Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Mid-Year View

I had some fun today talking with Jim Sweeney, guest host of Roy Beisswenger's Ultraflight Radio Show.
Our first topic was the state of the LSA industry.  I first picked my pal Dan Johnson's satellite-view brain of the LSA Big Picture to glean we're looking at an industry that is weathering the economic storm and ready  for an upswing.  

Once the economy really ramps up, many observers feel LSA, which remain an incredible bargain compared to new GA airplanes, should pick up smartly.  Let's toast that happy day!
Tom Peghiny of Flight Design USA tells me sales are picking up, particularly from his network's dealers who are selling their inventory aircraft and ordering replacements.
We'll have hard numbers from Dan's colleague Jan Fridrich after Oshkosh Airventure on FAA registrations through mid-year but in general it's good to remember that companies are doing whatever it takes to survive in this prevailing market psychology of uncertainty.  

Flight Design, (still #1 U.S. seller), Jabiru and American Legend lowered prices, created "economy" models or both, to stay competitive. 
Flight Design has the CTLS Lite at around a $20,000 lower price, Jabiru dropped it's high winger by a like amount, and American Legend came out with its Classic J3, Continental O-200-powered model at $94,895.
Companies like Rans Aircraft, Aeropro and American Legend among others enhance their market appeal by selling both kits and ready-to-fly airplanes.  Rans in particular has thrived for more than 25 years with this strategy and is still going strong.
So although, as Dan says, the industry is still in a "bit of a funk", companies are finding ways to hang in there. 
As for the much-ballyhooed, yet-to-occur "shakeout" of the 77 companies producing ASTM-certified LSA aircraft since the beginning several years ago, a grand total of five have shut their doors or are up for sale!  That's rather amazing.

New airplanes continue to debut too:
Two TL-3000 Sirius from SportairUSA (my flight report will be out in Nov. or Dec. Plane & Pilot) will deliver this month, with another planned right after Oshkosh, according to Sportair's Larry Martin. 
Cubs still rule: Nearly 33% of all LSA sales are Piper Cub clones, says Dan.
We thought of at least two good reasons: Light Sport flying is a recreational experience after all, and what speaks to simple, fun flying better than a Cub?  (I'm getting time locally in a 1946 version myself, and having a blast.)
Then there's the 75 years of trustworthy (and FAA certified) safe Cub operation.  Older pilots inclined to still look askance at this brave new world of ASTM industry self-certification might believe their safest LSA flying remains with the old-school, truly wonderful Cubbie.
Positive signs for all you LSA-curious Airventure visitors this year: Dan Johnson's LSA Mall should be full again.  What a great way to compare your dream planes side by side.
One last note: there are around 2000 LSA out there now.  That's helping companies stay afloat by providing parts and service to those airplanes. Flight Design alone has more than 500,000 parts on hand to do the job right.  Engine overhauls, brake maintenance etc. all help bring in revenue for those makers in it for the long haul.
So let's keep our chins up by remembering that, with more than 100 LSA models to choose, there's enough variety and a broad enough price range to suit just about anybody looking for a way to do fun flying.
My case is a perfect example: I can't afford an LSA outright...so I'm renting one at $50/hour wet!  Hard to say no to that deal, eh?
So even if renting is the way you have to go for now, or shared ownership, or joining a club, there's no reason you can't find an LSA to help you get 'er done  -- and at a reasonable tariff.

   ---photos courtesy American Legend, Rans Aircraft and Flight Design USA

No comments: