LSA, Homebuilt Sectors Weathering The Downturn

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Companies of all kinds worldwide are feeling the impact of the current economic problems, but many of the smaller companies that build light sport aircraft and sell kit airplanes appear to be holding their own. "New kit sales are down across the board, a little bit," Kitplanes editor Marc Cook told AVweb on Wednesday, while acknowledging that the sector doesn't track hard numbers. "But nobody is really panicking," he added. He's noticed a "small uptick" in used homebuilt aircraft for sale, but he said it's nothing like what's been happening in the GA market overall. "I think most kit aircraft are more affordable to operate, and also the owners have more emotional investment in the aircraft," he said. An owner who has spent hundreds of hours building an airplane might fly less if cost becomes an issue, he said, but most are reluctant to part with their creations. Dan Johnson, chairman of the Light Aircraft Manufacturing Association, told AVweb on Wednesday that he sees a similar situation in the LSA market. While sales have definitely slowed, he said the smaller companies that build LSAs are better able to adapt to changes. "There's no market shakeout," he said. The annual Sebring LSA Expo is just six weeks away, and while a few companies have opted to conserve their cash and stay home, Johnson said, overall he expects a robust turnout for the show. Also, he noted that one company who pulled out is Cirrus, which won't be there to promote their LSA this year. Cirrus said in October it would slow down its LSA project for now, citing a lack of demand in the sector.

Johnson added that the Expo will reprise its Thursday night dinner this year, on Jan. 22, the opening night of the event, for exhibitors and the press. "Last year we had about 325 people there, which makes it just about the biggest event there is in the LSA world," he said. Anyone who would like more info or to RSVP can contact info@lama.bz.