A New Plane For Making New Pilots

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AOPA says pilot numbers -- and new pilot starts -- are dwindling. The light sport aircraft category is the highest growth sector of general aviation, Cessna said. But that's not the only attraction of the market. "An important part of our thought process in looking at LSA is the value in terms of new pilot starts," added Pelton. "Experience has shown that Cessna brand loyalty is a powerful force in our success, and we believe this new category of aircraft could provide a conduit for new pilots to grow through the Cessna product line in the years ahead." Pelton said the company will evaluate through the year a spectrum of issues associated with entering the sector to determine if there is a favorable business case.

An Elephant For LSA Mall

Tom Poberezny, EAA president, welcomed Cessna to the show, saying, "This is another step toward expanding the light-sport aircraft marketplace." Cessna's mock-up will be displayed at the LSA Mall, alongside all the other aircraft already available under the new rule. For those manufacturers now in the market, "This announcement is both exciting and more than a little scary," says marketing consultant Dan Johnson, who has worked to organize the Mall for EAA. Cessna does seem to be playing catch-up, he said, noting their similar late entry into the VLJ market, after others had tested the waters. And "big companies are often less nimble than small players," he added. In any case, Cessna's interest lends credibility to the LSA segment, Johnson said. Speaking on behalf of the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association, Johnson added that LAMA "welcomes Cessna to the party." It's a "neat thing" that Cessna will have a presence at the LSA Mall, he told AVweb yesterday. And while some of the less-robust manufacturers may suffer from the added competition, Johnson said, he thinks the stronger companies will in fact benefit from the added exposure.