Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Light-Sport Chronicles: Profiles In Vision: Dan Johnson, Part 2

Now-and-forever LSA: Whither goest the industry—and why?

Picking up with Dan Johnson from our talk last month at Sun 'n Fun, we continue our armchair prognostications and tea-leaf reading about the LSA industry. Dan's lead-off question: Why is the market still hesitant to buy an LSA, even when many can afford to pay the tariff?

"People know LSA haven't been around that long," he says. "They're still wondering if they should give it a try. It's a market acceptance situation, and the market is no more sophisticated than this: It's people making decisions to buy or not buy. If they're hesitant either for general economic reasons, or reasons specific to an industry not as proven as they'd like it to be, it still adds up to a 'not now' factor for them—maybe later, just not yet.

"Look, I like sports cars," Dan says. "But I haven't shopped for one for many, many years. It doesn't fit my needs today the way a bigger car does. That's a market issue."

We kick around the perception factor. How safe, people wonder, are LSA? The thought crosses my mind every time I climb aboard a freshly ASTM-approved aircraft. Sometimes it's made by a company whose name I can't pronounce, from a country whose name I can't spell, and the question pops up in the back of my mind: How safe is it?

If it has an airframe parachute on board, all the better. But I still want to know how long the company has been in business and their past safety record, among other considerations.

I'm happy to report that flying 35-plus LSA in four years, both foreign- and domestic-made, I've had no safety-related issues—not one. I, for one, am confident light sports are safe, whereas I've had a few "incidents" in FAA-approved and -maintained GA aircraft over the years.

"I take a little umbrage with FAA," Dan chimes in, "for implying there's a problem with LSA." He's talking about the FAA's suggestion that it will step in more assertively to audit LSA manufacturers if they don't get the job done themselves. Last month, we noted Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's agreement with LAMA (Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association, which Dan Johnson heads) to conduct audits for the industry's manufacturers.


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