Monday, September 27, 2010

Midwest Expo Wraps Up

The wonderfully run Midwest LSA Expo is history: Long Live Midwest.  The show was well supported by the industry, with many manufacturers and vendors attending to meet the public for the three day event.
All the industry and media reps I talked to, without fail, were universal in their praise for the enthusiastic, cheerful and unwavering commitment of the Midwest crew who bent over backwards to provide any and every service asked of them. 
Yet when the previous two days challenging weather (wind on Thursday, 95 degree heat and 25 mph + winds on Friday) finally gave way to a beautiful mid-70s, blue-sky day with light winds on Saturday, I'm sorry to report that the expected crowds failed to materialize.
All of the LSA dealers agreed that most of the folks who did turn out were more motivated and focused on LSA -- there were few nosewheel kickers in this crowd.
But hardworking Chris Collins, the point man in making this wonderful event happen, and the rest of us were disappointed in the turnout.
The consensus continues to support the belief that the aviation buying public just isn't ready to lay down the Grover Clevelands just yet, with the economy continuing to give mixed messages on the recovery.
That said, Chris is undaunted and plans to put this most excellent event on again next year.  He told me he'll recommend to the Mount Vernon Airport board of directors that the event run Friday through Sunday instead of Thurs-Sat as it did this year.
The airport is a fabulous venue.  The restaurant in the terminal served hearty buffet style breakfasts and lunches for $5 and $8.  More airshow-common fare such as bratwursts, burgers and corn dogs were for sale on the ramp.  The runways are long, in excellent shape, and there's ample smooth grass areas for taildragger operations.
iCub dealer Bill Canino, Prez of Sportair USA most agreeably gave me lots of grass time by treating me to landing practice for my upcoming pilot report on the lively bush critter with the Apple iPad on the panel.
Flying around the green and gold farm plains of southern Illinois is a treat in itself.  There are no shortage of emergency landing fields, so you can play around low or high and have a ball trying on the various designs.
More than 50 LSA were on display.  I had the pleasure to fly several of them, including the 3X Trim Navigator 600, an S-LSA I didn't know.  The unusual name is pronounced "three ex-treem" to denote the lovely, lively 3-axis handling.  I didn't know the Polish entry and was interested to learn it's a sister ship of sorts to the Remos GX, since the same designer created both original airplanes.  In handling, the two birds are certainly similar: light, responsive, harmonious, balanced.  The Navigator 600 was a real joy to fly.  Subjectively I find it less graceful in design than the Remos.  But inside it feels roomier, especially in headroom, and it occupies a much lower price bracket ($100K to $125K depending on equipment).  Those on a budget should give this all-composite fun flyer a close look -- as Dan Johnson noted, "it's a bit of a sleeper" that offers real value.
Another flivver I got some time in was the Rainbow Aircraft Cheetah, which at $53K is the lowest priced S-LSA I know of.  Report coming soon on that one too.
And I just head by email from Plane & Pilot Publisher Mike McMann, who is originally from the southern Illinois area.  He opined that there's just not enough population base around Mount Vernon.  Perhaps the organizers will find an airport next year closer to Chicago or St. Louis to draw from those huge population bases. 
Because in the end, like every other business, it always comes down to the numbers: the more you have to work with, the better your prospects.

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