Sport Expo: BasicMed's Mixed Effect On LSA Sales

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Five years ago, one strain of conventional wisdom predicted that the demise of the Third Class medical would equal the demise of the light sport aircraft market, too. With BasicMed firmly entrenched, the reality is proving more mixed according to an AVweb canvass of the flight line at the Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring this week.

While some manufacturers see a measurable downturn, others report just the opposite and one company that sells both light sport and certified aircraft, CubCrafters, says it’s already sold out through the rest of the year for models in both segments, despite a drop in LSA sales.

“It’s down, I would have to be honest, because of the BasicMed effect. I think it will be until people realize there’s nothing easier than having a private pilot license and exercising sport pilot privileges,” said Tom Peghiny, of Flight Design, which was recently bought out of receivership by a new company in Germany. Others we interviewed said they thought BasicMed had no impact on light sport sales at all. “We haven’t noticed any difference,” said Ed Rinks, whose company imports the Paradise LSA from Brazil.

A couple of vendors we spoke to thought a low price point would give them market resilience and protect against erosion from BasicMed. “I think most of our buyers just don’t want to deal with the bull of any kind of medical,” said Deon Lombard, who imports the Aeropilot Legend 600, a composite LSA from the Czech Republic. Those airplanes are priced at about $100,000, but until recent currency fluctuations, were under that price point. Lou Mancuso brings in another airplane from the Czech Republic, the Bristell NG5. At the show this week, Mancuso said he has already taken a deposit on at least one airplane and that sales appear to be stronger than a year ago.

Yet high-priced models continue to sell well and are, in fact, the market leaders. CubCrafters’ Chip Allen told us that the company’s LSA sales have plunged by 50 percent, but they still can’t build enough airplanes to satisfy demand for the CarbonCub and the new certified XCub introduced last year. Normally, big volume drops like that would tank used values, but the reverse has proven true. “Our entire 2018 production is sold out. We can’t build an airplane for delivery in 2018, so we’re now selling 2019 delivery positions,” Allen said. “So a guy who wants a Carbon Cub now, his only choice is to buy a used airplane, so the used Carbon Cub prices are going up,” Allen said. Like Peghiny, Allen believes the LSA softness is due to BasicMed.  

Comments (7)

The funny thing is, even with BasicMed I'm finding the best price-value combination for my mission is still one of the higher-end LSAs, used. I get a relatively new airplane with modern avionics and approach-capable autopilot, wide cabin, airframe parachute, and cruise speed comparable to a PA28 or C172, for the price of a 30- to 40-year-old certificated airplane with steam gauges. And, to upgrade the certificated airplane with modern glass would cost as much again.

But, if the new Part 23 starts to produce modern, "full-size" airplanes with lower-cost glass, I could see LSA taking a bigger hit. Then again, if it's taking a hit because more people are able to buy "full-size" airplanes, that's not such a bad thing for aviation.

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | January 26, 2018 9:22 AM    Report this comment

The BasicMed was a huge stab in the back for thousands like me, who have a condition that would disqualify a 3rd class, but don't affect ground driving, and haven't had a 3rd class in ten years. So, yes, Basic Med might draw a bunch back to "real" airplanes AT ALL, but I need a "real" airplane like a fish needs a bicycle. The need for light Sport will live on, until the TSA outlaws general aviation entirely.

Posted by: Bruce Liddel | January 26, 2018 9:46 AM    Report this comment

Of course LSA got an initial huge demand because older pilots (with money) still wanted to fly. That was a limited pool of customers and now that demand over the last decade or so was essentially met. LSA was never an endless growth market and it's reasonable to assume that LSA (like all aviation bubbles) is on the downward slide. Sorry, but BasicMed did not slow sales of new LSA, the used LSA market is doing that.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | January 27, 2018 8:00 AM    Report this comment

Ah yes, Cub Crafters. New Cub Crafters "factory" under construction at Arlington, WA (KAWO). The sign outside is in Chinese, so I can't read it. So it has come down to us needing the Chinese to come here and build our airplanes for us. What a sad and humiliating end to a once proud industry.

Posted by: Ken Keen | January 28, 2018 9:32 AM    Report this comment

Can somebody explain the first 2 paragraphs of this article in complete, logically-coherent American English sentences?

There's still a Third Class medical, so how did it suffer a "demise"?

What is the "BasicMed effect" and how does that affect aircraft sales?

Posted by: James Briggs | January 29, 2018 1:47 AM    Report this comment


"Five years ago, one strain of conventional wisdom predicted that the demise of the Third Class medical would equal the demise of the light sport aircraft market, too."

That is, there were those who believed that the Third Class medical would go away altogether.

"With BasicMed firmly entrenched, the reality is proving more mixed"

That is, the Third Class medical did not go away, although renewals got much easier.

The "BasicMed effect" is, presumably, that pilots who might otherwise have opted to fly as Sport Pilots out of concerns that they might be denied a Third Class, can now operate with their full Private (and instrument) privileges without having to take their chances on applying for a medical, and therefore will stick with "full size" airplanes, reducing demand for LSAs.

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | January 29, 2018 4:37 PM    Report this comment

Betting on bucket lists and medicals looked good from a distance but it didn't sell airplanes. It was up to attrition to accomplish that - flight deck attrition and an aging SEL fleet, particularly trainers. The silver lining is the LSA's adaptability to training and its attraction to young pilots.

For the price of a new Piper Archer, you can buy 3 brand new LSAs (if you're populating a flight school); or step up from your grandfather's Cessna 152. How do you sell 11-15 gph, a 30 year-old airframe, and a panel of steam gauges to a flight school or a pilot buying his first airplane, when he can have the flying version of Melania Trump with zero time, and a glass cockpit?

Do the numbers and step aside from the medical debate.

The channels of training and ownership are far apart but they're converging and the LSAs should be there when supply recognizes the demographics of actual demand and not the incidental of

Posted by: Richard Herbst | January 28, 2019 8:37 AM    Report this comment

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