To Market, To Market, To Sell A Sport Plane

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While it used to be the conventional wisdom that if you build it, they will come, the sport aviation industry isn't buying it ... they are already hard at work behind the scenes to develop a marketing plan to let the "great unwashed" know all about sport flying. "Preaching to the choir just won't get us where we need to go," said Dan Johnson, EAA's sport-pilot guru, who is spearheading the so-far-informal LSA Industry Promotional Board. The group held its second meeting yesterday, at Oshkosh. Johnson said he believes the FAA's estimate of 12,000 new pilots over 10 years is not enough. "That's only 100 new pilots a month," he said. "We think we can triple or quadruple the current market." The group yesterday brainstormed a variety of ideas, from creating a traveling exhibit for boat shows and motorsport expos, to showcasing sport aircraft at local shopping malls and county fairs, to following the Be-A-Pilot model that has brought tens of thousands of new pilots into the GA fold, to staging unusual stunts that would attract the public's attention. Johnson also said FAA Administrator Marion Blakey's estimate for the cost of becoming a Sport Pilot, which she mentioned at yesterday's Meet the Administrator session, seems too high. "I don't know how the FAA came up with the cost of $2,600," he said. "We think a lot of sport pilots, in powered parachutes for example, can get certified for much less than that." The group plans to meet again in Sebring, Fla., in October, during the first U.S. Sport Aviation Expo.