA and SP kit registrations through May of 2019 and also depicts the equivalent performances for the full years of 2017 and 2018. What the chart suggests is that 2019 is a solid year with the light sector on track to hit 725 aircraft for the year, up about 5% over last year and up more than 10% over 2017. For space reasons the chart only shows ranks 1–18 but all are available on Tableau Public.
MORE Light Aircraft Now Included in Our Count of Fun Flying Machines
Go Exploring — ALL the Aircraft!To go roam around the ocean of info about light aircraft, click or tap to this NEW Tableau Public page*. On it you will find the familiar "Dashboard" as you arrive at the website. At the top of the page, look for a row of tabs. You will now find two new tabs labeled, "This-Yr Ranking" and "All-Yr Ranking." I think they are pretty self-explanatory. You can still tweak these depictions any way you wish. For example, once you click on the "This-Yr Ranking" tab you will see two tables. One has a ranking by brand only. The right-hand table has ranking by model, that is, the most registered models. Then, you can go to, for example, the third blue box on the left edge and click off Kit/Other to see only SLSA or click off SLSA to see only Kit/Other entries. The larger blue box above helps you focus on one or more selected brands. Click off "(All)" and then pick the brand or brands you want to examine. Likewise you can also select a type of aircraft (top box) or a method of FAA approval ("Choose Certification" in the fourth blue box), or zero in on amphibious aircraft in the lowest blue box. Back on the Tableau home page, some of you found — and apparently enjoyed; we heard from several of you — that you can go find your own aircraft. Every single one of the 7,974 aircraft making up this review can be viewed. Pretty cool, huh?
Why Did We Make This Change?Simply put, you asked and we want to be responsive. We also want to include ALL aircraft that a Sport Pilot (or someone using a higher certificate to exercise the privileges of Sport Pilot) may fly. I think we have all of them now, but if we find more, we will include them in ongoing reporting. EABs and ELSA — while not demonstrating compliance to ASTM standards — are still very legitimately part of what this website endeavors to cover. Our tagline is "News & Video on Light-Sport Aircraft, light kit aircraft, and ultralight aircraft" and we mean to cover all those types. Of course, we cannot count Part 103 ultralights as they are never given N-numbers but we want to gather all the other appropriate producers and owners in our tent. New phrase: "Sport Pilot Eligible Kits" — which I will start abbreviating as SPE Kits — denotes kit-built aircraft, either Experimental Amateur Built (EAB) or Experimental, meaning kit, Light-Sport Aircraft (ELSA). We only count kits, or SLSA, after 2005 as that's when the first SLSA was accepted by FAA. Before that, we had no Sport Pilot certificate, so no kit aircraft model could consider itself Sport Pilot Eligible. Steve Beste and I believe our current Tableau Public page title — "Light Sport Aircraft, Sport Pilot Eligible Kits, and Modern Gyroplanes" — best reflects the energy, diversity, design variety, and uniqueness of this sector of aviation. One More Thing: Of personal satisfaction to me, this refreshed effort strengthens a claim in this chart that the USA has about 13,000 LSA or LSA-like aircraft. One difference between the 8,000 we can accurately count and which appear in Tableau Public are 4,000 or so "fat ultralights" that were converted to ELSA, a program that ended in 2010. The small difference still remaining can mostly be filled with Part 103 ultralight vehicles, so that 2015 survey looks even more solid and reliable. I wrote "accurately" and we do believe we have done this correctly. However, when you get into kits the problem can be more difficult because a kit-built aircraft may be registered with the model name "Bob Jones Flyer," when in fact it was an airplane built from an Avid Flyer kit but modified in ways that our theoretical Bob wanted to immortalize by assigning his name to the model. That's perfectly OK with FAA but makes identifying it somewhat harder. Nonetheless, we think the new-and-improved list on Tableau Public is now even more informative. This information is not well covered by anyone else but we felt it was worthwhile and we hope you agree. * Note that Tableau presently works best on a desktop or laptop computer with a larger screen. Tableau arranges some of the data for tablets and somewhat less for smartphones as insufficient screen area exists to portray it all. Steve will be working on these mobile device presentations soon.
Update 1/15/19: Thanks to reader feedback — a resource we value very highly — we have updated our statistics to correct another naming challenging. “Zodiac” turned up 53 more registrations since 2005: 52 601s and one 650. “Of the 53 additions, four were registered in 2018. That bumps our total fleet to 8,027,” wrote Steve Beste. Check Tableau Public for the latest data. —DJ “What about my plane,” a number of you asked? “I didn’t see [XYZ brand] of aircraft,” a few others wrote. “How come you didn’t include what I fly,” several inquired? You spoke (or wrote). We listened. The result? 7,974 aircraft (up from 6,305) is our refreshed count of all Sport Pilot/Light-Sport Aircraft flying machines registered in America. My advisor and consultantant in this deep data dive, IT expert Steve Beste and I decided to enlarge the “universe.” While sticking to the 2005 date when FAA accepted the first SLSA, we can now broaden the aircraft registration database search to include brands like Kolb, Quad City, Sonex, Titan, Murphy, Aero Adventure, Sport Performance and more, plus additional kit aircraft models from companies that do both SLSA and Experimental Amateur Built (EAB) deliveries.
Gyroplanes Are Big Overseas — First Market Share Info for the USA
Welcoming Steve Beste"I'm a retired computer guy and trike pilot who loves databases," Steve told me. He used his special set of skills to download FAA's aircraft registration database to compile statistics on gyroplane registrations, focused on the new European-style gyroplanes. As you can see, AutoGyro is the clear market leader at 52% with 163 aircraft of 312 gyroplanes registered with FAA. The German builder is trailed by Magni in the #2 slot at 18% with 56 registrations. A new American manufacturer, SilverLight Aviation, has quickly tied Spanish producer ELA for third at 8% with 26 aircraft registered for each. After that it trails off more quickly as Steve's chart shows. More details about other brands will be chronicled in an article to follow. For 2018 through July 23rd, Magni shows its strength by slightly beating AutoGyro U.S. registrations. As always, note that confirmed sales and registrations may not match precisely. In addition, much more of 2018 remains. In slightly more than half a year, gyroplanes registered 58 aircraft putting them on track to exceed 100 for the year. To offer perspective, this figure is approaching half as many as SLSA fixed wing registrations in recent full years. So far this year, Magni has 15 registrations to AutoGyro's 14 for 26% and 24% shares totaling half of total U.S. gyroplane registrations. SilverLight has registered 8 aircraft in 2018 for a 14% yearly share of 2018 to date. A less well recognized U.S. producer, Tango, is having a respectable year, with 9 registrations accounting for 16% in 2018 so far. Tango is trailed by ELA with 6 registrations (10%), Australia's Titanium and Italy's Brako tied at 3 for 5% each. One interesting point: only Tango and Brako offer a single place gyroplane; all others are two place machines.
Much More Data to Follow!Steve Beste and I have been discussing him providing database research to allow this website to continue providing LSA Market Share Info. Many visitors have written to ask; indeed, we are way behind on this effort. The delay is ending. After Steve gets time to study the previous work and methods, he has proposed some wonderful improvements. About the special skills he can offer, Steve wrote, "I'm a retired computer guy and trike pilot who loves databases." Well, that certainly sounds perfect to me. "I'm also the president of Flying Club 1, which was the original USUA Chapter 1," Steve added. "Regarding the FAA database, I'd very much like to reach beyond just [fixed wing] airplanes, partly because I'm a trike pilot, myself. I think that's entirely possible." Given this background, his obvious enthusiasm for this work, and the keen interest of many in light aviation, I am exceedingly pleased to welcome Steve to this website. "[However, FAA's] data is not clean," Steve observed. I am well aware of this problem. Uncertainty about data accuracy of "alternative" LSA is why we have reported fixed wing Special LSA, only offering guesses for weight shift trikes, powered parachutes, gyroplanes, motorgliders, and more. However, we hope that will now change and our market share reporting will be more inclusive. Hurray! Problems in FAA's database is not caused by incompetent clerks. Agency personnel must sort through inconsistently-reported aircraft. If, as Steve pointed out in one example, the registered name of the aircraft is slightly different, it won't show up on a casual investigation. He added, "There's no end of that kind of thing …just so we know the limitations on this exercise. But with that understanding, I love this kind of thing, I have the skills to do it, and would be honored to support your good work for the sport." All such reporting will be available on the home page when fresh and catalogued on its own space found by this link. Wonderful, simply wonderful! Please welcome Steve Beste as a new contributor to ByDanJohnson.com!
UPDATE September 26, 2018 — In the article above, I inadvertently suggested SilverLight and their American Ranger gyroplane was the first or only U.S. producer of such aircraft. That is not what I intended but some readers viewed it that way. Allow me to bring your attention to two other producers.
Sport Copter & Rotor Flight DynamicsBased in Oregon, Sport Copter is a long established, second-generation family business started in 1958. Chuck Vanek was one of the early pioneers of gyroplane design and development beginning his work in 1957. Chuck's son Jim Vanek took over the business and revamped the Vancraft designs. He said his "award-winning, world’s-first, two-place gyroplane took the prestigious Charles Lindbergh award at the Oshkosh airshow in 1985." The company also reports his Sport Copter II design was voted as one of the Top Ten Best Designs at AirVenture in 2011. An airshow performer, Jim said he wrote the parameters and guidelines for gyroplane looping for the FAA in 1998 after performing the world’s first loop in a conventional gyroplane, in 1997. The company's website reports, "He is the only gyro pilot in the world that holds an International Council of Air Shows card for gyroplane looping and rolling." Don't even think about trying this yourself, however. Rotor Flight Dynamics, founded and run by Ernie Boyette, produces a two place and single variations of their Dominator line. Sold as kit aircraft, the two-place model can be powered by Hirth four-cylinder engines, Subaru/AutoFlight EA-81, or the 115-horsepower Rotax 914 Turbo. The company said, "We offer 22 thru 28 foot rotor blades of our own design with a lift capability from ultralight thru 1,200 pounds gross weight." They added, "We are the only manufacturer that test flies all blade sets prior to shipping." For export, Rotor Flight will fully build their aircraft but in the USA, FAA will only permit them to deliver kits, the same as all gyroplane producers. As with all the modern gyroplanes, Rotor Flight uses a substantial tailplane. "The Dominator [series of one and two-place machines] incorporate the Tall Tail design for stability." Asked how their product differs, the company's website states, "What makes the Dominator so unique is its high profile design. It sits up very high off the ground."
Updated September 26, 2018 — This article has been updated to include more producers. See at bottom. —DJ Over many years, you have found LSA market share information on this website. Many have found this of interest …from businesses learning more about their market; to customers doing careful investigation before paying tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars for a new aircraft; to government fulfilling its task of regulating industry; to insurance companies assessing risk of providing their product; and many other actors in the blockbuster movie that is light, recreational aviation. I will have more to say about the broader LSA market share reports below but now I want to present the best information I have seen for Light-Sport Aircraft Gyroplanes. …uh, except for one problem. No such aircraft category exists, SLSA gyroplanes, that is. FAA has denied fully-built Special LSA status to rotary winged aircraft such as gyroplanes.
Light-Sport Aircraft Market Shares for Fleet and 2016
Changes in the Rankings
Besides the leaders, the Top-5 brands remained steady with CubCrafters, Flight Design, Czech Sport Aircraft, American Legend, and Tecnam holding their highest rankings. Jabiru moved up one notch, while Remos slipped one. Aerotrek (another year-after-year gainer) climbed another rank while Evektor fell one. Nonetheless the top five, these last four, and Cessna are the only brands breaking into triple digits. Although Pipistrel gives us challenges to count (some are registered as Experimental Exhibition), the Slovenian company has also exhibited an even climb and now ranks 11th in the fleet or 3rd for calendar 2016. One fooler is SportairUSA, which markets both TL Ultralights and Zlin. Neither has broken 100 yet but when combined SportairUSA has and that's before fresh excitement over their new Outback Shock. Van's continues to make more fully built RV-12s with their partner Synergy Air. Progressive Aerodyne, builder of the Searey approved in both USA and China, has had and still boasts solid years. The central Florida company is the clear leader in LSA seaplanes even while Icon's A5 finally began to show up with 13 new registrations in 2016. Finally, while our main chart focuses on the top brands, note that the largest single percentage are registrations from “All other producers.” The same is true in our calendar year chart. Sometimes called "boutique brands," these companies continue to find customers. Even as Light-Sport Aircraft matures as a niche in the aviation industry, its promise remains strong. As our ongoing reporting from Aero and Sun 'n Fun shows, new models continue to be developed and governments in more countries are embracing the ASTM standards to approve these aircraft. No wonder the general aviation world wants what LSA has. Unlike legacy aircraft producers — those making general aircraft that have changed little over half a century — the LSA space continues to supply interesting, innovative, modestly priced, good performing, superbly equipped, and yes! …safe aircraft. Now that most manufacturers have seen BasicMed has not materially affected their business the American LSA segment grows steadily while worldwide sales continue to eclipse new GA single engine piston deliveries by multiple times. Update #1 — May 1, 2017: After this article was posted, Pete Krotje of Jabiru North America wrote, "Your 2016 LSA chart shows Jabiru North America with five units last year. The number is actually seven (N733Y, N766J, N768J, N72TA, N773J, N218KC, and N772J (a J170-D)." We love when vendors aid our effort to achieve accuracy. This information was shared with Jan Fridrich. Update #2 — May 2, 2017: After Tecnam's U.S. base got a number of calls about this article, we exchanged email about the process. While we can only reliably count FAA registrations and these numbers may not precisely match a seller's data, Tecnam USA observed, "FAA registers us in different ways. Sometimes just Tecnam, sometimes Costruzioni Aeronautiche Tecnam, and sometimes Tecnam SRL C.A. So that might be why not all the Tecnams sold were included." Their sales records show the following 17 SLSA were sold in 2016: 7 Astore models, 8 P2008s, and 2 P92s. Thanks to Tecnam for sharing this and again, we forwarded the numbers to Jan.
A dozen years after FAA created aviation’s newest sector, we have a new leader among manufacturers of fully built Light-Sport Aircraft. CubCrafters has been moving upward with several years hitting 50 deliveries. In 2016 the west coast builder finally topped perennial leader Flight Design, which slipped to second place. The CT builder had occupied the #1 position since the beginning of Light-Sport Aircraft. Only four aircraft separate the two brands. Note: this article has been updated twice; see at end. —DJ In the single-year race, Czech Sport Aircraft won convincingly with almost double the next closest producer. The Czech builder performed well in 2015 but significantly increased last year. Congratulations to both companies. To explain further, our “whole fleet” market share chart — the one we have published going back to 2006 — keeps track of all Special LSA (SLSA) airplanes in the U.S. fleet. Regretfully, we are unable to properly account for weight shift trikes, powered parachutes, gyroplanes, or motorgliders because the database is too variable.
SLSA Market Shares Report & Commentary for 2015
Article Updated 8/8/16 — The second chart appearing below for Calendar 2015 results had errors in the spreadsheet formula. They have been corrected below. —DJ My associate in Europe, Jan Fridrich of LAMA Europe, has been the source for a database search for many years as I seek to report market share statistics in the USA. He scours the FAA registration information and laboriously assembles the numbers. As he and I work to produce accurate info, Jan often makes contact with selected companies when questions arise, as they often do. I also reach out to producers in our effort to make the best possible use of the registration data to create our rankings. Jan has been one of his country’s representatives in the Czech Republic’s official work with the Chinese to help that nation build its lighter aviation infrastructure. He’s made many trips to China in the last two years.
SLSA N-Number Registrations in First Half 2015
The U.S. market for Special Light-Sport Aircraft continues to grow at steady pace, modestly better than the trend for single engine piston certified aircraft as reported by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association for the first half of 2015. SLSA deliveries in the half-year period totaled 97 units, with 91 of those coming from 15 manufacturers, showing that the famous 80/20 rule still generally applies … more than 80% of the market is supplied by less than 20% of the builders. It also implies the majority of those companies who previously earned FAA acceptance for their LSA models are either quite slow or inactive in the U.S. market. We’d prefer to describe vigorous growth but the so-named Great Recession seems to be lingering on; at least it appears the much-talked-about recovery has left most of aviation still looking for improved business. Evidence of a still-troubled global economy is even clearer when you consider the wild stock market gyrations of recent weeks.
REVISED: World Aviation Statistics with New Data
Revised Article UPDATED: 6/5/15 / New total LSA and LSA-like chart (at bottom) — At best statistics can be fluid and hard to state precisely. In response to my request for any Australian input below, Neil Jansen responded, “I found some data sourced from the authority that manages such aircraft categories in Australia (Recreational Aviation Australia).” He attached a PDF article. After my review of this document, I can say that I was not grossly off in my guesstimate of 2,000 LSA-type aircraft. I attempted to be conservative and evidently I was. From a review of the charts and article, I would now increase my Australia figures from 2,000 to perhaps 2,700 so the final calculus of around 50,000 worldwide aircraft looks even more solid. That said, my European counterpart, Jan Fridrich, and I since had a conversation that suggests even 50,000 may not fully cover it.