LSA's defy the economic downturn

Post date: Jan 30, 2009 1:28:26 PM

January 27, 2009

Light Sport in Sebring: Bucking the Tide

By Paul Bertorelli

I arrived at Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Florida last week, I didn’t know quite what to expect. Given the seemingly unending river of discouraging economic news, all of us were concerned that the show would take a serious hit. It may have suffered some but, as with Oshkosh last July, I can’t say I saw it in an attendance drop off.

In fact, Bob Wood, the event organizer, just told me attendance at Expo may have in fact increased a bit over last year’s numbers. The final count isn’t in, but he said it could be as high at 11,500. If that’s true, it confirms what many of us think about the LSA segment. It’s gaining traction at every turn. I asked Wood if he’s given any consideration to moving Expo back a month, toward the end of February, when the cold fronts sinking into Florida are both milder and drier. (It was as cold as 29 degrees on Thursday morning.)

But Wood says shifting the show dates isn’t an option. By February, the Sebring race season is getting underway and between the racing noise and the competition for hotel rooms, moving the show is a non-starter. (Not that I much mind the full-throat scream of the Indy cars that see test laps at Sebring.)

This year, there were more fly-in attendees in all sorts of airplanes, but fewer arriving by car. I was a little surprised to see a number of people I know who own serious airplanes—serious meaning four seats and IFR-capable—who are more than casually looking at LSAs, either as replacements or second, fun-flyer sport aircraft.

Some of these buyers are doing what I’m doing: Wondering if any of LSAs are practical for modest cross-country trips. The short answer to that is that they are, as long as you’re not in a hurry or trying to keep to a schedule. In the next issue of Aviation Consumer, we’ll be examining that very topic. Jeff Van West borrowed a Remos and used for it for a trip of moderate length in Louisiana and Texas. So if we’re doing stuff like that, you can believe other would-be buyers are, too.

On the other hand, even if you just use an LSA for tooling around your local county or for the $63.56 hamburger (fuel price drop), that’s reason enough to own one.

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