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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

LSA Buyer's Guide

Time for young (and old) pilots’ fancies to turn skyward with 30+ sport planes

What a great time to be a pilot! The economy gains traction, Big Tin (Cessna and Piper) flexes its muscles as more Skycatchers and PiperSports find homes across America, and new S-LSA—111 models as we go to press—continue to come on line. Meanwhile, flight schools draw new students with their growing LSA fleets. Longtime market leaders (Flight Design, Legend Cub, CubCrafters, Tecnam, Remos) continue to bedevil the competition as anticipated newcomers slice the pie ever thinner...it’s a buyer’s market!

LSA’s safety record continues to be strong; even though the ASTM consensus-certification process, made legal in 2004 with the Sport Pilot Rule, was a leap of faith for FAA, it seems to be working out. Optimism over light sport’s long-term prospects remains downright heroic. Even with the really tough times of the “Money Meltdown,” most producers, domestic and abroad, have managed to stay in the game. That means your decision process is tougher than ever, as proven designs continue to be refined and exciting new ships enter the market.

LSA, once the hope of low-cost flying, have escalated dramatically in price. Still, shared-ownership organizations like LetsFly and Aircraft Partnership Association will match determined-to-own pilots with like-minded buyers and even handle financing, maintenance and hangaring—for one monthly payment! Rentals are more common, too, as LSA expand fleets nationwide.


Enough preflight: Let’s call “Clear!” and crank ’er up to survey the bountiful choices of light-sport flying. We’ll start with the FAA registration list rankings (and thanks to Jan Fridrich, who compiles it for www.bydanjohnson.com). Note that the top 20 models account for more than 85% of the entire sales to date.

Flight Design
Still top dog, this all-carbon-fiber, top-performing, German-made CTLS shows no signs of slacking the pace, with well over 300 U.S. registrations. FD’s all-metal MC, a docile, super-roomy, easy-repair trainer, targets flight schools. New additions: a gorgeous float package for the CT and a solid nationwide network with 40 service centers. Full “glass” EFIS instrument options abound, including Dynon Skyview and Garmin G3X panels. Price: $139,800 (CTLS); $119,980 (CTLS Lite); $118,083 (MC).

American Legend
Nipping at Flight Design’s heels, top U.S. manufacturer American Legend taps the enduring faith in the original Piper Cub J3 design with its Legend Cub, a top-notch rendition with Super Cub-like upgrades, including Continental O-200 (100 hp) or Jabiru 3300A (120 hp) power options. The fleet also includes the AmphibCub (float equipped), Classic J3 and Texas Star E-LSA kit models. Tons of options: composite prop, Dynon, Garmin and TruTrak glass. Price: $117,895 (Cub, open cowl); $159,000 (AmphibCub); $97,895 (Classic J3).


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