With another week of temperatures in the teens in New York, I figured there was little excuse not t o spend a few days in South Florida, especially since it involved airplanes.
Enroute to Miami, I detoured to Sebring, the location of the 5th annual Light Sport Aviation Expo. Sebring has become an instrumental force in showcasing developments in the LSA category.
My initial thoughts are these: Sebring offers lots of cool planes to look at, optimism about the future of GA, and the same old people looking at airplanes. In other words, Old White Men. At 39, I felt like the youngster in the crowd. Until we can make progress on this front, all of GA is at risk.
Note that my comment is purely anecdotal. I do not have stats and graphs to back it up. But, looking around, it is an accurate description of what I saw. What that means is that the LSA category is still largely appealing to men (who make up the vast majority of pilots) who are interested because of the medical requirements. (You can fly without a Third Class Medical). Some flight schools were represented, but I wonder if they are teaching sport pilots or are using the aircraft as primary trainers for the private pilot license.
The sport category is designed to bring new pilots into the market. After five years, there remains only a few hundred specifically-licenses sport pilots. If you think of all the federal dollars spent on developing the regulations and the few who are so far taking advantage of it, you have to question the Return on Investment.
Still, I am a big supporter of the concept and of the aircraft. I have flown a few and hope to fly more.
Some notes from the show:
The best-selling LSA, the Flight Design CT was prominently featured. Both the newer CTLS and the less expensive CTSW are still selling well, according to the company. Interestingly, in speaking with representatives from Fleet Capital, in this tight credit environment, it may be easier to finance LSAs with proven track records and companies with a long history. Not sure if that’s totally true, and would welcome feedback from other LSA manufacturers.
It’s easy being yellow. There seems to be more Cub-lookalike manufacturers every year. A couple news ones were on display. It can’t make Piper happy. But, at this point, it appears, the yellow, tailwheel iconic aircraft design is in the public domain for anyone to copy.
Cessna continues to push ahead on the Skycatcher. I learned that despite the demo model being painted purple, the final production planes will be white. That’s good. Flying is still a macho type of hobby and unless you’re Jimmy Buffett, your plane shouldn’t be painted in pastel colors.
Garmin has jumped into the LSA category from all waypoints. Its new Garmin G3X is a big-boy panel-mounted non-TSO option that is similar to the G1000.
I couldn’t fine Cirrus and the company weren’t listed in the program guide. Does this bode bad things for the SRS light sport model? On a recent conference call about new developments, Cirrus had no mention of the SRS.
Finally, my one comment about Sebring is that the only real way to get there is to fly. Which sounds right for an airplane expo, but isn’t for those traveling by other means. It is three hours by car from Miami, so a six hour, one day roundtrip is a little taxing. Even Lakeland, where Sun-n-Fun is, is just an hour from Tampa. Oshkosh is an hour from Milwaukee. See my point? I’m not suggesting Sebring lose the expo, but I’m suggesting Sebring lose the expo. A more accessible location would better serve the LSA community.