Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Sun 'n Fun: When The Going Gets Tough...

When the going gets tough, goes the old motivational phrase, the tough get going.
The LSA industry had a hard year in 2009, as did all of General Aviation...not to mention the economy.
And although news pops up here and there indicating better times are - eventually - coming, the most resilient companies keep looking for ways to stimulate their markets rather than simply holding on for better sales numbers.

Cases in point from Day 1 of Sun 'n Fun: 
1.  Piper Aircraft CEO Kevin J Gould addressed a morning press gathering to paint a thumbs-up picture for Piper and General Aviation as well.   He backed up his nuanced optimism with positive stats: Piper expects to sell 8 times as many trainers this year as last; Piper's total sales are up 75% over 2009; enthusiasm for the PiperSport is strong - the company could produce and deliver as many as 75 PiperSports this year; sales of other models from its GA fleet are showing improvement; and the three new owners of the first PiperSports took delivery of their aircraft in a well-attended ceremony at the company's flight line display.
I like that last item for several reasons, but here's my #1: Mr. Gould said in January that Piper would deliver its first PiperSports this month.  He kept his word.  We need examples just like this of leaders who talk the talk - then walk it.
---- > Piper CEO Kevin Gould (r) and new PiperSport owners
2. Flight Design CEO Matthias Betsch, and FD USA Prez Tom Peghiny and Marketing head John Gilmore talked about several new developments in existing and new products:
the CTLS Lite, the all-metal MC S-LSA (look for my flight report in the next issue of Plane & Pilot),  the new CT HL tow aircraft for Europe, where noise pollution is a real problem; ongoing development of the after-market GA hybrid engine, currently pegged at $34,000 and expected to fly this year; an all-hand control system for disabled pilots, now certified in Germany, which will be an easy - and then reversible - retrofit for any CT; and floats under development for the CT line.
Mr. Betsch also reiterated what he told me at Sebring in January: that the market "is starting back" and 2011 should be considerably stronger than 2010.
He also made a cogent point: "There is no aviation without basic aviation."  Makes sense, ja?
3. American Legend announced a new model today: the Classic J3, which is exactly what it sounds like: the original sport plane of them all, without any frills, and at a price, for an all-American made airplane, that should attract some solid interest: $94,895.  More on that later, I'm running out of room
4. Randy Schlitter of Rans Aircraft told me he's holding the line on the Coyote II, aka S-6ELS, at $63,000.  That's another attractive, all-American airplane that's about half the price of many S-LSA.
Randy also shared some insider info on his development of an all-electric aircraft: more on that later too.
As I said at the top: when the going gets tough, etc.  These four market leaders aren't waiting for the turnaround: they're helping make it happen.

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