I had some fun today talking with Jim Sweeney, guest host of Roy Beisswenger’s Ultraflight Radio Show. *** Our first topic was the state of the LSA industry. I first picked my pal Dan Johnson’s satellite-view brain of the LSA Big Picture to glean we’re looking at an industry that is weathering the economic storm and ready for an upswing. *** Once the economy really ramps up, many observers feel LSA, which remain an incredible bargain compared to new GA airplanes, should pick up smartly. Let’s toast that happy day! *** Meanwhile, Tom Peghiny of Flight Design USA tells me sales are picking up, particularly from his dealer network who are selling their inventory aircraft and ordering replacements. *** We’ll post fresh market stats from Jan Fridrich after Oshkosh AirVenture on FAA registrations through mid-year but in general it’s good to remember that companies are doing whatever it takes to survive in this prevailing market psychology of uncertainty. *** Some details: * Flight Design, (still #1 U.S. seller), Jabiru and American Legend lowered prices, created “economy” models or both, to stay competitive. * Flight Design has the CTLS Lite at around a $20,000 lower price, Jabiru dropped it’s high winger by a like amount, and American Legend came out with its Classic J3, Continental O-200-powered model at $94,895. * Companies like Rans Aircraft and American Legend among others enhance their market appeal by selling both kits and ready-to-fly airplanes. Rans in particular has thrived for more than 25 years with this strategy and is still going strong. *** So although, as Dan says, the industry is still in a “bit of a funk”, companies are finding ways to hang in there. *** As for the much-ballyhooed, yet-to-occur “shakeout” of the 77 companies producing ASTM-certified LSA aircraft since the beginning several years ago, a grand total of five have shut their doors or are up for sale. That’s rather amazing. *** New airplanes continue to debut too: *** Two TL-3000 Sirius from SportairUSA (my flight report will be out in Nov. or Dec. Plane & Pilot) will deliver this month, and another right after Oshkosh, according to Sportair’s Larry Martin. *** Cubs still rule: Nearly 33% of all LSA sales are Piper Cub clones, says Dan. *** We thought of at least two good reasons: Light Sport flying is a recreational experience after all, and what speaks to simple, fun flying better than a Cub? (I’m getting time locally in a 1946 version myself, and having a blast.) *** Then there’s the 75 years of trustworthy (and FAA certified) safe Cub operation. Older pilots inclined to still look askance at this brave new world of ASTM industry self-certification might believe their safest flying remains with the old-school, truly wonderful Cubbie. *** Positive signs for all you LSA-curious AirVenture visitors this year: Dan Johnson’s LSA Mall should be full again. What a great way to compare your dream planes side by side. *** One last note: there are around 2000 LSA out there now. That’s beginning to help companies stay afloat by providing parts and service to those airplanes. Flight Design alone has more than half a million parts on hand to do the job right. Engine overhauls, brake maintenance, and other services all help bring in revenue for those makers in it for the long haul. *** So let’s keep our chins up by remembering that, with more than 100 LSA models to choose, there’s enough variety and a broad enough price range to suit just about anybody looking for a way to do fun flying. *** My case is a perfect example: I can’t afford to buy an LSA outright… so I’m renting one at $50/hour wet! Hard to say no to that deal, eh? *** So even if renting is the way you have to go for now, or shared ownership, or joining a club, there’s no reason you can’t find an LSA to help you get ‘er done at a reasonable tariff.
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