The State Of Sport Pilot...

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It's Finally Here. Now, Who Will Use It?

Light Sport Aircraft may find its largest markets on either end of the active pilots' life cycle. That is, by attracting entry level "I just want to have fun" pilots on the front end, or by providing a last ride for pilots whose financial means, comfort, or age has caught up with their desire, or ability to fly higher performance aircraft (or earn a third class medical). On the grounds of AirVenture, it is not easy to decipher if Sport Pilots will be a well-defined group, and that may not be a good thing for the price-points of the breed. In the end, the desires of the market with the most buying power will ultimately define the most successful Light Sport Aircraft designs. For now, lack of a well defined group may mean a lack of mass production and a lack of new very low cost aircaft. The current crop includes some offerings in the range of $80,000. A lack of very low cost aircraft specifically marketed to entry level pilots may deter those pilots from joining the fray and moving on to fly larger more capable planes. It may also amount to another missed opportunity in the quest to make flying more accessible to a broader group.

But the FAA could still claim a small victory. The rules would still offer legitimate status to those pilots and craft who were (prior to the new rules) flying beyond the limitations of the ultralight category with training that fell short of the certificated pilot. They would also offer sanctuary to those certificated pilots with lapsed medicals willing to adhere to the regulations set forth by the Sport Pilot regulations. Wherever this ride goes, the technology evoked by this initial push may yet benefit us all.