Skycatcher's Demise: Barely a Ripple

  • E-Mail this Article
  • View Printable Article
  • Text size:

    • A
    • A
    • A

Memes are ideas, accepted wisdom and cultural touchpoints that get handed from one person to another via, well, who knows how? By e-mail, television, blogs, word of mouth. They take on a life of their own. When I ask myself how some in aviation get started, maybe I only need look in the mirror. In December 2009, I wrote this little gem about the Cessna Skycatcher: “If there’s anything that passes for conventional wisdom in the world of light sport, it’s that Cessna would dominate when it entered the market. In our view, the Skycatcher more or less confirms this.”

Yet four years later, the conventional wisdom has been turned on its head and I find myself wondering why I wrote that. So I spent last week talking to more than a dozen people about their impression of Cessna’s decision to exit the light sport business. (Note please here that Cessna hasn’t plainly said the Skycatcher won’t be built anymore; just that it has no future.)

What about this notion that when it entered the business, Cessna would—or so many people said—validate the entire light sport thing as somehow legitimate? I’m sure people told me that, which is why I felt it worthy of repeating.

“I may have heard it enough times myself that I just parroted it back,” says Flight Design’s John Gilmore. “I think everybody was maybe hoping for the resurrection of the 150.” That didn’t happen, of course, and with about 200 airframes in the field, the Skycatcher never achieved the market dominance everyone assumed it would. There are a host of reasons for this, but the overarching one is probably price. When Cessna raised the price to nearly $150,000 for an entry level airplane that had weight issues and didn’t outperform its many competitors, it gave position holders an opportunity to bail, and they did. In droves.

What are the implications for LSA at large? Not much. No one I talked to told me that Cessna’s axing of the Skycatcher resets the market. “There’s not too much rumbling going on about this,” says Dan Johnson, chairman of the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association. “Within the industry, many had already dismissed Cessna sometime ago for the reason that the airplane never seemed to really meet what the market wanted. So I don’t think there’s any great rush to say, ‘oh great, now there’s an opportunity, or, oh dear, we don’t have the validation of Cessna being in the market anymore,” Johnson says.

A couple of dealers and Cessna Pilot Centers I contacted say they wish Cessna would have given the Skycatcher more time to mature, but none thought the $150,000 price was right; too much money for too little airplane. One dealer told me that selling the Skycatcher was tough, not so much because of the price, but because potential buyers required extensive education on the limitations of light sport, including not being able to install equipment some of them wanted in their Skycatchers. The fact that the Skycatcher sported Garmin equipment while many other LSAs don’t evidently wasn’t much of a strong selling point, say the people operating these airplanes in flight schools.

Despite its warts—and all LSAs have them—the Skycatcher gets good reviews from the people using it. It’s easy and fun to fly, economical and other than initial problems with door openings in flight and some strut beef-up work, the airplane seems to stand up to the rigors of flight training. But one operator, Jim Whitt at J.A. Air Center in Aurora, Illinois, doesn’t think the Skycatcher will prove as long-term durable as the 152 and 172. But he says it doesn’t really matter, since the airplane can be operated profitably and replaced as necessary. He’s one who thinks Cessna should have stayed with the program. In any case, he expects Cessna will continue to support the airplane and Cessna confirms this.

Cessna has traditionally owned the flight training market and for years it profitably built on the idea that if you taught people to fly with basic airplanes, they would eventually buy your bigger, high-margin models. Now that they’ve abandoned the LSA market, they’ve sent a clear message that the company is less committed to low-end training, except for those schools willing to do it in a $400,000-plus Skyhawk. And those schools are dwindling.

Frankly, I’m more worried about that segment of the market than the LSA slice. There are still plenty of companies building LSAs so buyers won’t lack for choice. And many of the schools I spoke with thought the Skycatcher wasn’t a good choice, anyway. “Nobody cares if Cessna is in the market. When Piper dropped the Piper Sport, the market didn’t hiccup and it won’t with Cessna,” says Paul Shuch, who operates a one-aircraft flight school with an Evektor on the hallowed ground of Lock Haven Airport in Pennsylvania. Even the CPCs don’t seem particularly worried, since they still have plenty of aircraft to choose from and Cessna has bunches of Skycatchers boxed up and ready to ship for anyone who wants them.

While the absence of Skycatchers might not dent the market in the slightest, I think there’s cause to worry about Cessna just losing interest in pilot training entirely. Other entities, namely Redbird, are stepping up to fill the void, but Cessna is still a big dog. All of the more than a dozen schools I talked to had either a Cessna 152 or 172, if not multiples, on the flight training and these remain popular choices. It would be a pity if Cessna prices the 172 out of the market entirely. Some say they already have, but I like to think they’ll be around for a while. At least until the next generation of light training aircraft emerge, whether from Cessna or someone else.

Join the conversation.  Read others' comments and add your own.

Comments (73)

Given how much money Cessna spent bringing the 162 (Skycatcher) to market, they just as easily - and far more successfully - could have put the 152 back into production. Maybe they viewed the LSA category as a liability dodge - I have no idea.

I have concluded that Cessna has concluded that there's no longer a meaningful relationship between the brand of airplane that pilots learn in, and the brand of business jet that their future employers ultimately buy and operate. Cessna has learned how to sell Citations to just about everybody. Consequently, they see no justification for designing and selling "loss leader" vehicles of any kind.

Textron's recent purchase of a pair of simulator technology companies would seem to support a conclusion that Cessna isn't dismissing pilot training entirely. But it looks like Textron/Cessna is more interested in providing jet type training - and making a tidy profit while doing it - than they are in building little primary trainers for the masses.

If we believe what we read, the biggest market for pilot training going forward will be in Asia. And we know that Cessna has a lot of interest in the Chinese market. Maybe they're thinking of a Redbird-like paradigm, in a country where access has been - and likely will continue to be - carefully controlled by the government. Again, I have no idea what their thinking is. But it's clear that Cessna's focus is on Citations and Caravans - where the "real money" is.

Posted by: Tom Yarsley | December 4, 2013 6:33 AM    Report this comment

I am fortunate to get the opportunity to fly in many of the Light Sport Aircraft that are around. Of all those I have been in, I say that the Skycatcher is my least favorite. The clipped-tip prop produces lots of high frequency harmonics making it noisier than any airplane propellor I know (ultralights excluded); this I expected just upon my first viewing, as my background in acoustics predicted. The structure reverberates noise back into the cabin at higher levels than the composites. Then there is the lask of useful load; with a large pilot, only very light passengers can go with enough fuel to meet VFR minimums. Overall, an untidy package. I will say it flies nice and handles crosswinds better than other high winged LSA's; but that doesn't make up for the unpleasant experience of flying it. Others make airplanes that are as economical to buy and operate without the LSA restrictions and other LSA's are as good or better as trainers. I think Cessna knows when it is not competitive and is making the right decision not to compete where it cannot dominate. David Dodson, CFII

Posted by: David Dodson | December 4, 2013 7:22 AM    Report this comment

Cessna should have sold the Skycatcher on Amazon. All these phone loving geeks who haven't bothered getting a driver's license yet might buy one with "one click."

Posted by: Thomas Reilly | December 4, 2013 7:23 AM    Report this comment

I have watching this LSA matter ,since it started,and I have said nothing, and hope no ones feathers get ruffled, Why LSA , when the current production LSA,s are in the $100,000.00 class and they are aiming this market to drivers license only market, in which the particpants are 70 plus years of age ,ask yourself ,would you be making that type purchase at that age or not ? and these companies are looking into the Orient to do business, It sort of has some discrimination in it , And those of you that are effected by this ,should not only read about this problem but ,speaking out their views about this matter ,To AOPA and EAA ,not doing nothing ! ,If a person had $100,000.00 to spend they wont be concerned about LSA. Ron

Posted by: Ron Yates | December 4, 2013 8:06 AM    Report this comment

In order to balance the inequality of our current medical certificate (fat neck & high BMI) "Sleep Apnea Super Mario Guess Hit & Miss Idiot Game" (Imagine Super Mario Music here) I am anticipating we will soon see a revision of the sport pilot rules. Only those not subject to "self certification" will be required to undergo testing. I would not be surprised if we saw a whole bunch of medicals expiring, with full knowledge of their holders that the sport pilot rules currently allow people to conceal medical issues as long as no medical certificate has been denied. The loss of the 162 is barely worth a ripple in light of all the other fecal matter swimming down the river, currently.

Cessna has positioned itself in line for business in China along with $20MM dollar jet sales to special people broadside. The way we're running the show here in the U.S. right now, GA has high chances of shriveling up like a peanut. I watched European GA do the same once a bunch of mindless EU bureaucrats had finally taken over completely and I am afraid we're rushing to try and prove that we can do the same, just much quicker and at a more devastating scale.

We once were best in training, very competitive in price and full of promise. The Skycatcher was DOA. and in my opinion is no loss to the world but a sad testament to how times have changed.

Cessna could be honest about things and just come out with the fact that the future Citation owner doesn't get raised in a Cessna single engine product. Never has, never will. Just a misfired marketing ploy trying to position a huge dinosaur for combat it couldn't survive to begin with. Anyone who's been to CPC seminars knows of the hype and glory.

I remain of the opinion that the poisonous mix of quick dollars and lousy, milkmaid style advocacy work, mixed with a rapidly aging user base (w/ related further fracture in the industry) will blow our candle out faster than Obama could, if he put his mind to it... Technically, we should have woken up 35 years ago, 25 years ago we would have needed all hands on deck. These days you barely get a rise out of people when yet another company jumps off the cliff. Cheap cheap cheap and Aviation don't mix.

Posted by: Jason Baker | December 4, 2013 8:31 AM    Report this comment

We have a 162 and were not surprised at Cessna's lack of support for the plane. Comments made at the CPC seminar in Wichita last September made it clear that Cessna was getting out of the training business. I believe the training market will be supplied by either new planes from some offshore company like Tecnam, or we'll see a rash of 152 rebuilding companies start up to fill the hole, especially if the feds up the LSA weight limit.

The Skycatcher has around 80 hours on it and is the busiest in the fleet right now. We expected the customer base to be the private pilots letting their medical lapse, but we're actually doing a lot of primary training in the plane, both sport and private.

That being said, in that 80 hours we've already replaced the ADHARS unit twice. The plane is unflyable when this unit fails (no airspeed, altitude or engine gauges). The fact that the nearest Cessna Service Center is 100 miles away makes this issue a major problem.

Posted by: Jerry Plante | December 4, 2013 10:25 AM    Report this comment

For Cessna, the money is in jets, not piston airplanes, and no apologies should be made for this reality. So, Cessna doesn't want to talk about the future of Skycatcher: Big deal, it's their business; they really don't owe any explanations to the aviation world. Cessna put considerable effort into the Skycatcher, the product can't achieve any financial model for success, so Cessna is moving on. Is that really a bad thing, or just a smart business decision? Putting all emotion aside, the LSA market is a low end, low profit margin business, and the best strategy for a big, high overhead company like Cessna to make money in the LSA market is to leave their money in the bank and not build an LSA. Let Cessna move on, and let the focus be on the successful LSA companies and successful LSA designs. Hmmm- speaking of which, what ARE the success stories in the LSA market?

Posted by: Harry Fenton | December 4, 2013 10:48 AM    Report this comment

On the positive side of the equation the involvement of Cessna did bring Garmin into a genuine interest in the experimental/LSA market which has continued to develop over the last few years with some very attractive additions and a group within Garmin who now focus on these markets.

Unfortunately, the entry of Cessna killed many sales that would otherwise have been consummated as people latched onto the very low Cessna original pricing and waited...and waited.....until they ultimately left the market or "invested" in legacy flight school products.

There are a very large number of new LSA aircraft that can be purchased for well under $100,000 including the Tecnam Echo Classic Light but the people who are actually buying new planes are almost exclusively buying the high end models with prices to match so even though the economy end of the market is very vocal about the need for lower prices they are rarely actually buying anything at any price.

The renaissance of US training at both the professional end and for pleasure is critical if the vast majority of ordinary pilots (those who will never buy any aircraft themselves) are to remain flying or to feel they can come into flying. Find a way to get modern, brand new aircraft into partnerships, flying clubs or make new leaseback aircraft available to flight schools and pilot starts, completions and leisure flying will take care of themselves. The demand is there but the capacity is not. We cannot attract young people or upwardly mobile professionals into our world with aircraft that were designed when their grand parents or even great grand parents were young!

Believe it or not, there are very many people in the industry with some great ideas that do not actually require either Piper or Cessna to be involved but, as an industry, and flying population, we are very poorly organized to make anything happen on our own behalf other than to fight the worst excesses of government regulations which, by and large is done pretty well.

There is a very appropriate saying - "divided we fall, united we conquer" - we are very divided and the challenges pointed out by other people are largely a result of our inability to find a new way of coming together. One comment addresses the potential decline of a world beating US industry - flight training - and he is absolutely right. The opportunities are probably never greater than today but our collective response has been one of throwing more ancient equipment at the problem, charging premium prices and believing that our overseas markets have no decent alternatives....until they do.

The Skycatcher may still remain a damaging element in the LSA world depending on how Cessna deals with its very substantial (80 plus) unsold aircraft and they are not providing very many clues to that which just adds uncertainty to an already difficult marketplace.

Posted by: Philip Solomon | December 4, 2013 10:58 AM    Report this comment

The writing was on the wall when they did not use a Rotax, and did not read the EU rule book properly. An extra gallon an hour or so gas is no big deal in the U.S. but it is in most of the rest of the world -- and I predict will be in China if they are ever allowed to spread their wings....

Posted by: John Patson | December 4, 2013 11:25 AM    Report this comment

The Skycatcher at the Flight School I use (2012 - new purchase) has 565 hours on the Hobbs. I am getting ready to take my Sport License Practical. I absolutely love the Skycatcher. With the now limited production (if any) I do not see myself ever being able to afford one. The availability of the 2 Skycatchers and only LSA's in our area is starting to get scarce. Unless Cessna starts production back up and new and used prices come down or the FAA agrees with the AOAP's petition to get 150/152's and 172's in a class that does not require a medical I doubt I will ever own one. With my passion for flying, my fear of possibly failing a medical and never flying again outweighs any small medical issues I have. When I went to local FAA Office to get my Student Pilot License the FAA Rep seemed to think I would "more than likely pass the medical" It is that "more than likely "part I do not want to gamble on. I am seeing a lot of folks (mostly new pilots my age) that have the same fear as me and are starting to pursue Sport Licenses in the two local Skycatchers in our area, As another reader said "Cessna should have given the Skycatcher more time". I hope there will be LSA's available for rent in the future in our area. FYI - I am not a "Kit guy". More Skycatchers would be nice.

PS. I started flying in "172's" going for my PPL before fear of not flying from a possible failed medical overcame me. I might be "to sensitive" as FAA Rep suggested. I love the Skycatcher anyways so I am happy as long as they are available for rent. MAYBE they will come down to the $50k - $75k range I can afford someday.

Posted by: Kenneth Letson | December 4, 2013 1:40 PM    Report this comment

I get that the production of LSAs and trainers will continue, but it's scary to think that Cessna has determined that the market isn't worth its effort.

Posted by: Jerry Fraser | December 4, 2013 2:14 PM    Report this comment

Mr Letson. Welcome to aviation. We need you and more like you.

I would not worry about the Skycatcher as the market has a very large number of aircraft in your price bracket while the Cessna was between double and triple your price range.

We have an all metal LSA that would fit your budget and starts at $75,000 from the word's largest manufacturer of Light Sport aircraft, Tecnam. Much cheaper to operate than the Skycatcher, use 87 unleaded with or without ethanol and just as much fun. Check it out at:

www.tecnam.net/p92-echo-light

The best and most cost effective way to accessible aviation is join or create a flying club or group around a good quality LSA and, providing everybody flies regularly you will be amazed at how affordable it is.

Posted by: Philip Solomon | December 4, 2013 4:55 PM    Report this comment

Cessna flubbed it. First on cost, then on using the Chinese, then by squeezing their authorized dealers, and lastly on structure (doors folding in half, spar AD's, etc). Now that limited market is saturated. 100% textbook example of what's wrong with with modern(U.S.) companies with no soul and no guts. That caused the "who cares" reaction when they folded.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | December 4, 2013 6:54 PM    Report this comment

Cessna continues to be the predominent aircraft in the flight training market. The C150, C152 and the C172s built before 2004 are the aircraft of choice by flight schools. The argument portraying the LSAs as the substitute trainers or the makers of the new generation of pilots is not quite correct. The LSA concept was and may still be perversely accepted by some buyers and a few flight schools that trusted legimitate organizations that meant well but more naive than practical and realistic. EAA, AOPA supported the idea but they had their head in the clouds. Over one hundred manufacturers rushed in and now the majority have or will fold out. EAA and AOPA and the media may have had good intentions but they are and were incredibly wrong. Just as wrong as with the Recreational Pilot program. The LSA market never had the market strength. Cessna is correct in snuffing the Skycatcher.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | December 4, 2013 9:25 PM    Report this comment

How excellently stated, John Patson.

The writings were on the wall. ROTAX? What's a ROTAX? I hear/ read this question every single day. (Of course I am not seriously asking as a prior Rotax user and friend). Almost 20 years ago I had a conversation with a Cessna person on subjects such as "Rivet Bombers" and outdated engines, noise as well as fuels. I was told (with a straight face, smilingly), that in Uhhmericaah, fuel is terribly cheap and that no-one cares about the few lousy airplanes in the European market. "AvGas is a bit over a buck, so what do you want Mr. Baker? We [Cessna] have more unregistered Cessna's flying in AK than you have in all your country." I didn't laugh. I didn't find it funny. I was young and ambitious, blind arrogance made no sense to me.

Cessna is (was) a GA icon. Arrogance and ignorance come before the fall. The higher the horse the harder this fall will be. I remember a heavy push and lots of enthusiasm towards Cessna's Flag - the GA Training market, from my last CPC Seminar. Lots of drinking, too. Time will tell what the LSA market will do. I don't dare to think what the glorious medical branch in Oklahoma City may dream up next. Eventually the FAA's #1 Task (Safely integrating drones into the NAS) will interfere with us little Put Put Put's Putzes.

Now we have a new law (one doesn't truly know if coming or going, these days with all the announcements and super stories) that instructs blind bureaucrats who have dropped "support of general aviation" from their vocabulary, to come up with ideas to certify aircraft at quicker pace and with half the hassle. Meanwhile on the farm, we have an up-spring in Chinese pilots asking on type forums how to reverse engineer our most iconic aircraft in China. Gulp! Maybe they'll 3D print them, no clue.

We need to move closer together (its getting cold and rough) and start getting involved, especially on advocacy related issues. Fly under the radar rule-making without regard to stakeholders are unacceptable, yet we'll see it more and more. Its been done before, it can and will be done here in the U.S. especially with an unresponsive 3-4 letter group of nonprofits tanning and partying on member dollars. We can do better than this.

Posted by: Jason Baker | December 5, 2013 12:56 AM    Report this comment

What Rafael and others sometimes forget is that the rest of the world has already moved on and thousands of pilots, new and existing, are flying LSA's and, surprise, surprise are soloing them in less time than in the US, training for airlines in them (initial training obviously) and having a blast. In Europe and a lot of the rest of the world these planes are certified under the CS-VLA rules (FAA part 23 Primary category) and are exactly the same planes, other than price due to the need to stamp "certified" on the various components. The same spark plug that costs $3 for an LSA becomes $11 or $12 if it goes into a CS-VLA which is why no manufacturer has gone through the FAA validation process plus, other than weight, there are no flight advantages from being Primary - still no IFR in IMC conditions so why spend $40 or $50,000 more? There is a reason why Air France replaced their Cessna 172's with Tecnam P2008's TC (CS-VLA) and did not buy Cessna or Piper - no Tecnam is NOT French. Is a $400,000 aircraft from Cessna "better" than a $75,000 one from Tecnam - probably, but is it $325,000 better?

I know of no other group of consumers in the world who collectively fight this hard to ensure their industry is never modernized. Can you imagine the cars people would be driving today if we had this same attitude towards non-American products and were stuck in a 1950's time warp of technology...well, yes, actually, its called Cuba!

For those people out there who actually want a modernized market for flight training and leisure you need to get over your Cessna fixation. They are a business with a fantastic pedigree and history but they also have to make money and their resources are clearly better employed in making jets than in pistons. They do not "owe" pilots anything - a revitalized Cessna 152, a $50,000 four seat turbo or any of the other typical aviation fantasies. They owe their shareholders and their employees who want to be making planes for a market in which they can make money, and given the consistent lack of investment over the last thirty or forty years, it is no longer in pistons.

There is a great future for Light Aviation in the US but it is not by being stuck in the glories of the past, however impressive, they were. Light Sport is one of those bright spots, so is experimental and credit is also due to other companies such as Cirrus and Diamond, as well as Tecnam, for being willing to do what the legacy manufacturers have not, and actually invest in our segment of the market which is the surest vote for its continued existence.

Posted by: Philip Solomon | December 5, 2013 7:30 AM    Report this comment

A modern and equipped LSA IS the replacement for the aged 150/152 line - just needs the right specs and competent marketing to satisfy the training gap left by Cessna decades ago!

Posted by: Rod Beck | December 5, 2013 7:41 AM    Report this comment

A modern and equipped LSA IS the replacement for the aged 150/152 line - just needs the right specs and competent marketing to satisfy the training gap left by Cessna decades ago!

Posted by: Rod Beck | December 5, 2013 7:41 AM    Report this comment

Frankly the Skycatcher is not a good airplane. It bears the Cessna name but is not a Cessna quality product. I believed the hype and bought two of them and now regret it. The basic build quality is not the greatest and the door problem was very costly to fix, but truly the biggest problem is the gross weight limitation. If you have two normal sized adults it is very difficult, almost impossible, to operate the airplane legally (under gross).

That's the perspective of an operator. To be completely fair, students always seemed to like the airplane. I still believe in the LSA category and will continue to purchase LSA aircraft for my school. The economics make sense for me and my students. I will buy a metal airplane and have no problem with Rotax. The new Van's RV-12 looks interesting.

Posted by: Paul Stuart | December 5, 2013 8:49 AM    Report this comment

"I know of no other group of consumers in the world who collectively fight this hard to ensure their industry is never modernized."

I'll take that on, Phil. You've broken the code. We had a meeting in 1984 among all pilots and we all voted to resist modernization and new things. It was unanimous. The reality, of course, is that you are observing the behavior of a rational market. LSAs and expensive new airplanes have been pitched to buyers who do not see value there against an ocean of existing airframes and thus do not buy. Saying they do so as a resistance to modernization is like saying my neighbor doesn't own a Mercedes SLS because he doesn't want pulse fuel injection. Or a retailer telling a would-be customer who won't buy a suit that he has poor taste.

If you fly around the country, you'll hear English as a second language quite often. The reason for that, in part, is that the rest of the world comes here to fly because it's less expensive and altogether easier. In other words, in the U.S., we have a different economic model and we define value differently than they do in Europe where gasoline is $12 a gallon and only a tiny elite use airplanes for real transportation.

A widespread shift to new, more expensive aircraft with capabilities only marginally better than older airplanes--if that--only raises costs and puts the industry on a less sound footing. And given current conditions, that's saying a lot. This explains why a lot of busy avionics shops are routinely performing $60,000 upgrades to 30-year-old airframes. They see more value in that than buying a $600,000 new one.

On the LSA side, this will slowly change. But not rapidly, I don't think. It will be a slow, steady pull of 200 to 300 airplanes a year.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | December 5, 2013 9:03 AM    Report this comment

What happened is that the product did not provide the requisite service at the requisite price.

This is happening all over the LSA world. The LSA concept, as currently restrained, is an example of poor planning.

Instead of identifying realistic requirements and capabilities for LSAs (a bottom up approach), we have semi-arbitrary limitations imposed by federal regulators (a top down approach).

What you end up with is essentially a single seat aircraft with limited payload, speed and range, based on allowable max gross weight and top speed.

The Skycatcher wasn't necessarily a bad product (although it missed the price point), but the entire LSA program (as currently constructed) is flawed.

The AOPA/EAA proposal to allow self certification w/o a medical for 180HP four seaters is a better appraoch as those aircraft will have reasonalbe loads (the proposal is to limit to 2 persons), and reasonable speed and range with a 180HP engine.

Posted by: John Wrenn | December 5, 2013 9:37 AM    Report this comment

Solomon, the car market is super strong, there are more than 243 million cars in the US, MORE CARS THAN DRIVERS. On the other side, GA aircraft in the US total less than 200 thousand aircraft with more active pilots than private use or rental aircraft. You can't compare one versus the other - different economic dynamics.

The flight training market is suffering from anemia and cant afford higher aircraft hull prices. Commercial Insurance is one super cost, other fixed and variable costs are high as well, simply put, the market is overpriced. My opinion in that if the "rest of the world has moved on" it is only to hide their heads in the sand somewhat accented by irresponsible marketing "snake oil", tap dancing hype. The problems of the past are still very much the problems of the now and unless we become fully aware they will continue to spiral downward unless realistically accepted. The solution to our flight training decline is in finding affordable means to revitilize the industry - hunkering down, effectively using equipment we now have - not in blindly following the LSA's desperate survival needs. LSA is an incomplete solution for a miniscule segment of the flight training world.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | December 5, 2013 9:45 AM    Report this comment

The holy grail for aviation is, and has always been PRODUCTION. The largest aircraft "production lines" we have are capable of, but not actually producing 2000 aircraft a year, with 1000 hours of hand-touch labor. ONE assembly line at Toyota produces 250,000 cars a year, with 19 hours of hand-touch labor. There is the math. LSA, fuel, insurance, maintenance, and training all become solvable problems or non-issues if you have real production.

Federal government involvement has always been an impediment and maybe they recognize it slightly by attempting to make certification less onerous. Then there is the Catch-22 problem of pilots vs. planes. No one wants to build a production line for the limited number of pilots and nobody can mass produce pilots without more aircraft.

The biggest impediment to production today is that the current government/economy doesn't encourage the capital investment required to put an assembly line together.

We've proposed an interim step to get to production, the Aviation Access Project. Wrap a fraction of an aircraft together with training. Sell them an affordable piece of a new aircraft, and teach them how to use it. When you get enough production numbers to drop the cost, THEN you can drop the fractions.

In the mean time, I will continue to operate my flight school, using well-paid, experienced CFIs, and make as many new pilots as possible. I want to be part of the solution.

Posted by: Tim Busch | December 5, 2013 10:31 AM    Report this comment

The high price doomed it from the start. Even made in China by their " experts" couldn't make it happen. Jim.

Posted by: James Hodges | December 5, 2013 10:34 AM    Report this comment

The high price doomed it from the start. Even made in China by their " experts" couldn't make it happen. Jim.

Posted by: James Hodges | December 5, 2013 10:34 AM    Report this comment

It could be that the venerable 150/152 is about as small as you can make an airplane and still have real world performance, decent useful load, reasonably good gusty/crosswind handling, etc. The 162 might have been a classic case of trying to build a better mousetrap when the one you already have works just fine.

Posted by: Eric Gudorf | December 5, 2013 11:14 AM    Report this comment

Eric, you may be correct, with regard to 'old school' engines and aluminum. But the Rotax 912 is 60 pounds lighter than the O-200 for the same horsepower, and carbon composites are far lighter than aluminum. So trying to make a 1320 pound 'old school' airframe might be difficult. However, as Flight Design and a few others have proven, using a highly reliable 912 and carbon airframes does make 1320 possible. Would designs be more 'flexible' at 1500 or 1600 pounds? Of course, but they would still run circles around the old (heavy) technologies trying to accomplish the same thing.

Posted by: Tim Busch | December 5, 2013 11:24 AM    Report this comment

Tim Busch has the right idea. Get the students invested in the process by owning a fraction of the actual aircraft they are training in. I taught hang gliding for a decade. Students who purchased their own gliders were far more likely to continue in the sport than those who did not invest. As I have mentioned before, I do not think we can motivate the younger generation with legacy aircraft. Get them in a shiny new, up to date LSA and they will be excited to learn how to fly. As Mr. Letson mentioned, the Skycatcher he is flying has 565 hours on it from a new purchase in 2012. A local university in my area uses Diamonds and I would say they rack up more hours than all the local flight schools using legacy aircraft combined. Newer technology sells and GA needs to adapt to grow, IMO.

Posted by: Ric Lee | December 5, 2013 11:35 AM    Report this comment

Paul, as you know better than most, the death knell for the Skycatcher started when the decision was taken to move from using a Rotax to the Continental because of pressure from the Cessna network and customers who insisted on something "tried and tested" while conveniently ignoring the use of Rotax by the US military and an engine output of around 300,000 per year. Rotax produces more aviation piston engines per year than every other company combined but that is still not good enough. The technology leap provided by Continental still has a mixture control, cannot use mogas, is 60 or more lbs heavier than the Rotax, burns significantly more fuel and was designed in what year? If that is not at least some evidence of the struggle to modernize both perceptions and products then what is it? Always fun sparring with you!

Posted by: Philip Solomon | December 5, 2013 12:42 PM    Report this comment

Why is it ONLY aviation that seems to apply to all products manufactured with the dated,"sales concept", or design/build, THEN find a WAY into the market? The "marketing concept", on the other hand, works on the premise; FIRST determine "what" the consumer demands, and then go about filling that demand, in that order. The original (assumed) market was the aging pilot with medical issues AND those downgrading from under utilized higher performance birds. But wasn't it the flight training market that had the GREATEST sales potential for LSA ? With a few correctable design flaws; beefed up nose gear and lower fuel capacity allowing for an increase in payload, and hundreds of flight school prospects to go after, been a better bet? A planned MARKETING approach BEFORE launch perhaps nextime?

Posted by: Rod Beck | December 5, 2013 1:05 PM    Report this comment

"However, as Flight Design and a few others have proven, using a highly reliable 912 and carbon airframes does make 1320 possible. Would designs be more 'flexible' at 1500 or 1600 pounds? Of course, but they would still run circles around the old (heavy) technologies trying to accomplish the same thing."

There is one big downside to carbon-fiber airframes: they cost more than aluminum airframes. CF doesn't cost as much as it once did, but it is still more expensive, and that's where a greater weight for LSAs would help. You could either use the additional weight to create a cheaper 1500lb aluminum airframe with the same payload as a 1320lb CF airframe, or a more expensive 1500lb CF airframe with more payload.

An increased LSA weight would also avoid having to apply for individual weight exemptions, such as Icon had to do. 1500 is a fairly arbitrary number, but then so is 1320 as far as I can tell.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | December 5, 2013 2:00 PM    Report this comment

@Gary: Not sure what you mean by carbon costing more......from the LSA market prices, the Skycatcher and other aluminum aircraft are generally not less than the carbon airplanes. Again, production numbers (future state) make the material cost less relevent.

Posted by: Tim Busch | December 5, 2013 2:12 PM    Report this comment

It never made sense for a deep pocket jet maker like Cessna to build high risk, low profit two seaters. Very small companies are better suited to manufacture two seaters, normally flown by non professional pilots. These other very small companies can operate without product liability insurance and simply fold if needed. Cessna can't go bare, so naturally an additional product liability cost must be added ($70k?) to each unit. As a jet maker, I was surprised Cessna entered the LSA market. It must have been for a reason not related to profit because I bet they expected to loose money on each unit sold. For example, GM loses money on the Volt, but does it for green marketing value. A company can do this for a while.

Posted by: Bill Berson | December 5, 2013 4:34 PM    Report this comment

Hi Bill, If your aware of Cessna's long standing history, it was LIGHT piston aircraft before the more profitable and less financially risky Citation line came into being. That said, I feel, the Skycatcher/LSA, was merely to appease the recreational pilot community, and keep "Clyde" (Cessna) from rolling over in his grave.

The problem GA (recreational) has faced, is this "tug of war" of "emotion" (passion) and the practical utility (rational) value of an airplane - two very different camps. For 65 years+ or after WWII, the recreational segment, has relied on the "passion" or excitement of flying not only to get people in the door, but to sustain/retain them - and this HASN'T been cutting it! Just look at Cessna's ads of 40-45+ years ago - notice they were selling the ULTILITY value, and the "fun" was an added feature, regardless if the mission was for business or pleasure.

Continued "hyping" the non-utility aspect of the airplane, given its cost/benefit, is akin to attempting in solving Rubics Cube.

Of course, we all know many "weekend" pilots can't justify (sole) ownership or even an occasional rental; does that mean SOMEONE (noble) should provide for those who have less need or want? For those who are quite bias and prejudiced about flying and think that EVERYONE on this earth, if experienced the same, will suddenly rush to his/her flight school and sign up for lessons and immediately "share" this passion for aviation? Do we all like golf, boating, classical music,or stamp collecting?

Perhaps those engaged professionally in GA at the smaller FBO or flight school level, can learn something from the larger FBO chains; rest assured it's not passion or being enamored with airplanes; it's about VOLUME (fuel) sales AND profitability and incidentally its aviation, in that order

When the day comes, and I hope it comes soon, that those who enter GA as a BUSINESS, can put their FIRST concern on financial success (profit) just a step ahead of their passion for flying, and ideally, you'll see a marked turn around in the longevity of GA at the lower end "retail" level!

Posted by: Rod Beck | December 5, 2013 6:26 PM    Report this comment

"We had a meeting in 1984 among all pilots and we all voted to resist modernization and new things. It was unanimous."

Good one, Paul. I was at that meeting. We also voted to wear polyester suits and keep listening to disco music. We fit in well with the Cessna GA marketing team.

Posted by: A Richie | December 6, 2013 11:07 AM    Report this comment

It is, no doubt, a hopeless wish to imagine that at some point in the future the common man will actually be able to afford to own an aircraft. Breaks my old heart....

Posted by: Theo Katsbold | December 6, 2013 1:39 PM    Report this comment

It couldnt possibly have anything to do with the "MADE IN CHINA" tag on it.

Posted by: Denny H | December 6, 2013 1:40 PM    Report this comment

Useful load insufficient to carry two normal American males and full fuel. Cheap Cheap Cheap. wires exposed in cockpit to get caught on things. Slow Slow Slow Not much good for much besides the pattern. Made in China? Hello. This is the United States of America. Why buy a crappy C162 when for 1/3 or 1/4 the price one can get a T-craft or Cub and equip it better than the Skycatcher? Those pilots are the market for the C162. Is anyone in Cessna management a pilot?

Posted by: Karl Sieg | December 6, 2013 1:45 PM    Report this comment

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Cessna doesn't WANT to sell piston singles.

Consider: In 1982, the price of a brand-new Cessna 172 Skyhawk represented a bit over 10,000 working hours for a minimum-wage worker. Today, the price of a rand-new Cessna 172 Skyhawk represents close to 15,000 working hours -- for someone making a middle-class salary of $20/hour. In other words, back when Cessna were interested in selling airplanes, a brand-new Skyhawk was more affordable for a MINIMUM-WAGE WORKER than a new one is today for a middle-class wage earner.

They say that they cannot price their planes such that they are affordable to their target market. And yet this is exactly what they did for decades. Yes, the cost of labour has gone up. But the price of the aircraft has gone up by a much, much higher percentage. They've priced themselves out of the market.

Which raises the question: If middle-class workers cannot afford to fly, where will Cessna and the others find the pilots to fly their corporate products?

Posted by: John W | December 6, 2013 2:08 PM    Report this comment

DUH!

Posted by: Bob Atkins | December 6, 2013 2:11 PM    Report this comment

How long will it take for thr industry to learn consumers consider the big mopney days for aviation over. Consumers are looking for ways they can reasonably spend their money and aviation is simply not a part of that scenario.

Get the cost associated with flying down (considerably) and I would venture to say you will see a consumer response many fold over what is seen now of those learning to fly.

Posted by: Monty Howard | December 6, 2013 2:14 PM    Report this comment

Maybe Cessna and the others need to wake up. Most pilots I know Will Not fly a made in china airplane of any kind. I will fly a falcon or challenger or other countries airplanes, but I'd rather see Cessna go out of business before I buy a Chinese airplane from them. Same goes for any other brand. To many parts are being made in China as it is. Let's see how cessnas latitude and longitude do. Could be the end of Cessna.

Posted by: Harold Johnson | December 6, 2013 2:14 PM    Report this comment

Who would have thought? !!! A plane built by communists in China so Cessna could save money, and then priced at 150K! I just don't understand the problem! I'm sure Obama would approve.

Posted by: Harvey Mushman | December 6, 2013 2:52 PM    Report this comment

I just don't understand. A plane built by communist China, just so Cessna could save money, and then priced at 150K. What is the problem? I'm sure our current administration would approve.

Posted by: Harvey Mushman | December 6, 2013 2:53 PM    Report this comment

Flying is more than expensive. It is increasingly complicated and restricted; therefore, it's less useful and less fun. The value proposition has gone to hell, and the "cool" factor has been bleached out by fanatical and politically correct cries for more and more "safety," though accident trends and causes barely budge.

Specifically to Cessna: from Day One at Oshkosh, when the introductory cards said that the new airplane met all the LSA rules, including "100hp," the huge lack of understanding was apparent. The model -- to force-feed the first few hundred unwanted aircraft down the throats of Cessna Pilot Centers -- was unpopular, even at the introductory price.

Buying a new $150,000 airplane versus continuing to use a less-efficient $30,000 airplane has a favorable crossover point, but not under the present or foreseeable economic or regulatory conditions.

The only way LSA got past the FAA in the first place was as a way to co-opt the industry completely out of ultralighting, which was affordable, and not much less practical than LSA. For all its flaws, we lost a huge gateway with the loss of 2-seat ultralighting.

And the idea that the LSA makers could sell expensive airplanes to the old guys who had no medicals was true; but most of those guys bought one, already, and the airplanes are recycling as the original pilots get older yet, and ground themselves. That market is saturated. The market for new planes is... in economic limbo, for the reasons above.

Posted by: Tim Kern | December 6, 2013 2:59 PM    Report this comment

Agree with many...will never buy or fly an aircraft made in Red China. What was Cessna thinking. Overpriced and a Walmart product.

People are looking at getting a pilots license and perhaps buying a plane. What an absolute joke and fantasy that is. How much to get lessons? A fortune. How much to rent a plane? A fortune. How much to buy a plane such as the Cessna? A fortune+++. It's crazy.

When I first started taking lessons, I paid $25/hr. wet including instructor (as a college student in 1973). Ran out of money quickly and had to wait till later to take lessons. Took lessons at $20 for the instructor using my own plane...affordable. I bought my own plane ($11,000) to learn...a 1956 Piper PA-22 (Tri-Pacer). It carries 628 pounds with full fuel (7 gallons/hr burn). Tie down is $75/month. I do owner assisted annuals and have a great mechanic.

New planes I read about in Plane & Pilot, Flying and AOPA's mag....what a joke. Some million dollar turboprop when you fill it with fuel it'll carry 560 lbs! Some 4 seater with air and pretty leather, full of gas...Ooooops! 420 pounds. Jeeze people, make useful planes that'll carry 4 or 3 and lots of luggage for a decent price. Perhaps one day the builder will come up with a modern version of a Tri-Pacer (a flying Dodge Dart)...till then, they'll starve and people won't be able to afford to fly.

Posted by: craig miron | December 6, 2013 3:33 PM    Report this comment

I have flown LSA including the Skycatcher. Biggest complaint on the Skycatcher is that it is severely useful load restricted. When 2 pilots totaling 380 pounds require a fuel stop for a 2:30 flight, something is wrong. The Catcher is about 60 pounds too heavy, which coincidently, is the weight difference between the O-200 and the 912.

Posted by: Rich Bond | December 6, 2013 3:48 PM    Report this comment

Part 2 of 2:

...continued last;

Active participation in our wonderful world of "Flight" here in the USA has always been (relatively) on the expensive side, and up until now remained the best (and only) place on the planet to do so.

But take another really honest look at the math. Even if we allowed for an additional 50% (a very conservative/generous estimate) to account for the uncontrolled explosion of all the greed laden "Product Liability" lawsuits many (airplane manufacturers) have had to endure these last couple of decades (the ONLY thing Cessna, Piper etc. can legitimately claim to have been "victimized" by) ...we should, at most, be looking at somewhere around $130 - 140,000 for our present day fully equipped C-172. (a SIMPLE, 4 place 120+ kt. BRAND NEW airplane) AND approximately half that (at best) for an LSA ....hmm.

Are we REALLY reaching for ..."wishing" for too much here?!?

In the late 70's I struggled to put myself through school (let's not even get started on the costs of a college degree these days!) and pay for my flight training (mostly through loans) to pursue a dream of being a Professional Pilot. Now 37 years later, after having been fortunate to have flown everything from parachutes to 747's, this subject has been a particular heartbreak for me ...as I seriously doubt I could succeed in that endeavor today ...and wonder how any of today's young folks, or even us "older guys" (of even "above average" means) ever could as well.

I'm afraid these greedy times we're a livin' and the EXPONENTIAL rate at which that expense is accelerating, will only serve to hasten the time when the final nails are driven. We're rapidly destroying "General Aviation" in this country ...making it solely a "Rich Mans sport".

These days, when one refers to "General Aviation" ...it's meant the 98+ percent of GA which is executive aircraft. According to the industry group 'GAMA' ...98 percent of "GA's" industry's annual revenue comes from bizjets and turboprops! (have a look for yourselves at their published numbers, which clearly illustrate the trend change in the ratio of 'light' single-engine piston & twins as opposed to the aircraft of the corporations & elite that have been manufactured and sold over the last 30 years. Extremely enlightening ...and sobering!

"Why" ...the rapidly decreasing pilot population? ...the rapidly downward spiral of total logged hours? ...a Pilot shortage?? ...sluggish sales factors?? ...very, very sad indeed.

Please ...PLEASE ...Let's ALL just get real!

Posted by: B.M. DeVandry | December 6, 2013 4:06 PM    Report this comment

Part 1b of 2;

Oh, but you can get the venerable old "new & improved" Piper Archer for about the same price! ...But wait! ...you can get the shiny new aforementioned Cub Crafters Carbon Cub; an even simpler TWO place, basic, fixed gear, fixed prop, low HP "LIGHT SPORT" airplane" with a basic avionics package for the bargain price of just under 200K!!

Then, of course, Cessna finally (sort of) threw a bone to the fledgling new "Mom & Pop" Flight School in the form of a 21st. Century "Trainer"; the C-162 Skycatcher! ...available for the much more REASONABLE? "base price" (just recently increased!) of 150K! ...which means they should be able to afford at least 3 or 4 of em! The C-172 was available, in 1980, IFR equipped, for the low 30's (aprox. 90K in today's dollars) In 1979 the C-152 went for just under 20K (55K today).

As for the all of those available "Kits" out there today ...Realistically, even a modest, two place, fixed gear/prop with a basic IFR panel (that by reg, one mostly can't actually utilize for it's designed purposes) 140+ kt airplane most often sports (pun intended) a finished price of close to 100K ...many others almost twice that! But don't forget ...ya still have to build it yourself! Now, throw in the over inflated (and ever increasing) costs of hanger, fuel, insurance, maintenance and all those other "miscellaneous" operating expenses and ask yourself; How can even an "Upper" Middle Class, "Above" average Joe afford/justify such a purchase (especially after tacking on all those actual operating expenses) How can such a sums for such airplanes ever be (reasonably) justified?? And we ( and APOPA & EAA ) wonder why new pilot certification is half what it was just two decades ago?? Why (aircraft) rental rates have gotten beyond the reach of most would be Sunday Flyers? What could possibly be causing this decline in our beloved activity?!?

Please forgive me, as I really don't wish to sound sarcastic but it's just mind-boggling to a (simple minded?) guy like myself how casually, and with such cavalier so many "representatives" of the Aviation Industry quote prices for an average Light Sport, or any other 2-4 place "Light Airplane". What a perfectly reasonable price ($150-200K) to pay for a (new) "Light Sport" airplane ...or the $300+K for a "moderately tricked out Cessna 172" ...or the 1.2 mil!! for a SENECA, version 5 recently reviewed in AOPA Pilot, ( another 50+ year old, basically unchanged design) ...I mean, what's wrong with that ...isn't that just about right ...why ain't everybody buyin' em?!?

A previous Quote from a previous (publications) article; "is not that flying costs too much but that flying the kind of airplane that they really want to be flying costs too much" ??? Most of Europe and all of present day Asia have no such thing as "General Aviation" ...solely because of the PROHIBITABLY EXPENSIVE costs. Their citizens have long been coming here to pursue that dream we've all taken for granted! (but even that may change ...read: practically grind to a halt, now that the new draconian EASA Flight Crew licensing regs have kicked in)

...continued next;

Posted by: B.M. DeVandry | December 6, 2013 4:54 PM    Report this comment

Part 1a of 2;

This article began with the correct premise ("There are a host of reasons that the Skycatcher never achieved the market dominance everyone assumed it would., but the overarching one is probably price.") ...Duh!?! ...so "why" and what to do about it?? And again, here we go ...more of the same (and tired) ongoing "discussions" within our "Industry" on "what to do?" ...about the graveyard spiral General Aviation finds herself in. And again, for whatever reason, the overwhelming impression continues to be that "they" ...the "Industry" ...our "Associations", groups, clubs, memberships etc. ...the "Feds", you, me, us ..."we" ...just don't seem to get it !

I've rarely commented once, let alone twice in (any) forums so please forgive the following re-cap and redundancy of a couple previous rants, in this and previous "comment sections" ...but I (still) just can't seem to put this in any other way;

The original purpose ...the "concept" of if you will, for the birth and growth of the Experimental Aircraft community for instance, over the last several decades, which later evolved into the "Light Sport" genera and "Industry" of the present, was to allow for the "Average Joe" with a wife and kids to be able to, over a period of about a year or so, build himself a nice, simple (with at least 2 seats as flight is a thing that's got to be shared!) airplane at a reasonably (read: sane!) monetary expense that would allow said "Joe" and family & friends to both proliferate (breathe new life into GA) and enjoy the wonderful world of Flight! But! ...let's take a hard look at what "we" (US General Aviation) have allowed to happen...

Let's see ...the "new & improved" C-172-SP, recently reviewed in Flying magazine: a basic, single engine, 4 place, fixed gear, fixed prop, simple low HP "Light Airplane". One whose basic airframe has been around for over half a century and whose R & D, tooling and most all other initial development costs have long since been paid for many times over, decades ago (essentially a (very) old airframe design with a few tweaks, and upgraded to some modern avionics (which also SHOULD cost substantially less than their steam gauge, analog counterparts) ...all this for ONLY $300,000+ ?!?

...continued next;

Posted by: B.M. DeVandry | December 6, 2013 4:55 PM    Report this comment

I am tired of buying Chinese built c**p. From tools to home parts and everything else, the quality is substandard for my expectations. I believe that is true for this airplane too. I have been flying over 45 years. I have vowed to never set foot in a Chinese built airplane and that goes for this Cessna outsourced product!

Posted by: Dan Burdette | December 6, 2013 4:58 PM    Report this comment

The aviation industry is so screwed up. Airplanes are ridiculously expensive. Of course that's what you get when you have the government (FAA) involved in any industry. I understand that aircraft should be as cheap as a car but a 172 should cost $300,000 either, or a Lancair EVO costing 1.4 mm (what the heck) and it's a 4 place!...and maintenance shouldn't cost what it does either. Jet-A and avgas should only cost $2.50 a gallon. The industry must reduce costs in all phases if the industry is to survive. People simply can't fly if the costs stay like they are now.

Posted by: Mark Dobbs | December 6, 2013 5:43 PM    Report this comment

Whoa, wait a minute....How is it that every other product-building company goes to China for low-cost manufacturing, but Cessna comes out with the most expensive LSA going? What were they thinking of? Ah, well, pride goeth before a fall....It does sorta vindicate my thinking when it first showed at Oshkosh. A Cessna rep asked what I thought, and I told him they'd sell a ton of them if they could get South of $80K somehow. The guy just smiled... If they were thiinking that, Cessna being the big dog, they'd just throw the 162 out there, people would fall all over themselves wanting one, and they could charge whatever they wanted, they've just had a bucket of reality in the face. For about $18K, you can buy, for example, a Zenith 750 airframe kit, buy an engine for some $20K, and put $5K into a simple panel, and be flying for somewhere around $40k, (much less if you're a good scrounger) and be able to outrun a 162, with more elbow room.

Maybe they could try to sell kits, at competitive prices. They wouldn't make as much money but they wouldn't have lost their whole R&D investment, either. But as I said earlier, pride goeth before a fall, and they just did an epic face-plant!

Posted by: PAUL RODRIGUEZ | December 6, 2013 6:22 PM    Report this comment

Lots of cogent comments here but did Cessna really think they could sell a $150,000 airplane made in China with a max gross weight of 1320 lbs. The LSA concept is fatally flawed. A 1320 MGW airplane is basically a toy. The real problem is the FAA Aeromedical branch. They are a bunch of pea brained idiots who overact and over control. Third class medical requirements are not much different than the first class I held as a major airline pilot (EKG not withstanding). The problem is they will never let go of their empire. We can only hope a private some day not for hire pilots can fly with a drivers license. A little interesting data. My current commercial student is 6 feet 5 inches, 250 lbs., 25 years old and not an oz of fat. 18 inch neck. Sleeps very well but the idiots will require him to be tested for OSA. Idiots!

Posted by: Patrick McBurnett | December 6, 2013 7:01 PM    Report this comment

I thought I would throw in a different perspective. I've always loved the Cessna fleet of single-engine airplanes (except for the Cardinal) - from the 150 (my PP checkride) to the 210 and I've flown several LSA models and am tailwheel qualified and CFI. I concur with the other commenters on the various aspects of the marketplace and am sorry the 162 didn't work. Personally, part of my attraction to airplanes is similar to my attraction to cars - there is a certain visual appeal of the machine and its features. When I first saw the 162 from a distance I thought Cessna would dominate again. But closer to the airplane then I saw that one-handle centered vertical control wheel and the narrow glass display screens - instant indifference. Didn't even want to try it out to see if I was making a rushed judgement. I thought to myself, who would want one of those. Apparently not many did or have. It's hard to explain because I did not react like that at all when I saw and started flying Cirrus's which I concluded right away after flying one that it had a great control system. But the 162's system seemed to be something weird, broken, or partially assembled - no appeal for me. Unfortunate - it is the only LSA I've seen with any semblance of a cargo area.

Posted by: Warren Webb Jr | December 6, 2013 7:11 PM    Report this comment

Cessna was not thinking LSA therefore their LSA matched their mindset. The Tecnam Bravo or Echo more closely matches the 150 or 152. So much can be said but one can not forget that both prototypes crashed. Weight was allocated wrong resulting in no legs. Who wants to fly a new, one-of-a-kind, axis control system? And then there is cost.

Posted by: James Lawrence | December 7, 2013 7:49 AM    Report this comment

Ihave been flying since 1953, Military/Private/Bush/Airline and now retd. I had the good luck to inspect a Cessna 162 Skycatcher owned by a young man, who has swapped it for a Piper Super Cub. I suspect inexperienced and unhappy with a tail wheel. The new aircraft appeared to be well thought out, but might have been more attractive for LSA pilots - who tend to be older - with the option of a tail wheeler version. Apart from that I read at the time of the sudden Cessna 'Boost' in the List Price because that, they - Cessna - thought the cheaper price would detract from their sales of their very much more expensive SEL Aircraft & the very overpriced Modern Cessna 172/182 Variants. The solution might have been an entirely separately organized and financed LSA Corporation under the Cessna Aegis as an Associated- Company. But now in my 80' I am saving up my SS Cheques to buy a Cessna Citation Super 10X - whatever, and run it around the paddock on dull mornings.

Posted by: Harold L. James | December 7, 2013 9:14 AM    Report this comment

Ihave been flying since 1953, Military/Private/Bush/Airline and now retd. I had the good luck to inspect a Cessna 162 Skycatcher owned by a young man, who has swapped it for a Piper Super Cub. I suspect inexperienced and unhappy with a tail wheel. The new aircraft appeared to be well thought out, but might have been more attractive for LSA pilots - who tend to be older - with the option of a tail wheeler version. Apart from that I read at the time of the sudden Cessna 'Boost' in the List Price because that, they - Cessna - thought the cheaper price would detract from their sales of their very much more expensive SEL Aircraft & the very overpriced Modern Cessna 172/182 Variants. The solution might have been an entirely separately organized and financed LSA Corporation under the Cessna Aegis as an Associated- Company. But now in my 80' I am saving up my SS Cheques to buy a Cessna Citation Super 10X - whatever, and run it around the paddock on dull mornings.

Posted by: Harold L. James | December 7, 2013 9:14 AM    Report this comment

Ihave been flying since 1953, Military/Private/Bush/Airline and now retd. I had the good luck to inspect a Cessna 162 Skycatcher owned by a young man, who has swapped it for a Piper Super Cub. I suspect inexperienced and unhappy with a tail wheel. The new aircraft appeared to be well thought out, but might have been more attractive for LSA pilots - who tend to be older - with the option of a tail wheeler version. Apart from that I read at the time of the sudden Cessna 'Boost' in the List Price because that, they - Cessna - thought the cheaper price would detract from their sales of their very much more expensive SEL Aircraft & the very overpriced Modern Cessna 172/182 Variants. The solution might have been an entirely separately organized and financed LSA Corporation under the Cessna Aegis as an Associated- Company. But now in my 80' I am saving up my SS Cheques to buy a Cessna Citation Super 10X - whatever, and run it around the paddock on dull mornings.

Posted by: Harold L. James | December 7, 2013 9:14 AM    Report this comment

DUHHH???? Cessna could have built and could still build a new cheap, and light version of the 150, but NO they created a monster that is overpriced and over complicated. PERIOD. If you want to teach people to fly, keep it basic. After you learn flying basics, then you can learn all the other BS when the time comes. Too many pilots never master basic flying skills these days. after all if it is all about the electronics you might as well use a drone.

Posted by: JOHN SHARKEY | December 7, 2013 10:03 AM    Report this comment

Harold- If Cessna set up a separated associated-company (not U.S.based), would the parent company still be held up paying high product liability costs per unit?

Since American strict liability laws are so onerous, I think foreign based LSA companies have a huge advantage selling in the U.S. since law suits are adjudicated at the home country, I think.

Posted by: Bill Berson | December 7, 2013 10:26 AM    Report this comment

I was at a Cessna CPC seminar more than five years ago where they asked for input from the flight school owners concerning the Skycatcher. At that time they were testing the aircraft with a Rotex engine. The majority of the flight school owners/managers wanted a non rotex engine. We got our wish, the Continental O-200 and reduced payload. I don't recall them telling us we would sacrifice payload. I ordered two skycatchers right away at the original price of 110K. I canceled the one order and we have the other one in our flight school and presently have 180 hrs. on it. I am planning on hiring a 130 lb CFI.

Posted by: Vern Moyer | December 7, 2013 12:28 PM    Report this comment

some of you people make me want puke this is why this plane did not succeeded it was built in china to save a couple of bucks for the corporate thieves and it cost us Americans jobs and you people that bought this junk I hope that you are stuck with communist built aircraft for as long as you live, how can you look at yourself in the mirror, and for you cheap libtard bastards out there trying to get 30 miles per gallon for get it not going to happen go buy a ultra lite or steal a Allen aircraft or better yet fly on micro soft flight sim hell you don't haft to leave your house in closing the American people have spoken and they said we do not want china built aircraft except for a few

Posted by: billy rosenthal | December 7, 2013 12:55 PM    Report this comment

As I type on my Communist built computer yes, indeed, it is a good day to be a progressive liberal. An even better day to go flying. On 32mpg. Driving a car getting 34mpg. I'm gone. Period.

Posted by: David Miller | December 7, 2013 2:16 PM    Report this comment

My Liberal education taught me how to punctuate, taught me how to spell correctly, and taught me the proper use of capital letters.

Personally, I want my Cessna to be built in the United States of America. But the Skycatcher being built in China is tertiary to its lack of payload and its price. The price is especially egregious, since Cessna tacked on $20,000 solely to boost the profits. Cessna built airplanes that could be purchased by the middle class for decades. They could still, but I believe that they have passed the tipping point. Their products have been overpriced for so long, that consumers have found other things to occupy their time. They may well have lost the market numbers they need to become viable again. In their quest to gain the highest profits for their shareholders, they've destroyed their business.

Posted by: John W | December 7, 2013 7:57 PM    Report this comment

John W; Yes, But did it (liberal education) teach you that, given the Skycatcher debacle aside, in this country; "Nothing happens until "something" is sold" - curious? AND, YES, YES - Cessna "blew it" on the China manufacturing deal. Historically, that said however, ANY aspect of aviation has been hard pressed to be profitable. Attempting to "socialize" a low volume product like an LSA or any light airplane just doesn't make any cent$! Is the management at Cessna trying to send a message here?

Posted by: Rod Beck | December 7, 2013 9:23 PM    Report this comment

With the name recognition Cessna has, and with iconic airframes in its lineage, the LSA market was Cessna's to lose. Blame it on ham-handed design and development. Blame it on a half-hearted commitment to compete. Add in fuzzy-headed thinking about positioning and equipping the airframe. Rank ineptitude and knee-jerk, short-term thinking at the corporate level play a part.

But with income inequality legislated into near-untouchable status, preserved and protected by Republican supply-side true believers, just who, who could be expected to show interest in the Skycatcher?

Middle-class America has been under siege, ever since corporate America discovered that predation is easier than innovation. Buy some oily legislators, make them shift the tax burden off of corporations and the wealthy, and saddle the middle-class with it.

GA is dying in the U.S. because the middle class is dying. And no, it's not because faceless U.S. bureaucrats want to make GA in the U.S. more like it is in social-democratic Europe. The geography of our nation refutes that "Government-is-the-problem" kind of delusional thinking. With the distances to be covered transiting this nation, a truly thriving middle-class with a higher standard of living would turn thousands of tire-kickers into private pilots and airframe owners primed for recreational flying.

Want a renewed GA in the U.S.? Put the middle-class back in charge of setting the legislative and economic agenda. The affluent idiots in charge now have the economy in a chokehold.

It's more than funny to recall how LSA was concocted and pitched. So little sound, sober economic reality informed the process. But LSA need not be the stillborn child. Ignore the apologists who insist this economy is, and should be, the new normal. It is a pathetic, pale shadow of what a regulated free market should be.

Work to restore representative democracy in the nation. Begin by tossing out chaff like Boehner, Ryan, King, McConnell, Cantor, sycophants who serve the One-Percent, and with the restored middle-class will come demand for single-engine private aircraft to overfly this beautiful land.

The sad fact about Cessna today, the elephant in the room as it were, is that it exists to enrich (and serve), obscenely so, a handful of people. It's a boutique industry.

Posted by: Maynard McKillen | December 7, 2013 10:02 PM    Report this comment

Even though the price tags are way out of range with the rest of the economy. I would consider purchasing a new one if my wife and I could get into one and put some gas in the tanks. When I went to get a check ride in a Skycatcher the instructor told me that they would have to get a lighter instructor to check me out. The LSA aircraft are for midgets. There isn't one on the market that my wife and I could both get in one and fill the tanks. I'm a very big man and my wife is a big person also. We can't get in one and go anyplace.

Posted by: Charles Dybala | December 8, 2013 1:02 AM    Report this comment

I have owned aircraft in the past, two Cessna's and a piper. All were used aircraft, in excellent condition and maintained until sold. The problem with me is the FAA, I was diagnosed with a medical problem, the problem was surgically removed and I was able to maintain my medical certificate and have never failed a medical test. However the FAA would never give any ground or cut any slack with their demands for further testing. This went on for several years and the cost was becoming a heavy burden. Even though my family doctor was telling the FAA I was clear and totally healed. I said all that to say this, "I decided I would go LSA and fly on my driver's license. But the LSA aircraft prices are way out of my league and I am still locked out until I find used ones at a reasonable cost. I was hoping the AOPA and the EAA would pursue the FAA more fervently about passing the 'License only' for aircraft up to 180 hp. Until then or maybe never I won't be flying anywhere near the hours once flown. Of course there is the light sport aircraft, Challenger II for about 18 to 25,000 been looking.

Posted by: SAMMY W MOSER | December 9, 2013 10:50 AM    Report this comment

It's amazing that one spontaneous off-hand remark by Cessna's president at NBAA would start such a flood of misinformation! I'm not sure what he meant by "no future for the SkyCatcher" but I do know that Cessna is committed to supporting them for at least 10 years and that although a little delicate and that a light touch is required; they're a great flying little Airplane. I have been flying Cessna's for 40 years and personally picked one of these 162's up at the factory and flew 16 hours to Aurora Oregon with great visibility, reasonable comfort, good speed, better electronics than the best jet 10 years ago, and impressive economy. I think the author is correct on his "meme" in that there are undoubtedly 100s of new sport pilot's that have been attracted to Aviation and trained in the SkyCatcher. A lot of our school's students have continued on to private pilots. I hope Cessna keeps "fighting the good fight" in this very tough industry that we're in and love! Bruce Bennett; Aurora Aviation, Inc.

Posted by: Bruce Bennett | December 9, 2013 2:29 PM    Report this comment

WELL, I can't possibly respond to all the comments. Some are good, some people obviously don't know what they are talking about. So I will give you My Skycatcher experience.

I do agree with many things. At first, I didn't want any part of an Airframe built in China. But then I thought, "Try buying a computer,television,smartphone, almost ANYTHING, Etc.Etc" NOT made in China?

Then, after looking into many LSA, I was uncomfortable with the Experimental Catagory, Non-certified engines. And bulding a Kit Airplane, never appealed to me. I wanted something to fly NOW, not years down the road. I am an Experienced Pilot. Commercial S&MEL, Inst. Rating, CFII S&MEL.

When I found a Skycatcher at a GREAT price, No it wasn't $100K, not even close. I decided a S-LSA Airplane built by the No. 1 Airplane Maker with a Certified Continental engine, I changed my mind.

It does have many limitations. I can't do with it the things I did with the C421s I flew for many years. It is limited to mild surface wind conditions. It bounces in Turbulance like our 1946 Aeronca Chief did, when My Dad & I were learning to fly. (Light wing loading).

Right now I am finding out that it is not a very good COLD weather Airplane here in Northern IL. Starting it is not so much of a problem, but it has no insulation and how much heat do you think you will get out of a 4-cyl 100hp engine. Not much more than the old Airknocker!

The biggest limitation is the Gross weight limit. I feel it was set, not for what the structure or performance of the Airplane could handle, but what the LSA limit is!

Yes, General Aviation is in it's "Death Throes" compared to 30-50 years ago. I agree the biggest problem is the FAA! A/C Certification & Medical Reguirements! I hope & pray, that the 3rd Class Medical Exemption proposed by AOPA/EAA comes about. I'd like to own a faster Airplane like a Grumman AA5A or B. I Like the Skycatcher and I'd miss the Glass Panel. It has spoiled me.

I hope some of you find my posting interesting.

Posted by: John Mullen | December 10, 2013 3:48 AM    Report this comment

To John Mullen and Others; If the "Fed" (FAA) government/legal issues is the # 1 facing primarily recreational GA, then what is the SECOND biggest problem - curious?

Posted by: Rod Beck | December 11, 2013 6:11 PM    Report this comment

To John Mullen and Others; If the "Fed" (FAA) government/legal issues is the # 1 facing primarily recreational GA, then what is the SECOND biggest problem - curious?

Posted by: Rod Beck | December 11, 2013 6:11 PM    Report this comment

Add your comments

Log In

You must be logged in to comment

Forgot password?

Register

Enter your information below to begin your FREE registration