Nobody would argue that the introduction of light-sport aircraft (LSA) changed general aviation in ways unseen since the golden era of Cubs and Luscombes. The Federal Aviation Administration introduced LSA with their ruling on July 20, 2004, creating a new category of aircraft intended to fill the gap between ultralight aircraft and general aviation aircraft. Specifically, the FAA mandated that light-sport aircraft would carry a maximum of two occupants, have a maximum takeoff weight of 1,320 pounds (seaplanes—1,430 pounds), a 45-knot clean stall speed, a 120-knot top speed at maximum continuous power, a single, non-turbine engine and fixed landing gear (except amphibious floatplanes).
What has changed general aviation is the emergence of hundreds—literally—of LSA manufacturers. The category also created a new type of pilot—the sport pilot—with that certificate’s easier regulations, “driver’s license medical” and lowered training requirements. The combination of those things has created a market as dynamic as computers in their ’80s heyday, and just as volatile and interesting. This surge of popularity has driven technological progress, as well as innovation in design, creating some of the most interesting aircraft designs since the Beech Staggerwing.