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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Celebrating 10 Years Of Sport Aviation

The latest and greatest from the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo 2014

Ten Years Of Sport-Pilot And Light-Sport Aircraft
On July 20, 2004, the sport-pilot and light-sport aircraft (LSA) rule was adopted, creating a new segment of the GA industry, a new class of pilots and hopes for a private aviation renaissance. The approaching 10th anniversary of the date invites reflection on its results, and what better place than the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo at Sebring, celebrating its own 10th anniversary in 2014.

The LSA rule has clearly led to innovation as intended, says veteran industry expert Dan Johnson. "That's most significant and obvious in the 134 LSA models certified to date—more than one new aircraft per month for 10 years straight. There's nothing like it in aviation history."

Phil Lockwood, designer of the Air Cam, sees the results through the prism of the advances in light engines, like the Rotax motors that have powered his twin pusher. "More than anything, it's been a huge shift, from the two-stroke to the four-stroke engine," he says.

Mary Jones, the EAA's former director of publications, notes the ASTM standards process the industry developed has been a big success. "Now, the FAA is looking at it for Part 23," possibly adopting its methods for approval and production of certificated aircraft. "The people on the ASTM team said back then that it was a trial balloon, and if the process worked, it might be used for other regulatory processes," recalls Jones. "It's taken a long time, but it's coming true."

Some say the industry has yet to deliver on affordable aircraft. "I feel like the market missed what the airplane should have been, and the airplanes are too expensive," says Lucas Massengale of TruTrack Flight Systems. "They were supposed to be fun airplanes, a cheap way to fly. Now they're all $150,000."

Dan Johnson says, noting current prices, "Nonetheless, sport flying is within reach of a much larger population of us by reducing licensing to 60% to 70%, and reducing the cost of airplanes 50% to 60% of what they otherwise would be. And," he notes, "it has prevented an even further decline in the pilot population by enabling many to keep flying, thanks to sport pilot's medical rules and LSAs' lower fuel usage."


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