Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Light-Sport Chronicles: Sebring Impressions


Lights, cameras, action: what a great way to start the LSA year!


I thought those of you who have never been to an air show, specifically the Sebring U.S. Sport Aviation Expo, might enjoy a world's-eye view of what it's like to make the pilgrimage every January. This year, Sebring #8, spawned by founder Bob Wood, was likely the best yet. See, Sebring is simply the country's best light-sport aviation candy store. Unlike Oshkosh, Sun 'n Fun and local air shows that draw aviation nuts like me to enjoy the full panoply of flight, this central Florida show offers no distractions (helicopters, military jets, warbirds, GA aircraft) to save you from full indulgence of your light-sport obsession.

Where to start? How about that sexy yellow-and-white FK12 Comet biplane just ahead...but wait, the elegant SeaMax amphibian is back with a new distributor. And, hold on: There's Zenair's all-metal kit planes, and over there, the Flight Design CTLE fitted out for law enforcement, and wow, the Renegade Falcon taildragger and tricycle sleekster, and CubCrafter'simmaculate Carbon Cub SS. Oh yeah, Sebring. Bring it, baby!

Ahead, just above the white exhibit tent, one after another eager craft flings itself into the air on demo flights with potential customers: high wings, low wings, powered parachutes, motorgliders. Anyone who ever built a model airplane feels that dormant inner-kid persona surge to the frontal cortex.

This eighth year was the most positive in years for exhibitors. One perennial hard worker, Art Tarola of AB Flight, grinned as he reported four contracts signed, with another about to pop. My pal Dan Johnson, LAMA President and LSA mover/shaker, reported 20 sales at the show...with perhaps 50 more waiting in the wings. A very good Sebring indeed.

This was my fourth consecutive visit, and the weather was hands down the best ever. Temps never topped 80. Clear or popcorn skies prevailed, with light, refreshing breezes.

We had just one high-cirrus afternoon, which sent me and my companions in two Flight Design CTLS aircraft on a wild shadow chase all the way east to Lake Okeechobee, light patch-hopping in search of open sunshine for a photo shoot. Pools of light would open up just ahead in the green-and-brown, drought-parched rural flatlands, but alas, the Sunshine State didn't live up to its name this afternoon; the holes closed each time we drew close...argh!

Sebring affords the best chance for air scribes to strap on several LSA in a feast of flight reporting. Manufacturers and dealers bend over backward to work us into their busy demo schedules. Sure, it's good for business, but these working folks know we're all in the game together. Growing the industry is the common bottom line.



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