LSA's Failure to Launch

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As armchair observers and occasionally participants, most of us are ready, even unasked, to pontificate on how the various shows we attend should be improved. But I've come to the conclusion that the major shows are nearly a perfect reflection of the industries they represent. When the aviation industry is bubbling -- which it hasn't for five years -- so too are the shows filled with intriguing new stuff and a palpable vitality. So I wasn't surprised when I spent a day at the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring last week to find it ... anemic.

That's no slam on the show organizers. Given the state of the light sport segment, they actually deliver a far better show than I'd expect. I don't even have a short list of things I think they ought to do to improve the show because they punch above their weight in keeping the show humming. That's tough to do when the underlying industry struggles to get itself launched.

And make no mistake, LSA isn't impressing with its sales vitality and there's no point in putting a smiley face on this. Walking the show, I found vendors who are more stoic about the sales outlook than optimistic. One thing unique about the Sebring show is that it's LSA only and attendees know that. So company representatives told me even though the booth traffic might be slow, buyers come to Sebring for one last look before pushing the I'm-sold button. It's just that there aren't enough of them and I'm not seeing what market developments are going to change that, short of a robust economic recovery with four percent growth rate and maybe not even then.

What's the problem here? What's it gonna take to ignite LSA sales? I'm quite certain I've heard every possible explanation and I'm just as certain I don't know which of them is right, if any are. But the one I think is most wrong is that LSAs cost too much. At Tecnam North America's booth, Tommy Grimes said the company is going to explore the low-price end of the market with a sub-$80,000 LSA later this year or next year. When I asked if he thought that would gin up the sales numbers, he just shrugged: "Who knows?," he said. The test case here is the AeroTrek, a nice little Kitfox-style LSA that also sells for under $80,000. While it's doing relatively well by LSA standards, it's not exactly flying off the shelf, either.

Those who argue that LSAs were supposed to be cheap, but are really almost as expensive as certified airplanes simply haven't looked at certified airplane prices recently. The typical well-equipped LSA with glass is invoicing around $130,000, plus or minus. A moderately tricked out Cessna 172 is in the mid-$300,000 range, a Diamond DA40 pushes over $400,000, so LSAs are well under half the cost of low-end certified airplanes. It's true they don't have the same capabilities, but they were never intended too.

If you shop the used market, $130,000 will buy a 10-year-old pre-glass Skyhawk and a lot of older, capable go-places airplanes that still cost piles of cash to maintain and fly. Do would-be buyers scan across the spectrum of model years and types when looking at new LSAs and conclude the value isn't there? Maybe. I've heard people say this without the slightest shard of evidence that it's true, other than the fact they're personally smug and happy with a $30,000 Cherokee burning mogas. Just as personally, I think a $130,000 CTLS with basic glass or a Legend Cub similarly equipped is priced just about right for what it is. I'm disinclined to delude myself that such airplanes can be built at a profit for less money.

One of the failure-to-launch theories that makes vague sense is that if there were, say, eight to 12 LSA manufacturers, each might be selling 30 or 40 airplanes a year instead of a dozen. The volume might not be there, but the companies might at least be more viable. But there are something like 90 manufacturers with more than 100 models in a current world market that absorbed about 260 airplanes last year. If you're a rabid believer in free markets and unlimited competition and you think that there can never be too much, perhaps the static universe of LSA might suggest a rethinking of that theory.

As a journalist covering this field, it's always challenging to talk to some companies trying to sell yet another high-wing, two-place little white airplane that's barely distinguishable from a similar high-wing, two-place little white airplane I looked at last month. I have to resist the urge to point out that this town isn't big enough for all of us.

Comments (417)

It seems a lot of these LSA companies from overseas are state-sponsored (or state-encouraged) operations. So just add up all the countries out there and you'll approximate the number of LSA manufacturers. Okay, that might be a little off, but...

Posted by: Peter Kuhns | January 28, 2013 6:06 AM    Report this comment

Gee Paul, you missed the 800 pound gorilla in the room.

The FAA is considering expanding privileges for pilots who prefer to legally fly without a 3rd class medical certificate. With that decision in limbo a lot of potential LSA buyers are just dragging their feet along the side line waiting for the announcement from on high.

I am one of the few people who seems to think the LSA market can thrive without all the older pilots there because of the 3rd class medical issue. On the other hand, there is no way to deny this is part of the reason for the current success of this genre of airplanes. If the FAA decides they need to keep their aeromedical bureaucrats fully employed and denies the AOPA/EAA proposal they have been considering for over a year now I'm sure the LSA market will pick up. If they decide to go the way I think Australia is going (already or considering?) then LSA will have to stand on its merits without the benefit of being the only game in town for pilots without medical certificates. Time will tell.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | January 28, 2013 6:23 AM    Report this comment

Paul, I disagree with you on cost. I have been professionally involved in aviation for the past 34 years. Quite a few years ago I stopped trying to fly (singles and twins) on the side because the cost of aviation is too much for me. Yes, an LSA is far less expensive than a certified single but I cannot afford and LSA. Add the insurance, parking fees, maintenance and the cost of putting kids in college and there is no way. Rental fees for an airplane alone is just too much for me and I am finding that a problem for more and more people.

Posted by: Mark Hancock | January 28, 2013 6:39 AM    Report this comment

Missed Gorilla #2: I applaud your appropriate assessment of anemic LSA sales, and why that is. However, I don't think you made it by our tent. We shared space with the excellent Bristell aircraft in the big tent. Aviation Access was slammed with inquiries, orders, requests, deposits, and offers of investment as we were the only LSA fractional ownership company at the show [or in the nation as far as we know]. While the cost of most new LSA's are equal to purchasing several sports cars at the same time, we represent the only sensible means of owning anything that is an occasional-use asset: shared ownership. We think this is the way of the future, and we have staked our futures and fortunes on it in order to make LSA available to the masses.

I would encourage you to look into our pioneering work closer at the Aviation access Project fan page on FB, and come by for a visit at the tent at SNF we will once again share with Bristell.

Posted by: Rick Matthews | January 28, 2013 6:45 AM    Report this comment

As one who tried diligently to get a "Let's Fly" co-op business and region underway for years(with 6,800 sq ft of hangar and aircraft in Florida) I wish the Aviation Access Project well. The statistics and facts lead one to believe it could and should work. We simply could not get a critical mass of willing participants and pilots. It was always "cost and responsibility" that kept would be participants away in the final analysis. After 35 years of flying, 18 years of attending AirVenture, owning everything from a single to a Beechcraft Duke and getting most of ratings a private pilot can achieve, I too find myself disillusioned with the need/desire to fly when comparing the cost and hassle factor to other alternatives of activities. It is simply supply and demand folks. Too many choices for too few buyers.

Posted by: Unknown | January 28, 2013 7:22 AM    Report this comment

The flight training market is an obvious target for LSAs but they don't seem to have demonstrated they can hold up in that environment. At my local FBO the shelf life of an LSA seems to be a couple of years. Of the 4 we have had three have been removed from service for damage. The CTLS went off runway and was badly damaged when the gear collapsed. A Gobosh suffered an unfortunately fatal stall/spin on final and now our current SportStar has been out of service for months with main gear damage. The damage is not bad but they have been waiting on parts for just about two months now. Meanwhile the Cessna 150s 172s, and Diamond Eclipses stay active on the schedule and when they do break parts can be had quicly. Until we get LSAs with reasonable reliability and maintainability they are not going be replacing the certified aircraft in rental and flight training markets.

Posted by: Nathan Vonada | January 28, 2013 7:44 AM    Report this comment

How the heck can ANYONE justify spending $150K + on one of these machines? The Britell is a FINE machine but it has 2 tiny wing lockers with 44lb limits which you could not fit two shoe boxes into and a rear hatrack with 33lb limits. The CTLSi's baggage spec can't be found on their website. It's all about UTILITY and USEFULLNESS ... not expensive toys for a few who can afford them. With a 1320lb MGTOW limit, these machines cannot be justified.

There are about 125 approved designs by nearly 100 companies yet in 2012, only about 100 were sold in the US. These people are proof positive that to make a million in aviation, you have to start out with two million.

I would love to own either a CTLSi or Bristell but cannot justify a machine that isn't useful to me. Now then, IF the FAA passes the AOPA / EAA petition and the weight limit can go up ... NOW LSA may start to thrive. Until then ... it's another ridiculous idea promulgated by an out of control FAA. Well intentioned - yes. Workable - no.

Posted by: Unknown | January 28, 2013 7:58 AM    Report this comment

As I continue to think about it, the ONLY salvation for GA in the US is for the FAA to pass the no medical third class recreational flight idea. A slightly larger version of the top end current LSA machines WOULD make sense for this crowd. If I could get some camping gear into one OR have a long range OR have some additional speed ... I could go for one. Until then, no thanks. All the folks putting out glowing reports of LSA are deluding themselves. The sales records are proof positive of this. 100 sold in the US in 2012 ... gimme a break!

There is NO WAY that any of the companies with LSA offerings can make any money unless and until the sales volume goes up and the prices come down. Simple Econ101. The top selling CTSL(i) price is likely close to where it makes sense for them but the utility it offers to ME - a potential buyer - just isn't there. Stretch it out, put in more fuel, stick an O-233 into it so it cruises around 140+mph and I'll consider spending $175K on one. Until then, I'll just continue to go to Sebring and amaze myself that any company thinks it can survive long term in this environment.

Posted by: lstencel | January 28, 2013 8:09 AM    Report this comment

Why compare the 2-place LSAs with 4-place type certificated airplanes? It is particularly curious since you used the DA40 as a point of comparison when its little brother DA20 (2-place) is available for $188,000, without the glass options. These modern 2-place aircraft are too heavy and fast for the LSA category but not that much more expensive than the top-of-the-line LSAs. You can buy perfectly good used, modern DA20s for less than $100k.

As others have said, I think a lot of folks with less than bulging pockets are waiting for the FAA to make its decision on the EAA/AOPA proposal. If/when this is approved, we might see a good bit of used aircraft sales activity in the segment that permits drivers license medical eligibility.... or maybe not. There is a lot of evidence that many of those aircraft are sitting unused due to operational costs. The lower powered (under 8 GPH) older 2-place aircraft, Tomahawk, C150 etc. will definitely get a boost in value and sales if/when the proposal is accepted. To the extent that both money and 3rd class medical are obstacles, approval of the EAA/AOPA proposal will make the SLSA manufacturers prospects even more doubtful.

Posted by: Thom Riddle | January 28, 2013 8:19 AM    Report this comment

Paul, your comments are useful but your analysis too narrow. Rather than hunt for 'the' cause of the underwhelming emergence of the LSA industry (and the related Sport Pilot license), its the combo of factors that tell the tale. Outside major metro areas, there are very few rentable LSA's available (so why would most prospective students seek a SPL?) and many a legacy training school has refused to embrace the SPL curriculum (probably with well-found financial reasons). Skycatchers sell to Cessna Pilot Centers because CPC's must agree to a new Cessna purchase every 3 years, but even that artificial market incentive only had an initial impact on sales. Partial ownership arrangements - note AOPA's new efforts at supporting Flying Club initiatives - makes rationale sense but, like other posters here, I found it hard to finalize an arrangement that only required 3 co-owners. And that was in a city of 900,000 people and 3 GA airports. Earlier I'd hoped to build an E-LSA but, when the LSA choices were lined up with the mission, the LSA payload and form factor limitations left me shopping for Part 23 a/c at half the cost and twice the payload. All these factors - and yes, the lousy economy and AOPA/EAA 'no medical' proposal too - interact with each other to limit the emergence of a vital LSA industry. So how many of them are likely to change in the next 5 years? Not that many...and then we get to NextGen.

Posted by: Jack Tyler | January 28, 2013 8:36 AM    Report this comment

I just fail to see the logic of how the expansion of third-class medical privileges will cause LSA to thrive. Not a single LSA manufacturer has told me this. One, AMD, told me it would essentially destroy their business.

Against that backdrop, who am I to say otherwise? They know more than me. I do believe that the best companies might survive such a regulation-induced shakeout, thus redistributing a limited number of sales to fewer companies. But the logic that this will gin up overall sales makes little sense to me. I do agree LSA will survive it, though, because I think the products are generally good.

As for gorillas, there are two kinds: Those that exist as opinions (informed or not) or press releases and those that consist of demonstrated, overwhelming data proving something, such as sales. Thus far, haven't seen much of the latter.But maybe we will. Hope so.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 28, 2013 8:43 AM    Report this comment

LSA manufacturers have priced themselves out of the market. When they can approach the price of a standard family sedan, customers will come/

Posted by: THOMAS HEMPSTEAD | January 28, 2013 8:49 AM    Report this comment

LSA manufacturers have priced themselves out of the market. When they can approach the price of a standard family sedan, customers will come/

Posted by: THOMAS HEMPSTEAD | January 28, 2013 8:49 AM    Report this comment

Far too many models offered by far too many manufacturers - in all segments of the market, from LSAs to global-range bizjets. Hard to stay in business building a dozen vehicles per year. Even with a market for 14 million cars and light trucks annually just in the United States, how much do you suppose a car would cost if there were 200 or so manufacturers "competing" in that marketplace? And if every combination of engine, seating configuration, and infotainment system required its own TCDS? It's nuts, and its unsustainable.

Posted by: Tom Yarsley | January 28, 2013 8:49 AM    Report this comment

I am and know three other local owners of LSA. I think each has several reasons, some emotional, for their choice. I don't think there is a single reason for any or all of them. In two cases, the medical was a major issue. In another, it was modern construction. In a fourth, it was nostalgia (bought a Champ). Three of them are trained or experienced in maintenance and very comfortable with the Rotax and carbon fiber - they do a lot of their own maintenance. Their aircraft are SLSA (2) ELSA (1) and Std (1). Again, I don't think there is a definite reason for LSA, in each case it's a combination of reasons. Therefore, each sales presentation has to be individually tailored. Given this, it's probably hard to find one or even several reasons why LSA is not doing better on the macro level. Like politics, each LSA purchase is a "local" or individual issue that is hard to turn into a few generalities.

Posted by: JAMES MEADE | January 28, 2013 8:59 AM    Report this comment

I am a CFI, own a small flight school and we had a German made S-LSAs on leaseback for 5 years: The first few years they flew a lot but as time went on they started to show way too many maintenance problems. Here are my issues that make it difficult to keep them profitable: 1. The MAX gross wt or should I say useful load - Hello, the Gorillas weigh more these days - I am forced to use the 172s for many pilots simply based on weight. 2. Hull and liability insurance for a 90K or 150K LSA is over $5,000 a year try factoring that into your profitability equation. 3. Most (not all) LSAs are not built strong enough for the demands of beginning pilots (landing gear and brakes to be exact). I maintain that we should be able to use an LSA for teaching both sport and private pilots but there are very few that can hold up to the rigors of a flight training environment and that are priced so that I can rent them for $100 hr and still make a profit. OH and, finally the big GORILLA in the room, have any of you actually tried buying a new LSA? The cost of a loan, if you can get a loan - Banks and finance companies want 30% down and 6.8% interest. So, next time those of you want to rent a CHEAP airplane you'll have to buy one yourself.

Posted by: Dorothy Schick | January 28, 2013 9:57 AM    Report this comment

Paul B. I agree with you and your source at AMD. There is no way expanding pilot privileges as suggested in the AOPA/EAA proposal will help LSA manufacturers. Of course those manufacturers might benefit from certification changes that follow the LSA consensus standard and allow them to make more useful aircraft. That would be a follow on possibility.

The fact that the FAA decision is outstanding is causing people to delay any decision to buy S-LSA or something else. The uncertainty causes confusion that just can't be resolved until a decision is announced.

Maybe a light plane buyer would prefer an older Cherokee or 172 for $40,000 over a used S-LSA for $75,000. Maybe not. I think he certainly will wait for the decision to know exactly what his choices are. If the (potential) new rules allow me to choose between a used S-LSA for $75,000 or a used C-182 for the same price I would personally go for the 182 every time.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | January 28, 2013 10:00 AM    Report this comment

Paul: "...the [explanation] I think is most wrong is that LSAs cost too much."

Paul: "I just fail to see the logic of how the expansion of third-class medical privileges will cause LSA to thrive."

The problem is simple: Cost/Benefit. The prices are too high. That's it. That's all. Nothing else. And, with respect, you said it yourself in that second quote. May as well admit it: Add the hassle and costs of regulatory conformance, maintenance, and hangaring, and virtually NO ONE can justify purchasing a 2-place, 100-knot airplane that costs $150k.

Let's get real. These airplanes are the aviation equivalent of a Ford Fiesta, at the price point of a Lamborghini. What's to analyze?!

I hypothesize that people who can afford to own and/or regularly fly IFR airplanes in the present day, must have a difficult time understanding the concept of cost as it relates to those a little further down the economic ladder. Guys, pontificate all you want, and ignore that elephant on the coffee table.

Posted by: Unknown | January 28, 2013 10:21 AM    Report this comment

Wups, I tried to substitute "reason" in brackets, editorial-style, but it didn't take.

Posted by: Unknown | January 28, 2013 10:23 AM    Report this comment

For all the negativity over lackluster LSA sales and light sport pilot, there IS one point which the purveyors of LSA fail to 'push' in the logical argument over LSA vs older GA machines. A LSA does not have to contain certificated equipment and thus a Dynon SkyView system, et al, are authorized. I cannot put such a wonderful 'box' in my C172 but I CAN buy an LSA so equipped.

What some readers are missing is that IF / WHEN the no medical proposal is passed and if the MGTOW of LSA can be raised to a reasonable number, they ALL will be in a position to build a heavier ASTM airplane which mitigates some of the lack of usefullness of the current LSA machine. They already have the infrastructure in place and it would be a natural to build, say, a 1700lb CTLSi or similar.

There are currently about 200 true recreational pilot licensed pilots out there ... so much for THAT better FAA idea. We need to come to grips with the fact that there IS interest in aviation. There IS discretionary money waiting to be spent. There IS a need for newer and more fuel efficient airplanes to replace the aging fleet. What is lacking is the balance to the equation. When the FAA finally wakes up (before there's no need for them), GA will spring back to life. Until then, it'll keep dying.

The current dwindling supply of airline qualified pilots is speaking volumes about what the FAA has done to GA (sic). Secretary Huerta, are ya listening?

Posted by: lstencel | January 28, 2013 10:24 AM    Report this comment

Rick,

Great to hear you had success. Your solution has some merit. How many whole planes do you guys sell a year?

Posted by: Unknown | January 28, 2013 10:29 AM    Report this comment

Paul:

I'm not smug, but I am "happy with a $30,000 Cherokee burning mogas," and I think it IS about cost and the cost/utility ratio. My Cherokee takes me where I want to go; I can carry pretty much who and what I want to take. I'll bet my annuals don't cost any more than LSA annuals and my instrument-equiped steam gauge Cherokee doesn't cost me hundreds more each year in database updates. When the market is full of affordable used aircraft in good condition that offer good utility, how does one justify spending lots more to do less? Forget justifying it; lets assume there were no used aircraft -- in absolute terms, how many people are able to pay LSA prices for LSA capability? Might it be that LSAs can't be made capable enough within the limits established by FAA?

Posted by: Joseph Corrao | January 28, 2013 10:30 AM    Report this comment

... AND ... the number of bloggers on this subject SO early on Monday also speaks volumes about the interest level in aviation. We ALL want SOMETHING to succeed. We thought it was light sport but ... unless and until it is updated with reasonable 'useful weight' (for Dorothy) numbers, Sebring will continue to be nothing more than a nice place to spend 4 days in winter time admiring companies who have the intestinal fortitude to bet on the "come" which SO far ... hasn't come.

Per the CEO of Bendix-King, between 1960 and 1980, about 12,000 GA airplanes were built on average each year. Today, we are lucky to be breaking 1,000. Eye popping stats!!

Posted by: lstencel | January 28, 2013 10:37 AM    Report this comment

We all agree planes won't sell like boats do? Yet we still have the same sales model.

Pilots buy an LSA to enjoy flying. Most people aren't yet pilots. What percentage of likely buyers call a plane salesman before calling a flight school? Not many.

People who want to enjoy flight almost all end up in a flight school. They then are taught that flying isn't enjoyable and they no longer want a plane or even want to complete the certificate.

The manufacturers can continue to eat crumbs, or they can get serious about selling their product - the joy of flying and aircraft ownership. To do that, they need schools that sell and support their product profitably for their company or for the school owner.

Or, they can stick with a sales model which depends on distributors trying to gain share in an ever dwindling market.

Posted by: Unknown | January 28, 2013 10:46 AM    Report this comment

"If you're a rabid believer in free markets and unlimited competition and you think that there can never be too much, perhaps the static universe of LSA might suggest a rethinking of that theory."

Nope, not needing rethink the theory. Because the only "solution" to that "problem" from rethinking that theory is goverment intervention that limits the number of companies able to operate in the segment. That is the government deciding who is allowed to operate the means of manufacturing. That is fascism. (Yes, there's a lot of that going on right now here in the USA - it needs to stop.)

If there's 90 manufacturers competing to sell 260 planes each year, clearly a bunch are going to go under. The market will, eventually, reduce the number of suppliers to one that is viable long term. Given time a few will float to the top with reputations for quality and good customer service/support. They will win the bulk the orders (see Vans on the non-LSA kit-plane market), and the rest will fight over the scraps and come and go.

Posted by: Andrew Upson | January 28, 2013 10:50 AM    Report this comment

I don't understand how so many LSA manufactures came into being and somehow survive, the business stinks. The small plane General Aviation business is obviously dying--most airports I go to are ghost towns! Young people are not interested in flying--they're not interested in cars and motorcycles either. All they seem to care about it their damn phone! I believe many flight schools offer a free introductory lesson--but no one even thinks about flying as a possibility. BTW, three kids in their 20s or 30s should be able to buy and share a plane--I agree that LSAs are not overpriced.

Posted by: Thomas Reilly | January 28, 2013 11:18 AM    Report this comment

After reading my overly negative comments, I want to add that I am extremely grateful to those people who have designed and manufactured all these planes and also the founders are Cirrus, Diamond, etc. We just need new flyers!

Posted by: Thomas Reilly | January 28, 2013 11:23 AM    Report this comment

Paul, the LSA saga continuous and it is not improving.The aircraft cost too much, they are fragile with a limited scope and there is no viable demand. The manufacturers need to make a profit but if they can't sell they can't profit to keep the doors open. Bad investment as a buyer or manufacturer. If the intention of the LSA was to increase new starts and revive and increase the existing pilot count then the LSA as it stands is a failure. After 8 years the program has produced 4,000 LS pilots, mostly over 50 years of age or those who insist on flying at any cost. After peaking 3 years ago now the number of new LS first issue certificates is decreasing a la Recreational pilots, not a good outlook.

Posted by: Unknown | January 28, 2013 11:24 AM    Report this comment

The answer to the lack of activity in the LSA market has to address many concerns. My feeling is the economy is the major reason for the lack of sales. It isn't just aviation that is suffering low sales volume these days. Businesses across the country are waiting to see what is going to happen with the economy. There is an underlying uncertainty throughout all of them. I agree with what others are saying about the need for greater utility in LSA. As long as a recently restored Taylorcraft can be had for well under 25K there is no reason for anyone to spend 80 to 90 grand on an LSA.

I do not believe the ability to fly without a 3rd class medical is going to open the flood gates on LSA sales. Granted, there are those who don't qualify for a medical certificate who are still young. But I suspect the majority of people waiting for the 3rd class exemption are older. If they are allowed to get back into the cockpit, I believe they will want to get back into the type of planes they used to fly, which were not LSAs.

If we were to assume the economy will never recover, and what we have now is the "new normal", the only way LSA will survive is if a large company with deep pockets invests in a massive campaign similar to what Cessna did with their CPCs in the early 80s.

Posted by: Unknown | January 28, 2013 11:56 AM    Report this comment

Richard, The CPC program was the best plan ever put forward to sell planes. Cessna went from number one to practically the only one. No new plane design, no new reduction in in cost, nothing magical.

They set standards for schools, helped with training programs, and injected capital through finance and money from selling planes. Seems to me the program was allowed to decay. Standards did not keep up with changes in the world etc.,

Posted by: Unknown | January 28, 2013 12:33 PM    Report this comment

"Seems to me the program was allowed to decay."

Or did it decay because the evolving market made it no longer worthy of the investment? A chicken-egg question for sure, but one that's difficult to answer.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 28, 2013 12:37 PM    Report this comment

Is it a question worth asking? Either this is a business you can invest money and effort in and get a return, or it's fate is mostly dependent on things out of your control. If its the latter why keep playing at all?

Besides, the current distributor model is a dead end. They offer almost no value at all.

Posted by: Unknown | January 28, 2013 12:49 PM    Report this comment

I think that before you address problems with LSA, you first need to define what is an LSA aircraft. Not talking about the regs here, but where all this came from. It all started with FAR 103 back in 1982. There was a flaw in the regulation, which placed the entire burden of meeting the reg on the pilot. Nothing on the manufacturer of the kit or aircraft. So you had manufacturers advertising and selling "Ultralight Vehicles" that weighed far more than 255 lbs, and most with 2 seats. John Ballentine of USUA openly called these unregistered aircraft "Ultralights". When the FAA got involved, all the manufacturers and USUA said was "we don't give legal advice". Basically, "you're screwed". Face it, most didn't want a "powered Hang Glider", nor did they want the restrictions of a PPL, 3rd class medical, and the rest.

So what you ended up with was a large group flying illegally, hiding behind FAR 103, and clamoring for changes to FAR 103 to make them legal. After years of this the FAA started the process of attempting to make these aircraft and pilots "legal". The end result was Sport Pilot, and the associated LSA. The purpose was to provide a legal place for the "fat ultralights". Aircraft costing under $30,000, many under $20,000, and some under $10,000. This was "affordable recreational aviation".

Continued in part 2

Posted by: Unknown | January 28, 2013 12:53 PM    Report this comment

It still comes down to the cost/benefit ratio. Weigh the costs against the benefits, and LSA is not better than certified. Adding to that is the aircraft cost too much for all but those who have a truly burning desire to fly. There are tons of motorcycles on the road, not because "I just have to have a motorcycle and will spend whatever it takes to support it", but because good bikes are cheap enough and there are a ton of places you can go with it. You will only find a handful of people who say that about flying. It's the cost.

Posted by: STEPHEN EGOLF | January 28, 2013 12:54 PM    Report this comment

Part 2

Two things happened. Many didn't like the regulations of Sport Pilot and either continued to fly illegally, or quit flying. The other thing was the appearance on the market of aircraft from Eastern Europe, with price tags above $75,000, and a few buyers with more money than common sense. As noted the prices for these aircraft quickly doubled, or more. Sport Pilot and LSA failed in it's intended purpose, and unwittingly introduced something entire new and unexpected. So much for "affordable aviation".

My question is, why would someone spend the prices being asked today for a glorified Cub, Champ, or old Cessna 172? For half or less something like a Long EZ with 200+ MPH speed, Cozy MKIV, 4 seats with similar speed, an RV, and such is a better financial decision. Yes, there is the PPL and 3rd class medical requirement. But if that's the only selling feature of what's called LSAs, then the vendor that claimed doing away with the 3rd class medical would "destroy the business" is correct. Face it, what you're today calling LSA is aircraft that would never be certificated and entered the market when LSA took away that requirement. But none of this addresses the original intent of Sport Pilot, affordable and legal recreational aviation.

So, first, define LSA ??

Posted by: DFEUL | January 28, 2013 12:54 PM    Report this comment

LSA are probably too expensive however I think there is a bigger problem that rarely, if ever, gets mentioned: the world has changed and flying just isn't "cool" anymore. Kids just don't have the urge to fly. And, I think the trend affects more industries than aviation. For example, when I was a kid, you couldn't wait to get your drivers license. Everyone pushed to do it on their 16th birthday. Now, most of the kids I know don't have that urge. They wait until they need to get their license for things like taking a job. In other words, just like flying, driving is no longer cool (although, unlike flying, it is eventually unavoidable).

But, back to aviation, think about the current state of items that used to show how interested folks / kids were in flying: - Do you ever see kids hanging around airports? - When was the last time you saw a kid make a model airplane? - Microsoft didn't seem to see a business in flight simulation so it shut down its Flight Simulator business

It's hard for anything to compete with computer technologies and the virtual communities it creates. These are what kids are into nowadays.

Thus, if there is any chance to save GA in the long term, it must be made 'cool'. It's got to be something that draws young people and, right now, the model doesn't do that. It doesn't offer anything that kids perceive as better than, or cheaper, instantly gratifying video games.

Posted by: Unknown | January 28, 2013 12:59 PM    Report this comment

I'll trow my 2 cents worth in. Take a 1930s engine, 1950s airframe and put in some year 2000 avionics and you have a machine that's worth exactly the price of the avionics. $300+K for a C-172 makes as much sense as $150K ultralight. I.E, none. When the rental price for said 172 (that's as efficient as one of Detroit's 1970s land yachts) is now over $150 an hour, it's no wonder no one is learning to fly or buying the junk. There is NO value. Get the price back to reality and we might possibly save general aviation. But I doubt it.

Posted by: Scott McGowin | January 28, 2013 1:01 PM    Report this comment

Yes

Posted by: THOMAS HEMPSTEAD | January 28, 2013 1:31 PM    Report this comment

Yes

Posted by: THOMAS HEMPSTEAD | January 28, 2013 1:33 PM    Report this comment

Regarding the Cessna Pilot Center program; I was a flight instructor in 1983 at a CPC on the west side of Houston, TX. There weren't enough hours in the day to instruct the line of students we had. I would call the program an outstanding success. Where do you think all the Cessna Citation buyers of today came from?

As far as flying not being "cool", my EAA chapter has many more kids lining up for Young Eagle flights than we can handle. There are kids out there yearning to fly, but can't justify the costs. Flying has always been expensive, and will probably continue to be so. But if your objective is to simply obtain a flying machine at reasonable costs, an LSA has many competitors. I paid 16K for an old Taylorcraft, which carries two people about 90 mph. You can still buy a good used Cessna 150 for under 30K, so why spend three or four times that much for a vehicle that doesn't hold up as well?

Posted by: Pearson | January 28, 2013 1:35 PM    Report this comment

Why are you comparing LSA to C172s? This is like comparing a motorcycle to a Crown Victoria. They are two entirely different types of aircraft, with different mission profiles.

BTW, there are a lot more 172s on the market for $30K than for $130K. This puts them into the same price range as LSA.

A more honest comparison is between the LSA and the C150, Cubs, Taylorcraft and other small two-holers and single-seaters. These are planes for someone who just plain wants to fly, just like LSA. However, in terms of price, performance and the decades-long record of safety and reliability, the older productions planes take the trophies. I have a friend with a nice LSA which cost him $28K, while I had my pick of C150s at half that price or less. His LSA is a nice plane, approaching the 150 in performance, but the only ways that it's superior are its STOL capability and it's about $5 to $10 per hour cheaper to fly. At that rate, it will be quite a while before that $15K - $20K price difference is absorbed. The price difference is nothing short of extreme when comparing a 150 to the $130K plane that Cessna intended as a replacement.

Given those numbers it's no surprise that LSA aren't more popular. They just aren't cost effective. The people who can spend $130K on a plane have thousands of better planes available. The people who want a slow two-holer can find them at a fraction of the price of a new LSA.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 28, 2013 1:39 PM    Report this comment

Why are you comparing LSA to C172s?

Ummm...as noted, because they are both new airplanes. Can't expand the analysis infinitely and even the legacy LSAs aren't selling well anyway.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 28, 2013 1:51 PM    Report this comment

There is something to the claims about many more interests today vs when I grew up in the 1960s. Back then, we'd do anything to drive, and some of us wanted to fly.

Today I have 2 grandsons. They spend a lot of time with the game consoles. They had their whole life planned at one time. They were going to work at Gamestop until they had all the games they wanted, and then they were going to quit and play games. It's a different world. They are so used to looking at a screen that if they want to fly, there is Google Earth ....

Posted by: DFEUL | January 28, 2013 2:03 PM    Report this comment

WOW! Like I said above, Mr. Bertorelli struck a nerve with THIS subject. That says a lot. Thanks, Paul.

Well, as I analyze the situation, I WANT modern glass avionics (Dynon + Garmin), I want some modicum of speed, efficiency, load carrying, endurance and fun ... and light sport ain't any of those PLUS costs too much. So does a new C172. SO I guess I'm relegated to building an E-AB to replace my spam cans. Something like an RV-9A would do fine. All I can do is hope that when I have to worry about my medical, the AOPA / EAA exemption petition will have been passed by the FAA.

We can ALL thank the FAA for much of this. They've made aviation SO onerous in the name of safety and standardization that they've driven many people away. If ya don't fly, ya can't crash and ya don't become a statistic. 100% efficiency in the minds of FAA bureaucrats, I'd say. Now they're cherry picking at the last few fatalities per 100,000 hrs and trying to figure a way to drive THEM out, too. OH ... I forgot ... looming ADS-B out requirements oughta do just fine. Excuse me ... NextGen.

Hey ... for $55K, you can buy a 450HP C7 Corvette and pass EVERY LSA by as it goes overhead. Then you can buy a nice boat, toy hauling travel trailer, truck to pull it and carry your Harley ... AND have change left over. Maybe you could buy a used C172 with that change? But don't you fly it if you don't have a medical, guys.

What a sad state of affairs aviation has gotten to!

Posted by: lstencel | January 28, 2013 2:08 PM    Report this comment

@Eric: “How many whole planes do you guys sell a year?” Premature question. We just surfaced out of R&D in time for the Sebring Expo. It’s taken a dozen of us aviation professionals over a year to analyze data, the market, the mood, the doubters, and the industry to come up with the best method of fixing most all things in GA. And I must tell you: it’s not LSA. Or flying clubs. Or fractional ownership. Or the latest technology. It is a combination; a collaboration.

As the founder of several fractional ownership initiatives in the past after pioneered it for single engine aircraft, we had a lot of momentum going into this. We now have over 70 requests for the hybrid franchise Flight Center which will be the hub of the activity to accomplish the Formula at local airports across the country.

Not trying to conduct shameless promotion, folks, just trying to tell you that the solution has been found…we can all fix this together with a specifically designed Formula. If a solution was to be found, it would need to be promoted somehow. It has, and will continue to be. [see part 2]

Posted by: Rick Matthews | January 28, 2013 2:13 PM    Report this comment

[Part 2] Again, we don’t particularly need the LSA industry; we need the category. We need a couple of the best designs that cover most all desirable basics, then cost them down to as far as 1/16th of a share [to borrow a sheet from the NetJets playbook]. This will do the trick, Gentlemen. The presumption than one LSA plane for every pilot is naïve, and not going to happen (though their old-school dealership methodology still thinks so). Managed, shared ownership makes more sense, and it WILL be the kingpin that will make it all work.

At this stage, perhaps a good answer to the question would be, “as many whole planes as you and thousands of others are able to help us deliver”.

Collaboration, not self-centered aviation greed, is exactly what the industry needs to survive. We can do this.

There is more on the topic, and the Formula, on the FB page for Aviation Access Project.

Posted by: Rick Matthews | January 28, 2013 2:14 PM    Report this comment

Benjamin Taub:

I'm happy to say that you are WRONG. Kids DO want to fly.

The problem is that the nature of most airports has changed. The 4-foot wire fence that used to separate airfield from the road is now a 10-foot prison fence with a card-key gate. The pilots who used to do their oil changes right out in the open are now hidden in hangars. The planes are distantly visible, if at all, and the NO PARKING signs on the fence keep people from stopping to look or watch traffic.

How can we tell people "It's Fun to Fly," then make it look so forbidding and push them away?

There are still some "neighborhood" airports, and at these you see people stopping to talk to pilots, being invited in to take a closer look, and getting the chance to find out more about flying. Kids get to sit in a REAL AIRPLANE, and might even be invited to go around the pattern once or twice.

This is how most people got into flying in 1913 -- why wouldn't it work in 2013?

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 28, 2013 2:24 PM    Report this comment

Paul, I really like your style of writing.

For me, a two seat airplane fits the bill nicely as far as mission is concerned. But my airplane use is for point A to B and not Sunday afternoons. Meaning, without IFR capability, I can't buy an LSA. I was all set to pull the trigger on an RV-7A with its high cruise speed and fairly reasonable price for a new airplane, however, with the RV-14 just around the corner, I'm now waiting a little longer to see if that's the right choice.

Posted by: Tom B | January 28, 2013 2:25 PM    Report this comment

I have just sold my beautiful Mooney 252 Rocket and also have a 700 Aerostar, I have looked at what could enjoy as a personal airplane for weekends and I have ruled out LSA's because of utility in terms of cross country speeds on a windy Texas day, lack of useful load, lack of range and the likely scenario of being more difficult to fly in less than perfect conditions such as cross winds, turbulence at the best flight levels for the LSA vs aquisition costs.

Posted by: DONALD SHAPANSKY | January 28, 2013 2:30 PM    Report this comment

I think the biggest issue with new LSA aircraft is maintenance and parts. Compared with PMA-parts, AC 41.13 etc and the other flexibilities in maintaining a normal category N-register aircraft, its not attractive.

In Europe the governments have piled on huge artificial costs in maintaining a normal category aircraft, creating the $5-10K Cessna 150 annual, and a greater interest in what they call "sub-ICAO" aircraft. Heavily taxed $12-14/gallon fuel is an additional factor. Without those artificial costs, existing $20K and up normal category aircraft make a lot of sense, especially as the US pilot population decreases and there are enough to go around. Basically, I think we just don't need a lot more aircraft, and the market economics don't creat LSA sales for that reason.

Posted by: Will Creedon | January 28, 2013 2:40 PM    Report this comment

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what the problem is. The price of fuel is killing general aviation plus the high prices for maintaining your aircraft. Whats with this glass cockpits who in hell can afford them. The oil company's are gouging us and the whole country.Is their anybody out their willing to investing in LP or natural gas powered conversions for general aviation planes? Anybody know if its been tried? We can't wait for the aircraft manufactures to come up with anything all there interested is the bottom. line. LS are nice but wayout of price. The way general aviation is going is for the rich, who can afford a new or late model used Cirrus,Cessna and whatever. I've owned a C 182 for 26 years and enjoyed it alot but now Cessna and Continental are selling out to China, its where the money's at. Who cares about the worker in the USA. Thats a tip of the iceberg. I'm glad I'm at the age I'm at cause a poor you guy or gal doesn't have much of a chance in general aviation. Thank God for the EAA which is one bright spot in GA. Take care...Mike

Posted by: Unknown | January 28, 2013 2:47 PM    Report this comment

Paul:

You could just as easily compare a new Yamaha to a new Ferrari, and be just as valid.

The whole idea of owning an airplane is to FLY it. I don't know anyone who bought the first new plane they ever saw -- most people give it some thought, see what's available and weigh price against performance. They get the plane which gives them the best trade-off between what it does and what it costs.

LSA aren't selling because they don't offer the right trade-offs for most people. It's as simple as that. There ARE valid reasons to spend $90K for a plane that flies almost as well as a $15K plane, but not for most of us.

Consider also that the older plane is a known quantity. There are hundreds of thousands of pilots who can tell you how a C150 flies. Are there even ONE thousand who can tell you about the Skycatcher?

If you are looking at a 150, the only real questions are the condition and whether the ADs are caught up. There aren't many surprises left in a design with millions of flight hours on it.

With any LSA, the surprises are still in store, and are certain to be expensive ones. Will YOU be the one who finds the flaw that the next AD will address, and will that flaw kill you when you find it?

The same things which make people buy used Fords instead of new Porsches apply to people who buy airplanes.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 28, 2013 2:50 PM    Report this comment

sport pilots are too few yet, and private pilots want something more capable. that is why market is soft.

please flood ga market!!!!!!!

Posted by: Steve Bauman | January 28, 2013 2:51 PM    Report this comment

Wow, there are so many good posts here its incredible. So many valid points of view. I'm with those who speak of the value for the money and the general economics of general aviation supply and demand. Seems simple enough to me.

Some however recommend the partnership approach, that's just not for me, I have never shared my toys well.

Posted by: Tom B | January 28, 2013 2:56 PM    Report this comment

Hmmmm, time to start wearing steel helmets and boots here.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | January 28, 2013 3:00 PM    Report this comment

I just bought a new Flight Design CTLSi. We looked at them all, even the Aerotrek (based on price). We heard all about how a used Cessna 172 is $40k blah blah blah. If the ONLY cost factor were the intitial purchase then that might weight more. But the truth is you can spend $30k more a year just on fuel price deltas flying 150 hours than using MOGAS in a fuel injected Rotax 912i. Serious buyers know the tradeoffs, others just take snipes at what they do not understand.

Posted by: G Bigs | January 28, 2013 3:12 PM    Report this comment

I can't imagine the medical exemption being approved by the FAA. It's too logical, which means it doesn't work for our overlords--bureaucrats, politicians and lawyers.

But if by some miracle it goes through, LSA will be history a few days later.

Posted by: Unknown | January 28, 2013 3:14 PM    Report this comment

Huh? People aren't buying because there's too many too choose from? Sure. that makes sense.

Posted by: Unknown | January 28, 2013 3:16 PM    Report this comment

G Bigs:

If the difference in fuel costs for 150 hours in a 172 is $30K, you should probably look for another place to gas up. ;)

The 172 isn't LSA, thus any comparisons are invalid.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 28, 2013 3:39 PM    Report this comment

"Emperor's New Clothes" is the marketing strategy being employed by LSA manufacturers, and it's just silly. Because no matter how anyone tries to explain or spin it, the problem is simply one of cost. If loss of a medical is not my motivation, why on earth would I spend $130K when for $30K or less I can buy a used C172, 152, 140, or other certified entry-level aircraft? As a relatively new pilot I did just that - after attending Sebring, Sun n Fun, diligently looking at LSA from every conceivable angle... in the end, the numbers didn't lie; I bought a well-cared for Skyhawk and kept $100K in my pocket. What's so hard to understand? "Mama didn't raise no fool..."

Posted by: david abate | January 28, 2013 3:50 PM    Report this comment

"You could just as easily compare a new Yamaha to a new Ferrari, and be just as valid."

I would if I were writing a blog about motorcycles and cars, but this about NEW airplane purchases, not FLYING. It's a market observation, not just getting into the air under any circumstances.

I can and do that in my $30K Cub. We are talking about why an industry isn't growing, not just shoving the same money around from one owner to another.

Make sense? Probably not. But then nothing in this screwy industry does.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 28, 2013 3:54 PM    Report this comment

Mr. Dean:

"People aren't buying because there's too many too choose from?"

Not exactly. But among the reasons that not many are buying, is the cost. Which is affected directly by the high number of offerings. There's also consumer reluctance to buy anthing that's seen only limited production to date - which also is exacerbated by the dilution of the small marketplace across 20x too many manufacturers.

Posted by: Tom Yarsley | January 28, 2013 3:55 PM    Report this comment

Recall that if the LSA max gross weight had been 300 pounds greater, there wouldn't be a market for new LSA aircraft at all because medical-less folks would be buying up C-15x and Tomahawks? Thus, by regulation a new market was created. And what do they say about regulations that are used to control markets?

Posted by: Mike Perkins | January 28, 2013 4:00 PM    Report this comment

Cost is the big issue. I've flown some of the new LSAs, and one in particular made me fall in love... but for the $160,000 price tag, we'dah got married. I've put a lot of upgrade money into my 1946 Aeronca Chief, and still have invested less than half the cost of a bottom-end new LSA. I do not believe the LSA makers are gougers; it is very likely that they are selling on narrow margins and not driving Lamborghinis. They are stuck in a tight market. If we have a shakeout, and come down to, say, 10 good LSA makers worldwide, it might become a sustainable cottage industry.

Posted by: Hunter Heath | January 28, 2013 4:22 PM    Report this comment

Paul:

The bottom line is that, except for taxes and armed robbery (if that's not redundant), the only way to get money from someone is to convince them that buying your product is a better idea than having them spend their money somewhere else.

The LSA manufacturers have largely been unable to do this because their competition is the large number of alternative aircraft which fit the same mission profile, which are both less expensive and have long performance histories.

My motorcycles v. cars comment is solely aimed at your comparing the 172 to LSA. You might as well have compared LSA to Learjets, because SP can't fly THEM, either. ;)

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 28, 2013 4:24 PM    Report this comment

Hopefully, I won't repeat anyone else's comments. To tag off of Mike Perkins' comments... just think of the successful businesses that could have been formed to refurbish those Cessnas and Pipers? And, those would probably have been American businesses, operated by people here.

It's funny. Sport Pilot certificates are basically the only certificate that is growing in numbers right now. Sport Pilot is the only bright spot in all of this. But, the weakness is the SLSA market. Why? There are many different reasons. One of which is the value of our dollar. It's horrible. Debasing the dollar (away from the gold standard) was one of the worst things our government did. Also, we keep jacking up the minimum wage, which drives the value of our dollar down, and increases costs. Feels good for those people making minimum wage, but for the rest of us, it stinks. The problems really lie with our government. Manufactures can only do so much to reduce costs.

I make a regular income, supporting a wife and kids. I am middle income, on the verge on being low-middle income. I haven't flown on my own dime in 12 years. In order for me to be able to buy a SLSA, it would need to be the same price as a decent car (not Rolls Royce, or Ferrari), and a 4-place. But of course, SLSAs where never intended to be marketed to me anyway (30's-40's). Real shame.

Posted by: Albert Dewey | January 28, 2013 4:44 PM    Report this comment

Really, if a production plane could be sold for $35,000 at a profit, then SLSAs would take off. But, I'll stop laughing now. But really, that is what is needed. The regular Joe can't affort a $80,000 VFR only, day only, 2 place machine. At least, it's hard to justify. Not to mention, if you have a few bad landings, your ego may not be the only thing damaged.

Posted by: Albert Dewey | January 28, 2013 4:49 PM    Report this comment

Lets clarify the cost tradeoff again for the barely bright. Avgas is $6.50 Mogas is $3.30. Cessna 172 uses 15 gph (much heavier plane - old tech engine). The CTLSi uses 3.5 gph. over 150 hours the Cessna costs $14,500. The CTLSi $1,740. That doesnt count the higher cost for annuals for the Cessna v the CTLSi. That is not apple-apple either is it? The Cessna is USED, the MTBO is also a factor. The cost to replace the Cessnas engine adds another $50k to the equation over the new CTLSi. Nevermind the far more powerful avionics, fuel injected engine, and cockpit width (Cessna is 49 inches, CTLSi 59 inches). FD is also coming out with a 4-seater btw. New to New four seaters still put FD in the drivers seat.

Posted by: G Bigs | January 28, 2013 4:49 PM    Report this comment

The LSA makes the old timers defensive. You see it on EVERY site where the compares are made between LSA and old metal airplaces like Cessna and Piper. The old WWII guys probably laughed at Cessna when it started too.

Posted by: G Bigs | January 28, 2013 4:52 PM    Report this comment

G: Bigs My used Cessna 172M burns 7.0 GPH leaned for cruise, 8 GPH otherwise; it also has an STC for MoGas, which is universal among similar-powered Cessnas. My insurance for $50K hull value and $1MM liability is only $800/year. When the time comes, a 2000 TBO Lycoming factory overhauled engine costs $24K. In my opinion, all these facts are why educated consumers are not rushing out to buy LSA.

Posted by: david abate | January 28, 2013 5:08 PM    Report this comment

In any market there is a cost vs utility consideration. New LSA sales are not solely driven by comparison with alternatives (new) but by options to fulfil a mission. All buyers will have a different slant on the mission and purchase criteria, and would frequently look to used a/c as an option. But back to the new LSA matter. For a limited set of missions (training or fair weather local flying, say) they should have met a need well. They don't because the design limits do not permit a robust enough product that does enough. I would say that unless you can put 180kg in the cockpit and carry 2.5 hours of fuel plus reserves, the a/c is verging on a toy. We did the sums on a number of modern LSA types and determined that with that load we could probably just do a couple of circuits, or with that fuel could carry the pilot only. The utility equation does not work, no matter what the initial cost of the product or mooted foibles in handling. Direct operating costs, break/fix costs, finance, insurance and resale are all factors that need to be considered in addition to purchase cost. The plethora of providers of new LSA a/c and likelihood of market consolidation begs caution where resale and future ability to operate is concerned.

Posted by: MICHAEL ALLSOP | January 28, 2013 5:24 PM    Report this comment

dave anthony. your old Cessna is a boat anchor compared to the CTLSi all carbon with a fuel injected high tech engine and avionics. and after three years of running the CTLSi my costs will be below yours. while you are stuck in a noisey, vibrating, narrow cockpit with clumsy instruments. i will be flying in high comfort and low cost. and THAT is the point.

Posted by: G Bigs | January 28, 2013 5:28 PM    Report this comment

Another consideration is durability of the new product. A 600kg Skycatcher vs a 757kg 152 have about the same weights for engine, fuel (capacity) and the POB, and similar construction methods,so where did the 157kg go? Structure. No wonder good C152 examples are now being snapped up by flying schools, even if they've done 10,000 hours. How about removing the artificial category weight restriction and allow the manaufacturers to build the aircraft that they'd have liked to build in the first place?

Posted by: MICHAEL ALLSOP | January 28, 2013 5:28 PM    Report this comment

G Bigs:

The 172 burns about 8 GPH. With the autogas STC, fuel cost for 150 hours is under $4K using your numbers. The extra $2300 buys two extra seats, 600 more payload, comfort, and a history of reliability from the 1940s. There are literally thousands of sources for repair parts (new and used), and pretty much any A&R or IA will have experience (and documentation) with this plane.

In about 15 years the fuel costs reach the $30K - $40K price difference, but you have a single-vendor aircraft (parts may be a problem) which few mechanics have ever heard of (much less worked on or have manuals for), so don't expect to save anything on annuals -- assuming that you find a local mechanic willing (or competent) to work on it in the first place.

Your engine replacement estimate is also way too high.

The 172 that sells for $30K tomorrow will sell for $30 the next time. When it's time to sell your plane, all we know is that you won't get your money back out. Even that will depend on whether the company is even still in business, if the model is still in production, what sort of record the plane stacks up, and whether or not there is an external reason (such as the medical issue) to choose the LSA over other planes on the market.

Having flown the CTLS, I can understand why you like it so much, but I will probably never own one. There are planes which fit my needs better for far less money.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 28, 2013 5:33 PM    Report this comment

There's simply not much demand for a big boy's toy (which is what an LSA is) that costs what an LSA costs.

Posted by: Unknown | January 28, 2013 5:46 PM    Report this comment

Bigs no doubt your CT is more sexy than my C175M, but I don't pay extra for "sexy" unless it's for an outfit for my wife. Like most, all I want to do is fly... safely and with reasonable cost, and any used Cessna is beautiful at doing both. So good luck with your new plane and your calculations.

Posted by: david abate | January 28, 2013 5:51 PM    Report this comment

dave. my wife is also a pilot. she wants the goodies too. subscription free weather via ADS-b, twin dynon 10 inch skyviews, garmin 796. plenty of room for the clubs. fly on car gas at a hefty 3.5 gph. our golf course is everything west of the Mississippi river. btw, the total delivered, assembled price new with all the goodies was $158k. Our cost recovery will be a short 3 years compared to a far more expensive Cessna with a puny cockpit and no view out. go sit in a CTLS. you will be sold.

Posted by: G Bigs | January 28, 2013 5:54 PM    Report this comment

G Bigs:

You're talking through your hat. You have no idea how long your plane will be serviceable -- carbon fiber ages with exposure to sunlight, as well as stress-cycle fatigue. Carbon fiber rotor blades for the Rotorway helos have a 2000-hour mandatory-replacement schedule -- the 1958 172 parked next to my plane has 14 THOUSAND hours, and just passed its annual (at a cost of $800).

And you'd better hope for no ADs or mandatory SBs. Cessna recently issued a Mandatory SB for the Flycatcher which requires 32 MAN-HOURS of labor. That's for a plane built by the industry leader, using traditional methods and materials. Imagine how much you might get snakebit for repairs to a carbon fiber airframe built by a 15-year-old company which has built about 1% as many planes as Cessna.

Your glass panel is wonderful, until the first time you have to replace it. As far as comfort, compare your posture to that in the 172 and I'm not so sure.

Love your plane, but don't break your arm patting yourself on the back over it.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 28, 2013 6:02 PM    Report this comment

Isn't choice a wonderful thing? I just love to fly and be in the air. I will fly my Aeronca from coast to coast if I have the time. However, I do plan on building an RV12 when I retire because of it's speed. If the regs change and I can buy a heavier plane, I'll probably still buy the RV because I want to keep the Aeronca and I only can afford one hanger. The RV 12 allows me to pull one wing and store both planes in one hanger. On the other hand if I only had one plane, it would still be an LSA type because of the lower operating costs. I fly around 120 hours each year now and that will double or triple when I retire. I want to be able to burn pump gas with ethanol at that time because it will always be much less expensive than avgas. And who knows if avgas will even be available eight years from now.

Posted by: jay Manor | January 28, 2013 6:27 PM    Report this comment

Part two. I also enjoy the feeling of flight. Turbulence does not really bother me and I enjoy the challenge of landing a tailwheel in wind. Perhaps I'm addicted to light wing loading. These light planes trained a generation of pilots. There's really no excuse for LSA's not being able to handle the training environment. They need to only look at the gear on my Aeronca to find a sturdy design.

Posted by: jay Manor | January 28, 2013 6:32 PM    Report this comment

G Big:

158 THOUSAND DOLLARS???

For 1/10 of that amount, you could buy a Cessna 150 that has the same number of seats, higher payload, flies almost the same speed, burns the same fuel at the same rate, and costs about $400 to annual and $500 to insure.

. . .you want to tell us again what a great bargain you got . . ? XDDDDD

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 28, 2013 6:40 PM    Report this comment

"Go sit in a CTLS. You will be sold." I wish.

"Go sit in a Lamborghini Gallardo. You will be sold." Ditto.

I really don't think this was the intended consequence of LSA/SP. I could be wrong, but the sales numbers tend to confirm my suspicions...

Posted by: Unknown | January 28, 2013 6:49 PM    Report this comment

Patrick:

Not only did I sit in a CTLS, I flew one (ferry flight). Nice plane.

Not worth TEN TIMES the price of a C150, or FIVE TIMES the price of a C172. You could buy the Cessna and put in the glass cockpit for a fraction of what he paid for his plane.

Hmmm . . .I wonder if he'd like to buy this bridge that I've got on Craigslist . . ?

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 28, 2013 6:56 PM    Report this comment

Could we get off the ridiculous comparisons? Obviously the market for LSAs and antiques and sports cars and new certified planes, and everything in between is what it is. Stop calling other people's babies ugly.

And please stop quoting embellished burn rates. My DA40 could do 120 knots on 6 gph, but that is not the burn rate I would quote. Quote a published burn rate with its description (economy, best economy, max cruise, etc.) and the cruise speed that yields. We don't care what you can get with new math. The published rates are bad enough.

I can safely say that 120 knots in a 172 with a traditional 160 to 180 engine is going to burn over 7 and less than 15 gph. Also, there is a Mogas STC for some 172s.

I can also say that I had quit my training at around 20 hours because 172s were not worth the cost. Later, I tried a Diamond, and I got back into aviation and bought one. Later, i started selling them. So, that's my story. If you love old Cessnas that's great. Don't be so narrow minded that you think everyone thinks the way you do, or even should.

Posted by: Unknown | January 28, 2013 7:18 PM    Report this comment

"cheap prices alone probably aren't enough to turn sales around."

What cheap prices? New LSA's are not price effective for new owners.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | January 28, 2013 7:37 PM    Report this comment

David Froble got the history correct. From 1982 to 2004 there was a thriving business in $10,000-$20,000 "fat ultralights". This was the "affordable aviation" that could bring in new pilots and it did. But the oppressive LSA rules have killed the entire ultralight system for no good reason. And aviation just keeps getting more and more expensive.

Posted by: Bill Berson | January 28, 2013 7:39 PM    Report this comment

Mr. Bertorelli You struck quite the nerve with this topic! All this in only one day. People are passionate about their positions and experiences within the LSA arena

Posted by: Unknown | January 28, 2013 7:43 PM    Report this comment

Earned PPL in 75, IFR in 85, owned a 172 during 84-85. Some years flying, some years not flying, family, kids, college, etc. A couple of years ago it's time to buy something and fly as much as possible, in my 50s and medical OK, at least for now. Need 2 seats for occasional pax. Good friend recommended investigating RVs. Found that as purchaser of an Experimental I could do anything for maintenance, install any parts that I liked (like a Ford solenoid), do everything except the yearly inspection. Found VFR RV6As were selling for less than the price of kits, much less considering tools, years of labor, and redoing construction mistakes. So I bought a -6A in the low 50s, with an 0-320, 750 TTAE, and I've flown 240 hours in 18 months. I figure I can sell it for close to the my purchase price. I limit myself to VFR, and Foreflight on the iPad and a Garmin 496 with XM weather give me data that a Boeing 707 never had!!! Added an experimental 2 axis autopilot for less than $3K! 140 knots at 8 gph. I want to fly, and I fly regularly!!!

Posted by: Carl M | January 28, 2013 8:17 PM    Report this comment

Continued: So when would I consider an LSA? Only if they were similar in cost to a higher priced family car.

Posted by: Carl M | January 28, 2013 8:23 PM    Report this comment

Paul, lets test your theory. Contact LAMA, EAA, Sporty's, AOPA et al, and instead of the free airplane giveaways, come up with a pool of 10 or so LSAs (preferably the "top" ten).

Offer those 10 aircraft at or below $40k and await results.

If those 10 orders are not filled in less than a week, try $20k. Sure, those 10 aircraft might sell (I say might because remember, "cost is not the issue) at a loss, but you'll put to bed once and for all this idea that cost is the definitive factor.

If they do sell, the industry will have some idea of the price point the consumer is willing to pay.

Posted by: Unknown | January 28, 2013 8:51 PM    Report this comment

I got to see up close a Skycatcher on display in SDL. Looked nice with the glass cockpit and the control sticks instead of yokes. The major problem in my opinion was the lack of any interior. The entire inside is just painted black, with exposed cables and fuel lines. I have seen some skydiving C182s with better interiors. This should be interesting when giving dual with the echo chamber behind the pilot seats. I can understand this due to the weight limits on LSA's, but not considering the cost. I wish Cessna luck on trying to sell this as the next best thing in aviation.

Posted by: matthew wagner | January 28, 2013 9:08 PM    Report this comment

Carl M has the right answer to much of this. If RVs can't save general aviation, we're all doomed to walking, driving or boats. (ugh.) I think the dream of no medicals for third class, day, vfr pilots is just that. I cannot imagine the Feds letting us mind ourselves. It's not in their world view. Stay healthy and buy a used RV. Give the owner the excuse to build a new one. But keep flying.

Posted by: Unknown | January 28, 2013 9:13 PM    Report this comment

Robert, the data exists to examine this. I gave an example of it above.

The market leader in LSA is Flight Design, with about 360 airplanes out there. Typical invoice is $130,000. AeroPro's line invoices in the mid-70s, a bit more than half the price of the market leader, yet they have sold only 80 airplanes.

CubCrafters occupies the number three spot, with invoices averaging well north of $150,000 and as much as $200,000 for some models. That's more than two times the market bottom, but they have four times the sales volume.

I understand stratified markets and how some features sell and some don't. But this forms the basis for my saying it's not all about low price. It could very well be it's not about price at all, but perceived value. Value are price are related, but they aren't the same thing.

Two manufacturers--Legend and CubCrafters--explored the $80,000 market and decided they would lose money on those airplanes that likely wouldn't have sold well anyway.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 28, 2013 9:21 PM    Report this comment

2005: only 85-95HP mass-produced engines<150LB-installed were snowmobile/jetski watercool Rotax912. Jabiru cured 85HP 2200 overheating/crank issues (mostly bad installations)& introduced elegant,smooth,powerful 3300 but reluctant to expand production to meet initial demand anticipating (correctly) subsequent dramatic orders drop=unused production lines. Euro noise/pollution OKs + availability = manufacturers stuck w/912. Ok for personal 100hr/year use, a disastrous flightschool powerplant. Operational complexity shows up in lengthy preflights=burping systems to read levels, endless valve/fastener/clamp/hose/tank checks if done properly per Rotax. Access doors sprouting everywhere. Just scheduled maintenance made even good airframes with it instant hangar queens (carb synchs @25, prop/gearbox shimming, short overhauls, etc). US pilots squawked them more often than Lyc/Cont. US mechanics took longer to troubleshoot, repair & return to service. Parts (and specialized tool) prices soared. Mandatory SDs proliferated. Downtime exceeded RTF. Profit evaporated. Former Piper/Cessna owners (not experimenters who loved tinkering) accustomed to just quarterly oil changes with a plug cleaning and mag retiming at annual on indestructible US powerplants grew fed up and spread the word even as av media covered up the problem. The lightweight O-200 and Lyc IO-233 were too little too late.

Posted by: Fritz Katz | January 28, 2013 9:40 PM    Report this comment

What you are seeing is typical of all comments when it comes to the older guys with their tin-lizzie Cessnas getting defensive about the newer, carbon-fiber, glass cockpits with INCREDIBLE fuel efficiency. Not only does the CTLSi get 3.5 gph it does it on mogas. The reason this all seems elusive to the Cessna crowd is they do not know how to compare their old-crafted dated 'cheap' planes with what is being done in a CTLSi for example. The trip in an FD is not only in wider, more open cockpits= with in weather graphically displayed and redundant PFD, EFD with built in WAAS, TIS, TAS and auto pilots connected to flight plans in the Garmin, they also have a way down if you run out of fuel that doesnt crunch your kneecaps (ballistic parachute). True, comparing a Cessna to a Flight Design is inappropriate. It's like comparing a Model A Ford to a hybrid car or a cast iron engine to a high-tech all aluminum one in a Formula 1 car.

Posted by: G Bigs | January 28, 2013 9:52 PM    Report this comment

I see people saying price doesn't matter. Perhaps to some it doesn't. But what about the rest of us who have to think hard about affording a second car. There is just no way such people can afford anything for $100K. Not just airplanes. I see mention of shared ownership. Can work for some. Won't work for others.

Posted by: DFEUL | January 28, 2013 10:50 PM    Report this comment

GA as a democratic pursuit is becoming a thing of the past. The reason that sales of LSA's aren't taking off is pretty simple: there aren't enough customers. The price point is too high for most people who actually like the idea of flying and the planes are not high enough status for the people who can afford them. The idea that somebody who can afford a 200K boat should be convinced to take up aviation because they have a fat wallet is repulsive. The only saving grace in US aviation for the average guy that really wants to fly, ( as opposed to owning a nice suite of avionics,) is the continued existence of experimental aviation in this country.

Posted by: robert miller | January 28, 2013 11:02 PM    Report this comment

Paul, you make a good point about price and value.

The problem is that for most people, buying an airplane that is the airborne equivalent of a Mazda Miata, for the price of a Ferrari, is bad value. As you note, it's no worse value than the existing 4-seaters out there - but they don't sell either, because they're bad value too. I know you can't imagine how planes could be offered cheaper but, adjusted for inflation, they are more expensive than they've ever been; it's your imagination that's at fault here. Remember, when you are having to tell the customers they're wrong, you have a problem. The customers aren't wrong: it's bad value.

The failure to launch is easy enough to explain: the Great Recession came just 2 years after LSA started. Nevertheless, it is disappointing.

Posted by: Unknown | January 28, 2013 11:17 PM    Report this comment

Paul, In one respect I understand your argument, that there are "too many manufacturers". It is in this respect: I hesitate to buy a $135,000 product from a company that may go out of business in the next 2-3 years. There have been several planes that have arrived on the scene, sold in good numbers for a year or two, and then stopped selling.

In LSA, the concern about support is largely limited to the airframe. Many of the systems are already procured from large-volume suppliers whose products are widely used. The key may be to come up with a system for assuring airframe parts for years to come. One way to do it: have a larger aviation business act as the dealer and use its weight to get the support guarantees - note that when Piper seemed to back the SportCruiser, sales took off. I think there's potential in that model. We need to solve the problem of worrying about parts and support, not by eliminating competition but by addressing the specific problem.

I also think that the ferocious competition in LSA is the right approach to getting us a better price/value point. The first low-price LSAs didn't sell - but as you note, the value may not have been right. With Pipistrel and Tecnam testing the water, maybe they'll have more luck. One way or another, I predict we'll see more lower price points, as time goes by. It's happening slower than we'd like, but competition works that way: it's gradual and sporadic.

Posted by: Unknown | January 28, 2013 11:22 PM    Report this comment

Paul,

I stand corrected, but confused.

If the example of 360 $130k LSAs is positive, then why and article entitled "LSA's Failure to Launch"?

If $130K LSAs are serving the community/industry/market, then end of discussion. We've reached market equilibrium and some will just have to find another "hobby".

However, I'm willing to put this to a test. The next time I'm on my way to work, I'll count the number of $130K passenger cars on the road vs. the number of $30K passenger cars. By the logic above, I'll probably be very surprised. Of course, I am assuming that more cars (airplanes) means more drivers (pilots) and it's a good thing.

But here maybe the crux of the grown folks consternation:

"If you're a rabid believer in free markets and unlimited competition and you think that there can never be too much, perhaps the static universe of LSA might suggest a rethinking of that theory."

The adults don't know or understand what a free market is.

The idea of consolidation does have merits, and it starts with free market principles . Could there be a big 3?? IF Kixfox/highlander/ Aerotrek /Rans--or--RV/ SportCruiser/ Aero/ Evektor --or-- Tecnam/ Flight Design/Cessna/ Remos/--or-- American Legend/Cub Crafters could consolidate and produce a like design at an AFFORDIABLE price, I think some would be happy. And so would the free market.

Posted by: awg9tech | January 28, 2013 11:34 PM    Report this comment

" "What you are seeing is typical of all comments when it comes to the older guys with their tin-lizzie Cessnas getting defensive about the newer, carbon-fiber, glass cockpits with INCREDIBLE fuel efficiency."

Yeeeaaah. That's it. Airplane envy.

Posted by: awg9tech | January 28, 2013 11:40 PM    Report this comment

to much negativity about LSA aircraft. If they are as bad as everyone say's they are. Then they want be around for very long. I guess I better wait and see before I invest in a new LSA.

Posted by: Don Smiley | January 29, 2013 12:30 AM    Report this comment

G Bigs:

The guys who built your plane claim 4.3 GPH, but let's say that it actually DOES use less fuel than a C150. Let's even say that it's a whole 1 GPH less than the 4.4 that a 150 leans out to (not MY idea of "INCREDIBLE fuel efficiency," but what the heck).

At $3.25 per gallon for autogas, that means you'll break even on the $145K price difference after a mere 44,615 flying hours.

Be still, my beating heart!

That assumes that you don't spend any more than the C150 owner on annuals, insurance or maintenance. Oops, sorry, I'm pretty sure you've already lost on all three of those.

The couple of extra inches of cockpit width, 5 more knots of airspeed, and glass panel just don't seem worth paying ten times as much as the price of a 150 for a non-aerobatic plane with pretty much NO room for luggage (a 150 can carry 120 lbs of cargo in some 26 cubic feet), that needs to be hangared so that the sun doesn't eat it up, and painted almost all white so that the composite doesn't degrade from hot spots.

I've got all of the "glass cockpit" stuff I need running on my iPad Mini ($450), whatever plane I fly, but the same Garmin electronics that are in your CTLSi can be put into any Cessna whose owner wants to spend the money. There is a BRS system for the 150, one is for sale on Barnstormers right now for $2K.

If it makes you feel better to think that I'm being "defensive," then so be it. Actually, I'm glad that you like your plane -- but I wouldn't have bought it.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 29, 2013 12:39 AM    Report this comment

Why don't you guys go somewhere else and compare your manhood?

Seriously, we don't care what you think about each others planes as nothing any of you say anymore has much credibility anymore.

Posted by: Unknown | January 29, 2013 1:12 AM    Report this comment

Eric:

I'm providing facts and numbers. Feel free to try to prove me wrong.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 29, 2013 1:30 AM    Report this comment

You aren't proving anything except that you can get sucked in to an argument not worth having. People pay a lot of money for the pleasure of owning either plane. That's good enough for me to say the planes are both reasonable choices. Taking the contrary stance is insulting to other pilots, and you guys could go on and on building up your choice and cutting down the other for weeks. Why don't guys all agree that both beat a Moller Skycar and leave it alone.

Posted by: Unknown | January 29, 2013 2:06 AM    Report this comment

Robert, I guess the failure to launch sentiment comes from my talks with manufacturers who generally aren't at all pleased with volume. Last year, about 100 total airframes for the U.S. LSA market.

Would you consider that a robust, vital market? One hundred airframes from some 90 companies doesn't meet my definition of a strong market, but barely a market at all. This is forcing to me to think of a number that would. Maybe 500 in the U.S. market. Even 350.

I think having too many companies and too many choices helps rather than hurts, yet the inevitable shakeout just doesn't seem to be happening. It hurts because companies sell too few airplanes to be really profitable and they thus lack resources to market and develop new products, to improve customer support and to continue to expand the industry. It's a counter-growth, defeating cycle. I'm not sure if it's unique to airplanes, but it might be. I can't think of any other industries that are similar.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 29, 2013 6:26 AM    Report this comment

When you're on your way to work, look for this: Toyota sells a lot more Camries than it does ISs. This confirms what we think we know about markets: Lower prices expand the market at the bottom.

Yet Cirrus sells more SR22s than it does cheaper SR20s. The Delta can be three or four to one. For LSA, the Delta is probably much larger, although I don't precise data. A quick look suggests that the average $125K models outsell the sub-$100K models by at least five to one. That tells me that for new airplanes, price isn't the only consideration, regardless of what people say. They aren't acting on the price signal alone.

The effect of legacy airframes remains unknown. I'm trying to develop some data on that. The question is, does the availability of a $20,000 LSA-capable Champ, for instance, impact sales of new airplanes? The duh assumption is that of course it does. But we don't really know this. I wouldn't be surprised if the effect was minor.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 29, 2013 6:26 AM    Report this comment

"But the one I think is most wrong is that LSA's cost too much". I am constantly amazed at how out of touch LSA manufacturers and the author of this article are! Of course new airplanes, both LSA and Certified, are too expensive. The poor sales are proof...The initial LSA market hype was all about average Joe citizen being able to buy a nice new airplane (and I don't mean an Ultralight) for about the price of a reasonably priced sedan. But what it's turned into is a circus with everyone trying to redesign the wheel. And at a higher price. Maybe what's needed is a Henry Ford approach....make it simple,user friendly, and then make lots of 'em. Instead of selling one for $100K with a $10k profit sell three at $33k with a $3k profit each. Make some more $$$ off parts and support. The goal should be to get people flying.

Posted by: Unknown | January 29, 2013 7:12 AM    Report this comment

Here you go, your basic $60,000 LSA: www.x-airlsa.com.

Riveted aluminium tubing covered in dacron sail cloth. Since 2005, about 22 of them out there, either ELSA or SLSA.

Why haven't they sold 100? It's cheap.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 29, 2013 7:40 AM    Report this comment

Nearly all LSA manufactures must pay $15-20k for the engine plus >1,000 labor-hours as the primary manufacturing direct costs. Those cost are not likely to change as LSA will never gain the economies of large manufacturing. So the question Paul brings up is will a $100k LSA sell a lot more than a $140k LSA? Surprisingy (to me) is likely no. $100k is still a lot of money so those willing to spend that much will spend 30-50% more and buy exactly what appeals to them regardless of the vibility of the LSA class. I would conclude that the next successful LSA manufacture will strive to keep the price at least competitive and win market share with an appealing design and exceptional support.

Posted by: CHIP ERWIN | January 29, 2013 8:02 AM    Report this comment

Paul - The question that needs to be asked is "Who is the target market?" Is it the current pilot population or new certificated LSA pilots? I know its both. The problem, the numbers, since 2005 an average of 1,000 new LSA pilots have been certificated. If 10% have the money time and place to keep a plane, the number of planes sold per year is about right. If we lower the number to 5% and add 5% private pilots and above stepping down then the number still works. The problem is that an industry cannot survive on 10%. So I ask again who is the target market? Yes, there are cheap LSA'a out their but to the general public they either look cheap or unsafe. Last year I closed my LSA business and flight school and I know for a fact that the general public will fly in s solid all aluminum airplane over fabric. Those of us in the aviation world see flying and airplanes far differently then the none flying public. Cost is the beginning of all discussion, from what does it cost to learn to fly to what does it cost to buy, insure, store and maintain and for the very shroud what is the return on my investment.

I can go on but the bottom line is that there just isn't the demand.

Posted by: Ron Lane | January 29, 2013 8:20 AM    Report this comment

Hey, Chip, thanks for the comment.

I don't know if want to add the cost details, but if you can, it will explain to the readers here why they are not going to see a new airplane for the price of a family sedan, unless the notion of a family sedanis a Lexus LFA.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 29, 2013 8:23 AM    Report this comment

"I can go on but the bottom line is that there just isn't the demand."

Sadly, you are right. The market is a niche within a niche. If lowering prices to say, $30,000 were possible--which it simply is not for new airplanes--would demand expand? Back to the $20K Champ, which suggests it would not.

Bottom line: It's a rich man's game.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 29, 2013 8:29 AM    Report this comment

Paul, I can elaborate on the costs as much as your readers want to hear. Bottom line is even in the 70s' at 12,000 aircraft per year that is still low-volume compared to autos. I know I can make and sell a modern LSA for $100k with a reasonable margin. But if $100k does not result in large sales numbers I might as well sell just a few less at $125k and use the extra margin for exceptional product support.

Posted by: CHIP ERWIN | January 29, 2013 8:38 AM    Report this comment

Paul,

On my way to work today, I counted 1 Lotus Elise. However, I lost count of the number of Ford/Chevy/Toyota/Nissans on the road.

What I would consider a robust, vital market might differ from a manufacture. That manufacture might sell 1 unit a year and consider it a success.

You and I might agree on some number of LSAs for a healthy market, and it’s probably more than 100 per year. Whether than number comes from 1 manufacture or 100, makes little difference to me. But whatever the number, would you not agree that it’s about volume? How can we increase volume? If a $130k LSA is not meeting our definition of a successful market, would a $200K LSA?

Posted by: awg9tech | January 29, 2013 8:41 AM    Report this comment

I've been flying LSA's for several years and have seriously considered purchasing one. The biggest issue I have is price/performance/regs. If I spend $150K+ then I want to at least go 150 knots. I've had many LSA days where my ground speed was 50-60 which makes them non-competitive to driving. Most of these aircraft are very capable and the regs need to change so that paying the price gets you something more than a nice ride in the country.

Posted by: Unknown | January 29, 2013 8:52 AM    Report this comment

"If a $130k LSA is not meeting our definition of a successful market, would a $200K LSA?"

Oddly, there's more evidence to suggest the $200K would expand the market than the $60K would. That has been the CubCrafter experience, in any case.

Maybe the ideal market is only 150 to 200 airplanes. I'm sure I don't know for sure. But I do know the data doesn't support lower price equals higher volume.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 29, 2013 8:58 AM    Report this comment

“Maybe what's needed is a Henry Ford approach....make it simple,user friendly, and then make lots of 'em. Instead of selling one for $100K with a $10k profit sell three at $33k with a $3k profit each. Make some more $$$ off parts and support. The goal should be to get people flying.”

Folks, it doesn’t get much more complicated than that.

My current mission could be fulfilled by many bare bones LSAs on the market. My location requires me to have a radio and transponder. Suddenly, the “basic” LSA is not so basic and it requires a $100K machine to do a $30K job. If I could afford a $100K machine, I probably would have no problem affording a $130K machine that included an intercom and cabin heat. But let’s wrap our heads around that. Quibbling not over the latest GPS moving map/Synthetic Vision/IR display/auto pilot, ..but whether or not I can talk to the person next to me while not freezing my toes off. Yeah, $130K seems reasonable?

Posted by: awg9tech | January 29, 2013 9:10 AM    Report this comment

“Oddly, there's more evidence to suggest the $200K would expand the market than the $60K would. That has been the CubCrafter experience, in any case. “

By that logic, the answers simple. LSA manufactures are setting the price too low. Increase the price another $40k-$50k and we’ll have a booming LSA market.

However, my Lotus to Chevy count this morning would suggest differently.

Posted by: awg9tech | January 29, 2013 9:16 AM    Report this comment

Robert, the engine and airframe raw materials costs more than $33k so it is not possible for a manufacture to sell anywhere near that price. How do you make $10k on a $100k sale yet still make $1k on a $33k sale? You would make $1k on a $91k sale. Does reducing the price by 10% triple sales? Apparently not. Creating something more unique like an amphib or a trainer with longevity or an over-powered Cub is the key to success.

Posted by: CHIP ERWIN | January 29, 2013 9:35 AM    Report this comment

It seems to me that the lack of sales can pretty well be attributed to two factors.

For the majority of people, LSAs are priced out of reach, period. Since an airplane cannot be built and sold for the price of the engine alone, there is no way to price it to be within reach of the "common" man/woman.

For a large group of those who can afford the price, the perceived value just isn't there. Why would I trade a '66 Bonanza even for a LSA?

Posted by: Richard Montague | January 29, 2013 10:08 AM    Report this comment

Paul B: A $20K vintage Champ has no electrics, is aged tube and fabric, and tailwheel... all undesirable characteristics for most newly minted pilots shopping for a plane. And the $65K tube and dacron LSA smacks of a powered ultralight... so I don't believe the low cost - yet low sales - of those two models is evidence that price isn't the prime factor in LSA failure to launch. Instead, just check the annual new FAA registrations for the sale of used certified entry-level aircraft: Vintage Cessna's, Pipers, etc., that sell for $25-$50K; they outnumber the annual sales of new LSA by a landslide. Doesn't this fact confirm that cost is the ultimate factor? If in today's market the man of average means can fly safely and affordably for an investment of $25K - $50K, who among those is likely to just ignore that fact and spend 3 times more on an LSA, instead? Medical issues aside, rich-boys and their toys aside, there's just no reason to do so; there is no demand and the majority of us view it as just common-sense economics.

Posted by: david abate | January 29, 2013 10:08 AM    Report this comment

“Robert, the engine and airframe raw materials costs more than $33k”

I’m not debating manufactures margins, but if a LSA has more “material” cost than a fully loaded (power windows, doors/heat/ac/backup camera/fuel injected engine/airbags/satellite radio/power steering/power brakes/windshield wipers/side view mirrors ect..ect..) $33K automobile, I would suggest, again, that it’s all about volume.

Some would suggest that to increase current volume of LSAs, one would simply need to increase current prices. Some suggest otherwise.

Take for example digi-key part number: XPGBWT-L1-R250-00F51. You get a 30% “discount” for purchasing 1000 vs 250.

Posted by: awg9tech | January 29, 2013 10:18 AM    Report this comment

I agree exccept that even 10,000 aircraft per year is not enough volume for real economies of scale the auto industry has. I am cutting many of my manufacturing costs by 30% by relocating but it still does not allow me to offer a $40,000 or even an $80,000 LSA.

Posted by: CHIP ERWIN | January 29, 2013 10:33 AM    Report this comment

Paul:

$60K ISN'T "cheap." And especially not for what is being offered, in comparison to other options.

The original idea of LSA/SP was to bring the "fat ultralight" guys back under the regulatory umbrella, especially the people with the "trainers." The most expensive of these planes ran about $30K - $35K, but the majority in the air were on at least their second owners, and were selling for $10K - $15K.

We used to say "You're only one blown medical away from being an ultralight pilot," and now it's "You're only one expired medical away from being a Sport Pilot."

When you look on Barnstormers and see Bellancas for $40K, Barons for $55K, warbirds from $30K up, etc, the idea of a $60K LSA loses a lot of its appeal to anyone who can pass the medical.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 29, 2013 10:55 AM    Report this comment

I was able to talk my wife into letting me purchase an airplane that she was comfortable in. Her requirements: 1. She wanted a BRS so that she could get the plane down if I was incapacitated. 2. Comfortable 3. Not look older than our grown children. I have a 3rd class medical with special issuance. I should not have a problem in the future, but as I age, there will be more problems. I wanted a plane that was a good cross-country platform.

I ended up with a PiperSport (Sport Cruiser) and now have 500 hours on it in 2.5 years. Most of the hours have been on flights of 300nm or more. My 100 hour/annual costs have been minimal. The only major cost is when I want to add something new such as a Garmin GDL39. The plane holds me, my petite wife, and baggage for our trips. There are wing lockers on the CG that combined hold 88 pounds. We never carry that much and would be over gross if we did with full fuel. I use auto-gas and I use 5.6 gph cruising at 118 knots. For cross country, the autopilot makes the flights more enjoyable. This plane meets my mission requirements. I don't know what the resale value will be in years to come. It is possible that the factory could shut down.

Taking all into consideration and the fact that I could purchase a new LSA, it worked for me. YMMV. I don't think that because it worked for me, that anyone that does not think it would work for them is wrong, not thinking straight, or is somehow less of a person :)

Posted by: DUANE HILL | January 29, 2013 10:57 AM    Report this comment

Lots of valid arguments. Sometimes there is more than one answer. I mentioned "people with more money than brains", Paul I believe mentioned "It's a rich man's game". I believe that this is where the small number of LSAs, for the most part, have been sold. For some people, money is no problem, and then you have the most expensive models being sold. As has been pointed out by several people, if you look at the utility of today's LSAs vs certificated aircraft, the LSAs just don't match up, regardless of price.

When the Sport Pilot thing first happened, I looked at developing and selling a simple recreational aircraft. Something affordable in place of say, a second car. Reality soon hit me over the head. The ASTM stuff, from my perspective, was slanted to favor certain things, such as the Rotax 912 4-cycle engine. A Rotax 912 engine takes any reasonable price for a recreational aircraft far above what I felt the market would bear. Not going to get into an argument about 2-cycle vs 4-cycle engines, other than to say that both work, though not the same, and they require different maintenance. Basically, I felt that vested interests took over the ASTM process and ruined any chance for LSA, right from the beginning.

Posted by: DFEUL | January 29, 2013 11:00 AM    Report this comment

Comment on the "utility" arguments.

Frankly, if you look at where LSA came from, utility wasn't in the equation. The original intent was for low cost recreational aircraft. For those looking for utility, you're demanding something that was never intended. It's like getting a quad when your need is a limosine. Sort of like using a hammer to drive screws (which I've seen done). Basically LSA is a toy, a rich man's toy for the expensive models, and a common man's toy for the low cost models. Oh, wait, there are no low cost models ....

Posted by: DFEUL | January 29, 2013 11:06 AM    Report this comment

Can't afford a plane? Fractional or build. Still too much? Rent. Still too much? Instruct. Whaaaat? You can MAKE money flying? Whaaaaat?

10,000 piston planes per year would be awesome. I don't think that would yield car like prices. At some point though, robotic manufacture will help a lot.

Please stop comparing planes to cars. You guys are doing a bad job of it. First, there is no hand made Camry so it's not a reasonable comparison. Second, the Camry outsells most every cheaper car! It's not the bottom. Compare Ferrari to Lotus and maybe you might get somewhere, but likely nowhere helpful. Didn't there used to be some three times a corvette rule or something?

Paul is making a good point about value vs price. Even better might be value vs cost. The 30k to 50k plane may be the cost leader, but how does an LSA compare over 5 years? Maybe Paul will do a piece?

The best point made was by Ron Lane, IMO. It's demand. And demand is oddly constrained because you have to be a pilot to be in the market. Which gets us back to making pilots to increase demand which gets us back to schools which, Tada, gets us back to fixing the schools. Lowering price has its limits in affecting demand. Sorry, I don't mean to be mean. Don't slay the messenger, please.

Posted by: Unknown | January 29, 2013 11:13 AM    Report this comment

Chip:

"Creating something more unique like an amphib or a trainer with longevity or an over-powered Cub is the key to success."

Concur. When you're stuck with the flight envelope of a C150, making a "New, Expensive 150" isn't a winning plan. If you can build a plane worthy of interest because of what it IS, not solely because it meets an arbitrary regulatory standard, price becomes less of an issue. A stall-proof plane (think canard or think Ercoupe) would stand out from the herd of "flying sperm," as would something with an unusual airfoil.

The LSA standards are simple and wide open. The Fokker Triplane meets them, as does Snoopy's Sopwith Camel meets them (if you take off guns and ammo). With modern materials and construction methods, even better.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 29, 2013 11:20 AM    Report this comment

Chip,

As a consumer, I don’t know the ins-and-outs of the business; I don’t know your margins.

But, if YOU sold 10,000 aircraft per year, I would argue that you would achieve enough volume for sustained economy of scale. You’d be the Model T of the air.

In a roundabout way, Paul has the right idea with fewer manufactures (where I differ is free market principles).

“it's always challenging to talk to some companies trying to sell yet another high-wing, two-place little white airplane that's barely distinguishable from a similar high-wing, two-place little white airplane I looked at last month”

How many low wing LSAs with specs that closely match are out there? If 10 manufactures are attempting to produce the same airplane, I submit that a common design could be agreed upon amongst 5 of those manufactures. You’d have purchasing power/capital, in time a repair/mechanic base, and parts sales. On the other hand, the 10 could remain on their own fighting for market share.

I don’t think its greed holding things back. Pride; maybe, kindasorta, but I’m not betting on it because if someone produced a LSA in the numbers described above, they’d be forever remembered along the likes of Ford, Cessna, Piper…..

Posted by: awg9tech | January 29, 2013 11:24 AM    Report this comment

Another thing Paul or one of the contributors could illuminate us with would be the distribution chain and reported sales. (I keep giving Paul homework, sorry Paul)

WidgetLSA makes the Widget Flyer or WF. They recruit distributors who are then required to buy a minimum of planes each year to keep the distributorship. Lets say just one because its a new item. They have five distributors (everyone wants to be a dealer rather than a school), so they get paid for five planes. Of all the distributors, only one sells a plane. So the press reports one sold. The rest now count as used because they will get sold as demonstrators? So if we add up the reported sales it won't equal fleet size?

How common is this scenario and how does it typically look. And, why does it persist? I know one thing as a professional sales person with years of experience including plane sales - Widget would have done better selling the planes to two schools and letting them be the dealers.

Posted by: Unknown | January 29, 2013 11:27 AM    Report this comment

Eric:

The C150 became a massive success because it met the most important mission profile -- primary training. They were inexpensive, easily and cheaply maintained (or repaired), and most important, they could take a pounding. If a student got it to the runway, there was a pretty strong probability that it was still airworthy, no matter what else he did to it.

None of the LSA designs I've seen come anywhere close to that set of capabilities -- and there is a market for for a plane with them.

A plane with "carrier-tough" landing gear, a control system which can be adjusted by the CFI to give light or heavy forces, fast or slow roll rate and standard or stall-proof pitch control. One which can handle spins without complaint, and a BRS just in case. One with bubble doors, removable for camera flights, and which give enough room for the fat guys who will be flying it in 20 years.

These can be done. It won't be a sexy-looking plane, but that is a plane that meets a need other than "fly without a medical."

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 29, 2013 11:33 AM    Report this comment

“A stall-proof plane (think canard or think Ercoupe) would stand out from the herd of "flying sperm,"

The ICON A5 made the move toward “spin resistant” and from what I’ve seen/read so far, they’ve met that FAA definition. It certainly meets some unique requirements (Spin resistance/Amphib/LSA/folding wing/trailerable) and it certainly does not look like a Cessna 150.

So, there’s your example of flying “super sperm”.

Do you want to mention price in any of your equations? Will this aircraft make a significant, game changing, market share with no regard to affordability?

Posted by: awg9tech | January 29, 2013 11:40 AM    Report this comment

Keith, That's wonderful. What's the point? Have you tried adjusting the original price of the 150 for inflation, btw?

If you can build a better 150 than Cessna at a profit, please do. I will warn you that features like adjustable control forces aren't popular with the FAA these days, but otherwise, sounds great.

You might want to consider that Cessna recently built the 162 instead. That they stopped building 152's and switched to 172s as the primary trainer because they aren't much more expensive to build. That DA20s aren't rolling off the line either. But maybe you are right.

Posted by: Unknown | January 29, 2013 11:49 AM    Report this comment

Robert:

The A5 is a good example of how LSA could be more cost effective. It would be a good choice as a PLANE, not just as LSA. Price is, of course, an issue, but the feature set takes it away from most of the used-GA competition. I would certainly pay $135K for that before I would pay anything close to that for a C150-equivalent.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 29, 2013 12:01 PM    Report this comment

Something is seriously wrong, when manufacturers can't afford to price their products cheaply enough for more than a couple hundred individuals, in the world's greatest nation, with a population of more than 300 MILLION, to buy them.

It's like each and every LSA manufacturer is Tiffany's.

So aviation really IS a rich man's game. The whole point of Light Sport must have been to drive home that realization, right?

Posted by: Unknown | January 29, 2013 12:05 PM    Report this comment

Eric:

The point is to produce a LSA which can stand on its own, even if the AOPA/EAA proposal comes through. A plane that people will buy for its capabilities, not for its compliance.

Someone ought to be able to build a LSA which "out-150s" the 150, which is just a tri-gear update of the mid-1940s C140A. With modern materials and engineering, all of the things I suggested are practical.

And this wouldn't just be a US LSA, it would have worldwide appeal, so even if FAA doesn't like something, that's not a reason to exclude it. In fact, there are a number of LSA which feature GROUND-adjustable control forces and rates.

The "UltraTrainer" would also feature the option of conventional or tricycle gear -- pull off the (castoring) nosewheel, plug the (steerable) tailwheel into its socket, swap (rotate?) the mains from their aft (trailing link) position to fore (leading link) position, and away you go for your tailwheel endorsement.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 29, 2013 12:18 PM    Report this comment

CHIP...

I agree with you that ICON and the SS ($$) versions of Cubs will show LSA the way forward. Despite horrendous fatality stats, FAA still allows Part 103 single seat UL if WalMart-budget neighborhood flying is someone's only desire.

Does this quote from you mean you are introducing or associated with a new make/model of LSA as a follow-on to your former CZAW (now post-Piper) sleek Sport Cruiser?

If so what and built where? What engine? Thanx

"I am cutting many of my manufacturing costs by 30% by relocating..."

Posted by: Fritz Katz | January 29, 2013 12:34 PM    Report this comment

“The A5 is a good example of how LSA could be more cost effective.”

Cost effective? Maybe. But again, at the current price point, can it gain a significant market share (volume) and fulfill the “promise” of LSA?

With an estimated Price $139K (Standard Equipment), it MAY not be cost effective, but would hold more value to some than many current $139K LSAs on the market. You get a lot more features for $139k.

If the A5 sets the bar, the market if you will, what happens to other designs? Naturally, either someone provides some aircraft and a price point well below the A5 to account for the “lack” of features or, Icon becomes the only game in town.

Posted by: awg9tech | January 29, 2013 12:43 PM    Report this comment

"in the world's greatest nation, with a population of more than 300 MILLION, to buy them."

There are probably a few million people in this country who can afford an LSA at the current price levels, they just aren't interested.

Posted by: Richard Montague | January 29, 2013 12:57 PM    Report this comment

Keith, Someone ought to be able to. Someone could. Take the price of the 150 adjusted for inflation. Adjust again for modern regulations and expectations, and adjust again for changes in liability, and adjust again for the lack of volume. I suspect the price is now well over 200k for your 150.

The 150 could not be built today without its grandfathered certificate. Cessna says, and I believe them, that the cost to manufacture under the existing certificate would be too close to the 172 for it to be desirable. Diamond said the same thing about redesigning the DA20 to make it IFR. There is no magic to the 150. You are a falling for an illusion that old tech is cheap. Go ask Boeing what it would cost to build you 100 DC-3's if you don't believe me.

If the A5 sells for 139, and doesn't have any big flaws, and meets its marketing specs, then it will be the only game in town. Or practically. Don't bet on anyone past the first few depositors to get that deal.

Posted by: Unknown | January 29, 2013 1:29 PM    Report this comment

Fritz, I will be bringing my aircraft back to the world market very soon. I find this discussion intriging as it is mostly about price. I thought I would generate sales volume with a low price offer but now I am reconsidering that strategy as apparenty unless my price is under $50k it won't make much difference in sales volume.

Posted by: CHIP ERWIN | January 29, 2013 1:31 PM    Report this comment

Chip, I would suggest you put the price high enough that a school that sells one can make money on it after a small discount. I would then suggest you only allow schools to sell the planes. No school, no sales territory. If you want to talk further, we should get in touch.

Posted by: Unknown | January 29, 2013 1:56 PM    Report this comment

Eric, I would be pleased to hear your suggestions. I already am inclinded to sell 'factory-direct' or with only a very few highly-qualified dealers. Text me your nyumber or Skype name if you want to talk. 262 408 0124.

Posted by: CHIP ERWIN | January 29, 2013 2:07 PM    Report this comment

LSAs do not cost too much. A NEW one is in the 100k to 150k range loaded with state of the art avionics and ballistic parachute. Again the older planes are not in the game anymore. the FAA will eventually outlaw leaded gas and that will put all the older planes out of business.

Posted by: G Bigs | January 29, 2013 2:25 PM    Report this comment

Robert Ore, you've caused me to rethink. Maybe LSA has launched and this is it. I was hoping for an Saturn 5 and got an Aerobee. Story of my life.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 29, 2013 2:29 PM    Report this comment

Update: Flight Design is so backordered on their CTLSi they cannot keep up with deliveries. Planes ordered last summer are still not delivered and the order queue has gotten so steep the company has to expand in the Ukraine now. A price hike is anticipated for the 2013 models which will include ADS-B and possibly the newer Garmin GTR and GNC radios. Just as the auto industry contracted to a handful of players back in the 1920s, LSA will also. The winner will no doubt be Carbon Cub and Flight Design. Each meeting different niches in the market.

Posted by: G Bigs | January 29, 2013 2:34 PM    Report this comment

Eric:

What "modern regulations" would boost the price of a C150 to some 10 times the cost of the last one off the line (in 1977)?

If I had financial backing, I could build the ultimate trainer -- with all of the features I mentioned -- and sell them between $100K and $125K, amortizing the R&D costs in the first 100 airframes. Somewhere around here I still have my original workup on a design, and could be in the air within a year, signed off within two.

Old tech IS cheap, which is why every LSA on the market is old tech in new paint. The "flying sperm" look pretty much like the monoplanes that Lyman Gilmore was flying over 100 years ago.

The high cost is from trying to get that last 12% of performance, or weight savings, or instruments, or whatever.

The ultimate trainer wouldn't be sexy -- no wheel fairings, very basic interior -- but that's not what it would be for.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 29, 2013 2:39 PM    Report this comment

Really? They have production capacity of 3 per day yet sold about 2 dozen aircraft in the USA in 2012. I have to question this expansion statement. Saleman talking?

Posted by: CHIP ERWIN | January 29, 2013 2:39 PM    Report this comment

G Bigs:

Where did you ever get the idea that the FAA can "outlaw leaded gas," and that this would be ANY kind of a problem? The only real issue with using autogas in engines made after about 1940 is the alcohol in it (which attacks carb gaskets). This is only a problem in some times of the year, in some states, if you buy your gas at a station (there's no alcohol in the gas at the distribution center). For about a thousand dollars (parts and labor), any piston plane in the world can be modified to burn even gas from the cheapest station in town.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 29, 2013 2:45 PM    Report this comment

The sales data for all GA sales (now including LSAs) has been poor for decades (even teh Cirrus numbers are piddling compared to what Cessna and Piper sold in the early '70s). We can talk about pricing all day but there are currently options at all kinds of price points and sales still stink. If teh demand were really there, folks would find a way to buy (partnerships, clubs, etc.). The problem is the demand is not there.

Of course, the fact that the pilot population and flight hours for GA have been falling precipitously since the early '80s with no relief in sight has something to do with it. The pool of buyers shrinks each and every year and the population of airworthy aircraft (even of much older vintage) is still high enough that even within the existing pilot population there is no real demand for new aircraft. We just recycle the old ones among ourselves with an occaisional paint job and new interior. The only way LSA sales will increase by a meaningful multiple will be if the pilot population swells and older aircraft start to wear out and drop out of the pool so the supply of used aircraft dries up. Of course, getting the kind of large increase in the pilot population that would be needed is a different thread. My view is that there are a large number of factors that go well beyond the cost of flying in explaining why the numbers are headed rapidly in the wrong direction and it may or may not ever be fixable. I try not to think about that too much.

Posted by: KENNETH APPLEBY | January 29, 2013 2:45 PM    Report this comment

Chip:

The "Ukraine" part may be accurate -- they will cut labor costs significantly, just like Cessna having the Flycatcher built in the PRC. Like you, I think the "can't keep up with demand" part pegs the BS-O-Meter.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 29, 2013 2:49 PM    Report this comment

Keith, the FAA has a study group working to figure out how to phase out 100LL by 2015. Industry suppliers are tasked with coming up with an alternative, but after 25 years have not done so. The EAA is way ahead of the FAA on this that is why the LSAs are using redesigned and initially designed engines that run on E10, and even E20 gas. http://goo.gl/GLIaY

Posted by: G Bigs | January 29, 2013 2:49 PM    Report this comment

"For about a thousand dollars (parts and labor), any piston plane in the world can be modified to burn even gas from the cheapest station in town."

Let's get a grip here and walk that one back. Perhaps 80 percent of the engines out there or maybe a little more can burn mogas. A high-horsepower engine as used in Cirrus aircraft and others cannot, without aftermarket work like ADI. And that ain't $1000.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 29, 2013 2:53 PM    Report this comment

Cessna is not competitive in LSA. the Chinese built 152 is pure junk. the only LSAs built using metal are trainers. the advanced aircraft are carbon fiber mainly. Flight Design is also gonna take on Cessna for the 172 market with their new CTLS-4 based on the CTLS design expanding to four seats. Priced a full $100k below Cessna.

Posted by: G Bigs | January 29, 2013 2:53 PM    Report this comment

Ken:

The problem is that aviation is kept on the other side of tall fences with electronic gates, far away from anyone who doesn't have the card key. The cost of learning to fly has actually come DOWN over the years (or, rather, it hasn't kept up with inflation), but people don't KNOW that.

Cessna and Piper used to subsidize "Intro flights" at their dealers -- fork over $5 and you got 15 minutes of ground familiarization and 30 minutes in the air, with a free logbook with your first 1/2 hour entered into the top line.

Flying schools build demand for airplanes, and usually the "family" they learned with (students in 150s bought Cessnas, students in Cherokees bought Pipers). Eric has it right. GA mfrs should only sell through flying schools.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 29, 2013 2:58 PM    Report this comment

G Bigs:

The first FAA Leaded Fuels study group was formed in 1967. The result was 100LL, which replaced 100/110. The only reason that 80/87 went away was because 100LL was more cost effective (always that same damn deciding factor!), both for pilots and for FBOs.

100LL won't likely be going away in our lifetimes, because there are way too many engines -- not just aircraft engines -- for which it is the appropriate fuel. The lead level is negligible, and the amount of lead into the atmosphere from burning it is so low as to be uncountable with current technology at any distance beyond which the exhaust fumes can be point-isolated.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 29, 2013 3:06 PM    Report this comment

One thing that has always puzzled me is why most LSAs (even something like a Carbon Cub) have fancy glass cockpits with more functionality than many IFR-certified aircraft, when most LSAs are only legal for VFR flight (yes, I know there are some exceptions).

If it's because the "market demands it", why is that? Is it because people these days are only impressed by fancy electronic cockpits?

Perhaps if we take out the glass cockpits for primarily-VFR-only aircraft and get people actually looking outside the window, they'd see what it is everyone who is land-bound is missing. There isn't a day I go flying where I think nothing beats the view I have.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | January 29, 2013 3:16 PM    Report this comment

Data points:

According to bydanjohnson.com, the most popular LSA brand is FlightDesign, with 347 registered in the US, followed by Cessna (253) and CubCrafters (212). These are all high-end, high-ticket aircraft.

But Flight Design is not quite the top-selling LSA in the US. That honor appears to go to the Sonex, a kit with an estimated finished cost of $37,000. There are 420 flying worldwide (396 US-registered). However, the kit has been around longer than the LSA rule.

There's also the RV-12, a kit priced at $64,000. It got a late start relative to FlightDesign (first kit sold 2008, first customer flight Sept 2009). There are 218 flying, putting it ahead of CubCrafters.

Posted by: Unknown | January 29, 2013 3:16 PM    Report this comment

Obama's EPA will end 100LL count on it. The entire after market for GA is dead. LSA doesnt need the old timers who cant pass their medicals. LSAs are GAs future, the Cessnas and Pipers are over.

Posted by: G Bigs | January 29, 2013 3:16 PM    Report this comment

Paul:

An ag operation that I visited not long ago runs only on the Regular gas sold at the station next to their airstrip. I gotta figure that the big radial P&Ws are at least as high horsepower as the mill on the Cirrus. ;)

The only changes that they made were to replace every seal and gasket in the fuel system, and rebuild the carbs, done as part of the annuals on their planes. The current material in standard use for these kits is alcohol-proof.

Engines and fuel systems built after 1970 are alcohol-resistant, if not alcohol-proof.

However, I will accept the 80%, not knowing what adjustments might need to be made in some engines for ratty octane numbers. Sounds like one more reason not to buy the latest and greatest!

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 29, 2013 3:17 PM    Report this comment

Keith, The modern regulations are all the updated requirements over the past 50 years. You didn't think they stopped making requirements at the FAA did you? I would be really surprised.

And you don't have to boost the cost 10 times, inflation will get you a lot of the way. I keep telling you to check inflation, but you keep ignoring me. You will triple or quadruple the cost. Aircraft parts have likely inflated much more than that due to volume changes from the heyday of 1000 planes of a given model per year. There are likely several monopolies and oligopolies to deal with.

I appreciate your willingness to risk other peoples money, but amortizing the R&D isn't enough. You have to amortize the certification costs and EVERYTHING ELSE until you make money. Then you have to make enough to pay a handsome return to your high risk investors. Given the number of guys making the 100 mark these days, I would tell you to figure out how Moller gets investors before you start. With his ability to get financing, you might make it.

Cessna offered the 1977 150/152 planes based on decades of experience and money making topped off with a dealer base, which in 77 still had a lot of flight schools as the dealers. They could make and sell more in a quarter than you will in a decade with very little doubt.

Posted by: Unknown | January 29, 2013 3:20 PM    Report this comment

Cont'd

I will whole heartedly agree that the last bit of performance is raising the cost out of proportion, but I also believe that some of that is mandatory to market the machine outside of flight schools. And I will tell you with a great amount of experience that there are a lot of very rational reasons for schools to stick with Cessna, and even if you overcome every one of them, the owners will stick with Cessna with irrational exuberance. They have been taught over and over how foolish leaving Cessna is. Few will ever budge.

In fact. Stop wasting your time with me. Go around and talk to a few flight schools about your idea. Ask them if they think many schools would be interested and what sort of things would prevent them from buying your plane. Its a psychological ploy that will get better response than asking them if they would buy it themselves.

Posted by: Unknown | January 29, 2013 3:21 PM    Report this comment

I will whole heartedly agree that the last bit of performance is raising the cost out of proportion, but I also believe that some of that is mandatory to market the machine outside of flight schools. And I will tell you with a great amount of experience that there are a lot of very rational reasons for schools to stick with Cessna, and even if you overcome every one of them, the owners will stick with Cessna with irrational exuberance. They have been taught over and over how foolish leaving Cessna is. Few will ever budge.

In fact. Stop wasting your time with me. Go around and talk to a few flight schools about your idea. Ask them if they think many schools would be interested and what sort of things would prevent them from buying your plane. Its a psychological ploy that will get better response than asking them if they would buy it themselves.

Posted by: Unknown | January 29, 2013 3:22 PM    Report this comment

I will whole heartedly agree that the last bit of performance is raising the cost out of proportion, but I also believe that some of that is mandatory to market the machine outside of flight schools. And I will tell you with a great amount of experience that there are a lot of very rational reasons for schools to stick with Cessna, and even if you overcome every one of them, the owners will stick with Cessna with irrational exuberance. They have been taught over and over how foolish leaving Cessna is. Few will ever budge.

In fact. Stop wasting your time with me. Go around and talk to a few flight schools about your idea. Ask them if they think many schools would be interested and what sort of things would prevent them from buying your plane. Its a psychological ploy that will get better response than asking them if they would buy it themselves.

Posted by: Unknown | January 29, 2013 3:22 PM    Report this comment

Gary:

The reason is because the difference between VFR and IFR functionality is so slight as to be not worth making IFR-only. In steam-gauge planes, every uprate meant spending the bucks for a new, expensive instrument, finding a place to mount it, installing it and losing some payload capability because the instrument has mass.

In the glass cockpit, there's no difference in weight between VFR software and IFR software, and the weight of the additional sensors is negligible. It's easier and cheaper for a company to only make and stock one sensor assembly than to make a dozen (to match each likely set of desired sensors). Since the cost difference to the end use is so slight, sales of non-IFR units would be sluggish, at best.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 29, 2013 3:24 PM    Report this comment

sorry for the repeat, it wasn't showing up. :(

On the Lead problem, if you can make a 540 or 550 drink auto fuel, even without ethanol, you win the million dollar prize. Please come collect! Forget trainers, Keith, that's a money winner.

Most avgas bought today goes into a plane powered by a high output 550 or 540 or similar engine. Its not an easy problem. Banning Avgas will cost the government plenty.I think the fear is one of the things weighing on prices for those planes now, but realistically, just banning the fuel would be way over stepping even buy modern progressive standards.

But that's another thread. Sorry again.

Paul, you got me all hyped up with this one!

Posted by: Unknown | January 29, 2013 3:33 PM    Report this comment

Eric:

Please cite any three "new" (since 1977 and EOP of the 150) regulations for which the changes aren't already fully developed due to ADs and SBs.

As far as inflation, yes, it's a factor, but not a 1000% factor. When you compare that to cost of R&D, tooling, prototyping, XFT, certification programs, etc, for a new plane, inflation really doesn't look that bad. If I owned the rights to the 150, I could sell them from under $80K, having their parts made in Taiwan and the Philippines with final assembly and PFT here.

Using the 150 as the basis for the ultimate trainer, that plane would sell for about $100K.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 29, 2013 3:36 PM    Report this comment

You couldn't ask for better LSA market research than what you see right here. Among all these postings I see only one person who deliberately chose to purchase an LSA because they perceive value in "carbon fiber" construction, a Rotax engine, and bright and shiny amenities. Nothing wrong with that, but I think it confirms the truth of the matter; for clearly stated reasons, LSA is likely to remain a niche that is not going to contribute to growing the sport, as the LSA movement had hoped.

Posted by: david abate | January 29, 2013 3:46 PM    Report this comment

Eric:

Concur on the marketing issue. That's why a mfr should ONLY sell though flight schools who train in the company's product.

Or, not necessarily the COMPANY, but a "FAMILY," where ABC Aircraft makes trainers, and MNO (a completely separate corporation) makes biztwins, but they are allied, so to buy a new MNO you go to the FBO that's training in ABC's planes.

I've been around flying since the 1960s, my first job was line boy at an FBO in SoCal. I was considering buying the place a few years later, but decided to stay in aerospace (only to leave the industry a year later and leave California, go figure). When SP/LSA came along, I watched to see if I wanted to get involved. That jury is still out.

I don't particularly want to go through all of the hassle involved in getting the ultimate trainer built and into the air, which is why I'm willing to talk about it -- maybe someone else will run with the idea, and that's fine with me -- but if I had one to fly, it would sell. If it were an improved 150 and met LSA standards (doable), it would take over the market, just as the 150 did in the 1960s, because NOBODY ever got fired for buying a 150.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 29, 2013 3:52 PM    Report this comment

G Bigs:

Obama doesn't have the authority to kill 100LL.

Why would a pilot who can pass a medical limit himself to slow two-holers with fixed gear and no luggage room?

Out of all of the people I know with LSA, only one set out to be a Sport Pilot, and is not interested in flying anything bigger or faster. The rest are either uprated ULers or PPs with "DMV medicals," except one who bought a T-Bird and a PPC for a specific purpose (and still has his FAA 3rd class). If the AOPA/EAA proposal goes through (pretty likely), LSA will become an evolutionary dead end.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 29, 2013 4:05 PM    Report this comment

G Bigs:

BTW, you'd better hope that the GA aftermarket doesn't ever go away. The vast majority of pilots can't afford new planes, so they would stop flying. If that happens, the airports become housing developments.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 29, 2013 4:19 PM    Report this comment

Obama has the authority to kill 100LL. He is killing coal without congress now. 100LL is low fruit for those guys they just havn't noticed it yet. When they do, its over. 2015. Look for it. Keith. all the new designs coming out will keep GA airports in beans. but if you cant see the writing on the wall for the old planes then you are not paying attention. either the fuel will go or the smaller more efficient planes will replace the old tin ones. think of GA like the auto industry was before the highway system was built. most cars were cast iron, heavy steal, leaded gas monsters with nowhere to go. todays cars are mostly plastic and aluminum and have GPS. its just the way its going to be.

Posted by: G Bigs | January 29, 2013 4:27 PM    Report this comment

Kieth, I did the homework on the inflation, you can hit the books for yourself. I suspect you could come pretty close to the 100k figure if you took shortcuts, and you did it LSA to avoid cert costs, and you really did settle for ugly. The problem is, now you have to sell it to flight schools. I represented Diamond when I talked to flight schools. I had a better product. One lower cost, one higher cost with much better value. You aren't Diamond, so go see what experience you have. I am afraid it won't sell. Sorry.

Posted by: Unknown | January 29, 2013 4:27 PM    Report this comment

"The first FAA Leaded Fuels study group was formed in 1967."

Yes, and aviation was given a reprieve to work out the problems. What did they do? The sat on their collective asses and did nothing. The blame here falls squarely on aviation.

It's my impression that one of the major holdups is the lack of FAA certification of new fuels, not the possibility of new fuels.

"100LL won't likely be going away in our lifetimes, because there are way too many engines -- not just aircraft engines -- for which it is the appropriate fuel."

Seems you're wrong about this. Friends of the Earth is pushing EPA to get rid of all the lead in avgas.

"The lead level is negligible, and the amount of lead into the atmosphere from burning it is so low as to be uncountable with current technology at any distance beyond which the exhaust fumes can be point-isolated."

You're wrong about this. Higher than normal levels have been found around airports. It is a valid problem. I believe that 100 LL won't be around much longer. Good thing too. Lead is sort of rough on the developing brains of children.

Posted by: DFEUL | January 29, 2013 4:31 PM    Report this comment

Bigs, you do realize that most everything under 180hp can STC for auto gas today, or would be able to if they decided to drop the lead? Its not the LSA competitors that would get dropped, it would be the Bizjet competitors that got dropped.

Oh, and when they get dropped, the flight schools see a marginal drop in business, and the FBOs and Mechanics see a major drop in business. Many will close up, and LSA's will have many fewer airports to go to and many fewer of those will support them with fuel, parts, or service.

Posted by: Unknown | January 29, 2013 4:32 PM    Report this comment

"One thing that has always puzzled me is why most LSAs (even something like a Carbon Cub) have fancy glass cockpits with more functionality than many IFR-certified aircraft"

Do you still ride a horse for transportation? Didn't think so.

An old friend, a private pilot, got lost one day. Called for help, turns out he was right over the airport. I don't know how this happens, but in this world, shit does happen. A GPS and moving map is a great safety tool.

Frankly, I feel that everything that flies should be broadcasting location and vector. Computers on receiving craft could then calculate potential intersections. We now have the technology. In my opinion it's criminal to not use it. What's FAA's main use for such technology? ATC around major airports. Disgusting attitude.

Posted by: DFEUL | January 29, 2013 4:38 PM    Report this comment

"Obama doesn't have the authority to kill 100LL."

Why do you people blame Obama for everything? It's the citizens of this country that will do away with the leaded fuels. I'm one of them.

What we need the politicians to do is get rid of ethenol. It's basically a farm subsidity. Last I read a $6 billion farm subsidy.

"Why would a pilot who can pass a medical limit himself to slow two-holers with fixed gear and no luggage room?"

Why indeed? And why would someone pay more for less?

The initial hope for LSA was pre-build aircraft. Unfortunately, the vested interests in the ASTM meetings screwed that up. Not everyone wants to build an aircraft from a kit, or from scratch. RVs are great aircraft. Long EZ, Vaie-Eze, Cozy, and Velocity are all great aircraft. But you cannot legally purchase a new pre-build. Certification is not inexpensive. When I looked at it, it was going to be at least $50,000, and ongoing costs to maintain the records and such. If I thought I could sell 1000 aircraft, then the cost can be spread out. I think what we're discussing shows that that would have been a very bad business decision.

Posted by: DFEUL | January 29, 2013 4:53 PM    Report this comment

David:

I missed the part where the Friends of the Earth were a lawmaking body . . ? They have been pushing for many things, for many years.

I remember the predictions in 1976 that GASOLINE would be outlawed by 1985, because of the COMING ICE AGE.

100LL isn't really all that important -- every plane made for the last several decades can use nonoxygenated gasoline, all that counts is a high-enough octane level.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 29, 2013 4:57 PM    Report this comment

I didn't claim they were a lawmaking entity. It's EPA's job to protect the environment. What FotE are planning if they don't see some movement is to sue EPA for not doing it's job. If they do that, and win, bye bye lead ....

I think they've got the evidence and arguments to win.

Posted by: DFEUL | January 29, 2013 5:08 PM    Report this comment

David:

The higher lead levels found around airports have been traced to pre-100LL fuels. The lead compound in 100LL is not the same as those which were in 80/87, 100/130 and 115/145, and it's those earlier compounds which have been detected, and only near airports which had a LOT of traffic.

115/145 -- with the original high level of TEL -- is still used at a nearby airport (we fly a lot of big iron, and once a year have some air races you might have heard about), yet when the EPA came by DURING THE RACE a few years ago, they got no definitive reading, even as they were complaining about the smell of the exhaust.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 29, 2013 5:14 PM    Report this comment

David:

Don't believe FotE's press releases. EPA has been told by a number of Federal agencies and DOD that 100LL and other current leaded fuels are necessary to their own activities. If EPA gets sued, they are unlikely to cave -- and if they do, the other agencies outweigh them. EPA would lose face in any such battle, so they're really not eager to get into one.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 29, 2013 5:18 PM    Report this comment

Paul,

I got the Aerobee, at the cost of a Saturn 5. Story of my life...

Posted by: awg9tech | January 29, 2013 5:21 PM    Report this comment

LSA is NOT more for less. the stubborn idea that an old metal riveted chunk of junk buring leaded gas at twice the price is competitive with an LSA is absurd. two seats is all you need 95% of the time. but you can get them in 4 seats now all carbon fiber built. the CTLSi can carry 110 lbs of baggage in two elongated carrier bays. golf clubs fit niecely for instance. at 3.5 gph (120kt cruise) the range on 32 gallons is over 1200 miles. advanced avionics isnt even a wet dream for the old narrow cockpit 172 et al. digital sectionals, AF/D, flight plan INSIDE the Garmin. Dynons with dual ADHRS and dual batteries make the digital cockpit a total reality. fun to watch the old timers struggle to deal with all of this.

Posted by: G Bigs | January 29, 2013 5:29 PM    Report this comment

G Bigs:

What part of "autogas STC" eludes you?

If it has 4 seats, it's not LSA. There ARE 3-seat C150s, which will carry Dad, Mom and two young kids. Fly your plane to Oshkosh and you have to either camp under the wing (a lot of fun in the rain) or find a hotel room (good luck). The 150 has room to lay down and sleep inside (the folded-down seatbacks give you kind of a reclining-chair posture) -- for two, if you want to cuddle.

The guys who built your plane say it burns 4.3 GPH, not 3.5, but your savings over the 4.5 gallons in the 150 will take 44,615 hours to make up the difference in price!

You must be new to flying, or you would know that ALL of your avionics are flying around in C172s -- did you think that Garmin did all that designing for the 300 LSA that sold last year? In the 172, they even hook up to the autopilot. Push a button and you're automatically in the holding pattern racetrack -- oh, sorry, you can't do IFR, can you?

In fact, most of your avionics are duplicated in my iPad Mini, which mounts on my kneeboard and is also useful for getting email, connecting to the Internet, and hundreds of other things when I have to RON somewhere . . .and I can take it from one plane to another.

You're right LSA is not more for less, it's about the same for 10 times the price. And aluminum doesn't degrade from UV, so you can tie down outside in the desert sun without wondering how much of the life is being leached out of the wings while you watch.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 29, 2013 8:56 PM    Report this comment

G Bigs:

Really, you DO have a nice plane. I'm glad that you are happy and proud. My argument is with the amount of money that you spent and with your unjustifiable smugness about the one or two areas which can't be met with a C150 for a fraction of that amount. I can just think of too many things to do with the difference in price.

And that's why LSA just isn't launching -- the alternatives are far more cost effective.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 29, 2013 9:04 PM    Report this comment

"History doesn't repeat itself, but it does rhyme" - Mark Twain

Is the LSA marketplace really any different from the huge shakeout in the 1930's, or the post-war 'plane in every garage' fantasy that saw numerous companies come and go? Remember when dozens of manufacturers became Cessna, Beech and Piper? The current economy and the current generation of pilots simply can't support all these manufacturers in the current LSA marketplace. It can support a few manufacturers--like Icon--that appeal to a small population that can afford the really nice things above $120K, and that's about it.

Do the math. In 1967 a base Chevy Camaro was ~$2500, and a base 150 ~$7000. Using a $30K car as a baseline today (and presuming the analogy holds) an LSA should run around $84K. That's not too far off reality.

However, that $30K buys more utility in a car today than $84K buys in an LSA. Paul B is right--the LSA market needs a shakeout. Nothing new here. Eventually a few major players will remain that offer enough amenities for the dollar to stay around--perhaps Cessna, Icon, Flight Design, and a few others--and they will then be able to ramp production and lower costs, but not much less than $84K, I'll bet. The only viable market below that is Used SpamCan and Experimental, since the FAA killed fat Ultralights. The majority who can only afford $30K Camrys will stay with Used SpamCans, and the few who can will be building RVs, as $84K buys a lot more plane there than any LSA can deliver.

Posted by: ROBERT JOHNSON | January 30, 2013 12:56 AM    Report this comment

Furthermore, I'm not sure anything is ever going to 'ignite LSA sales' as Paul B writes, even after the inevitable shake-out. Most of the light GA market of the 60's and 70's was designed and built for utility transportation flying, back when gas was cheap and airline travel was expensive. Train 'em in 2 seats, move 'em to 4. Recreation has always been a smaller part of GA, and LSA aircraft are primarily suitable for recreational flying. The reality is that LSA is in a no-man's land between the well-heeled transportation folks buying Cirrus and the like, the less well-heeled who are in used transportation SpamCans, and the recreational flyers, most of whom can't afford more than $50/hr wet. There never was much market there.

Posted by: ROBERT JOHNSON | January 30, 2013 2:21 AM    Report this comment

Jesus, Paul. You get to work early !

Posted by: Fritz Katz | January 30, 2013 6:35 AM    Report this comment

The only argument that I see for LSA is inability to get a medical. Cost-wise if you have a basic desire to fly, a used Cessna or Piper for 30K of less is a much better deal. I fly an older 172 cruise on 5 gal/hr of Mogas.

Given the current economy and ever increasing costs, I am planning my exit from the GA world. I still have the "itch" to fly but have found that for 3K I can have a nice paraglider...Itch fulfilled.

Posted by: Kevin McCue | January 30, 2013 6:40 AM    Report this comment

And Jesus, Fritz. Standby to be blocked for good.

But thanks for giving me some laughable material for my next editor webinar on libel.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 30, 2013 6:48 AM    Report this comment

LSA did not 'fail to lanuch' for every LSA company. The FAA LSA rule with the ASTM compliance standard has opened up new markets worldwide. In my experience that resulted in about 50% of my LSA orders delivered outside the USA and I know that was true for a few other manufacturers as well. Sure the worldwide markets are slower now but not non-existant. International flight schools are still buying up old Cessnas. But LSA has carved out a piece of this business. It is on the LSA producers whether they keep and grow this business by producing aircraft more suitable and durable for flight training and support those customers. I for one intend to be one of those manufacturers.

Posted by: CHIP ERWIN | January 30, 2013 6:54 AM    Report this comment

Rick the issue of part ownership is the other members. I would like to fly away on holiday to the coast for the week and the other members complain. Forget it I would rather fully own my aircraft.

Paul – the cost is the problem. What is the cost difference of a family home compared to a LSA. The family home is in constant use the LSA not (20 hours per year maybe). And do the same comparison for the motorcar cost usage and a LSA. Now add the cost of living which includes utility payments, taxes, education, food and repayment of the baby boomer's massive debt. Whatever you thought you had over to go flying is wrong you have nothing. Professional pilots are paid to fly, private pilots not.

Posted by: Unknown | January 30, 2013 7:16 AM    Report this comment

If the goal is to purchase a new (or new-ish) 2-seater aircraft for VFR flying, LSA is the perfect pick. There might even be some LSAs that can legally qualify for IFR flight, so this isn't the problem.

One problem that can't be overcome, however, is when you need more payload or seating than an LSA can provide. Another is the light wing loading of an LSA, compared to a FAR 23 aircraft.

My needs for an aircraft include 4 seats and enough payload for full fuel, 3 people, and reasonable baggage, plus the ability to fly IFR. True, a lot of the time it's just me or one other person, but there are enough times that I fly with 3 or 4 people where it would be a real inconvenience to rent a plane for those flights (which also tend to be longer distance and/or multi-day trips).

So we should forget the argument FAR-23 vs LSA unless we're specifically talking about only needing 2 seats for 99% of the time. Otherwise, it really is an apples-to-oranges comparison.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | January 30, 2013 8:38 AM    Report this comment

I would be very curious as to who the LSA industry sees as their target demographic, age, income level, rural or urban etc.

From a marketing standpoint I am fascinated by Cessna buying hood space on a NASCAR racer. Will this sell Skycatchers or Citations?

Posted by: Richard Montague | January 30, 2013 9:01 AM    Report this comment

I’m always surprised when this topic comes around and the first conclusion is almost always it's not the price slowing sales! Sorry, IT IS the price that is slowing sales. If one could buy something like a Carbon Cub LSA brand new for 40K, they would sell like hotcakes!

The root of the problem: for the pilot population to expand we need to attract more of the middle class. When you force the middle class to choose between buying a HOUSE or a TOY airplane, guess which one will lose out. What do you think would happen if I asked my spouse if she would rather have a house or a toy airplane that could barely carry the two of us and a full tank of gas and have no real range to go anywhere? Bet your life she would say she wants a home to live in.

LSAs are competing against homebuilts; for 150K I can build one heck of a nice RV10, faster, more payload, better instruments, efficient, all around a better airplane. Why would I buy an LSA?

Personally I'm looking at older classic aircraft, for 40k I can pick up a nice PA-22, 172, etc. They are more capable, can carry luggage in addition to fuel and my spouse, and go somewhere and are still fairly economical (as far as aircraft go) to fly.

As long as the LSA cost more than 50k, I will not even stop to look at one, for the total lack of performance they are not worth the purchase price. Before you dismiss my argument, think about it, I AM the TARGET middle to upper middle income customer the LSA market is trying to get.

Posted by: John Rollf | January 30, 2013 9:04 AM    Report this comment

G Bigs: For the price of your CTLSi, I can build a Kitfox 7 1500lb gross, 800lb payload, with the same engine, nice avionics, proven track record with years of support, similar fuel burn, and keep $80K + plus in my pocket. Why would you buy the CTLSi? And if you don't want to build, there are enough flying that you can find very nice used ones.

Posted by: John Rollf | January 30, 2013 9:16 AM    Report this comment

I'm not sure if I agree that LSAs are "competing against homebuilts". Certainly, homebuilts have the potential to offer a cost advantage, but only if you're willing to build it yourself, or buy one someone else built (which, not everyone is up for this).

I also don't think it's right to criticize someone who buys an LSA/homebuilt/FAR-23/etc, since we each have our own reasons. LSAs simply don't offer the payload and no-questions-asked IFR certification that my Piper Archer II has. On the same token, I don't have the time or resources to build a kit plane. But that doesn't mean they don't each have their own advantages for the right person.

I think simply put, the 1350 (or whatever exact number it is) weight limit of an LSA is just too much of a limitation for some people. I do look forward to seeing what 4-seat aircraft Flight Design comes out with, though, and that might be the real advantage of LSA: it's a gateway for manufacturers to the certified arena.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | January 30, 2013 10:01 AM    Report this comment

New LSAs ARE competing against homebuilts, in fact they are competing against ALL aircraft in the $150K range or less. This is the problem. For any mission set, even for sport pilots, I can find an airplane that costs much less than a new LSA and is still economic to operate. New LSA appeal to one very small demographic... those that insist on having a brand new airplane AND have the disposable income to afford a $100k toy. The problem for the new LSA market is that there are not too many people that have both the want for a brand new LSA, and the financial backing to do so.

We can argue all day long that it is not possible to build a nice LSA in the $50k range, and it may be completely true. The argument doesn't matter if the market won't support the $100K LSAs, which the sales numbers seem to show.

My prediction is that in the next 5 or so years we will see 90% of the LSA companies permanently close up shop. There will be a few survivors like Carbon Cub, but not many.

Posted by: John Rollf | January 30, 2013 10:19 AM    Report this comment

I wish these posts were numbered. Hard to find last post read from previous visit.

Posted by: Bill Berson | January 30, 2013 10:47 AM    Report this comment

I think Paul B's blog comment about "yet another high-wing, two-place little white airplane" also expresses another disappointment I have with LSA, the lack of innovation. Most manufacturers seem to be focused on Cessna 150 style flight training, or transportation. However, I believe the previous comments have already pointed out that LSA is about 400kg too light for the latter. It's barely enough for the former, given the super-sized pilots of today.

However, where's the recreational innovation? The Icon is the most innovative to date. For pleasure flying, the visibility of a pusher is desirable, but few exist. How about aerobatic-capable single-seaters? Bi-planes and other interesting configurations? An LSA Stemme S10? Electric power? The reality is, most of this innovation (as well as the glass cockpit innovation) is coming from and for the Experimentals, not LSA. Sure there are LSA prototypes, but the only thing that ever seems to make it to production are Cub and Cessna look-alikes. Where are all the sport-bike LSAs? Fiberglass 150's are not 'cool'.

Posted by: ROBERT JOHNSON | January 30, 2013 10:58 AM    Report this comment

@Bruce Savage re "Rick the issue of part ownership is the other members. I would like to fly away on holiday to the coast for the week and the other members complain. Forget it I would rather fully own my aircraft."

Bruce, this is one of the very reason why aviation is a wreck. The perception that one cannot share the asset and persisting in the fragmented nature it remains in.

What you see as an "issue" we saw as an opportunity. Do you think NetJets saw it as an issue? If you HAVE the ability to own your own, then do so without complaint. Do you? Would like to know.

Otherwise, there is plenty of sound intellectual reasoning for shared assets to fill many posts.

For every person that HAS bought an LSA, we see about 1000 that would if the costs were ridiculously lower and the industry less wacky to deal with.

And thus was created the Aviation Access Project.

Posted by: Rick Matthews | January 30, 2013 11:00 AM    Report this comment

@Bruce Savage re "Rick the issue of part ownership is the other members. I would like to fly away on holiday to the coast for the week and the other members complain. Forget it I would rather fully own my aircraft."

Bruce, this is one of the very reason why aviation is a wreck. The perception that one cannot share the asset and persisting in the fragmented nature it remains in.

What you see as an "issue" we saw as an opportunity. Do you think NetJets saw it as an issue? If you HAVE the ability to own your own, then do so without complaint. Do you? Would like to know.

Otherwise, there is plenty of sound intellectual reasoning for shared assets to fill many posts.

For every person that HAS bought an LSA, we see about 1000 that would if the costs were ridiculously lower and the industry less wacky to deal with.

And thus was created the Aviation Access Project.

Posted by: Rick Matthews | January 30, 2013 11:00 AM    Report this comment

Fractional ownership WILL be the determining factor is allowing access to LSA to reach the frustrated masses. Taking queues from NetJets, we have figured out how to allow quarter, eighth, and even sixteenth shares in a new LSA, and are doing in it now in select markets. Yes we need to get it out across the country and are working to that end. Investment capital would help.

Posted by: Rick Matthews | January 30, 2013 11:04 AM    Report this comment

Cessna's overview: The stirring $150,000 Skycatcher. "If you’ve ever flirted with the idea of owning a brand-new aircraft, it’s officially time to get serious. Introducing the Skycatcher – an all-new Cessna destined to bring your personal dreams well within reach. With extreme flyability. Unprecedented affordability. And the very latest technology. Maybe that’s why it was singled out by Popular Science magazine as being among the most exciting developments of 2007 in the Aviation and Space category. The magazine calls the Skycatcher the best “starter plane” for an entire new generation of pilots. The dream of flight is back. And this time, it’s personal."

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | January 30, 2013 11:04 AM    Report this comment

Lots of great comments on this topic. I tried not to get sucked in, but you finally got me.

Keith, I have flow at least a half dozen C-150-152's and have never gotten one to fly faster than 95 MPH at 6 GPH. My home airport is 4600' MSL and it get hot out here. I find the Cessna to be very cramped with an anemic climb rate with just me on board and fuel fuel. I'm talking 200 FPM tops in the summer.

Now back in 2006 at Sun 'N Fun I got to fly a Flight Designs CT. I'm 245 lbs, the demo pilot was 195 lbs, and we got off the ground in 400' and climbed at 900 FPM! Both of us would not even fit in a 150/152. So G. Bigs has some very valid points.

I took my flight training at a school that used new Diamond A1's because everyone else taught in 30+ year old Cessna's that were hammered. After getting my PPSEL I began renting said Cessna's and was disappointed in the performance and visibility. My wife and I wound up buying a factory demo Diamond DA20 C1 the next year. We spent as much then as some of the newer LSA's sell for today. We have put 1500 hours on our Diamond and love it. It's all composite, trues out at 130 knots and burns a reliable 5 GPH. We are faster than a 172 at a much lower fuel burn. This makes us happy as I'm sure your C-150 does.

Continued...

Posted by: Unknown | January 30, 2013 11:16 AM    Report this comment

part 2.

The LSA numbers are small, I grant you. Look at the Icon A5 since it has only been mentioned once. It is not even being delivered yet but they have over 500 $5,000.00 deposits. Base price is $139,000.00 but I would bet they go out the door for a lot more than that when they reach production.

This tells me there is a market for LSA's that are new and exciting. As others have mentioned, we need new pilots entering GA in much greater numbers instead of slowly dwindling away like we are now. My EAA chapter flies a lot of young eagles so the interest is still alive in the youth of today. Will they want to fly older planes? I do not think so but I could be wrong. I'm turning 60 in a few months and I want to keep flying the newest technology that I can afford. I know others that are completely happy flying much older planes. To each their own I say.

Posted by: Unknown | January 30, 2013 11:17 AM    Report this comment

Everyone talks about "the replacement for the 150". Why not a new 150?

The problem is FAA compliance--FAA regulations have stifled development. If the AOPA/EAA proposal goes through, many of the most onerous FAA regulations will be eased.

Cessna long ago amortized the tooling and development cost of their 140/150/170/172 line. Their cost to build one is minimal.

That leaves product liability as a major cost contributor. Experimentals defend this by advising passengers that the aircraft doesn't meet FAA requirements for passenger carrying. It is the legal doctrine of "apparent risk"--suits against skydiving operations aren't usually successful because the risk is apparent. If the FAA would simply extend that same consideration to the "basic" airplanes, Cessna (or Piper) could produce strong, proven, and useful aircraft at a much more reasonable price. We got into this mess through the stroke of the regulatory pen--and that's how we can cure it.

Posted by: ALBERT LEA AIRPORT INC | January 30, 2013 11:19 AM    Report this comment

Jim, As I have pointed out, Cessna has said the cost of building a 150 is so close to that of building a 172 that its not economically viable any more. Add that too many adult men won't fit alone, never mind with an instructor, and it ain't going to happen.

Posted by: Unknown | January 30, 2013 11:42 AM    Report this comment

To me personally, it's all about price. I have always had a HUGE passion for aviation and the aviation industry. I have thumbed through and drooled over thousands of pages of information on many models of LSA and have thumbed and drooled through many more thousands of pages of used GA classified ads.....but as a 30 something lower income person trying to get by, I have to settle for a used single seat Quicksilver MXL ultralight with a 40HP 2 stroke engine that I can run on auto gas and fly from my neighbors field. I would be the first person to buy and operate as many aircraft as possible regardless of GA or LSA.....if I could afford it. At least I am still able to fly....even if it is at 30 mph around a field. I wish the aviation industry had people like me in mind. Kudos to all you lucky ones out there!!

Posted by: Unknown | January 30, 2013 11:55 AM    Report this comment

I agree--I haven't used 150s in my FBOs for years--they aren't that much cheaper to run than 172's and are far less versatile. Re-read the above example.

The real cost of constructing the aircraft is a fraction of the total cost. To develop a new aircraft, you have FAA certification (expensive), tooling, and buildings--millions of dollars invested--amortized over very few units. You also have product liability--another huge cost.

The development, certification, tooling, and other fixed cost have been amortized for decades. What do you suppose it actually costs Cessna to manufacture the 150/152/172? The RV-12 proves the example--the kit costs $64,000--if you do not want to build it yourself, they will build it for you. Unlike Cessna, they have had to include the tooling and development costs in the RV-12. Cessna can likely produce a 150/172 for less.

The problem is the FARs. Get those out of the way, and the door is open for these proven products at a reasonable price. All the FAA has to do is to treat these simple airplanes just like Experimentals and LSAs--they can't be used for charter or any other use by the non-flying public. Absent that "need to protect the unwary"--the price comes down--new aircraft are available, robust and proven designs are available, and our industry grows.

Put it this way--if these aircraft are available under the same rules as the experimentals and LSAs--do you suppose that Cessna would build them? Which aircraft would YOU choose?

Posted by: ALBERT LEA AIRPORT INC | January 30, 2013 12:03 PM    Report this comment

Jim, you are spot on! The costs to certify a new design part 23 aircraft are absurd. I think I read it cost Cirrus 64 Million to certify the SR20! It's amazing that we have any new designs at all with costs like this.

Posted by: Unknown | January 30, 2013 12:13 PM    Report this comment

Ric Lee made some good points. (Hi Ric). I think one of the things he was saying is that while spending about the same as the cost of the more expensive LSAs, he got much more utility out of the Diamond.

Ric wasn't totally forthcoming though. What he didn't mention is that he's finishing up a 540 powered Berkut. I'm guessing for similar cost to the Diamond, but could be wrong. It's my perception that the Diamond will get rather lonely when he starts flying the 250 MPH Berkut.

It's this difference that sours me on the expensive LSAs. Why spend similar money for for an LSA, when you can fly something that's twice as fast. If you're talking flying for fun, well, who is going to have more fun than Ric ?????

Posted by: DFEUL | January 30, 2013 12:18 PM    Report this comment

Paul said "Maybe the ideal market is only 150 to 200 airplanes. I'm sure I don't know for sure. But I do know the data doesn't support lower price equals higher volume."

Ok, I have read a butt load of comments on this already along with Paul's comments. There are a great many at the end of this thread that I have yet to read. The question everyone is trying to answer is "Why aren't LSA airplanes selling?" Paul has alluded to the idea that there needs to be some sort of shakedown of the manufacturers. Many others are stating that it is the cost of the new airplanes. This then leads to a discussion of how can a manufacturer build a large enough quantity to make a profit on his venture. Well, I contend that given the above quoted statement from Paul and consequent other posts about manufacturer profits, he and many others who are looking at the current price of products being offered and saying they cannot really be lower, and even if they are, it would not help resolve the problem are. . . well, you are never going to be able to answer the above question. The reason being that you are trapped into the box that the FAA regs, the profit seekers, and the current wisdom of how an enterprise can make money off of people is forcing you.

See Part 2 below.

Posted by: Unknown | January 30, 2013 12:22 PM    Report this comment

Part 2

Paul you talked about price vs value in earlier posts in response to comments. You gave an example of one of the LSA manufacturers who is selling their plane for $60,000, but it is tube and fabric and pretty uninspiring (ok, that one is my take on the plane mentioned). Again trapped into the box! Stop thinking in terms of a member of the existing aviation culture. Start thinking in terms of the uninitiated! If Joe Smith out there has money burning in his pocket for a new toy and looks at the price/value of purchasing an LSA because he thinks flying would be cool, he is going to have a hard time justifying to himself, let alone his CFO that would be a good value to pay the price being asked for the pleasure of flying. The general public considers $100,000 a totally unobtainable number to comprehend having, let alone being able to spend on a "recreational" activity/product.

Your statement that "data doesn't support lower prices equates to higher volume" is only going to withstand scrutiny in this bubble within a bubble micro niche market.

See Part 3 Below.

Posted by: Unknown | January 30, 2013 12:23 PM    Report this comment

In the true market of getting the unwashed masses to buy into aviation the LSA world, the GA world, heck the entire aviation world has got to stop thinking about instantaneous profits. I guarantee Henry Ford did not instantly become a millionaire over night when he priced his "have it in any color as long as it is black" cars. Why is it that Microsoft can become one of the most wealthy, as well as influential companies in the WORLD by GIVING AWAY their products? What about WALMART? Again one of the most successful retail companies in the country. They know that they have to price the product they are selling at a point the purchaser will see value in the money they hand over. THAT IS WHAT IS NOT HAPPENING IN AVIATION TODAY!

Posted by: Unknown | January 30, 2013 12:24 PM    Report this comment

Another way around the high cost of new airplanes is remanufacturing. Engine manufacturers can offer "remans"--engines built to the same specs as new, and with zero time. Airframe manufacturers can do the same--Beech did it with the old original Bonanza's (they were called the "R" model)--and wartime C-45s were remanufactured into Twin Beeches. They have a program to remanufacture Beechjets to zero time, using the Williams engines.

The manufacturer can take an old airframe--strip it down and inspect it--install all new electrical system, new glass, reman engine and propeller, new paint, interior, and avionics.

From a product liability standpoint--they haven't added any new aircraft to the exposure--and they have updated old systems to new. There are no new certification costs, no flight tests, no FAA paperwork.

The key to making them USEFUL, however, is to have the FAA treat them just like experimentals and LSA's. That's just a paperwork change--even the FAA should be able to do that.

Posted by: ALBERT LEA AIRPORT INC | January 30, 2013 12:24 PM    Report this comment

In the true market of getting the unwashed masses to buy into aviation the LSA world, the GA world, heck the entire aviation world has got to stop thinking about instantaneous profits. I guarantee Henry Ford did not instantly become a millionaire over night when he priced his "have it in any color as long as it is black" cars. Why is it that Microsoft can become one of the most wealthy, as well as influential companies in the WORLD by GIVING AWAY their products? What about WALMART? Again one of the most successful retail companies in the country. They know that they have to price the product they are selling at a point the purchaser will see value in the money they hand over. THAT IS WHAT IS NOT HAPPENING IN AVIATION TODAY!

Posted by: Unknown | January 30, 2013 12:27 PM    Report this comment

About the certification costs. Jim Hanson understands the problems very well.

Back when Sport Pilot came into being, I seriously considered getting into the market. My idea was to select an existing and proven kit, something like the RANS S-12. Purchase the kit, and have it assembled by people who know what they're doing. At the time one of my employees had an A&P rating. At that time the S-12 kit, without engine, cost around $15,000.

(It's gone up significantly in price, with no apparent changes, and I don't understand that.)

A friend was right in the middle of the Sport Pilot / LSA regulation and explained to me how to do the required paperwork at minimal cost.

Then came the ASTM meetings, and the many sticks stuck in the spokes of the wheels. I had assumed that I could use an engine at a cost under $4000. Not after those meetings. An airframe manufacturer / assembler has little control over the engines, and the ASTM meetings pretty much cornered the market for Rotax. Same engine, just some added paperwork, and thousands more in price.

I was figuring a $29,000 price tag, and making a decent profit, after paying decent wages to the employees. Note, this would have been a recreational aircraft, not a utility aircraft. Just like the expensive LSAs. About the cost of a second car. That was the target market.

The regulations and the liability is making aviation a rich man's sport.

Posted by: DFEUL | January 30, 2013 12:34 PM    Report this comment

Dave is correct, (Hi Dave) we are finishing up a go fast experimental that will blow the wings off production aircraft costing over a million for the price of our Diamond.

But building your own plane is not something everyone wants to do. Ours has taken 3 times as long as we planned because life happens.

We originally were planning to sell the Diamond when our experimental was flying but the wife is calling dibs on it. :)

Posted by: Unknown | January 30, 2013 12:35 PM    Report this comment

Ok, this site is very difficult to post to. Sorry for double posting.

My last point is this: All the talk from people "inside" the aviation industry, and that includes all us pilots/aircraft owners is looking at the current paradigm of how airplanes are built, bought and sold as the way it has to be. It does not have to be this way. We cannot understand why new people are not flocking to this experience that we cannot fathom living without because we have drunk the kool-aid and, we, in fact really really like it. We think everyone should feel the same way and if they would only experience what we have experienced they would beg borrow and steal to get what we have. Well, they wont! They will abide by their ingrained sensibilities of what is deemed prudent to spend and no more. No conscientious blue or white collar middle class working man or woman is ever going to consider paying equivalent prices they pay to provide for shelter for their family on a recreational product. THAT IS THE REAL PROBLEM. Now, we should be talking about how to alter that reality!

Posted by: Unknown | January 30, 2013 12:35 PM    Report this comment

If you're talking flying for fun, well, who is going to have more fun than Ric ?????

I cannot get absolute numbers on the funometer but I doubt that Ric will have any more fun than I have had in a clip-wing Cub with 7 or 8 instruments, any one of which might work on any given day.

Posted by: Richard Montague | January 30, 2013 12:40 PM    Report this comment

Steve, I hear you. But buying an aircraft is not really based on logic at all. It is an emotional response.

There is no way I can logically justify our aircraft purchase which was almost twice the cost of our house. We bought it because my wife and I think flying is the most fun you can have with your clothes on.

In order to buy that plane we gave up our motorcycles, hang gliders, downhill skiing and other items. So where there's a will, there's a way.

No one needed to talk us into it. We believe we were just born with the urge to fly. And that is probably the difference between pilots and the great unwashed.

Just MHO.

Posted by: Unknown | January 30, 2013 12:45 PM    Report this comment

Richard, I know where you are coming from. My taildragger instructor flies 757's for Delta. His fun machine on his day off is a Cub.

For me it's a speed thing. I like low and slow but doing 200 plus knots really does it for me.

Posted by: Unknown | January 30, 2013 12:48 PM    Report this comment

Ric, everything you say is true. You and I have drunk the Kool-aid as I said. We will do what it takes in whatever environment exists. What I am saying is the industry is thinking in those terms while they attempt to market their product to the millions who have not drunk the kool-aid and who even think it is laced with poison, so they vehemently refuse to drink because of the lack of value they see in paying the price. Those really are the people who can "save" the industry. Not people like us. We have bought in already and cannot afford to buy any more, at least not enough to change the direction the industry is traveling.

Posted by: Unknown | January 30, 2013 12:53 PM    Report this comment

Ric:

I recently ferried a C150K from Oregon to Reno. TAS averaged 109, at about 5 GPH.

But even using your numbers and G's, I still don't see 145 THOUSAND DOLLARS more value in 20 MPH and $5 per hour less in fuel costs. ;)

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 30, 2013 12:57 PM    Report this comment

Correction Keith, our Diamond does 130 KNOTS or 150 MPH. Is bigger than a 150, can carry 580 lbs with full fuel, and climbs at 750 FPM at our altitude at full gross.

Real world numbers from 1500 hours of flight time in it.

Posted by: Unknown | January 30, 2013 1:03 PM    Report this comment

Correction on full fuel #, 440 lbs with full fuel. Typing too fast! :)

And I have flown about 10 different C1's and they all do about the same speed. The newer C1 Eclipse's are pushing 140 KNOTS. We have the early C1 Evolution.

Posted by: Unknown | January 30, 2013 1:09 PM    Report this comment

Jim hanson:

Would you spend $65K on a C150 kit? One that included the entire airframe and engine, 49% complete (to meet the 51% Rule)?

Probably not, because the same money and work buys an RV kit with far superior performance, and the best use of the 150 is primary flight training (you're not going to see flying schools buying EABs).

You might BUY a C150 for $65K, but still not too likely, because there are plenty on the used market for far less.

What the LSA market needs is planes which pilots will buy for what they are, not for the regs that they meet. ICON looks like a good candidate for that. If it flies well as a LANDPLANE and goes out the door for under $150K, it will pretty much kill the Flycatcher and other flying sperm, because it will meet their performance and add a whole new capability on top of that. My neighbor with the SeaBee hardly ever put it in water, but he loved the handling and visibility.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 30, 2013 1:13 PM    Report this comment

Ric:

Your Diamond is why a pilot who can pass a medical is unlikely to buy a $158K LSA. If the AOPA/EAA exemption becomes reality (HIGHLY likely, write your Congresscritters!), a lot of guys looking at LSA will buy other planes instead.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 30, 2013 1:21 PM    Report this comment

Ric:

Buying an airplane is a PURELY logical process, once you have made the emotional choice to own one.

You decide what your priorities are. I have a friend who is a world-class golf expert. He flies all across the country in an experimental plane that I helped him buy (used). He visited not long ago, and realized with a shock than the golf clubs he had were worth more than he paid for the plane he was carrying them in.

I don't golf. I don't fish (dynamite is too expensive). I don't own a boat, ATV, sandrail, art, timeshare or most of the other stuff that other people spend money on. I've had them, then decided to spend my money on aviation. That was the only "emotional" part of the process -- from there, it's all logical. I pick my planes to meet a need and to fit the budget. I'm far from rich, but I can afford to fly.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 30, 2013 1:35 PM    Report this comment

Keith--no, I would rather spend $100-$150,000 on a 172 that was already put together. I mention that as both an FBO owner and GA pilot (and I own both a Kitfox and a Kolb LSAs. If Vans can put together a new RV-12 for that price, Cessna can offer a similar kit for a similar price--a completed airplane, or a reman--take your pick. All that has to be done is to have FAA treat these airplanes like they do experimentals and LSAs. \ As Paul mentions--the LSAs are not setting the world on fire with sales. The question that SHOULD be asked is--"For your $100-$150,000 investment, would you rather have an LSA or a brand-new "legacy" airplane?"

I love my Kitfox, but if I had to own only one airplane in this category, it would be the 172--IF all regulations were equal.

Posted by: ALBERT LEA AIRPORT INC | January 30, 2013 1:35 PM    Report this comment

Keith, If only it were so that buyers are so logical. Trust me, it isn't so. Most of us try, and we may think we are succeeding, but emotions are all over the process and affect it greatly. That's not all bad. After all, the goal is happiness. And, when spending tens of thousands or more, the fear of making a mistake is always going to impact the outcome.

Posted by: Unknown | January 30, 2013 1:56 PM    Report this comment

Keith, We live in a lower middle class neighborhood where there are expensive boats and motor homes sitting in the driveways for most of the year. These same people tell me how expensive flying is and that they could never afford it.

I have to refrain myself from rolling my eyes when I hear this. We use our aircraft year round for fun and to visit friends. Some of these boats go out maybe 5 times a year and the motor homes even less. It's all in what you want to spend your money on.

I'm sure you have seen the same in you neighborhood.

Posted by: Unknown | January 30, 2013 1:58 PM    Report this comment

Leaded gas to disappear by 2015. First banned in cars, then lawnmowers, next and finally aircraft. The company that makes TEL is shutting down. http://www.avweb.com/eletter/archives/bizav/2426-full.html#208088

Posted by: G Bigs | January 30, 2013 2:31 PM    Report this comment

Eric:

Buyers are logical -- most of them, anyhow -- and that's why they're walking past LSA to buy planes which are cheaper, offer better performance or carrying capability, etc.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 30, 2013 2:33 PM    Report this comment

Notice this topic explodes mainly because old timers with old Cessnas are freaking their toys are becoming obsolete. LSA or its equivalent is here to stay. What is going away are the old 100LL planes.

Posted by: G Bigs | January 30, 2013 2:34 PM    Report this comment

No one is looking past LSA. There is nothing past LSA. certainly intelligent people are not looking BACK at the old leaded gas, tin lizzies of the past.

Posted by: G Bigs | January 30, 2013 2:36 PM    Report this comment

G Bigs:

Please cite the source for your claim. Just curious, and curious why you think this will make any kind of difference?

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 30, 2013 2:38 PM    Report this comment

One thing that I don't think has been considered or commented on much is used vs. new as it relates to LSA.

If the hypothesis is "how can I get the most value for my $150k (or whatever, +/-)", you'll get far more value from a used certified aircraft or experimental. The value will be in either speed, payload, range, or some combination of the three.

But if you take LSA out of the picture, new vs. used has the same result. Unless you MUST have a new airplane (1990 or newer), it makes the most sense to buy used. There isn't a single non-experimental new aircraft that meets the capabilities of my 1979 Archer II for $80k or less, and even the new Archer has less payload than my used plane.

The problem you get when you bring LSA back in to the picture is that, being a relatively new category, there isn't the same price differential between a NEW LSA and a USED LSA, as there is between a NEW Archer and a USED Archer (or replaced "Archer" with "C172", etc).

Perhaps when more USED LSAs are on the market, the whole segment might start to take off (excuse the pun), since they'll be more price-competitive with existing certified 2-seat aircraft out there.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | January 30, 2013 2:43 PM    Report this comment

Ric:

I always feel kind of sorry for the people I see with boats. When you figure their costs against the amount of time that they actually use them, it's a lot more expensive to have a boat than a plane. It's one thing if you live in Hawai'i or along a major river, but something else entirely to have one on a trailer in your driveway. A friend of mine bought a $25K ski boat last year and put a whole, whopping 25 hours on it at the lake. The boat is gone, we're going down to fly back his $12K C150 this weekend.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 30, 2013 2:45 PM    Report this comment

G Bigs--on the contrary--hardly anybody is talking on this forum about obsolescence (other than you). Most people are very content to operate their "obsolete" aircraft--if they can do so economically. The subject is "Failure to launch"--why LSAs aren't selling. Obviously, people have considered them and decided NOT to buy--at least at this price point. The debate has centered on the nexus of price point and capability. Most people WOULD buy an LSA--IF it offered more speed and utility--or they would buy a legacy airplane at the same price point--IF it could be operated without a medical certificate.

You have to ask yourself--"if the medical was not an issue, would you buy an LSA, or a new legacy airplane at the same price?"

Posted by: ALBERT LEA AIRPORT INC | January 30, 2013 2:52 PM    Report this comment

What's your agenda Keith? You seem obsessed over this subject, laughing. You can't defend your cheap craft - you are doomed. quit trying to convince others to invest in losing propositions and antique junk.

Posted by: G Bigs | January 30, 2013 2:53 PM    Report this comment

G Bigs:

Oh, yeah, we're all quaking in our boots, afraid that we'll have to buy $158K plastic airplanes powered by snowmobile engines, that have no room to carry stuff and have to be kept in a hangar so that they don't rot in the sunshine.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 30, 2013 2:53 PM    Report this comment

jim wrote: "You have to ask yourself--"if the medical was not an issue, would you buy an LSA, or a new legacy airplane at the same price?""

. . .or would you buy a used legacy airplane for a whole lot less . . ?

Like, say, that C172 on Barnstormers for $22.5K . . ? Or the C310 for $29K?

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 30, 2013 3:02 PM    Report this comment

G. Bigs, take it down a notch. We should be respectful of other opinions.

I like modern aircraft. That is why I own one and am building one made of composites. On the other hand, I have a dear friend who owns a 1954 Cessna 170B and he loves it as much as I love my planes.

He will probably fly his old "tin lizzy" as you put it for another 20 years. It makes him happy. I'm all for it.

You own a wonderful design. Not everyone reading this can afford it nor does it appeal to them. Whatever floats your boat, as the old saying goes.

Posted by: Unknown | January 30, 2013 3:08 PM    Report this comment

The new LSAs are fragil and more expensive in every way than C150s, C152, C172, Aeronca Champ, J3 Cub, Beech Skippers, to name a few. One does not get more bang for ones buck. The market is very small and getting smaller and the latest class three medical proposed regulations are reducing buyer's interests even more so, therefore expect less LSA manufacturers andy even higher pricing. Having been in manufacturing, sales and flight instruction most of my life I strongly believe the LSA market is dead.

To revive the S-LSA market they need a half a million G. Bigs replicas.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | January 30, 2013 3:16 PM    Report this comment

G Bigs:

Actually, you seem to be the one with the agenda -- I'm simply point out how silly it is to spend 158 THOUSAND DOLLARS on an airplane that's pretty much the same as a $12K C150.

Must have hit a nerve with that one, you've been desperately trying to convince someone (yourself? your wife?) that you made a great deal.

Right now, sitting here at the airport where I live, I'm watching a guy preflight a C150 that has been here for a couple of months. The owner paid $9,000 (cash) for it, and another $2k for new avionics. He pays $65 per month for tiedown, $3.25 per gallon for (unleaded) autogas, and can put a full load of fuel, his girlfriend and 120 lbs of luggage into it for weekend trips at about $15 per hour plus maintenance (C150s typically annual for about $400). So, figuring 250 hours, his entire cost for a year of flying will be less than $13K. When he sells it, he will get at least as much as he paid for it.

. . .and you paid $145 THOUSAND to get a plane which won't carry as much and which has to be kept in a hangar, costs more to insure, will cost more to annual and will sell far below what you paid, even if the company you bought it from is still in business.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 30, 2013 3:25 PM    Report this comment

Oops, that should read "$145 THOUSAND MORE" . . .

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 30, 2013 3:28 PM    Report this comment

If only we could power planes with hyperboles the cost issues would completely disappear. :)

Are any manufacturers actually making planes out of composites so fragile they must be hangared? That sounds suspicious in the 21st century. Not that it's a big deal. There is no free lunch. Hangar or not is nearly a wash at most airports. Even an old 150 left outside suffers from the effects and costs more to maintain, reduces efficiency, and will need paint and upholstery sooner. On the really low end it likely makes sense to park in the weather, but not beyond that.

As for glass cockpits, it makes no sense not to go glass. It's a better value.

Posted by: Unknown | January 30, 2013 4:01 PM    Report this comment

Eric:

It's BALLOONS that fly on hot air! ;)

UV eats composites, just like it eats fabric. Hot spots can likewise degrade composites, which is why composite planes are white with only a little color on them.

A spam can with a cockpit cover can sit here in the Nevada sun all year and still be airworthy. I wouldn't advise that with carbon fiber.

Concur on glass cockpits -- if I were building another EAB I would plan for that, likewise if I had to replace more than a couple of steam gauges on a Cessna, it might be a better choice to convert. OTOH, I get all of the nav capabilities on my iPa(i)d for a fraction of the cost of the Garmin retrofit for a C172. Another few hundred bucks and you can get the sensor module that turns it into EFIS.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 30, 2013 4:14 PM    Report this comment

While I have to say I enjoy the "my plane is way better than your plane" banter, I am not sure what the point of it is other than getting some aggression out. Everyone interested in buying a plane assesses the options differently and if you want to know exactly how LSAs are valued by pilots, just look at their sales over the last few years. The same is true for tin lizzies. The numbers do not lie. It is what it is.

The real problem is that sales of all types of planes are too low to keep GA viable long term. All of C. Big's comments will not sell one additional LSA and Keith's happiness with used legacy aircraft is understandable but if buying a used aircraft robs a new aircraft sale (which it does, of course), then low sales will continue to plague the manufacturers and the future of GA is bleak indeed. The conversation about whether new LSAs make financial sense does not address the real issue of how GA survives with the shrinking of the pilot population and the consequent puny sales of all aircraft types. Until we start increasing the pilot population by a very large margin, sales will not increase to a point where real economies of scale are realized allowing prices to go down. How we do that, I have no idea. It is not a simple calculus. If it were, someone would have figured it out in the last three decades. This is not a new problem and LSAs are not the answer. If they were, we would have seen it by now.

Posted by: KENNETH APPLEBY | January 30, 2013 4:29 PM    Report this comment

Bigs, you're welcome to post here. But if you persist in these unnecessarily nasty responses, my delete key is ever handy. And I've already used it in this discussion far more than I like.

Make sense?

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 30, 2013 5:09 PM    Report this comment

Increase the new pilot interest from the root. Create youth aviation education programs where ground and flight instruction is included for free. Lets keep on giving it away in order to keep this aviation passion we all seem to have. Go to the Coachella Valley Youth Aviation Education Program on Facebook.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | January 30, 2013 5:15 PM    Report this comment

Paul:

Actually, Bigs is kind of amusing. ;) If he's anywhere near that enthusiastic talking about LSA to his friends and neighbors, some of those are sure to get interested in flying . . .and, like that line from "Battle of Britain:" "We don't need a 'Big Wing," nor a small wing . . .we need PILOTS!"

I live at a small airport in Nevada. Of the 20 planes here, 3 meet the LSA standard (and only one of those was built as LSA), 15 will meet the AOPA/EAA exemption, and 2 won't (one is a C172RG and the other a C411). Everything we have here could fly on autogas (and most of them have the STCs).

We have room for another dozen planes, mostly outside tiedown. It would be nice if some of Big's neighbors bought planes and kept them here.

I will stop poking a stick into his cage, though.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 30, 2013 5:42 PM    Report this comment

There was a very busy ultralight flight school at Birchwood airport ( near Anchorage AK) in the 90's. Like most flight schools they bought new trainers and used them till a customer bought the depreciated airframe and then the school bought another new one. But the trainers were about $20 K, I think. The new 2004 LSA rules put all these low cost unregulated manufacturers out of business. I don't think there is even any SLSA approved engines under $20k today. Back then any engine conversion could be used, but not now. There really was no need to over regulate the ultralight training industry because all flights were over sparsely populated areas. Some operators needed FAA enforcement, but not manufacturers.

Posted by: Bill Berson | January 30, 2013 6:27 PM    Report this comment

I think there may be some confusion regarding STC's and mogas. An STC'S for my continental does not allow ethanol. The Rotax engine allows up to 10% ethanol so you can buy your gas at the gas station. If I want to use an STC'S, I have to go to a marina to buy ethanol free gas. The price is much higher than auto gas. So any comparison on fuel operating costs needs to keep that in mind. Just saying.

Posted by: jay Manor | January 30, 2013 6:59 PM    Report this comment

This conversation seems to have touched a lot of nerves. G.Bigs is either the new marketing arm of the LSA industry (Dan Johnson will miss his job.), or he needs to convince himself that he made a wise choice. But if he's happy, that's all that matters.

Richard, no sense arguing who has more fun, because they're all fun to fly. Going fast can be fun, and trips take less time. I fly an Ascender Ultralight, Jack McCornack's Pterodactyl design, and it's the most fun anyone can have, clothed or not. But at 40 MPH, I ain't going to pass many Greyhound buses. Maybe a parked one. (That's why I'm working on a Long EZ.) I had a Champ for years, and I really liked it too. Spins can be fun.

Another topic, but, if we could get a reliable source of auto gas without all the additives, including alcohol, that might be one of the best things to happen to the piston engine side of GA, Ultralights, and such. The weedeaters, generators, snow blowers, and such would also be pleased.

Paul, are all your conversations so spirited ??

Posted by: DFEUL | January 30, 2013 7:15 PM    Report this comment

Keith, Time to update your composites knowledge. The reality is that planes made with high quality composites don't really even need white paint anymore. The continued avoidance of color is conservatism for certified planes and weight for LSA. Diamond have no life limit on their airframes and you may leave them on the ramp. The Columbia/Corvalis aircraft are of similar quality.

Even modern prepreg doesn't necessitate hangaring.

Posted by: Unknown | January 30, 2013 11:41 PM    Report this comment

Eric:

Good to hear that things have changed since my VariEze days.

Do you still have to tap test?

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 31, 2013 12:20 AM    Report this comment

My Bellanca Viking cost $35k and goes 160kts with 4 on board. My Sonerai II cost $9k and goes 125kts with two on. If I were to sell the

Posted by: Unknown | January 31, 2013 3:01 AM    Report this comment

I was thinking if I sell my 4 seat, 185mph Bellanca Super Viking at its current valued price of $35,000, and then sell my 150mph Sonerai II for about $10,000, I would only need to take out a loan for another $55,000 to buy a new 2 seat 138mph LSA..............................

Posted by: Unknown | January 31, 2013 3:19 AM    Report this comment

I think I'll what I have..........

Posted by: Unknown | January 31, 2013 3:25 AM    Report this comment

This has been a very interesting discussion but at the end of day whether you are talking LSA, certified or vintage planes we need pilots. No demand (pilots) no planes. Those of us with Cessna's, Piper's, Champs will continue to see values drop because there is no one to buy. My airport is owned by the county but run by the pilots association, we are looking to see how we can expand on Young Eagles and the new Eagle flights for adults. We do monthly fly-outs for breakfast and lunch we are going to work on filling empty seats with non-flyers to hopefully create new pilots that will lead to demand for planes.

On another note a topic that I have not seen in the posting is the cost of keeping a plane hangared and insured. We charge $160 for a t-hangar with electric and running water when it rains. We are full up and I get calls several times a month asking about space. We have plenty of tie downs at $55 but when you put out $30k plus you do not want it outside. I have seen t-hangars for $400 a month but the bigger problem is finding an open hangar. More pilots, more planes, fewer airports now theres conundrum.

Continued.....

Posted by: Ron Lane | January 31, 2013 6:25 AM    Report this comment

Commercial insurance to train in an LSA will run you $6,000 a year. For a 150/172 $1,800 to $3,000 depending on age and value. With a fleet of LSA's it is hard to make a profit with high insurance. I know some of you have seen better rates but it depends on the mix and number of planes and hours flown. Personal plane insurance well most of you know that answer.

As a CFI I have met a lot of people who are in love with the idea of flying but can't or won't invest the time to learn, after all leaning to fly is equivalent to a 3 credit college course. I have had others who really wanted to learn but could no commit the cash, these are the folks I have invited to share a flight so they can learn on the cheap.

Posted by: Ron Lane | January 31, 2013 6:26 AM    Report this comment

Sorry if this is a duplicate, computers.

Commercial insurance to train in an LSA will run you $6,000 a year. For a 150/172 $1,800 to $3,000 depending on age and value. With a fleet of LSA's it is hard to make a profit with high insurance. I know some of you have seen better rates but it depends on the mix and number of planes and hours flown. Personal plane insurance well most of you know that answer.

As a CFI I have met a lot of people who are in love with the idea of flying but can't or won't invest the time to learn, after all leaning to fly is equivalent to a 3 credit college course. I have had others who really wanted to learn but could no commit the cash, these are the folks I have invited to share a flight so they can learn on the cheap.

Posted by: Ron Lane | January 31, 2013 6:30 AM    Report this comment

Now, if there was a way to collect, process and distill all of the enthusiasm, energy, rancor, vitriol and humor stirred up by Paul, into something I could burn in my Arrow, that would be a step in the right direction!

Posted by: Unknown | January 31, 2013 6:44 AM    Report this comment

Now, if there was a way to collect, process and distill all of the enthusiasm, energy, rancor, vitriol and humor stirred up by Paul, into something I could burn in my Arrow, that would be a step in the right direction!

Posted by: phillta | January 31, 2013 6:44 AM    Report this comment

The "no pilots - no demand" point is an interesting one. I keep reading comments to the effect that it's silly to buy a new LSA when you can buy a used, existing airplane for buttons.

When tells us something: there are more airplanes than pilots who want them, so used airplane prices are "going to zero".

In which case the weaker-than-hoped-for demand for LSA is a symptom of the broader disease: the continuing failure to attract new pilots.

Not that the overall high cost and low utility of GA would have anything to do with that...

Posted by: Unknown | January 31, 2013 7:18 AM    Report this comment

Hey Paul, one thing to think about regarding the sales of the Carbon Cub SS is the fact that although LSA regs will not allow you to fly over 1320 lbs gross Cubcrafters makes a pretty big deal about the plane having the same airframe capability as a 2000 lb. capable cub. Almost like saying your okay to use the plane at weights above LSA restrictions thus gaining the utility they otherwise lack. I can't help but think that's intentional.

Posted by: Purcell Ron | January 31, 2013 7:44 AM    Report this comment

The engine is a large portion of an LSA cost. I contend that a simple, tube and fabric airplane could be built and sold for under $50K as long as the engine doesn't cost $25K. We don't have many options. A Rotax 582 or a Rotax 912. The 582 is a 2-stroke and does not quite have the HP required for a 2 place airplane and the 912 is overkill. The Quicksilver GT500 is a potential example. It is certified in the primary category and has reasonable performance for an airplane to fly for fun: 1100 lbs max gross weight, 80 mph cruise, easy to fly, etc. The problem is people just don't trust 2 stoke engines (I can't blame them) and the 4 stoke engines are too expensive. I'm not selling Quicksilver here, just pointing out there are less expensive options that the European derived LSA airplanes.

By the way, the sportpilot rules did have unintended consequences. It killed the Ultralight movement which was a source of pilots. If you want cheap flying, there is nothing better than a ultralight.

Posted by: DANA NICKERSON | January 31, 2013 8:45 AM    Report this comment

Jim Richmond and his crew have built one of the most beautiful airplanes I have ever seen. Like all beautiful things to really appreciate it, it helps to look at all the small details. When I have the disposable income, I'll buy a Carbon Cub. Maybe I'll get there or maybe I won't. When I do, and someone asks me to justify the cost, I'll spend my time either making sure I keep the income flowing, flying the airplane, or just going out to the airport to look at it. I certainly will not get sucked into wasting my time on an argument about $. Airplanes run on money and time. If you want to save flying find the people with some aptitude and common sense that have money and time available and encourage them to learn to fly. Do your best to demonstrate that it can be fun, exclusive and wonderous, not the overcomplicated, overregulated stress fest that everyone seems to want to turn it into.

Posted by: MARK JENSEN | January 31, 2013 8:51 AM    Report this comment

It is all about cost to benefit. Current LSA's just do not provide it for just about any market except maybe the small no medical market. I am not saying that it can be done but there really needs to be a sub $50k LSA that is as much of a real aircraft as a 152 or Grumman AA1 but is more roomy, more modern, better looking, very reliable and burns under 5 gal/hr at the 120 IAS knot cruise.

Posted by: M Kett | January 31, 2013 9:10 AM    Report this comment

I don't think a decent two place airplane could be built for $50K but I sure DO think one could be built for $100K in sufficient quatities. Problem is, even there, utility isn't there when limited to 1320 pounds gross weight. If the MGTOW was raised to something like 1800 pounds and the max speed to 150, designers would have more latitude and buyers would have more utility. Dynon is talking about incorporating remote radio functions to their SkyView and this would simplify the panel/avionics installations.

I also question why a ONE place LSA isn't considered. IF a larger two-place like trainer were available, some of the issues of MGTOW could be overcome. I know single place airplanes usually don't sell well but -- given the limitations, might help?

The comments about lackluster sales in new and used "real" GA airplanes may well be a more complelling issue. Perhaps we -- as a group of aviation devotees -- are seeing the death gasps of a once proud avocation being killed off by economic and bureaucratic (spelled FAA) forces. Sad. Lotsa good questions raised in this blog but few answers unless and until weight limits and quantities go up.

I guess the next generation of airline pilots will be robots controlled by a guy named "Tex" available 24/7 on an 800 number to the onboard attendants.

Posted by: lstencel | January 31, 2013 9:23 AM    Report this comment

Kieth, I am not a builder, I was a salesman and enthusiast. I don't know if tap testing is still done or not, but suspect it is. Don't know of a replacement. Diamond does a lot of QC on every composite part.

Posted by: Unknown | January 31, 2013 9:27 AM    Report this comment

Chip Erwin, it's exciting to see you in the thread - someone who actually knows something about LSA production!

Perhaps you'd comment on something. I accept your point that, with the engine, avionics, and 1,000 of labor going into each LSA, it appears to be impossible to deliver one for under $100k.

But, you've also said that in the old, high-volume days, economies of scale made it possible for Cessna and Piper to build spam-cans and sell them at inflation-adjusted prices that are about 1/3 of today's, or less.

I'm skeptical about that second point. I've spoken to engineers at Cessna who say they use nearly as many man-hours today as they did back then, i.e., they used MORE man-hours per plane back in the day.

Where, in your opinion, were they getting economies of scale? It sounds like a small airplane has always involved an engine and 1,000 man-hours of assembly...

Posted by: Unknown | January 31, 2013 9:31 AM    Report this comment

Thomas, You misunderstood. I pointed out that even with thousands of units produced per year the aircraft industry would never even come close to the economies of scale of the auto industry. And we are still stuck with >$15k engines. We can however gain economies in both labor-hours and labor cost-per-hour using 3D modelling and matched CNC parts production. That allows me to offer a quality LSA closer to $100k than $150k.

Posted by: CHIP ERWIN | January 31, 2013 9:45 AM    Report this comment

Thomas, I recall reading somewhere in the distance past that Cessna used about 400 man-hours building a 172, IIRC.

Anyone else remember something like that?

Posted by: Unknown | January 31, 2013 9:55 AM    Report this comment

There is the 452 page FAA report (hyperlinked at SportPilot.org) that explains the LSA rule. The prior ultralight exemption was 496 pounds empty. The FAA went with 1320 for LSA . This was a gift to GA. And allows Carbon Cubs. But this completely destroyed the ultralight trainers viability for which the LSA rule was created.

Posted by: Bill Berson | January 31, 2013 10:20 AM    Report this comment

Just for the heck of it, I ran the inflation calculator backwards on a typical LSA price of $130,000. In 1979, an LSA would have cost $42,000 or more than twice what a Cessna 150 actually did cost.

Today, based on standard inflation, a 150 would cost $54,000. Based on real-world Cessna inflation, it would cost right around $200,000. That offers good insight into why Cessna isn't building them.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 31, 2013 10:20 AM    Report this comment

Paul--please elaborate. If 150s "should" cost $54,000 due to inflation, why would Cessna need $200,000?

The cost of labor and materials would typically be covered by the inflation factor. What are the extra cost to drive the cost to $200,000? This may help us to understand.

Posted by: ALBERT LEA AIRPORT INC | January 31, 2013 10:33 AM    Report this comment

I've said it before and will say it again: Flying is for the wealthy or childless.

Back when I had delusions of building something or buying an LSA I created the mother of all Excel spreadsheets to complare performance and estimated capital and operating costs. The lowly C-150 was the cheapest to own and operate over a 10-year period. And I still could not justify the (surprisingly high) cost. So I got into a partnership, which was fine until I realized I didn't have enough time or money to go anywhere.

So if I can't go anywhere, I might as well have fun over the same local area, so I joined the local glider club and have been having a ball. My duties as tow pilot pay for my dues and launches in the club glider. So I found free flying with a fun group of people. Go check out your local soaring club!

Posted by: Scott Thomason | January 31, 2013 10:38 AM    Report this comment

Touch labor hours is not where the real costs are. That is why it is vital to get volume way up to reduce the price. Ford may spend billions getting a new design into production, but those fixed costs are spread over a production run of millions of units sold for $25k or so. Airbus may spend a similar amount, but maybe a few hundred of a given model might be sold, making fixed costs not an insignificant contributor to a $100,000,000 or so price tag.

Posted by: Jim Lo Bue | January 31, 2013 10:39 AM    Report this comment

Paul, your facts in regard to inflation vs reality are interesting. Since it has been pointed out that the engine is the single largest cost component other than perhaps labor, I wonder if you have a comparable calculation of engine cost increases since 1979.

Posted by: Richard Montague | January 31, 2013 10:41 AM    Report this comment

Aha! Thank You Scott! An excellent example of flying on a low budget. Instructing, EAA, and other avenues also offer anyone who dreams of flying a way to enjoy aviation.

Posted by: Unknown | January 31, 2013 10:44 AM    Report this comment

As for the success of higher priced LSA's, I suspect that if you can justify and afford a $80k toy, then you can probably justify something better at $130k.

Paul is correct that the $30k LSA is a myth. It just ain't possible. Even a Sonex will cost ~$30k in parts to build BEFORE you include any of your labor. (and then you get to bump you head on the canopy when you fly with a buddy). Lighter-end experimentals is where you'll see something nearly affordable (Challenger ultralight-ish aircraft), but building an airplane is too big of a barrier to entry I think.

Posted by: Scott Thomason | January 31, 2013 10:44 AM    Report this comment

Thanks Eric, but building an aircraft is still too big of an entry barrier to be a savior for the pastime. As for instructing, try feeding a family of 4, paying health insurance, savings for retirement, etc. on that salary. I'll keep my (more than) full-time engineering job, thanks.

I'm serious about soaring. Why do you think it is the dominant for of aviation in regulated Europe? Because it's cheap, fun, social, and safe. Most clubs there have large youth memberships. If you fly for fun and not transportation, then it's is a great way to fly. Middle-class people will not fly for transportation - other alternatives much more economical. See our Carolina Soaring VIMEO page for information on what I am talking about.

Posted by: Scott Thomason | January 31, 2013 10:52 AM    Report this comment

Fascinating discussion.. Just to add to the "value" issue, there's another worsening factor that's glossed over. The middle class is being decimated. That will continue. I'm in that shrinking group that has an emotional trigger to hobbies that have a greater than $100,000 entry level. Even if an LSA was available with 800 #s useful load, one gallon/hour @ 300Kts but cost $150,000, it ain't gonna happen. I just couldn't afford it. I don't think I'm alone.

Posted by: Cyril Gibb | January 31, 2013 10:52 AM    Report this comment

Scott Thomason is right about soaring - if you're flying just to fly, it's a great way to do it. But, it's dying off in the US as fast as GA is. With soaring, the cost isn't as big an issue, but it's an intrinsically rural activity and more and more of us are in the big cities.

Posted by: Unknown | January 31, 2013 10:56 AM    Report this comment

Chip,

Thanks for the clarification. I totally agree, that with current technologies we could never approach the efficiency of auto manufacturing: that requires giant metal presses, robotic welders, etc.

On the other hand, I do think there's been too much fatalism and not enough of the creative industrial thinking you're describing, when it comes to improving productivity in airplane manufacture.

Take a look at motorboats. BoatTrader lists a 2012 Checkmate Pulsare 1850 BR Bowrider 19' composite (fiberglass) motorboat, with 115hp Evinrude, at an MSRP of $51k. It's not immediately obvious to me that this is a bad comparison: sure, they're made in larger numbers, but they're not cars, either (the Checkmate web site describes the boats as "hand made" - it's worth a look). Of course, it helps that the licensing requirement for a motorboat is nothing like it is for even an LSA.

Ric,

That's interesting about the 400 hours. Hard to believe - lots of rivets, and Cessna uses only simple jigs for assembly. But, taking 400 hours and an RV-12 kit, you have $64,265 + 400 x $60 = $88k. That's not Paul's $54k, but it's not $200k either.

Of course, as Cessna knew, a 4-seater could cost relatively little more, if the Sport Aircraft rule didn't have "Light" in the title...

Posted by: Unknown | January 31, 2013 11:30 AM    Report this comment

By the way, the Evinrude lists at $14k. It's not Rotax-crazy, but we can't expect an aero engine to cost $5k either.

Posted by: Unknown | January 31, 2013 11:36 AM    Report this comment

Thomas, There are soaring clubs within a 30 minute drive of Charlotte NC, and ours operates from the Spartanburg Downtown airport. It's not always a rural activity. True, most operations are away from class B areas, but we operate around Class C airspace without problems. There are soaring clubs closer than you think.

But while thinking about it, aviation in general is going away from the larger urban areas. I grew up in Atlanta and it is a 1-hour drive through traffic to get to the nearest GA airport - and that airport is crowded and expensive. All of non-turbine aviation is being pushed to smaller cities and rural areas.

Posted by: Scott Thomason | January 31, 2013 11:37 AM    Report this comment

"Paul--please elaborate. If 150s "should" cost $54,000 due to inflation, why would Cessna need $200,000?"

You may have missed my coined "Cessna inflation." In 1977, a Cessna 150 cost $18,225 typically equipped. Accounting for just basic inflation, it should cost $66,678 today. (I used different years for this calc.)

But we know that Cessna aircraft prices departed the basic inflation line around 1980 or so. Indeed, a 1983 Cessna 152 cost $39,450 new, more than doubling in just six years.

If you carry that "Cessna inflation" rate forward, you see that a new Cessna 172 actually sells for 3.5 times more than it would just accounting for basic inflation. Apply that inflation factor to our 150 price and the number is actually $231,000 for a new one.

I don't know about you, but I can't imagine a $66,000 new Cessna 152, although I can imagine one at $180,000 or so. Whether Cessna inflation is justified or not, I can't say. A lot of factors go into it, many we don't know or understand.

As for engine inflation, in 1985, the O-235 in a 152 cost $5750 to overall. Allowing for inflation alone, it should be about $11,800. In fact, it's about $21,000. (These are Bluebook numbers, by the way.)

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 31, 2013 11:40 AM    Report this comment

Paul, what is holding the flight training and aircraft rentals market together is the legacy aircraft due to their versatility and lower operating costs. A $60,000 C172 IFR with WAAS GPS, A/P and a 180HP engine including all expenses at 8.5GPH with a $3,500 commercial/flight training insurance, runs $87/hr. A $150,000 aircraft under the same condition runs $128/hr according to my records and experience as a flight school operator and flight instructor. Using the legacy aircraft and retrofitting allows for lower operating costs and lower rental rates. The demand is less, therefore we adjust and not buy new debt thus the demise of the limited use S-LSA.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | January 31, 2013 11:47 AM    Report this comment

All of you who recognize the need for more pilots, how about an "Open Gate Saturday" every month? Get your pilots' assn to come drag the planes out of the hangars to your transient tiedown area (most of these are close to the non-"Exalted Aviator" parking areas). Post banners inviting passersby to come take a closer look. Sit around and talk story with each other and with anyone who wanders in to look at the airplanes.

Tell your local schools about this, and encourage students to bring their parents out. Kids (and parents) can sit in the airplanes, get pix taken, ask questions, and maybe even GO FLYING.

If you have someone who's good giving presentations, set some up at local schools, libraries, civic groups, etc. Most of these places are desperate for stuff like this, and you will make allies, if not pilots.

Get some CHEAP planes for people to look at, and post the prices. I had a guy drop in the other day who told me that he couldn't afford to fly, until I pointed out "your paid more for your Tahoe than it cost to buy that plane . . .and that plane . . .and that one . . .that one over there . . .the one in this hangar . . ."

Get local flying schools to offer cheap intro flights.

If you have a formal pilots' assn, form a "Neighbors of ______ Airport" auxiliary. Issue certificates to anyone who asks for one.

The thing that's killing flying is that it's hard for people to make that first step. Build a ramp and the problem goes away.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 31, 2013 12:15 PM    Report this comment

Paul:

You can't use general-market inflation rates for this. You have to price the materials, components and labor, none of which are directly tied to the GM rate. As you noted, the price of engines is far above what it should be in the GM rate. It is unreasonably high for engines which have changed little since the 1930s (the A-65 and O-200 have something like a 90% parts interchangeability), and for which the only tooling costs are to replace what wears out.

And even the "small run" factor doesn't apply, when they've been making them since 1939.

That's not inflation, that's "all the traffic will bear" on top of the cost of complying with government regulation.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 31, 2013 12:27 PM    Report this comment

A $30,000 2-place recreational aircraft is not impossible. I've explained what I considered in an earlier post. Maybe everyone just figured I was some idiot who didn't know what he was talking about. I'll try once more.

Back around 2006 I was thinking about this subject. Some personal experience was a RANS S-12 kit my son had wanted. I was impressed with the kit. Lots of special parts, which were affordable, wait for it, RANS produced them in quantity and used them on most of their kits, not just this one model. He purchased the kit without engine for I believe $14,500.

Now for labor. My guess was that 2 experienced workers, working 40 hour weeks, could assemble the kit in 2 weeks. That's 160 man hours. I could hire people with A&P license right out of school for $20 / hr. $3,200 + in labor.

Now for engines. There are very good 2-cycle engines coming from Japan. Suzuki and Kawasaki are just 2 of them. These are very low cost engines. I looked at some modifications for aircraft use. I could have produced a good aircraft engine for under $5,000.

All of this was just rough thinking. I never got any further because the ASTM rules wouldn't allow the engines I was thinking about, the record keeping would be a significant cost, and I don't even want to get into product liability insurance.

It could be done, but not in the environment we have.

Posted by: DFEUL | January 31, 2013 12:44 PM    Report this comment

I think there are a gazillion comments (mostly constructive) because this is a complex issue (no silly, not retractable or CS prop).

It's the economy, and the cost of the planes, and the insurance costs, and the hangar costs, and the lack of hangar availability, and the fear of being shot out of the sky over a powerplant, and the very limited MGTOW, which means almost-rich old men like me, who are often fat, can’t legally fly in an LSA with a real-world instructor and enough fuel for a BFR.

I could comfortably spend $6,000 a year on flying certified planes instead, but $6,000 still wouldn’t cover the insurance, the hangar, the annual (or if renting, the rental checkout), the BFR, the maps, and the myriad of silly repetitive outlandishly expensive medical tests to certify medically. So, I quit flying altogether. I’m looking for a legal ultralight that can gross at more than double its net weight, but I doubt I’ll ever find one.

Posted by: Bruce Liddel | January 31, 2013 1:14 PM    Report this comment

David:

How about building as EAB, where your A&Ps assist the builder in a fast-track? The builder gets to save money (doing his or her own annuals and maintenance) but doesn't spend years on the project. You avoid the manufacturer's liability and still make a profit while providing inexpensive aircraft, AND are able to use whatever engine you like.

Remember, a Sport Pilot can fly any plane which meets the FAA standard for LSA, whether that's a designed-as-LSA or not.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 31, 2013 1:23 PM    Report this comment

"You can't use general-market inflation rates for this."

I'm aware of the limitations. I am further aware that buyer perceptions are based on general inflation rates, not individual market rates for commodities and materials. This is why people perceive airplanes to be much more expensive than they used to be when compared on a cost/value basis with, say, cars.

If you apply this methodology to cars, you'll find that the multiplier is not nearly as high as with airplanes. It's about .7 rather than 3.5.

The reasons for this don't entirely relate to commodity cost of aluminum or cast iron for engine cases. There are true costs in there, related to low volume, insurance, captured markets and myriad other reasons.

There is market-will-bear in here, but the market has borne so much that it's becoming extinct and rarified beyond return. Ask anyone in the LSA business and they'll tell you there's not a lot of psychological pricing going on.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 31, 2013 1:26 PM    Report this comment

Paul, LSAs Failure to Launch. Much entertaintment and many good comments here but what is the consensus?

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | January 31, 2013 2:20 PM    Report this comment

Rotax,rotax,rotax......I've been flying my Sonerai behind an Aerovee for several trouble free years. Why are these engines and others (Revmaster) being considered for LSA? They are lightweight, (150lbs), dependable,80hp, and both priced under $7,000. And they are built here in the USofA.

Posted by: Unknown | January 31, 2013 2:22 PM    Report this comment

Consensus? 302 messages and you want consensus? ;)

I guess my conclusion is that the industry really has established itself, but it's just never going to be a big, vital player because the number of buyers who can really afford these things is so small. And maybe getting smaller.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | January 31, 2013 2:23 PM    Report this comment

David,

I don't doubt your $30,000 (or thereabouts) 2-seater. Take a look at the Part 103 Aerolite, which retails - fully assembled - for $16,500. Very pretty, similar in appearance to a single-seat S-12. Hirth F-33 engine. Hirth makes a fuel-injected 100hp engine for $12k (not $5k, though).

I think the problem with the ultralight-style aircraft is their very low perceived utility. They're slow, too light for wind/turbulence, and nonpilot passengers (and prospective students) balk at their appearance.

Figure out how to build something that looks like the S-12 but isn't fabric-covered, goes 135kt in cruise, and sell it for $30k. Suddenly, getting a pilot certificate may look interesting again.

Posted by: Unknown | January 31, 2013 2:31 PM    Report this comment

I needed assurance. I wanted to rest in peace with my beliefs and have my conclusion validated. I am now at ease and will go off to work holding my head high. The great Paul Bertorelli agrees with me.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | January 31, 2013 2:37 PM    Report this comment

A two-tiered LSA rule would have allowed low cost aircraft production. The USUA pleaded for a two-tiered rule and the FAA refused. And now only the upper tier is sold in small numbers, no entry level exists. This information is in the 452 page FAA report. I would like enter the low cost LSA manufacturing business, but it is not possible.

Posted by: Bill Berson | January 31, 2013 2:45 PM    Report this comment

"Rotax,rotax,rotax......I've been flying my Sonerai behind an Aerovee for several trouble free years. Why are these engines and others (Revmaster) being considered for LSA? They are lightweight, (150lbs), dependable,80hp, and both priced under $7,000. And they are built here in the USofA."

Hmmm ....

What weren't you reading when I ranted, several times, about the ASTM rules being corrupted by vested interests?

An S-LSA must have a ASTM certificated engine. The only way I see this possible is if the manufacturer does the certification. Otherwise a perfectly good engine is not legal in a S-LSA.

Posted by: DFEUL | January 31, 2013 2:50 PM    Report this comment

I was asked:

"How about building as EAB, where your A&Ps assist the builder in a fast-track?"

I know this happens. It is not legal according to the regulations. It's a scam, not of the "builder", but of the FAA regs. The FAA has recently begun to look into such practices.

I know of A&Ps who always have a project going on the side, for spare time. when completed, they fly off the 40 hours and put it on the market, and start another.

Now, if, (a big IF), the FAA would allow a shop to be set up, and they could inspect it at any time, that would assemble an experimental and then put it on the market, I think you'd see some aircraft being sold at a decent price. They could have a new designation, "privately assembled experimental". They would be better than some personally build experimentals because the workers would be doing repetitive work and be experienced at it.

It's easier to sell something that's "ready to go", and rightly so, much harder to talk someone out of money with nothing to show up front.

But I'm not holding my breath for such enlightenment to happen, because we really DO need the FAA. There are too many crooks that even if they could do something honestly, and even more profitable, it's just not in their nature.

Posted by: DFEUL | January 31, 2013 2:53 PM    Report this comment

"I think the problem with the ultralight-style aircraft is their very low perceived utility. They're slow, too light for wind/turbulence, and nonpilot passengers (and prospective students) balk at their appearance."

Ultralight vehicles are not intended to have any utility. They are strictly toys, for a single pilot, no passengers. Try to do more, and you'd be going against the intentions of FAR 103.

"Figure out how to build something that looks like the S-12 but isn't fabric-covered, goes 135kt in cruise, and sell it for $30k. Suddenly, getting a pilot certificate may look interesting again."

Up to say, 100 MPH, dacron is a valid choice. It just works. But like the fuel, spark plugs, and such, it is a consumable, and needs replaced periodically. (So do other things.)

135 kt is a different story. Much more airframe and engine is required. More potential energy to rain down on the civilians. It's not just the aircraft, the pilot also needs to be qualified. I honestly don't think I could do that speed for today's $30K. I think I'd have a decent chance at an 80-100 MPH recreational aircraft. If you want utility, Cessna makes the Caravan ....

Posted by: DFEUL | January 31, 2013 3:16 PM    Report this comment

"I think the problem with the ultralight-style aircraft is their very low perceived utility. They're slow, too light for wind/turbulence, and nonpilot passengers (and prospective students) balk at their appearance."

Ultralight vehicles are not intended to have any utility. They are strictly toys, for a single pilot, no passengers. Try to do more, and you'd be going against the intentions of FAR 103.

"Figure out how to build something that looks like the S-12 but isn't fabric-covered, goes 135kt in cruise, and sell it for $30k. Suddenly, getting a pilot certificate may look interesting again."

Up to say, 100 MPH, dacron is a valid choice. It just works. But like the fuel, spark plugs, and such, it is a consumable, and needs replaced periodically. (So do other things.)

135 kt is a different story. Much more airframe and engine is required. More potential energy to rain down on the civilians. It's not just the aircraft, the pilot also needs to be qualified. I honestly don't think I could do that speed for today's $30K. I think I'd have a decent chance at an 80-100 MPH recreational aircraft. If you want utility, Cessna makes the Caravan ....

Posted by: DFEUL | January 31, 2013 3:17 PM    Report this comment

Warning, shameless plug incoming ....

I do produce a nice toy than can be flying for under $10,000. It's called the Ascender III, and it's a close follow on to Jack McCornack's Peterodactyl Ascender Ultralights. For the person looking for payload capability, the heavy duty airframe was developed for the 2-place trainer, and can easily carry over 500 lb. When it was legal, I've had 500 lb of pilot and student in it, climbing nicely at half throttle. Totally legal Ultralight TOY, empty weight of around 220 lbs.

So, there can be affordable recreational aviation. But I'm aware that my TOY is definitely NOT want the majority are looking for.

Posted by: DFEUL | January 31, 2013 3:19 PM    Report this comment

Rotax,rotax,rotax......I've been flying my Sonerai behind an Aerovee for several trouble free years. Why are these engines and others (Revmaster) being considered for LSA? They are lightweight, (150lbs), dependable,80hp, and both priced under $7,000. And they are built here in the USofA.

Posted by: Unknown | January 31, 2013 3:52 PM    Report this comment

Fredric,

Either of those would be good on a US-built airframe that calls for 80hp. Unfortunately most of the LSA buyers want 100hp. Limbach has a VW derivative with that much power - but I believe it was expensive. If Revmaster can do 100hp for $10k they may find customers - in the RV-12 community, I imagine, there would be interest to start with...

Posted by: Unknown | January 31, 2013 4:07 PM    Report this comment

David:

When I say "the A&Ps assist the builder," that's exactly what I mean. The builder still does most of the work, but he has guys who know what they're doing looking over his shoulder to make sure he does it right, to help him get it done rapidly, and to give an extra level of safety.

This is completely legal, just like when you buy a 49% kit and you do the 51% to assemble it.

The point isn't to sell him a plane, but to teach him everything that he needs to know about his plane. He would write a check for the whole project or for each stage, as he's ready, then come spend a couple of weeks (or a few weekends) at your factory.

Your factory would have quality-made jigs, patterns, tooling, assembly frames, etc., eliminating the problems that slow down most projects. You could even have a couple of test pilots on staff, to get the time and testing done.

Some perfect places to do this are Stead, NV, Wendover, UT, Buckeye, AZ or Mojave, CA.

Posted by: Keith Wood | January 31, 2013 8:17 PM    Report this comment

"Back around 2006 I was thinking about this subject. Some personal experience was a RANS S-12 kit my son had wanted. I was impressed with the kit.... wait for it, RANS produced them in quantity ..... He purchased the kit without engine for I believe $14,500."

David,

I have a co-worker that flew ultralights back in the late 90's early 00's( he now owns a 182, talk about an entry to flying). We were talking about it today and he swears up and down that one could have a "fully loaded" (engine/gauges/handheld radio/and all the options) S-12 for right around $20K. I called his bluff after looking at Rans website; now it's over $20k for just the airframe.

Now, they may have made some improvements/upgrades over the years, and it looks like it sits around $30K nicely equiped I believe.

Now that's still, almost, doable for me. I see SOME value. But I'd put that value at ~$20K out the door, nicely equipped (we can haggle a little, I have a handheld radio and 560 GPS, but I really need a transponder).

But for a $30-$40+ grand machine, I'd want something just a LITTLE less "kitey" and......

UTILITY.......

Posted by: awg9tech | January 31, 2013 11:03 PM    Report this comment

And "utility" seems to be a sticking point on a few post back.

But what we're talking about here is LSA "utility", not a 182 with the back seats removed "utility".

Me, the wife, full tanks ~50# luggage, and ~100mph kind of "utility". I live on a peninsula and a 2.5 hour drive is about a 20 minute flight in a C150. I would like to do 500-1000+ mile trips and have a weekend bag. I have no need to fly non-stop, I see few drawbacks stopping for gas.....

Looking at the specs, and I'm a fairly big guy, there are quite a few LSA's that meet my "needs". An RV-12 (and others) fits the spec, but not the bill.

Posted by: awg9tech | January 31, 2013 11:05 PM    Report this comment

Scott, My comments regarding inexpensive ways to enjoy aviation were misunderstood.

EAA can be enjoyed without building your own plane. See the website, find a meeting.

Instructing does not have to be full time. Many instructors are part time. Most of the best ones are part time.

Flying the tow plane, as you pointed out.

If flying is the dream, money is not a problem. It's only a problem if you let your tastes out run your wallet. Then, it's not really your dream though, is it?

Bottom line, more people should follow your example and be creative rather than constantly harping about price.

Posted by: Unknown | January 31, 2013 11:10 PM    Report this comment

" When I say "the A&Ps assist the builder," that's exactly what I mean. The builder still does most of the work, but he has guys who know what they're doing looking over his shoulder to make sure he does it right, to help him get it done rapidly, and to give an extra level of safety."

I have some, but little interest of building my own aircraft and I have no room to build.

I'd rather have a guy that's personally built a dozen aircraft than a person who has built exactly none (me).

But, again, I do have some interest in building. The builder/owner assist route interest me. Take an aircraft with around a 400-600 hour build time, I'd love to be able to stop by on weekends and monitor/get some knowledge/be a goffer/build and during the week, while I'm at work, the facility keeps building without me. With a good shop, tools, jigs, etc..etc.. and a builder that has a few under his belt, might be able to get that 400-600 hours down to I dunno, a few months?

Glasair has their 2 weeks to taxi for a Sportsman 2+2....that's what I'm talking 'bout.

Posted by: awg9tech | January 31, 2013 11:12 PM    Report this comment

I hear, from Glasair, that has been a really successful program and they have weathered the recession well with it. Of course, they sold out to the Chinese, so maybe they weren't doing that well after all?

Posted by: Unknown | January 31, 2013 11:23 PM    Report this comment

Saw my first Sportsman about two weeks ago. It's my new dream plane.

Impeccable airplane. Impeccable build. Course I've never built an airplane.

They really have something with their two weeks to taxi. And that's two weeks with a bumbling first time builder in the "way".

Seeing how there's no 51% rule with an E-LSA, I wonder why more kit makers don't do the same?

Posted by: awg9tech | January 31, 2013 11:42 PM    Report this comment

Good point Robert. I intent to offer my LSA as a quick-build kit ELSA that qualifies for 51% category as well. Builders will save a lot of money of course but also increased flexibility in engines and options as well as maintenance. Will this attract buyers? Should I offer a quick-build center? Or does this QB option only lend itself to aircraft that are not available as ready-to-fly? Perhaps I need to offer a classic parts kit for those looking for the lowest cost?

Posted by: CHIP ERWIN | February 1, 2013 11:18 AM    Report this comment

CHIP IRWIN: take a look at quick build industry leaders VANS and Heintz. The business models and success strategies are there in plain view. A good starting point for understanding the market.

Posted by: david abate | February 1, 2013 11:38 AM    Report this comment

All the talk about cheap airplanes--kits, etc. If you want a new airplane, Cessna could: Buy a 150 (a 172 is not much more cost) for $15000 run out. Airpower will sell you a new Lyc. for $20,000. Add $1500 for the prop, $1000 for new glass, $200 for tires, $12,000 for paint and interior allowance, $1000 for new wiring, $800 for exterior plastic, $10,000 for avionics allowance, and 200 hours@$25 to put it together-- (the paint and interior have been already allocated. That produces a zero-timed airplane, with warranty, for a direct outlay of $66,500. Add half of that for overhead, and they have $100,000 in it.

OR--you could do it yourself for an outlay of just over $60,000--and not have to worry about fabricating parts. (cont)

Posted by: ALBERT LEA AIRPORT INC | February 1, 2013 12:08 PM    Report this comment

cont. Bear in mind that these are off-the-shelf prices. An OEM like Cessna can undoubtedly do better.

Also not addressed is the fact that there is a core value for the old engine, prop, avionics, instruments that comes off that price.

You'll have a certificated aircraft--one that will likely have better marketability than an LSA and is better suited to the demands of a trainer. The cost of doing the same to a 172 is little more than the cost of the runout aircraft to start with. Another bonus--by remanufacturing, an autogas-tolerant engine can be used--and the airframe can also be autogas-tolerant.

Posted by: ALBERT LEA AIRPORT INC | February 1, 2013 12:15 PM    Report this comment

Jim, there's one part of those numbers that might not work. A $15,000 Skyhawk will be pretty old--like mid-1960s or earlier. And $10,000 isn't much for avionics.

Looked at another way, what will $100,000 buy? A 10 year-old Skyhawk with 1500 hours on it, pretty good paint, the modern interior and electrical system, 10-year-old but complete, non-glass avionics.

Those economics kind of confuse the cost/value equation. Maybe you can upgrade the 10-year-old one with glass and sell it for $150,000. But then...you can buy a G1000 Hawk for that.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | February 1, 2013 12:24 PM    Report this comment

Jim, there's one part of those numbers that might not work. A $15,000 Skyhawk will be pretty old--like mid-1960s or earlier. And $10,000 isn't much for avionics.

Looked at another way, what will $100,000 buy? A 10 year-old Skyhawk with 1500 hours on it, pretty good paint, the modern interior and electrical system, 10-year-old but complete, non-glass avionics.

Those economics kind of confuse the cost/value equation. Maybe you can upgrade the 10-year-old one with glass and sell it for $150,000. But then...you can buy a G1000 Hawk for that.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | February 1, 2013 12:27 PM    Report this comment

"Jim, there's one part of those numbers that might not work. A $15,000 Skyhawk will be pretty old"

That's why I said that a 172 would't cost much more, and in the second post (probably crossed in the ethersphere) that "the cost of doing the same to a 172 is little more than the cost of the runout aircraft to start with". The engine cost for an O-235 or O-320 is about the same.

It's true that $100,000 will buy a 10 year old Skyhawk--but the discussion here is why LSAs aren't selling. The reman 172 will be zero timed--and with a factory warranty--for about the same cost as a new LSA. It CERTAINLY will be less than half the cost of a new aircraft ($300,000, and it will be brought up to date on ADs, service letters, and optimized for alternative fuels.

For those that are thinking "kit built"--they can do a 150 reman themselves for the cost of an RV-12 kit--and they don't have to fabricate parts. (cont)

Posted by: ALBERT LEA AIRPORT INC | February 1, 2013 12:43 PM    Report this comment

At what price does a modern LSA become viable? Apparently $65k in a complete kit form as Vans is selling plenty of RV-12s. If I assume that most customers do not have the time or inclination to build from a kit then how much more would they pay for the build program? Perhaps a 2-week to taxi for a nicely-equipped ELSA at $85,000 would be a success in the market?

Posted by: CHIP ERWIN | February 1, 2013 12:43 PM    Report this comment

cont. The numbers are off the top of my head--but I'd welcome your input--I respect your long commitment to maintenance (I'm a 30 year subscriber to Aviation Consumer and Light Plane Maintenance).

The cost of remanufacturing is less--partly because the factory doesn't have to build the airframe--but mainly because the "sunken" costs of the building, tooling, certification, etc. have already been amortized. Insurance for Cessna shouldn't be higher--they took one exposure off the market, modernized it, and put it back out there--same risk (except that any design flaws have now been fixed).

Nextant has already remanufactured and delivered 25 Beechjets (and is planning on two more models for the process). Beech has done it with the old model 35s, Twin Beeches, and T-34s. Now Jack Pelton is going to do it to Cessna twins. Jack Brown's Seaplane Base does complete rebuilds of their Cubs every 7 years--they COULD buy a new one--but this is economical.

The reman aircraft is NEW--the old airplanes are OLD.

Posted by: ALBERT LEA AIRPORT INC | February 1, 2013 12:50 PM    Report this comment

I will submit in multiple parts

As always, Paul provides an excellently provocative point of view. The responses illustrate the challenge we all face. I and, I suspect, nearly every other respondent, are fifty years old or older and are nostalgic for a golden age that has long past. A golden age that ultimately sent every major US manufacturer other than Cessna into one or more bankruptcies because they failed to adapt to a changing market even at a time when the pace of technological change was largely glacial. Today, the pace of change is incredible, the economy uncertain, availability of financing very poor and an overwhelming theoretical choice of products. The result is stagnation and a fear of making the wrong decision. Rick Matthews is fundamentally correct that the only way forward for the industry is some form of sharing. His proposal is more about shared ownership but shared use, in the form of clubs or high end rental fleets can all achieve the same objectives of opening up access to a wider public. As a part owner of two FBO's, the US distributor of a major worldwide brand (Tecnam), an instructor and the owner, or part owner, of multiple leaseback aircraft including, Cessna, Piper, Beech, Diamond and Tecnams, I have a privileged and multi-dimensional view of the industry.

Posted by: Philip Solomon | February 1, 2013 1:20 PM    Report this comment

If you take our typical hangared aircraft - a Cessna 172 of mid 70's or earlier vintage with old avionics and a handheld GPS, worth perhaps $30 to $40,000 - and look at the annual ownership costs divided by a generous assumption of 40 hours flight per year you come to about $300 per hour flown. Use an aircraft in a shared environment and that figure is decimated. Use an LSA and you have the potential to go back to the $60 per hour that many people still think should be the rental cost of a plane, except this one has modern avionics and was not designed sixty years ago. Why has this not happened? As one poster says, he does not share his "toys". If you can afford not to share then great but if the only way you will fly is to wait for the fully functional aircraft with a perfect safety record bought brand new for $20,000 then you are not going flying anytime soon! Comments on the amount of abuse a Cessna 152 can take versus a light sport is a factor that users do have to take into account. However, that is dealt with by proper transition training and from a willingness of experienced pilots and instructors to recognize those differences. Pilots who are trained from the start in LSA's do not seem to suffer from these issues nearly as much because they have no firmly ingrained expectations to overcome.

Posted by: Philip Solomon | February 1, 2013 1:21 PM    Report this comment

The medical exemption issue is undoubtedly a damper on the industry but is somewhat overblown. The people who will benefit from the exemption are by and large either renters or owners of older four place aircraft that are perhaps worth $30 to $40,000. To date, this is not the demographic of people who are buying new LSA's. The actual buyers tend to be fairly prosperous, recognize that they never fly with more than one other person in the plane anyway and are trading down from something way more impressive than a 40 year old Cessna 152. Might these people be diverted into a brand new Cessna 172 at $311,000? Possibly but, if they are, then the same one passenger, no night, no IMC restrictions of an LSA will apply so they have just bought substantial capability that they cannot legally use at about twice the price of a high end LSA.

Posted by: Philip Solomon | February 1, 2013 1:23 PM    Report this comment

Rotax,rotax,rotax......I've been flying my Sonerai behind an Aerovee for several trouble free years. Why are these engines and others (Revmaster) being considered for LSA? They are lightweight, (150lbs), dependable,80hp, and both priced under $7,000. And they are built here in the USofA.

Posted by: Unknown | February 1, 2013 1:24 PM    Report this comment

If you take our typical hangared aircraft - a Cessna 172 of mid 70's or earlier vintage with old avionics and a handheld GPS, worth perhaps $30 to $40,000 - and look at the annual ownership costs divided by a generous assumption of 40 hours flight per year you come to about $300 per hour flown. Use an aircraft in a shared environment and that figure is decimated. Use an LSA and you have the potential to go back to the $60 per hour that many people still think should be the rental cost of a plane, except this one has modern avionics and was not designed sixty years ago. Why has this not happened? As one poster says, he does not share his "toys". If you can afford not to share then great but if the only way you will fly is to wait for the fully functional aircraft with a perfect safety record bought brand new for $20,000 then you are not going flying anytime soon!

Posted by: Philip Solomon | February 1, 2013 1:25 PM    Report this comment

People forget, perhaps, where the cheap, used aircraft that are around today actually came from. Flight schools. Those flight schools are not renewing their fleets because either they do not feel the need to modernize or they cannot find financing. One way or another, the only way new pilots are going to be created is to have a vibrant training market which can benefit from the lower operating costs offered by LSA's. Yes, an LSA can cost five or six times more than a forty year old Cessna 152 but you can rent it for more and it costs substantially less to operate so the cash flow and investment equation works...if you can find any financing. There is a reason we stopped renting out our Cessna 150/152's. I defy anybody to buy a brand new Cessna 172, put it in a normal flight school and make money from it. You can get away with charging $200 an hour for an SR20 but not for a Cessna 172. Why did flight schools buy Cessna 172’s in the past? Because Cessna no longer made the Cessna 152. People like to compare the Cessna 152 favorably with an LSA and fail to mention anemic climb performance, narrow cabin, very slow speed, high maintenance costs, limited avionics and zero appeal to anyone under fifty years old. Is this really our best option to revive interest in aviation amongst the young?

Posted by: Philip Solomon | February 1, 2013 1:29 PM    Report this comment

The future of LSA's is bright because it is the natural product for cost effective, modern (glass cockpits etc), training that has appeal for the younger generation who are noticeably absent from any bulletin board debates. The single biggest challenge that nobody has really brought out directly is that there can be no flight training or use without access to aircraft. Access to aircraft for most people has to come in the form of shared use (clubs, part ownership or rental) and that requires organization and financing. Airports are increasingly killing private FBO's in the search for "cheaper" fuel to keep the aging locals happy(er)and as the authorities become the new FBO's without any of the private FBO obligations (flight school, maintenance, charter etc)services inevitably die as a private operator needs to be able to offer all the services and have the fuel concession to be able to survive. So, as many of you have seen, the airport funding program continues to build terminal palaces and longer runways but does nothing to encourage, or facilitate actual use of those facilities. How many publicly owned and operated facilities are going to buy, or even operate, a fleet of brand new training aircraft paid for by the local taxpayers?

Posted by: Philip Solomon | February 1, 2013 1:30 PM    Report this comment

The "problem" is not whether or not the LSA world meets the aspirations of pilots worried about their medicals for an "affordable aircraft" but how we get the legions of new pilots who will have to be trained to meet the worldwide pilot shortage into the training system at affordable rates. LSA's are the key to affordable training - perhaps not to everyone's ideal of a personal plane - and if we do not start to realize this then, as is already starting to happen, the flood of overseas trainees coming into the States will stop and other countries will use LSA's (or their equivalents) to do what we are no longer willing to do and America will lose its aviation edge. Nostalgia, unlike a lot of money, will not bring young people into aviation, and nor will a medical exemption. We can lead the industry into the past or we can take the tools we have and create a future that is going to attract people to replace us as we retire. The evidence of the pilot register is clear. We are focused on the needs and desires of the older population (including myself) and not to bringing enough yonger people into aviation. Folks, the seventeen year old kid is not going to be excited by Grandad's Cessna 152 with the interior falling out, the faded paint and the funny round dials that mostly do not work anymore. They are excited by what they find in LSA's and they also appreciate the environmental benefits of less fuel, no lead, less noise etc.

Posted by: Philip Solomon | February 1, 2013 1:31 PM    Report this comment

"I intent to offer my LSA as a quick-build kit ELSA that qualifies for 51% category as well."

Chip,

Even further, look at the World Aircraft Company. They offer "fully built" kits. As I understand it, the airframe is built, assembled, painted, disassembled and shipped.

The owner puts the airframe back together (2 people, 1 weekend), then installs the engine, avionics and trims the cockpit.

If one could get the "factory" tolerance of the jigs/tooling/drilling tighter, there should be no need for the factory assembly before paint. The factory could build the major components (wing, fuselage, tail feathers), paint and then ship.

The owner would just put tab "A" into slot "B" in one weekend, and the next weekend, (with a standardized engine set up) install the engine. The 3rd weekend would be installing avionics (again, plug and play/standardized). 4th weekend would be spent with an overall QA. Ready for flight. Trim out the cockpit next winter, you'll be too busy flying this summer....

Posted by: awg9tech | February 1, 2013 1:32 PM    Report this comment

Sorry for the repeated section but it took me a while to get used to the time lag.....

Posted by: Philip Solomon | February 1, 2013 1:32 PM    Report this comment

I don't think even a $100k C152 is competitive with a higher-end LSA. The Cessna has the same useful load as an LSA, has no speed advantage, handles turbulence the same, can't climb as well, and has at least 4" (typically 6"-10") less elbow-room than the high-end LSA. The avionics all have to be TSOd (no $15k glass panels), and the airframe is old. There's no question: the successful high-end LSA are simply better airplanes, toe to toe. For value, a Pipistrel Alpha or Tecnam P92 will cost $20k less, climb better, and offer more comfort with the ability to upgrade the avionics more cheaply, in a new hull.

Reman will have to compete with bigger, heavier planes, where competition hasn't already been unleashed. :-)

Posted by: Unknown | February 1, 2013 1:33 PM    Report this comment

After all is said and done, the TCO (Total cost of ownership) i.e. the cost to purchase, insure, inspect, and maintain, is more for an LSA than it is for a used legacy certified. For as long as that remains true and such used aircraft remain available, LSA will never gain substantial market traction. Simple as that.

Posted by: david abate | February 1, 2013 1:48 PM    Report this comment

Since September 2009, roughly 220 C172s have taken wing in the world. In the same time, there were approx. 218 RV-12s (flying) and 168 C162s (shipped). Just looking at additions to the US register, there were 103 CubCrafters Cubs, 102 American Legend Cubs, 76 SportCruisers, 43 Flight Design CTLS, and small numbers (a few, to tens each) of other types. The total number of LSA on the US register went up by 627 during the period (includes ultralight-style LSA).

I don't know that I'd say "never gain substantial market traction".

Posted by: Unknown | February 1, 2013 2:11 PM    Report this comment

How about sales of ALL used entry-level certified aircraft during that same period? I think we need to count Cessna, Piper, Beech, Bellanca, American Champion, Grumman, etc., etc., ALL such models from ALL Mfgs. currently active and those now shuttered. i.e. the typical aircraft you see on ramps everywhere and in sale pubs like Barnstormers, Trade-a-plane, Controller, etc. The number is larger than LSA.

Posted by: david abate | February 1, 2013 2:24 PM    Report this comment

Dave, of course it's larger than the number of LSA. By that logic, the C172 has no market traction. We're starting to see used LSA on the market, but not that many yet. Looks like you can pick up a 2005 Evektor Sportstar, under 600TT, for $43k. Here's the thing: those used trades are all zero-sum. No new planes were added to the fleet, and every year, some go away. In the market for new planes, LSA is doing relatively well. The problem is the whole market for new planes is tiny. Paul's point was that any hope that LSA was going to revive the whole market for new planes, and sell thousands per year, is now gone. It doesn't make LSA a failure. It doesn't mean that a C152 is a better value (it isn't, like for like). It means there are still problems with the value mix of being a pilot and buying a plane.

Posted by: Unknown | February 1, 2013 2:41 PM    Report this comment

There is a reason that LSAs haven't made big inroads for flight training--in addition to the high capital and insurance costs, they just haven't held up because they are built to an artificial standard--a gross weight limitation of 1320 pounds.

By contrast, the legacy trainers have held up much better--usually because they were designed to endure the rigors of training. That extra weight comes at a performance price--the legacy trainers don't climb or cruise as fast as the LSAs. As far as creature comfort--I'm 6'4"--I appreciate comfort more than most--having to crawl up on the wing and step down into most of the low-wing LSA offerings is hardly comfortable, either (but the high-wing LSAs ARE comfortable--if only the flimsy doors hold up!)

For all of those that say "LSA's are the way!"--give it the old marketplace test--I'm sure that there would be willing flight schools to lease one from you. For those of us in the flight training business--LSAs haven't "made the sale." We are playing with our own money--not what someone "believes" will work. I'm not against LSA's--I have two myself--but they have not proven to be the savior of the flight training business.

Posted by: ALBERT LEA AIRPORT INC | February 1, 2013 2:47 PM    Report this comment

I basically agree with you. But when I refer to "market traction", I mean broad sales and growth not limited to niche or boutique - which is what LSA has become.

Posted by: david abate | February 1, 2013 3:07 PM    Report this comment

"I basically agree with you..." meant for Thomas Boyle

Posted by: david abate | February 1, 2013 3:08 PM    Report this comment

Another confusing issue in the LSA market is who is selling what. The best "selling" LSA in the first half of 2012 was the Skycatcher based on an additional 71 aircraft registered on the FAA database. However, Cessna reports actual deliveries to customers via GAMA and they reported sales during the same period of a total of only 12 Skycatchers, which does not give the same picture. Why the difference? Well, go to the FAA registration database and you will find 276 registrations of Skycatchers of which 97 are registered in Kansas. Out of those 97, 90 are still registered to Cessna, so undelivered. What happened to the 1,000 orders and the long waiting lists? It is conflicting information like this and pretty poor performance by all of us in the LSA industry to really explain what we are about that leads to market confusion. Confusion is not a great sales tool!

Posted by: Philip Solomon | February 1, 2013 3:09 PM    Report this comment

Philip,

An "N" number listed in the FAA registry does not mean the plane that will carry that number has been completed or flown yet.

Manufacturers, and homebuilders, reserve the "N" numbers early in the build process. So, only Cessna knows how many 162s were actually put into service. In the case of homebuilts, only the individual builders of the kits will know home many are completed.

Posted by: Edd Weninger | February 1, 2013 4:07 PM    Report this comment

The data I cited for C162s were from GAMA, for "deliveries" - presumably often to dealerships, which may or may not have end customers - but that's also how Cessna reports C172s. The data for RV-12s were for completions reported to Vans, by builders, on Vans' website. The others were FAA registrations, and thus have the problems Edd notes, as well as being US only (while the C162 and RV-12 data are worldwide). These are inconsistent metrics, but I imagine that, apart from the C162s, registrations are not very different from deliveries.

Posted by: Unknown | February 1, 2013 4:19 PM    Report this comment

Robert Ore wrote:

"I have a co-worker that flew ultralights back in the late 90's . We were talking about it today and he swears that one could have a "fully loaded" (engine/gauges/handheld radio/and all the options) S-12 for right around $20K. Looking at Rans website; now it's over $20k for just the airframe."

I do believe that I mentioned that the price went up, and I do not know why. But in either case that's retail, and if I'm going to purchase say 24 kits a year, you can believe there will be some serious negotiation, and it one mfg won't talk, there will be others.

"Now that's still, almost, doable for me. I see SOME value. But I'd put that value at ~$20K out the door, nicely equipped (we can haggle a little, I have a handheld radio and 560 GPS, but I really need a transponder)."

If there are special needs, they would of course add to the price. (There Ain't No Such Thing As A Free Lunch, somebody's got to pay.)

"But for a $30-$40+ grand machine, I'd want something just a LITTLE less "kitey" and...... UTILITY......."

Well, see, there is the problem. See TANSTAAFL above. Utility cost money. You try to use the wrong tool for a job, and the results will most likely be less than desired. You try to take a toy and use it for serious work, it just doesn't work.

Whether you agree or not, and the universe and reality do not need your agreement, LSAs are basically toys, just as was originally intended. My personal opinion.

Posted by: DFEUL | February 1, 2013 4:53 PM    Report this comment

Robert, Providing the customer with a kit that can be built in a few hours does not result in much cost savings to the customer. Offerring a kit means that the manufacturer can pass on the labor savings. However, that is not even so much if the manufacturer is located in a low labor-cost region. My idea is somewhere in the middle. Still offer a 51% compliant kit but make the components with true match-hole techonolgy, finish the parts to perfection, pre-assemble more difficult and labor-intensive components such as the avionics, wiring harnesses, and engine assembly. Then perhaps we can offer a much lower-priced LSA that still requires real work but not much real shop skills to finish. A few thousand in freight costs can be realized as well.

Posted by: CHIP ERWIN | February 1, 2013 5:32 PM    Report this comment

Robert, Providing the customer with a kit that can be built in a few hours does not result in much cost savings to the customer. Offerring a kit means that the manufacturer can pass on the labor savings. However, that is not even so much if the manufacturer is located in a low labor-cost region. My idea is somewhere in the middle. Still offer a 51% compliant kit but make the components with true match-hole techonolgy, finish the parts to perfection, pre-assemble more difficult and labor-intensive components such as the avionics, wiring harnesses, and engine assembly. Then perhaps we can offer a much lower-priced LSA that still requires real work but not much real shop skills to finish. A few thousand in freight costs can be realized as well.

Posted by: CHIP ERWIN | February 1, 2013 8:19 PM    Report this comment

"Still offer a 51% compliant kit but make the components with true match-hole technology, finish the parts to perfection, pre-assemble more difficult and labor-intensive components"

Chip,

Yes, yes and yes. My goal above was tab "A" into slot "B", and that should be the manufactures goal (that's the goal, not necessarily the end product).

Match hole is nice, but I have to wonder, since the manufacture drilled the matched "pilot" hole, why didn't he just go ahead and drill it full size? He had the part, was looking at it in front of him, even had a drill in his hand.....go ahead and drill the hole full size. While you're at it, deburr..

Now of course, the argument is, that would add to the price of the kit. Possibly. But that's where the "lean six", "sigma" come in. You've got to streamline the "assembly line" in the goal to get that build time for the final assembly as close to "0" as you possibly can without a significant increase in price. And since you've got the part in hand, the tool in hand, the workbench in front of you..drill the hole.

On the Vans website for the RV-12, it reads "What is NOT included in the kit? Fluids and paint. That's it"

Could an experienced individual, given the right size shop (something bigger than a 1 car garage, smaller than a super Wal-Mart) tools on hand, realistically build 5 of those unpainted birds a year?

Posted by: awg9tech | February 2, 2013 9:48 AM    Report this comment

"Still offer a 51% compliant kit"

Chip,

I take that back...why does it have to be a 51% kit?

Posted by: awg9tech | February 2, 2013 9:50 AM    Report this comment

"Still offer a 51% compliant kit"

Chip,

I take that back...why does it have to be a 51% kit?

Posted by: awg9tech | February 2, 2013 9:52 AM    Report this comment

"Well, see, there is the problem. See TANSTAAFL above. Utility cost money. You try to use the wrong tool for a job, and the results will most likely be less than desired."

Dave,

Again, were talking LSA "utility", not 182 "utility".

We're not doing coast to coast cross country, not taking a weeks+ worth of camping and 50 gallon drums of fuel.

Just something my wife and I can take for the weekend and have a change of clothes and a toothbrush...to share.

If you're thinking LSA is around the patch flying, point A back to point A, then there were/are already aircraft available for that "job" at a much, much lower price point than current LSAs. On the other end of the definition of "utility", I know a few pilots that don't take into account the weight of their flight gear when they fly (headset, a terminal and sectional chart, E6B, Flashlight), and we can discuss poor planning. Do we require a "utility" aircraft to carry such items.

Posted by: awg9tech | February 2, 2013 10:13 AM    Report this comment

Robert,

It's interesting you should mention utility. The dealer for Flight Designs in Alberta, Canada flew his CT from there to Sun 'N Fun. He had a bunch of camping equipment, plus all his dealer supplies crammed into his plane. Looked like a decent useful load to me and I'm not an FAA standard adult.

Look at all the 65 HP cubs that have flow from the states up to Alaska and continue to do so. I guess utility is in the eye of the beholder.

Posted by: Unknown | February 2, 2013 10:33 AM    Report this comment

Robert, 1) 51% compliant means I can expand my sales base to those who want to build Experimental class without any LSA restictions. And customers can a) save the most money, and b) install any engine they want plus other mods. 2)As I am building quality parts for low build hours and I have low cost labor it makes most sense for me to offer completley finished aircraft at a good price. The customer would not save that much cost by building from a quick-build kit. The problem apparently is that a nice LSA priced at 30% below the compeition is still too expensive. 3) We don't drill the holes, we punch the flat sheets with slightly undersized holes with a CNC turret punch press then form the parts. Due to manufacturing tolerances it is difficult to punch all the holes to the final size and still have them match. But we could take the extra step and drill to the final size on our jigs and ship a super easy assembly kit. That is my current thinking.

Posted by: CHIP ERWIN | February 2, 2013 10:36 AM    Report this comment

I just looked at the Flight Designs web site. The new CTLS has an empty weight of 717 lbs, and MTOW of 1320 lbs giving you 603 lbs to work with. The CTLS can carry 34 gallons of fuel which is a huge amount for the economical Rotax to use. Put in 25 gallons like our Diamond holds and you can carry 453 lbs of passengers and luggage which is 13 lbs more than our DA20. We have flow our DA20 from Utah to New York several times so it has utility.

Posted by: Unknown | February 2, 2013 10:45 AM    Report this comment

Utility is probably a poor term to use in this discussion. One person's utility might be useless to another. When I look at "utility" in LSA, I personally don't see much there. That doesn't mean it's not there for others.

For a local recreational flight, I can assure you that an Ultralight like my Ascender III will be much more fun than any LSA. On a calm day, above 70 degrees F. (There is always restrictions.)

If you want to use an aircraft for transportation, it is possible to use an LSA, BUT, the LSA regs are much more restrictive than those for an experimental aircraft. An LSA is in some respects much like an experimental aircraft, with some paperwork, and ready to fly. If you're going to talk about transportation, then speed is definitely part of such a discussion. An LSA will be faster than a car, airport to airport. Sometimes the non air part of a trip can be significant. A slow LSA loses some benefit in such a case. For the same money, there are much better transportation examples in experimental aviation.

My bottom line, there are most likely many opportunities for an LSA class of aircraft to provide some type of utility to some folks, but, the same utility is available for much less cost.

Posted by: DFEUL | February 2, 2013 11:29 AM    Report this comment

David:

I think I would modify the statement a little -- for a local SIGHTSEEING flight, your plane would be a lot of fun, as well as for back-country flying (I had a Tierra, and flew it all over Utah and even XC to Oshkosh). For aerobatics . . .well, BRIEFLY . . ! ;)

Posted by: Keith Wood | February 2, 2013 12:20 PM    Report this comment

"The new CTLS has an empty weight of 717 lbs, and MTOW of 1320 lbs giving you 603 lbs to work with."

Ric,

Yes, the CTLS and several others have what I would call LSA "utility".

It's just getting those types of LSAs down to a price point Joe Pilot can reasonably afford.

It may be impossible to get there and I'm not holding my breath. But if LSA were ever to really have an impact on GA, I belive that's what it will take.

Yes, it would take capital. The right tooling. The right CNC machines. A host of other factors, and most problematic-volume.

Can someone out there build the LSA that changes things? Can they build the historical, game changing equivalent to the J3? Something that 60- 70+ years from now, you'll see pictures and postcards of the contraption?

Posted by: awg9tech | February 2, 2013 11:36 PM    Report this comment

SPORT

That's the key word that I think is getting lost in the industry. Everyone wants to talk about utility, useful load, range, speed, etc with LSA's, when frankly the category was never really envisioned to be "Part 23 Lite" when it was created. To go along with this, so much of the LSA community has targeted their designs and marketing to try to find that magical price point where some sort of "$/utility" metric scales down from a certified aircraft and therefore justifies the cost of the aircraft.

Let's take a different approach all together and assume that there's no justifying the "$/utility" of an LSA. Think of it essentially as a recreational vehicle, and the game changes. People don't even attempt to justify the $100k price tag of their new boat vs their $25k commuter car, because they are for totally different purposes. If manufactures started trying to design around a "$/enjoyment" metric, things might be different.

To go along with that, I think for too long the industry has been too inwardly focused on pleasing/attracting those that are already interested in aviation (hence the mis-guided goal of LSAs). If we refocus toward the SPORT part of LSA's, it would go a long way to attract new pilots who had maybe never thought of aviation as a recreation activity.

Posted by: Adam Rietz | February 5, 2013 12:25 PM    Report this comment

I probably shouldn't do this. Grey skies, snow keeps accumulating, who wouldn't be depressed.

SPORT !! Yeah, I've been saying this. But, is it?

Sport might be the family that has a boat that the whole family can enjoy.

More likely, it's the guy with a glove who goes to a pickup or organized softball game on the weekend. His sweetie can sit in the stands and admire him, or someone else, or just gab with the other sweeties ...

But aviation, that is a much more solitary activity, and if you have a sweetie and family to consider, most times it's not a family activity.

You might take someone for a ride, and they'll enjoy it, but then most will go back to what they know is "their place in life". Very few catch the bug, and then very few of those that do can actually make it happen.

You're an aberation! A fraction of a fraction of a minority. You cannot imagine life without flying. Most others can. The "others" through the FAA make sure it's not easy to do what you feel you need to do.

Posted by: DFEUL | February 5, 2013 2:04 PM    Report this comment

Good shot David If I look at my family, My Wife loves going places with me just can't stand the flying. My son all pilots though their licences have lapsed would rather go track racing and spend most of their time building and modifying cars. My daughter pretends to love flying but really can't stand it. So any money I get the family fights over it for their particular pastime (my wife usually wins). So buying a second hand cheap aircraft took all of my negotiating powers and I still have to fight tooth and nail to keep it. The family thinks I should sell it and use the money for other things. For what? Golf too expensive.

I believe this is the case in most families and why I do not believe the LSA will grow to any size.

Posted by: Bruce Savage | February 6, 2013 5:04 AM    Report this comment

From the point of view of a non Pilot or someone who WAS excited about becoming a pilot but is dicouraged by the comments here. It seems LSA was introduced as a sports category so that new pilots could go for the cheaper/quicker sport pilot license with a view to upgrade later. Of course there is the older pilot/medical issue that appeals to the older pilots, but generally we are talking about a quick and simple way for new pilots to enter the skies. Making it more easily available, just like opening up those prison camps that look like airstrips to the public. Make it look available, inviting and achievable. Then there is the price. Most people expect that aircraft are not cheap and when looking at new only they are not. What you have shown me here is you have a largely closed circle of both pilots and machines, the older aircraft just keep going and their prices remain low due to high availability, too many old planes and not enough pilots. Imagine the car market if old cars were kept running and no new drivers were being created, the price of a new car compared to old would be far greater than it is now.

cont'd

Posted by: David Driessens | February 6, 2013 6:13 AM    Report this comment

You cannot criticise someone who spends $100K+ on a MODERN LSA, it is their money to spend and also they may be a new pilot, is this not what is needed, so encourage dont criticise. I dont understand why existing pilots used to flying their aircraft with all their 'utility' and 'speed' and 'range' are here commenting/criticising the modern LSA, it seems this sector is not for you. For those of us who do not yet fly, the 100K-150K does not seem unreasonable, but for those living in a world flooded with used aircraft, the price seems high.

The equation of Sports license + modern LSA + BRS = $100K+ I am happy with that. It may be a misguided notion to think that a recovery system will always save you, but dont underestimate its value in atrracting new pilots. Lets face it, if all planes were crash proof we would all be flying. It also seems that the enormous attention that this thread has attracted means that LSA is potentially huge, just remember the 'S' is for sport, all others need nt apply.

Posted by: David Driessens | February 6, 2013 6:14 AM    Report this comment

You cannot criticise someone who spends $100K+ on a MODERN LSA, it is their money to spend and also they may be a new pilot, is this not what is needed, so encourage dont criticise. I dont understand why existing pilots used to flying their aircraft with all their 'utility' and 'speed' and 'range' are here commenting/criticising the modern LSA, it seems this sector is not for you. For those of us who do not yet fly, the 100K-150K does not seem unreasonable, but for those living in a world flooded with used aircraft, the price seems high.

The equation of Sports license + modern LSA + BRS = $100K+ I am happy with that. It may be a misguided notion to think that a recovery system will always save you, but dont underestimate its value in atrracting new pilots. Lets face it, if all planes were crash proof we would all be flying. It also seems that the enormous attention that this thread has attracted means that LSA is potentially huge, just remember the 'S' is for sport, all others need nt apply.

Posted by: David Driessens | February 6, 2013 6:16 AM    Report this comment

Good post David D., this is exactly the point I was trying to make. Those already in aviation and scrutinizing LSAs are obviously going to be disappointed when comparing them to certified aircraft. LSAs therefore gain a negative stigma within the GA community.

David also brings up a good point about attracting new pilots. From the outside looking in, the GA community seems very much like a good-ol' boys club. Potential new pilots legitimately interested in sport flying may feel put out by the old timers ragging on LSAs and the sport pilot license. If the LSA industry dies on the vine and we're seeing less people picking up flying every year, we may only have ourselves to blame.

Oh, and for the record, I don't currently fly - I can't get a medical due to repeated bouts with kidney stones. Sport flying suits my personal interests better anyway, but again, the market hasn't really taken off in my area. Call up a local flight school and ask about sport pilot instruction, and the answer you'll get is, "Pft! Why get a sport license, they're worthless! Get a real PPL!" Fortunately, I've been into aviation my whole life and I'm persistent. These sort of answers are what turns people away from flying every year.

Posted by: Adam Rietz | February 6, 2013 8:37 AM    Report this comment

David, the subject at hand is why LSA has not met the high expectations we all had (even us troglodytes), "failure to launch" as Paul put it. I think it is not so much failure to launch as the failure to meet(perhaps unreasonable)expectations. But LSA did launch and it is establishing itself but it's going to take time to shake out. It also needs marketing genius to bring in new blood, not to try to convert the folks who really need more airplane than LSA offers. It's like trying to sell a Vespa to someone who needs a truck.

Posted by: Richard Montague | February 6, 2013 8:59 AM    Report this comment

Some responses to David Driessens:

LSA was actually an accompanyment to the Sport Pilot license. SP came first, and then LSA. At first it seemed a great idea. Then the details totally screwed it up. I'm speaking from the perspective of a potential manufacturer. It's the additional costs of certification, where the biggest problem is certificated engines. Not only that, the FAA is now looking at tighter controls, even though they don't have the manpower to do so. That will mean additional delays. All the regulation means higher costs. A very good example of how to take a good idea and ruin it.

As for the "prison camps", a very apt description, and deplorable. Another example of the government screwing up a good thing. While it might help some with theft, though I doubt it, I feel that most pilots are unhappy with the fences.

While there are always many types in any group, I feel that most pilots welcome those interested in flying. I'll mention one event. A guy comes to the local airport with a car full of kids. He wants to pay for some rides for the kids. The airport manager tells him "we don't do that". Emmer Ported, a person who lived for flying, had build 7 experimentals, and always had several aircraft ready to fly, got rather upset. He told the guy that he'd give the kids rides, and they weren't short or dull rides. That's what you'll get from most of the pilots who love flying. It was a sad day when we lost Emmer.

Posted by: DFEUL | February 6, 2013 12:30 PM    Report this comment

More responses to David Driessens:

If you want to purchase a new LSA, then by all means, do so. While some could read this discussion as criticism of LSA, it's not really that. It's multiple things. Some consider utility vs cost. Others would just like an "affordable" recreational aircraft. For some, the most they could spend on a toy might be the same cost as a second car. No matter the pros and cons, they just cannot afford more. LSA has failed these potential pilots.

YOu mention the BRS type of recovery. I cannot emphasize strongly enough that this should be a minor issue and that such is not a replacement for good maintenance and prudent pilot decisions, and there is no guarantee they will work. I can cite more than one example where either the parachute was not deployed, or failed. There is no such thing as a crash proof aircraft. The crash proof pilot is even more nebulous. I encourage having a recovery system. It they save one life, maybe yours, they are worth the cost. I tell people "if you want one then get one, if you're lucky it will be a waste of the money, if you're unlucky it will give you one more chance".

Posted by: DFEUL | February 6, 2013 12:35 PM    Report this comment

A response to Adam Reitz:

This is my opinion. Others may disagree. Won't change my mind.

The Sport Pilot license is rather worthless. The requirements of the PPL isn't much more, and those additional things you learn won't hurt you and might help you. Note, I'm not addressing the third class medical, just the training. You could get the training, and take a SP check ride.

What about the first time that you get caught a bit too far away to land before night. Is the first time you experience night flying an emergency a good idea. I think not. Whether you plan on day flying or not, things happen. Being prepared is a good thing.

If you run into an instructor that will not address your requirements, then it's time to look for another instructor. You are in charge of your instruction, not the instructor. His job should be to teach you what you want to learn. He should advise you, but not dictate. A good instructor will do that. Someone looking for you to pay for him to accumulate hours is not a good instructor.

If you can not pass a 3rd class medical, a good instructor should still be willing to teach you to fly. You won't be able to solo in an aircraft that doesn't meet the LSA specs, but, you can still be taught. (As far as I know, a regular CFI can teach for Sport Pilot. Could be wrong about that.)

I believe that getting the Sport Pilot check ride will require an LSA. That is a problem if none are available.

Posted by: DFEUL | February 6, 2013 12:55 PM    Report this comment

Check out the latest post over at Flying Magazine which addresses exactly what most comments here have mentioned.

http: //tinyurl.com/b8e9rt9 (put the link together)

Posted by: Unknown | February 6, 2013 3:29 PM    Report this comment

To David Froble, Your comments are appreciated, as are all comments here, I have learned more about this industry in this one forum than the thousands of sources visited. My comment about BRS stems from being involved in a fatal crash that was the fault of the dead guy, dead guys dont pay even if they have insurance, so my point is to insure against unforseen equipment failure etc . Those things that cannot be controlled by the pilot. This idea would see no airbags or abs in cars, just a waste of time, unless you have an accident..sure. I do agree with your comments but like much of this forum, almost all comments are correct when put into their proper context. Modern LSA will never be cheap enough for you guys who compare them with the older craft. When coparing within the new craft prices they are affordable. If you dont have the means to afford new then stick with old, this applies to all things airplanes or dishwashers. Bottom line is the present economy is not allowing enough people to afford something new. This will change.

Posted by: David Driessens | February 6, 2013 8:25 PM    Report this comment

Hmmm... I don't see anything I wrote that discourged use of BRS type recovery systems. I did mention that they are not a replacement for proper maintenance nor pilot prudence.

As for LSA pricing, it's artificial. It is what it is because of the current ASTM rules. Perhaps you missed an earlier post where I discussed considering taking a kit and assembling it and flying off the test period and selling it ready to fly, for in the neighborhood of $30,000.

It is the regulations that drive the cost of an LSA so high.

Posted by: DFEUL | February 6, 2013 8:50 PM    Report this comment

Thanks for the feedback and knowledge. Like a few others, I like to buy new and dont share my toys, I have been riding superbikes for the last 30 years and anyone who knows, it is a solitary 'sport', just you, the bike, the wind, lots of speed and no-one to talk to while you are doing it. Thats the way I like it.

I figured that the skies were never achievable, being somewhat (ok, very) intimidated by all the training and cost. Until I read about LSA, this is it I thought, finally it seems achievable. After having lost enough money in the stock market to but an LSA outright I figured why not have fun with the money while losing it in a different way...LSA. I enjoyed all I have read and learned here. Thanks

Posted by: David Driessens | February 7, 2013 3:03 AM    Report this comment

A very well written article. LSA probably failed to break out of it's own self-imposed niche market status. Unfortunately the "value" of the products were never good enough to breakout of it's niche and attract a following beyond it's limited market segment with a real blowout product (like the Datsun 240Z was such a good "value" that it crossed market boundaries).

Posted by: Mark Fraser | February 8, 2013 8:53 AM    Report this comment

My woman Maria says "Old pilots, they learned to fly in the war. The old airplanes were made for them. There aren't enough old pilots to buy the new ones. New pilots, there aren't any, so that's how we got into this mess."

"Why would anyone want to go out on a cold, windy day, preflight, put in gas, get a clearance and fly somewhere just as equally cold and windy? Kids don't even want to drive these days. If they don't want car payments why would they want airplane payments?"

I have to say I agree. It's not cost. You CAN afford it if you really want it. Just look at what people pay for the junk they drive around. It's not about LSA versus certified or new versus used. It's the wanting it that's not there anymore.

Posted by: Unknown | February 11, 2013 12:03 AM    Report this comment

To Fill Cee, You hit the nail on the head there, we have expos of all kinds, camping, caravan, house, boating, 4wd etc but never seen any kind of airplane represented anywhere at any kind of show. Needs more exposure, mo matter what your flavour or finances.

Posted by: David Driessens | February 11, 2013 8:20 PM    Report this comment

I've seen some small aircraft, Ultralights, Hang Gliders, and such set up in a mall. Usually a hassle to get them in and out, some disassembly required.

How you gonna get a decent sized aircraft to many locations, and, are the doors large enough to get them inside?

Some might have folding wings, and that solves the problem, for those aircraft. As for the rest ....

Posted by: DFEUL | February 11, 2013 8:34 PM    Report this comment

Simple, have the airfield host such events.

Posted by: David Driessens | February 12, 2013 3:58 AM    Report this comment

Yeah, it's called "Oshkosh" and "Sun-N-Fun" and others, along with airshows. Now, the former does have displays of aircraft. The latter (Airshows) really don't attempt to display aircraft. They want to sell tickets to make some money and people are watching the acts, not browsing through display aircraft.

As for Oshkosh and Sun-N-Fun and such, most attendees are already into aviation.

None of these comes remotely close to the traffic of shopping malls, and the traffic is for the most part non-aviation. I've seen a lot of exposure to aviation in shopping malls, including introductory lessons and such.

Why do car dealers display at malls instead of waiting for people to come to their showrooms? People coming to the showrooms are usually looking for a new car. People seeing all those shiny new cars in a mall just might be enticed to start looking for a new car.

Posted by: DFEUL | February 12, 2013 9:47 AM    Report this comment

Here's my $.02, posted elsewhere as well as here (Part 1):

I've been chomping at the bit to put an LSA on the flight line of the flying club of which I'm a member. Why? I've calculated that I can leaseback and rent at approx. $110/hour, which is much cheaper than the $160+/hr for our Archers. I typically fly in good weather with one pax, either to introduce others to flying or snap a boatload of fall foliage pix. (I'm a CA-SEL, with a very moldy CFI-A, but not instrument current. That $160+/hr. is hard to swallow with other priorities in the mix.) I know others in the club are interested in flying an LSA for similar reasons, with similar missions. I've asked around at our quarterly Safety Meetings. I think we'd also get a few Sport Pilot students as well, with even a modicum of "marketing".

I've been looking for 3-4 partners in order to keep the per person acquisition cost down, but to no avail (even among 50+ active members). Have I been successful? Not in this economy, even though the 2 or 3 of us with an interest in doing this are well-healed and could probably do it on our own. No one, including myself, is quite ready to pull the trigger. (Don't get me wrong - I'm not bragging. My wife and I are very blessed indeed.)

Posted by: Andrew Milan | February 12, 2013 11:56 AM    Report this comment

Here's my $.02, posted elsewhere as well as here (Part 2):

So, what to do? Wait it out for the next four years. Wait for interest rates to improve. Wait for lenders to loosen their grip on all that money on the sidelines. Wait for the LSA manufacturers industry to consolidate. Etc. At some point the numbers will look good and we'll pull the trigger.

Here's another option: I've recently become aware of the fractional ownership approach that the Aviation Access Project has just starting to roll out. Some of you may want to check that option out as well. It's worth a look. www.aviationaccessproject.com (No, I'm not affiliated with them. I'm not a fractional owner. Yet. Maybe. Soon.)

Posted by: Andrew Milan | February 12, 2013 11:56 AM    Report this comment

Way too much focus here on what's wrong with GA, why pilot starts are down. The No. 1 thing that's right with GA is that used airplanes are relatively cheap -- certainly cheaper than they were 20 years ago. You can buy a good 172, 170 etc., for the price of a new 4X4 pickup truck, or less. (And I pay for insurance on my own airplane what I was paying for renter's insurance.)

Cheap used airplanes may not be good for the LSA market but the LSA day will come as their original costs become spread out over time.

Flight instruction is more expensive than it was 20 years ago, but people are learning to fly, including motivated high school students our here in the middle of nowhere in Sanford, Maine, not to be confused with Silicon Valley.

I am not naive. I worry about user fees as well as the government's financial assaults on working people in general. But it's doubtful general aviation airplanes will ever cost less to get into than it does now. AOPA and EAA and any number of pilots are working to kindle new interest in aviation, especially among young people. We all should do the same.

Aviation is not cheap. But it's less expensive to get into than owning a camp, and no worse, at the $40,000 aircraft level than a lot of hobbies. As far as becoming a professional pilot, well, you gotta want it. But I know almost know one who stuck wit aviation who didn't get where they wanted to go.

Posted by: Jerry Fraser | February 14, 2013 2:53 PM    Report this comment

For those of you ready to stop worrying and start flying, we are making VERY inexpensive shares of LSAs available in these areas so far: Georgia, Tupelo, Kissimmee, Cedar Rapids, Huntsville, and Nashville. More to come. Check in on the FB page for Aviation Access Project to learn more and contact somebody.

It's time to stop talking, start owning, and get flying.

Posted by: Rick Matthews | February 14, 2013 4:03 PM    Report this comment

Ok all you wizards of smart, the truth is the flight schools have NO CLUE on what sales and making money are about. Since they can't present the product, how are they going to get someone to buy the product?

I have recently written a column about this, go to get-aviation.com and you will get the idea.

Posted by: Michael Dempsey | February 17, 2013 10:50 AM    Report this comment

Flying. Novel someone finally got to the bottom of all the noise. Flying in an LSA, flying in a Cessna 172, even flying in a powered kite is STILL flying. Again, comparing USED Cessna 172s with old tech, metal and rivets, 100LL, carbs, 20+ gph to a NEW CTLSi with all glass cockpit, in cockpit graphical weather, fuel injections and cheaper mogas @ 3.5 gph is USELESS. the cost and capability are vastly different. yet both mean FLYING. and the Sport License is a perfect way to get going. flying at night or in IMC is nice, but not critical. if it were, the category would never have been made.

Posted by: G Bigs | February 17, 2013 5:08 PM    Report this comment

Ok- LSA! 1.Fragmented marketing/distribution system - ZIP! (See Cessna CPC marketing concept of th 70's) 2.To many "maverick" startt-ups going nowhere 125+?) Mar kett ree search - HELLO!!! 3. Markeing all "WRONG" (see Cessna CPC concept again) 4. NO professional sales/marketing folks "at the contols" 5. Best market - flight school as "intro to (LS) License - THEN if NEEDED - go direct to Private - same aircraft if so desired = minimal time/expense! 6. "Pure Pilot Types" kindly do not take offense: %50,000 hrs and 38 type rating doesn't mean, as you may think, YOU CAN SELL flying or airplanes. 7. Do to lack of "franchise" style system- ZIP 8. MAIN PROBLEM: Totaly incompetent management at the flight school (embryo) level - if poor "sales, YES sales, "closing" and sucko customer service - again ZIP completions - NO future aviation(pilot?) consumers! 10. Since Cessna virtually abandoned the light plane semant with regards to CPC/piston sales (Citations were more profitable, opps sorry,again and promotion about 20+ years ago, want-a-be flight school dreamers or those "passionate" about flying and ZIP about profits - opps, sorry, another dirty word in aviation, makes a "180" from the SPIN downward to lesser and lesser potential aviation "con$umer$", opps, sorry again, forgot, you like driving the 78 Ford Granada and still living at home (at age 44), "why hell, I LOVE it" -(overdraft checking?)

And that ladies and gents IS the problem for starters!

Posted by: Rod Beck | February 17, 2013 10:05 PM    Report this comment

In my C172 I sit comfortably upright and not forced to recline on the floor like in an LSA. I too have graphical ADSB weather & traffic in my cockpit (via hardwired portable) like an LSA; I too burn cheaper mogas like an LSA (7gph). Unlike being in an LSA, I feel safe having a riveted metal shell surround me instead of one made of sharp, brittle plastic. Best of all, I have $100K remaining un-spent from the savings I enjoyed by buying USED. Hard to argue with the facts!

Posted by: david abate | February 17, 2013 10:26 PM    Report this comment

Fun to watch neophytes misunderstand a new market. In 1915 there were 150 car companies. By 1950 there were 10. Today there are 2 US car companies. Cessna is more like Buick than it is Honda or Toyota. Carbon fiber planes will dominate all categories in 20 years. Today LSA is pioneering all carbon fiber and digital cockpits. And new pilots will NOT go for private which is twice the hours and only offers night flying and ILS as a delta. Flight Design will have shipped over 2000 planes by the end of 2013. Flight Design is also making a 4-seater coming out in June that will be $100k less than a new Cessna 172 it will go head to head with. There is no question LSA will replace the old metal tech and dominate all new GA pilots and those coming off their antiques who may still want to learn a few new tricks and get into the state of the art.

Posted by: G Bigs | February 17, 2013 10:29 PM    Report this comment

To those who seem to "get i" Eric Warren and a G.Bigs, common cent$! To all other "experts who don't, David Froble and Bruce Savage, try this: Cirrus Aviation,Sarasota flew their Skycatcher 121 hrs last month - most popular bird in the fleet. Now, for the REAL stats, check GAMA FACT's for the last several years; Private Pilot Licenses DOWN about 14% - Light Sport UP about 500%,-

What's "Wright" with this picture?

Posted by: Rod Beck | February 17, 2013 11:07 PM    Report this comment

To Rod - An expert is someone who is one day ahead of the rest so thank you for putting me ahead LOL. If money was no problem I would be buying a Total Eclipse but as things are financially and my age is against me I can only afford a classic 19-footsack (an Afrikaans word meaning long long long long .... time ago). I will have to hang up my flying goggles in the next couple of years as my body's abilities cannot keep up with my mental abilities (a consequence of old age). Now tongue out of cheek: There needs to be a total paradigm change with Governments, manufacturers and general public to uplift GA, (or perhaps another world war) maybe a craft that can vertically lift off and land using new types of fuel, travel to the extremes of Earths atmosphere and long distances. The aviation industry is trapped in a time warp there has really been little if any advancements the aircraft are still using designs that were around in the early 1900's and that includes the LSA's. There is a desperate need for a Wright Brother's eureka moment to change the future of travel.

I can tell you why we are trapped it is because the manufacturers have invested too much resources into what is now available, to change.

Summary: If the motor industry did the same as the aviation industry we would still be driving around in Model T shaped cars.

Posted by: Bruce Savage | February 18, 2013 5:28 AM    Report this comment

Bruce; Your "summary" statement has some merit; however, putting government restraints aside ,which most proftable firms seem to do, in the final analysis it simply comes down to creative marketing and where, ideally, demand is SLIGHTLY in excess over supply.

The "airplane" will NEVER compare with the automobile - economies of scale - how many folks out of 1,400 have a "need", putting Maslow's dated idea of "need" on back burner, for a "car" - 1,300 out of 1,400 or so - now try GA - ONE in 1,400-FACT. Even (unrealistic)if an INCREASE in demand 400% for GA, still only one in 350 would be potential buyers. Good odds - my math skill doesn't think so!

Just like a Lexus 460 is AVAILABLE to everyone, it's NOT for everyone. Same has been true of "GA" for decades and will continue to do so.

Simply, if one doesn't see a "cost/benefit" in the product/service - they have the option to pass!

Posted by: Rod Beck | February 18, 2013 8:06 AM    Report this comment

Dave Anthony, Your comments regarding LSA size and composite construction are way off the mark. Quite a few of the LSA's have a larger cabin than a Beech Baron. As to composite construction and safety, check out Diamond Aircraft's safety record. It is the best in the business and all of their aircraft are built of composites.

Posted by: Unknown | February 18, 2013 10:55 AM    Report this comment

The Flight Design CTLSi has a 50 inch cockpit and can easily seat a 6-4 guy upright in the seat. Cessna can't come close to that. Again the naysayers are mainly old-timers being both defensive about the old GA planes and in denial over the clear evolution of LSA and what these planes embody. Cessna and Piper are failing to keep up with the designs coming from Europe. And the old timers are clinging to leaded gas planes like a passenger on the titanic.

Posted by: G Bigs | February 18, 2013 1:35 PM    Report this comment

Unfortunately, these same guys who believe like Dave run around spreading their ignorance and bile to people who, rightly thinking they are experienced aviators, believe them.

Posted by: Unknown | February 18, 2013 1:52 PM    Report this comment

To, I believe Mr.G Bigs and Eric; I'm WITH you!

I would bet, that said, "#$$ to Dunkin Donuts" that most of the comments here are from:

1. IT guru's (under age 45) 2. Well meaning engineers (employed or retired) 3. One who NEVER owned a small business of ANY kind. 4. Mrs.Wilson's 5th grader's doing a field "science project" 5. Former "weekend" pilots who last flew between 1967-1985? NOTE: Good news "Earl"; you won't have to renew your medical - drivers license only will do! 6. All of the above

And a seperate more "serious" note;, "Dumb and Dumber - the marketing experts had it all going by "brading" the Sport Cruiser(see sales under Piper's lable) obviously didn't have an "option agreement" with the dudes on the other side of the pound. Didn't these "donkey's" (I'm being polite) have enough vision to see that by building a consumer base at the enrty level, i.e. Csssna in the 60'-70'was the foundation for FUTURE sales - duh?

Mr. Big and Eric - hats off to you - however, until an LSA manufacture teams with say Diamond or Cirrus to fill in the "low end line" establishes a dealer network with dealers who FIRST are motivated by profit and less about "passion", or simply, leave the "flying" to non-managers and have business professionals in the "left seat" - then maybe ALL of GA will climb out sucessfully!

Posted by: Rod Beck | February 18, 2013 6:21 PM    Report this comment

Sorry you missed my point. My first car, to start it I had to first set the mixture (full lean), turn on the fuel at the fuel tap (under the dash), turn on the ignition (made the magneto live), prime the engine, set the mixture (full rich) and push the start button. If after two minutes of cranking the engine it did not start, start the process again. Compare to my modern car I get in press the start button and the engine fires immediately, never fails. The interior of the first car was rubbish harsh and unappealing, the seats were very uncomfortable. When travelling in it everything rattled, shook and very noisy. The modern car has a very appealing interior, the seat are very comfortable and it is quiet. The first car was very unsafe because it could not stop well and had very little road holding.

Now congratulations on your support of the classic antiques of yesterdays type GA aircraft that has continued to become the LSA. The above example is to show what happens when the people rise up and shout - enough we want better. GA refuses to do that and will die a natural death. Its not only the money its what do you really want.

1) IT guru – no. 2) Engineer – yes. 3) Have had several business from small to corporate. 4) hated school. 5) Former “weekend pilot” - no still very active

Posted by: Bruce Savage | February 19, 2013 6:46 AM    Report this comment

To Warren and Bigs: "Ignorance and bile"? "Titanic passengers"?? Can't you guys participate in a friendly debate without resorting to hurling insults? What is it about the subject of LSA that evokes such "school-yard" behavior in you?

Well here's my theory... you are probably financially invested in LSA either as an owner, dealer, or vendor and your level of frustration at LSA's failure to launch has reached a boiling point? Do you really believe the opinions of legacy aircraft owners like me are responsible for retarding your success and acceptance? C'mon - that's silly!

LSA is the 'Sony Betamax' of the GA world... a technologically superior product but also one that enjoys little demand in the marketplace, and that's a simple fact. And to sum up the situation further, the result of years of LSA marketing efforts and editorial hype brings to life the old adage, "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink". So yes, we pilots have been led to the LSA "trough" and decided not "to drink". Really - what's the big deal? All we can do is to continue to fly and have fun, and watch how the industry sorts itself out.

Posted by: david abate | February 19, 2013 1:44 PM    Report this comment

Wow dave. You seem upset... Sony Betamax. LSA is where the action is, but if you are stuck in the past and can't find your way out of a leaded-gas universe then you are a fossil. Its not name calling, its fact citing. Lighten up old dude, its only a blog comment.

Posted by: G Bigs | February 19, 2013 3:16 PM    Report this comment

One other quick note. Sony Betamax is alive an well. Professionals record video on Sony Betacam which is the progeny of the Betamax legacy. So if you want REAL video recording, well, you just have to buy yourself a $100k Sony Betacam video camera and a $50k Sony Betacam video editing and playback deck. Whats wrong Dave, too rich for your blood? http://goo.gl/59q9S

Posted by: G Bigs | February 19, 2013 3:24 PM    Report this comment

Bigs, thanks for confirming everything I said in my post.

Posted by: david abate | February 19, 2013 4:08 PM    Report this comment

Dave, If you want a reply from me in the future, please only address it to me. I am only going to defend my own statements and positions which I support.

Your statement went overboard and was unfair towards LSA and misleading of the facts. Metal or composite can be made to higher or lower safety standards. As far as impact safety, the advantage goes to modern, high quality composites. The 172 is not very impact resistant at all. It's safety comes from characteristics that reduce the likelihood and severity of an impact.

Many, if not most LSA aircraft have more front seat room than the 172. Few force a recline beyond what is ergonomically ideal.

At the same speed, almost any 172 burns 1.5 times the fuel of most LSAs. Not a big deal in my book, but I can burn 2 GPH in my 550 if you want to just lie about burn. I suppose if you still have an unchanged 172 with a small motor you may actually only burn 7, but by not pointing that out you are taking about a rare model you are misleading the reader on purpose.

Bottom line, either you don't know any better, or you are just spewing bile. I know that there was ignorance and bile from the LSA side here, but it wasn't from me.

This argument almost always starts because owners of older planes, whose values have dropped for the first time in decades, jump in and start it. You guys are killing yourselves. Anything that brings in more interest protects your values, and starting fights hurts it. Try staying positive.

Posted by: Unknown | February 19, 2013 4:43 PM    Report this comment

@Eric "you guys are killing yourselves." Exactly right. What we have here is a circular firing squad, of which I am no longer participating.

Posted by: Andrew Milan | February 19, 2013 4:58 PM    Report this comment

Conclusion; Most "here" are NOT coming from a profit motivated BUSINESS background or education. Perhaps "those" folks should consult an economic text and look up the defination of supply and demand?

Posted by: Rod Beck | February 19, 2013 8:04 PM    Report this comment

To Dave Froble: Sorry to chime in so late, but the point I was making about improving exposure and having airfields host 'such event' was for the airfields to host: camping shows 4wd shows, caravan shows etc. This is precisely the crowd that need to be exposed to aircraft, they are of all ages with varying pocket depth. All these shows are packed shoulder to shoulder, just a thought.

Posted by: David Driessens | February 20, 2013 3:56 AM    Report this comment

Just got the Winter ICON A5 newsletter. Cirrus is making these planes on behalf of ICON. The A5 has 1,055 preorders. The backlog is five years long. For those GA old timers unfamiliar with the ICON, its an LSA with a rotax and a boat hull bottom. foldable wings, trailerable. Runs on mogas, with a cockpit more like a car than an antique Cessna. its a winner of course www.iconaircraft.com/

Posted by: G Bigs | February 20, 2013 1:39 PM    Report this comment

Bigs, you can cool your jets, what you just described is 'old news' that was available in aviation pubs months ago. Maybe try to better synch your opinions with your experience level?

Posted by: david abate | February 20, 2013 1:58 PM    Report this comment

Anyone interested in the root of perhaps 50% of GA's problem,i.e,LSA, etc, can be found in my Dec 2,2102,feature at get-aviation.com,"Will BUSINESS Ever Come To Recreational Aviation"? - enjoy!

Posted by: Rod Beck | February 20, 2013 10:33 PM    Report this comment

We have various people in our life who have art to write some extra ordinary articles through their means of technical thinking and we have writing essay services online where people may like to write and earn through various means. We are too happy to say that our services are free of cost and delivered online only. We dont have any staff, the staff is you and you only.

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