AirVenture Time Capsule: 2003

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In 2003, AirVenture was packed with announcements aimed at the anticipated light sport market. Mooney was talking about an LSA venture, BRS arrived with a new LSA parachute system and Maule showed up with its M-4-100, which it hoped would qualify under the not-yet-finalized light sport aircraft certification standards (it didn’t, and the prototype was eventually disassembled). Maule brought along an M-9 outfitted with an SMA SR305-230 diesel engine as well. The company stuck with the idea for several years, but no longer seems to be pursuing diesel options.

Mooney Aerospace Group made headlines when it showcased plans to build a two-place sport aircraft once LSA rules were passed, making it the first mainstream U.S. manufacturer to announce an LSA project. The Mooney Toxo, which never happened, was based on Spanish manufacturer Construcciones Aeronauticas de Galicia’s Toxo airframe. On the successful side of early LSA ventures, whole-aircraft parachute maker BRS announced that it had a system ready to go and available for sale for light sport aircraft. Today, BRS systems have been installed in more than 35,000 aircraft in total—including LSAs—and the company continues to expand the list of models its chutes are available for.

Unrelated to LSAs, Garmin came to AirVenture 2003 with the announcement that it was acquiring United Parcel Service subsidiary UPS Aviation Technologies (UPSAT) to the tune of $38 million. The purchase gave Garmin a strong position in the fledgling WAAS-enabled GPS market. Fifteen years later, that’s looking like it might have been the right call.

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