The wild early success of the light sport aircraft industry and the excitement over the entire category as we enter year number six, belies one disturbing fact: The LSA sector still appeals mostly to older pilots who are concerned about losing their medical. Show up to any LSA event and you'll see exactly what I'm talking about-- those in the cockpits, asking the questions, and working the controls are 70 year old pilots who see an LSA as their only way to keep flying and avoid spending all their money on golf.
In my opinion, an industry built on a negative cannot survive. If you question my thesis, riddle me this: If the FAA eliminated the Third Class Medical for all single engine pistons (so your Cessna 172 qualified) or raised the maximum weight limit so more legacy aircraft would qualify as an LSA (neither of which is under consideration) what would happen to the nearly 100 LSA manufacturers? Do you think there would be any market for them?
While some LSAs are making their way into flight schools and while there are now hundreds of Sport-rated Pilots, the industry remains built on the back of older pilots. This cannot be what the FAA had in mind.
As someone deeply interested in the LSA category (I continue to demo fly them with the possibility of buying a share of one), I'm interested in what can be done to keep the industry from falling apart. And I'm afraid that's where it's headed.
First, there will be a shakeout. A few hundred sport-rated pilots cannot support one-hundred aircraft manufacturers.
Second, I'm concerned that seasoned, multi-engine rated pilots who give up their twin for an LSA because of medical concerns will, in fact, lose interest because of the sport-pilot limitations. Where once they could shoot low-minimum approaches with their family of four, now, as Sport Pilots, they're limited to day VFR flying with their one passenger or their dog (but likely not both) These pilots will stop flying when they get bored.
Third, just as young people don't want to drive Dad's Oldsmobile, young would-be pilots won't want to fly aircraft known for servicing mainly older people.
The LSA rule is the most exciting development in general aviation in decades. It's the only sector that is showing growth during this economy. It needs to be nurtured. That means LSA's need to grow their demographics, not just grow in number of aircraft available.