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Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Sebring 2011: Rays Of Hope Ahead?

The planes and people came...and light-sport keeps on truckin’

The year’s first major aviation show, Florida’s U.S. Sport Aviation Expo, went off swimmingly, if a mite frigidly in January, with good attendance, thanks to show organizer Bob Woods and his friendly volunteers. New LSA designs debuted, popular makers returned with their stable of thoroughbreds, and except for one weather-challenged day, LSA-focused enthusiasts got their fill of daily flight demos, new product displays and many chances to go toe-to-toe with the folks who build, outfit and market the light-sport fleet.

There were colorful stripes of human story at Sebring, as well. Two inspiring disabled young people flew an LSA 1,000 miles to raise funds for wounded vets to learn to fly...and they used only hand controls. Wonderful story.

Gobosh went through a change of hands (now represented by a longtime Denver training operation, Chris Dill’s Skyraider Aviation). Meanwhile, the Brazilian company that builds the Paradise P1 is enduring some change-of-hands pangs of its own, possibly. Stay tuned as that story unfolds. AOPA’s head honcho Craig Fuller traveled down from Washington to deliver a rousing talk at the LAMA (Light Aircraft Manufacturer’s Association) dinner. But surely, the most enduring tongue-wagger at the show was Piper’s dismantling of its one-
year-old marketing agreement with the Czech company that builds the beautiful PiperSport S-LSA.

New airplanes included a wild-looking ASTM-certified German warbird and a gorgeous S-LSA motorglider that handles like a dream—I was lucky enough to get 2.5 hours in it!

When the winds quit, and cleanup crews came out Monday morning, I flew the new-looking, four-year-old Kitfox that Paul Leadabrand of Stick & Rudder Aviation (Boise, Idaho) had flown down—a 4,200-mile round-tripper. Lovely airplane...and stalwart guy!

Some sales were made, and many more solid prospects logged for future contact. A group of five LSA companies flew out Sunday night on a joint marketing venture to six Florida airports.

All in all, you’d have to say light-sport aviation is alive and well and looking for more rainbows in 2011. It’s a great story: Be part of it this year!

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