I’m still contemplating the major success of the Fifth Annual Sebring Expo, which shrugged off the doldrums of 2008. Let’s review: AOPA is the leading pilot organization in the world. Their flagship magazine, Pilot, has by far the largest circulation of any magazine in aviation. Their Expo is long established. *** Yet it appears January’s Sebring outdrew November’s AOPA Expo in San Jose, California. Sebring attendance may have reached 11,500 while Expo reported 9,500. Both are excellent shows for exhibitors as each precisely targets their market. Despite AOPA’s vastly larger size, professional staff, and years of experience, LSA are evidently a compelling enough attraction that Sebring Expo passed AOPA Expo. *** After all the tallying is done, I would not be surprised to hear 20 airplanes sold at the show (worth approximately $2.5 million). AOPA’s Expo may have transacted more revenue for exhibitors as GA prices are higher, but Sebring can be proud.
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Getting Ready for Sebring’s LSA Expo #4
Over January 17-20, 2008 every significant company in Light-Sport Aircraft will be in Sebring, Florida. The Sebring Expo preludes with an ASTM
meeting. During the event LAMA hosts its annual member meeting and dinner plus its board will meet. EAA will organize a slate of info forums. Importantly, vendors can deliver demo flights all day every day. *** Event Chairman Bob Wood reported, “Cirrus Design is the most recent addition to the stellar group of companies now sponsoring the event. They join Cessna, Garmin, The Southern Ford Dealers, and others.” *** Sebring #4 appears bound for new records. Paid exhibit space available increased again in 2008. “We are up nearly 30% in spaces over 2007, and now nearly every one of those is booked,” said Wood. Most of the 47 companies and the 59 models that have achieved SLSA status can be found at Sebring making it the largest collection of LSA anywhere.
Bright Yellow Fk9 Was a Hit at Sebring’s Expo
He could see the benefit for his company’s sales, so Fk Leichtflugzeuge — or FK Lightplanes — president Peter Funk came from Speyer, Germany to support his new American importer, Tony Anderson of Fk Lightplanes USA. Tony brought his family operation to Sebring and their classy display at the main intersection of the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo attracted the attention of many in attendance. The intensely yellow Fk9 turned heads and lifted 25 pilots who took demo flights during Sebring. “I was very happy to see how well our high wing model was received,” said a smiling Peter Funk. The Fk9 Mk IV is a well-evolved design. Since the Mk I model flew in 1989, more than 300 aircraft have been delivered. The latest generation Mk IV features a wider cockpit area, four inches more legroom, and improved seat comfort. Unlike many LSA, Fk9 is available as a kit, fast-build kit, or ready-to-fly SLSA.
Come See Them All…at the Sebring LSA Expo
We’re down to the last week before the 2007 Sebring LSA Expo kicks off a new year in sport aviation. In attendance will be every market-leading airplane and some in the works. One of the most watched of these is the Cessna LSA. The company is still working on their “business case,” a formal plan for the Textron board to allow them to consider Cessna’s proposed entry to the world of Light-Sport Aircraft. But while the Wichita giant makes its decision key Cessna people will staff the company’s exhibit at Sebring…virtually sealing the case for the Expo being an important event on the LSA calendar. Sun ‘n Fun has also bought space to promote their full airshow in April. EAA will be hosting a whole series of forums. LAMA will holds its annual member meeting. And other groups will gather. Media people are asking for credentials.
Midwest LSA Expo Wrap-Up — Metrics Reveal the Strength of These “Sector-Specific Shows”
Sun ‘n Fun does it. EAA AirVenture Oshkosh did it. Why not the smaller, sector-specific shows? Indeed, why not? I refer to reporting of show statistics when the event concludes. In modern vernacular, these are “metrics.”
The likable and longtime manager of the Mt. Vernon, Illinois municipal airport, Chris Collins, has been forwarding some “metrics” from this year’s 14th annual event. Whatever you choose to call the numbers from an event, they provide useful information on how the show performed.
One comment measurement is the number of airplanes sold or the quantity of interested pilots who expressed real interest. Trying to get hard information is like nailing Jello to a wall. We get tidbits and potential but hard facts are hard to assemble. A genuinely interested person ready to make a deal could experience problems right after the event. Some (understandably) need to check with their spouse; that sometimes alters a decision.
Sebring Day 4 — 2 Video Pilot Reports, a Surprise Arrival, and a Wrap-Up Interview
The final day of the Sebring U.S. Sport Aviation Expo brought good flying conditions until mid-afternoon when light precipitation returned. The good start allowed us to record two Video Pilot Reports (VPR), one on the Magnus Aircraft all-carbon-fiber Fusion 212 and the other on the fully enclosed SilverLight Aviation American Ranger AR1 gyroplane. The videos will take some time to edit but I’ll provide a quick glimpse below.
One surprise arrival was Aeromarine LSA‘s Mermaid. Remember this model? This Chip Erwin creation was really the forerunner of the modern LSA seaplane category. Before Mermaid, we had Progressive Aerodyne‘s Searey and Aero Adventure‘s Aventura. Both those models have been upgraded for the time of ASTM standards compliance but early in the new millennium it was accurate to call them “ultralight seaplanes” built of gusseted aluminum structures covered with sewn Dacron surfaces.
Sebring Day 3 — A Welcome Return of Blue Skies Brought Droves of Pilot Shoppers
As Day Three arrived, blue skies returned to Sebring after a damp start on Day Two and with them came the best crowds of pilots and companions of any day so far …by far. As you see in the lead photo (home page), crowds were often so thick around aircraft that a picture barely showed the flying machine. It was a fun if chilly day and the mood of pilots and aircraft reps was upbeat.
I was also informed that a number of paid sales went down and prospects are talking seriously about other purchases. Most aircraft vendors know a purchase of this size may warrant additional thought post-event but clearly some customers had come ready to deal.
For years I’ve maintained that sector-specific shows like Sebring produce more sales per visitor than the big shows. Neither pilots nor vendors can miss Sun ‘n Fun or Oshkosh and still claim to be true-blue aviators.
Sebring Day 2— Evolving Market for Light-Sport Aircraft …New or Used
“Duck and cover” was a phrase to describe the morning on Thursday, Day Two at Sebring. Rain that lasted until late morning dampened turnout and you can’t blame those who stayed home because tomorrow, Friday January 25th, looks much better. It will be cooler (by Florida standards, 60°F) but clear skies are forecast. Plus, it’s Friday, so come on out and enjoy!
We took advantage of the wet weather to visit inside displays and will have videos coming on the Wingbug airdata WiFi device; about insurance for Light-Sport Aircraft, ELSA, Sport Pilot Kits from Aviation Insurance Resources; and on Whelens line of very bright LED strobes. Once they are edited and uploaded, find them on the YouTube channel of Light Sport and Ultralight Flyer. Please be patient for the videos. Soon after Sebring, Videoman Dave and I head out to Copperstate for the show now co-produced with Buckeye Air Fair at an all-new time of the calendar: February 8-9-10.
Sebring Day 1 — Blue Skies and Handsome Aircraft Draw Receptive Crowds
Sebring Day One was true to form for the 15th running of this grandaddy of Light-Sport and Sport Pilot Kit shows. Airport manager Mike Willingham told me opening day attendance was better than opening day last year. He and the entire Expo team certainly benefitted from good weather, a tad windy, but blue skies and temperatures hitting 80° F (27°C).
Videoman Dave and I recorded several new video interviews for you. One of the first will be our classic race-around tour of exhibits on opening day.
We also talked to many in the business.
The government shutdown appears to be having some effect on industry. One example regards FAA inability to make inspections so a vendor can get the Special Airworthiness certificate needed to complete delivery of a new SLSA (meaning final payments cannot be collected, no small matter to many LSA or SPE kit enterprises). However, few vendors actually introduced the topic suggesting the bad news may be localized.
Setting Up Sebring 2019 — Heaven for Light-Sport Aircraft and Sport Pilot-Eligible Kit Aircraft
Sebring Sport Aviation Expo 2019 — I’m here. Where are you? Weather looks good for the opening tomorrow here in Sebring, Florida, where temperatures were in the mid 70s (23 C). Blue skies prevailed although the air was bumpy according to several who flew airplanes in for display.
While a good many airplanes are already here, an equal number were still not on the grounds at 6 PM, so some hustling will have to occur. …and it will!
I attend seven or eight airshows every year. I’ve done this for many years. I’m here to assure you that the night before opening, the place is utter pandemonium with no possible hope in sight of having everyone in position and ready for business by morning. It can’t happen. …yet it does!
One of the most marvelous transformations to be seen is a lonely expanse of concrete ramp turning into a colorful, energetic, ultimately cool place to hang out, look at lots of pretty airplanes of all kinds, talk flying to your old pals and new friends, catch a forum, participate in a work shop, take a demo flight if you’re in the market — heck, take several flights.
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