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Articles Out of the Blue Aviation Light Sport Aviation in the NW

Light Sport Aviation in the NW

After three years, and lots of hoopla, many people wonder how the Light Sport Movement is faring here in the Northwest.  As a flight school owner at Arlington Airport, I would say that Light Sport has taken off, but has not yet reached altitude.

One of the limiting factors in light sport to date has been the relatively few flight schools that have offered training, partially because no-one seemed to fully understand the rules, and it was difficult to find a qualified aircraft.  Getting the CFIs, the local examiners, and the aircraft manufacturers up to speed ate up the first couple of years following the official FAA approval of this new class and category in the fall of 2004.

 

Over the last year, however, a number of flight schools in the Northwest have added a light sport aircraft to their fleet.  We started our light sport efforts early in the game with an Aeronca Champ, figuring it would fill two bills – light sport and tailwheel.  It received a fair amount of light sport business until we added an Evektor Sportstar.  Brand new, shiny, and modern, the Sportstar siphoned most of the light sport students from the Champ.  Indeed, the Sportstar has become one of our most popular aircraft for LSA students, private students and renters as well. 

Unlike some of the LSA, the Evektor Sportstar is an ideal trainer as it has sturdy aluminum construction, hearty landing gear (for those occasional firm landings) and flies beautifully.  It is comfortable, with great visibility, a panel complete with GPS, and its Rotax 912 engine is very economical.  Other aircraft that have been used in NW training facilities are the Technam Bravo, Echo, and Sierra, all fine flying aircraft.

 Evektor_Sportstar

Now that many flight schools are finally able to offer LS training and manufacturers are able to keep up better with demand (buyers no longer are told there is a 6 month waiting list to get the aircraft of their choice), I believe we will see Light Sport grow even further.  Unlike the recreational pilot license which never really took off (only a couple hundred total licenses issued), light sport has proved its validity with the number of students who have earned their licenses (a couple thousand already) and the number of sport aircraft that have entered the market (hundreds of flavors available). 

According to Earl Lawrence, Vice President of Industry and Regulatory Affairs for EAA, the fact that Cessna has jumped into the light sport market gives "a stamp of approval on the whole process."  In addition, a number of dealers, like Light Sport Airplanes, West, are investing in these aircraft in a big way.  According to Gordon Suttie, CEO of LSA, West, "There are now many great light sport aircraft on the market, each with its own unique blend.  With multiple aircraft and manufacturers to choose from, we offer a comprehensive range of airplanes with the goal of matching any pilot’s flying mission."

Of course, some people are shocked by the price of the new LS models (most hover somewhere just over the $100k mark).  Apparently, they expected them to be in the price range of an SUV.  Personally, I don’t think the place to save money is on a vehicle that is going to take you and your loved ones thousands of feet into the air.  Mr. Lawrence of the EAA points out that Light Sport has "reduced the price of new aircraft by at least half."  A few years ago you couldn’t touch a brand new aircraft for under 200k and now there are many to choose from for under 100k.  And they are still new - new panel, new metal, new engine.  Most are built with the Rotax engines which are simple, reliable, economical, and significantly reduce the aircraft’s operating costs. 

 

 

In the real world, economy and fun don’t often go together.  But in the case of Light Sport Aviation, the right combination of economy and fun was achieved. Economies are found in the reduced costs of training, on more affordable aircraft, and on reduced operating costs of owning your own aircraft. And the fun is apparent as soon as you take off – most of these LSAs are very sporty and fun to fly.

With CFIs, flight schools, and examiners finally up to speed on the light sport program,  and with manufacturers ready with many great choices in aircraft, I don’t doubt that Light Sport Aviation, here in the Northwest and elsewhere, will soon reach altitude.

This article was written by
Submitted by Cathy Mighell
Out of the Blue Aviation, Inc.
360-474-1060
and reprinted with their permission - March 3/08

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