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Tuesday, November 1, 2005

The LSA Boom!

Private and sport pilots alike have driven the market to new heights

The LSA BoomLooking back to Sun ‘n Fun 2005, it’s fair to say that was when the light sport aircraft bell was rung, and since then, they’ve been off to the races. In the short four months between early April and early August, 14 new aircraft received airworthiness certificates in the special light sport aircraft (S-LSA) category. Although several of these airplanes have been flying in Europe for years and the number of additional new aircraft receiving approval will certainly slow down over time, the figure is remarkable nonetheless.

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Tim Elliott is the president of American Legend Aircraft of Texas. After garnering a lot of attention at Sun ‘n Fun with the debut of its modern, U.S.-produced, J-3 look-alike Legend Cub, the company is now reacting to much stronger demand than it had anticipated. Elliott says, “The rate of new aircraft and new customers entering this market is incredible. We’re currently sold out of production through May of 2006 and are working hard to increase our production capacity. The majority of inquiries are coming from high-time pilots who are looking to lower their operating costs and, at the same time, to have an outlet to satisfy their love of flying.”

Each dealer we spoke with stated that it’s hard at work to guarantee new owners that service, parts and warranty repairs will be available, but one company is attempting to chart a more ambitious and broad-based path to meet the demand for airplanes, training and service. SportsPlanes.com, headed by Joss Foss, is working to set up a national network of Regional Centers designed to provide everything a potential LSA owner and pilot needs, including offering a variety of aircraft from different manufacturers, and being able to offer maintenance, repair and warranty services around the country.

Foss says, “If you’ve got a factory that only produces 40 to 50 airplanes a year, where does an owner go for help? If you’ve got a Ford car, you can go anywhere for service, so we’re setting up a network to do that for our airplanes through our Regional Center program. And by having multiple manufacturers in our system, the economics work out.” Foss is quick to point out that while work is well under way to develop the SportsPlanes.com network, “it’s not there yet today, but it’s in the process of being set up.”

As to the critical areas of financing and insurance, all of the dealers asked say they have established working relationships with financial institutions and insurance agencies, and claim few, if any, problems in either area. They report that for buyers with a good credit history and the resources to finance an airplane, companies such as AirFleet Capital Inc. and Beacon Aero Credit are willing to write LSA loans. For insurance, one prominently mentioned company is longtime aircraft insurance agency Falcon, which is working with underwriters such as Global to provide LSA policies.

IndUS’ Ram Pattisapu took an active role in seeking out financing and underwriting partners to help him sell airplanes long before the feds began handing out LSA certifications. The IndUS Thorpedo and SkySkooter designs originated with John Thorp, progenitor of the Piper Cherokee line. His Thorp was certified by the FAA in the 1960s, which gave Pattisapu a credible start with the companies he approached. “We were coming to them with basically a certified aircraft, so it wasn’t difficult when we had a second type of certification, light sport aircraft, to find all the partners we needed. Also, we’re based here in the United States, not out of the country.” IndUS offers as many as four different LSA lenders and insurance from Falcon.

Labels: LSAsSport Pilots


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