...And Can Manufacturers Afford It?

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"Product liability is going to be a huge issue for Light Sport Aircraft manufacturers," Mathieu Heintz, president of Aircraft Manufacturing and Development (AMD), in Georgia, told AVweb yesterday. "We've been looking at it for a long time." Heintz said his company has worked out a deal to obtain product liability coverage by agreeing to assemble LSA aircraft to the same standards as FAA-certified aircraft (which seems somehow to miss the points). AMD plans to build Zenith Air's CH601 and CH701 models in the manufacturing plant where he now builds Alarus certified airplanes. "We will be selling only factory-finished Special-Light Sport Aircraft," he said. AMD has decided against selling owner-finished Experimental-LSA kits because of the potential liability issues, he said.

Mackey, of Falcon, agreed that insurance issues are likely to have a major impact on the development of the LSA market. If manufacturers want to have product liability coverage, which they might need to satisfy investors or to take the company public, he said, they will probably need to keep their product as mainstream as possible, using well-tested, standard aviation components and designs. For flight schools, affording coverage on a sport plane that isn't covered by product liability could be a challenge as well. "One way around that, is that dealerships may offer owner-instruction deals, where students buy their own airplane or quick-build kit, and then the dealer provides builder assistance and flight training. That way the flight school avoids the ownership issues," he said. How it will all play out will be determined as the market develops, he said. "Insurance coverage has always been a concern for recreational aviation," Mackey said. "And it's going to be a concern, forever."