To the nonflying public, and even prospective pilots, general aviation airplanes are fun to watch fly overhead or admire on the ramp, but they can be intimidating to climb into—the size, buttons, dials, etc. all seem foreign. Light sport aircraft just might help bridge that barrier.
At the Wings ’n Wheels Old ’n New event at Wings Field in Blue Bell, Pa., Sept. 11, more than 200 people hopped in AOPA’s 2010 Sweepstakes Remos GX. Of all the people that stopped by to admire the two-seat airplane, only one young girl was too intimidated to get inside, although she briefly reconsidered after I told her that I (a young woman) had flown the airplane “all by myself” earlier that morning.
As children and adults, men and women, climbed into the Remos, I showed them how the control stick worked and had them lean out the door to watch themselves move the elevator and ailerons. I moved the rudder pedals while the young children looked outside. The children would immediately exclaim to their parents, “Look, I’m doing that!” as they worked the control surfaces.
The Dynon EFIS-D100 primary flight display and EMS-D10 multifunction display was a hit with those who said they were planning to start flying lessons. The two “mini computer screens” and panel-mount GPS look much more familiar to today’s technologically savvy crowd than the round instruments of traditional aircraft. They seem to be able to better understand the concept of reading your airspeed and altitude from a computer screen than from the round standby gauges. Navigation (nonpilots are always asking pilots how they know to get from Point A to Point B) suddenly becomes easy when they see the GPS.
Many adults asked about the cost of an LSA and the availability to train in one. Some were pilots contemplating letting their medical lapse; others were interested in learning to fly. Unfortunately, because the LSA market is still relatively young in the United States, they aren’t as common at airports as traditional Cessna, Piper, or even Cirrus trainers.
Although it’s impossible to tell if talking to someone for five minutes or teaching a child the basics of an airplane will make a strong enough impression to lead them to pursue flight training, I think LSAs have a good—or even better—shot at enticing the nonflying public to learn to fly. I’ve only watched people interact with six of AOPA’s sweepstakes airplanes over the years, but what little time I’ve spent around them, the LSA seems to put the nonpilots at ease. They aren’t as intimidated to hop in, and once they do, the panel and control stick aren’t all that much different than what they might fly on Microsoft Flight Simulator.
I don’t know if it’s the airframe’s small size or the glass cockpit, but the two together seem to make the LSA a nonpilot magnet.