In the midst of the economic doldrums, which includes much of the aviation industry, two interesting pieces of news last week give hope to the pilot poluation.
The first comes from Light Sport guru, Dan Johnson. For those who don't read Dan's blog, I highly recommend it. Dan reports that LSA sales remain relatively strong, even as the general piston market slows (that's being kind). According his numbers, overall fleet size has grown by 35% (for fixed wing aircraft), which averages to about 35 new registrations a month. Now, it's important to note that for any new industry, percentages are skewed. If you sell one widget one month and another widget a second month, your sales increase a stunning 100%! Still, it's encouraging that the LSA market is holding. I firmly believe a shakeout is coming (you can't have a hundred different manufacturers selling four planes each a year and have them all survive), but the industry leaders are holding on. The Flight Design CT, which I reviewed on these pages, remains the best-selling LSA, followed by the American Legend, which makes a Piper Cub knockoff.
Turning to the very light jet market, the news has been grim of late. Why should a new private pilot care about jets? True, most will never fly a jet (we fly in jets). But while the LSA and VLJ markets are entirely different, they both represent two of the most exciting developments in aviation in decades. Last week, Embraer earned worldwide certification for its new Phenom 100. Besides a cool paint scheme, the Phenom is a viable VLJ from a well-established aircraft manufacturer. It follows the Cessna Mustang, which we think is selling well. This represents some good news following the bankrupcy of Eclipse Aviation and the collapse of DayJet.