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It’s Warmer in Sebring: Light Sport Aviation Expo

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.

-Andrew

5 Responses to “It’s Warmer in Sebring: Light Sport Aviation Expo”

  1. I am one of those "old white males" that were at Sebring but bought an LSA, after 7,000 hours in Beach and Cessna products, to lower my costs of flying; insurance, fuel, GPH, etc. Didn't want to give up flying because the cost per hour was getting out of hand.

    Am 82 and just renwed my medical.

  2. I spent several days at the Expo working the Flight Design sales booth. It was encouraging to see all the people who were learning about the capabilities of an LSA, and the postive outlook on the economy for 2009. My flight school has 8X more students enrolled this January, than it did last year at this time. It is going to be a good year.

  3. I like the EXPO in Sebring, tired of the big city
    hassel, I'm sure if it were in or near Miami I wouldn't bother going.

  4. David Carter Says:
    February 5th, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    My friend and i flew into Orlando from New Hampshire on January 21st and drove to Sebring to find sebring almost as cold as new hampshire.......... But we did not care for the expo at sebring passed all of our expectations. The staff, visitors, exibitors and the weather were wonderfull. I have a problem with anyone giving this event a bad rap.

    We bought an aircraft as a result of the expo., a STING. I feel the Sting S 3 was one of the best aircraft at the event and the best bang for the buck. There should be more recognition of this great aircraft and not just the ones who have big advertising budjets. . Thankyou Sebring and Thankyou EAA for a wonderfull time.

  5. Nice! The Sting3 looks very cool. Did you fly it home to NH? What's it like?

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