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!
2019 In Review
Overview — Here’s the top line view: “It’s been a good year,” wrote Steve, as he noted aircraft registrations for our categories grew by 793 aircraft in 2019, a 10% increase from the year prior. Counting all types, the fleet enlarged from 8,028 at the end of 2018 to 8,821 by end of year 2019. While not as boisterous as the stock market was last year, this nonetheless suggests satisfying numbers for the light aircraft industry.
Compared to 2018, Steve observed, “Sport Pilot kit aircraft are gaining on LSA though not by much; the kit market slightly closed the gap with the LSA market comprised of both Special, fully-built LSA and Experimental, kit-built LSA.” Sport Pilot kits do not meet ASTM standards but have less regulations and the owner, having built his or her plane, is allowed to maintain it without oversight by an A&P.
As Steve uncovered, the market leaders involve the same seven brands that have been leading the pack.
However, as he added, “All did not have the same experience. Kitfox registrations increased by 60% (as the Idaho company appeared to lose some momentum in 2018). Van’s Aircraft grew by 44% and Rans by 20% but Zenair/Zenith and Sonex were modestly off their previous pace (see chart below).”
For reference, here is our 3Q19 market share report with additional details you might find interesting.
LSA Seaplanes — Icon continues to do well (but see the next paragraph). The last quarter of 2019 was good for SeaMax and Super Petrel. The latter gained two new owners in the last quarter while SeaMax gained three. Both companies are based in Brazil but SeaMax has been working hard on their U.S. presence (see more here) and, apparently, it is paying off.
Steve wrote, “Regarding Icon’s numbers, note that historical figures often differ from what was previously reported,” in this case with Icon and its A5. He continued, “This happens because FAA continues to perfect its data. For example, for 2018 the agency reported 57 Icon A5s as ‘2018’ aircraft but FAA data clerks switched 11 of those to ‘2019’ once their late-in-the-year paperwork was done. Thus, we now report fewer than 57 Icons for 2018.”
Despite these necessary adjustments, we maintain the figures used in this report are the best available and are of very high reliability. In fact, the adjustments Steve and I make are proof of the effort to report accurate, dependable data.
As always, I offer a loud and heartfelt THANKS! to Steve Beste for his work to make this information available.
(all other than Fixed Wing)
In general terms, Steve noted, “Alternate aircraft offer a mixed picture.”
He reported, “We have no change from our third quarter 2019 report: Gyroplanes registrations are slowing slightly but are still hot. Trike registrations are holding steady. Powered parachutes registrations are off a bit (nearby chart).
Gyroplanes — “The low-cost Tango is coming on strong,” said Steve. Tango is quoted quite well equipped for just $43,500. “It used to come with a Rotax 582 but their website says it now has a Yamaha engine that they say provides a four-stroke, three-cylinder, fuel-injected, 1,055 cubic centimeter engine outputting 130 horsepower.” That engine is part of the low price tag but even if you added every option shown on their website, you still might not break $50,000. No wonder it is attracting some attention. Of course, until the FAA’s new LSA regulation comes out, all gyros — other than AutoGyro’s Primary Category entry — must be built as a kit. (See chart below.)
Steve notes a new gyroplane entry, “The database now shows Airgyro and their AG-915. It’s a derivative of the Celier Xenon obviously, but with many changes.”
Weight Shift Trikes — Looking only at the weight shift trike segment, Steve wrote, “Something strange is happening.” He clarified, “Evolution Trikes, a leading producer of trikes, registered none of the top-end Revo models in 2019. Instead, the Florida company’s hot models are designer Larry Mednick’s Part 103 Rev and his new RevX (2 registrations). Larry told a prospect at Oshkosh that he’s back-ordered for months on both of them.” These two models don’t appear in the data we collect because Rev is a Part 103 vehicle and RevX is a single-seat machine that we are not counting as being LSA-like. That shows a bias against single seaters, which we never intended. All aircraft on our SLSA List are two seaters. We will start to include single seaters in the future, though we have no way to add Part 103 vehicles because they require no N-numbers.
“Wild Sky’s Goat by Denny Reed has done well,” exclaimed Steve! “What on earth are those Goat buyers doing with them? Could they all be flying back country,” he asked? Our earlier report and video will tell you more about this trike entry.
About this Report — “SP Kits” means Sport Pilot kit aircraft referring to amateur-built aircraft that can be flown by a pilot possessing a Sport Pilot certificate, or a pilot holding a Private Pilot certificate or higher who is exercising the privileges of Sport Pilot — meaning no aviation medical is required. Since Sport Pilot, as a form of pilot license, only arrived in late 2004, we collect information from FAA’s Aircraft Registration database for all applicable kit-built aircraft that can be flown by a Sport Pilot plus, of course, all Special or Experimental LSA. Although some of the same kit 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 our online market share reporting system called Tableau Public — please do have a look; it’s free! — be advised this website may appear best on your desktop or laptop. Smaller screen smartphones and tablets do not portray the information as conveniently.
I am so excited that the TangoGyro has made it onto this list. It has been a long time coming.
I can only make one small comment.
The TangoGyro that sold with the Rotax 582 was a Tango1 (single seat).
The Tango2 is a tandem and therefore needs a power plant that has a bit more oomph.
Robbin K says
Hi. Interesting data. Don’t forget the Magni M24 – 4 in 2017, 8 in 2018, and 9 in 2019, (and 5 or 6 unknown airworthiness dates in the database). Ours is one of those so I was intrigued to find out how many others were in the US.
Not sure how you did your research, but if it was as manual as what I just had to do (search the FAA DB and then click on every link for the date), kudos to your energy and persistence!
(Edit, I just re-read your article and found the how-we-did-it link and went back and found the database download. Still a gargantuan task!)
Robert L says
With the exception of Tango, all gyro manufacturer’s numbers went down in 2019. It makes one wonder whether the market for $100k+ gyroplanes is saturated. It also may (rightly or wrongly) imply that prices will be coming down, in order to compete.
Dan Johnson says
Hi Robert: Hmmm… glass half full or half empty? I don’t think you’ve drawn the right conclusions about a shrinking market. Plus most gyroplanes are not over $100,000 unless they are fully enclosed and loaded with options. On the other hand, you may be right. That’s the funny thing about forecasting the future. We simply don’t know what happens tomorrow.
jan eggenfellner says
How accurate is this? Viking Aircraft Engines sold 20 engines to PPC machines in 2019. so, we delivered more than 100% of all delivered PPC machines?
Dan Johnson says
Hi Jan: These numbers are about as good as it gets, barring only FAA data entry clerk errors. Sales numbers from manufacturers rarely match precisely to FAA registration data although the two will draw closer together over time. Especially the kit aircraft your company supplies may be some time before hitting the registry. In addition, an already registered kit-built aircraft that changes engines does not require a new registration. However, it sounds like Viking is doing quite well… bravo!