Skycatcher's Big Price Hike

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Cessna's decision to raise the price of its Skycatcher light sport aircraft by $35,000 is likely to have some ripple effects in the market. For one, in a single leap, Cessna goes from being middle of the pack pricewise, to very near the top, at least on base price. For another, its competitors, worried about being buried in a onslaught of not-that-expensive Skycatchers, are probably dancing in the streets. A 30 percent price hike is an attention getter and I wonder what impact this is going to have on Cessna's long list of position holders. I have to think some of them are going to say no thanks and take a second look at a Flight Design, a Remos, a Legend or any of a dozen other choices.

That Cessna made this decision is not particularly surprising. They've done it before. About a year ago, I got an e-mail from an engineer working in the GA industry. He was trying to understand why new airplane prices have so outstripped the rate of inflation. For instance, in 1976, a new Skyhawk cost $27,667 typically equipped. Plug that number into an inflation calculator and it's about $105,000 in 2011 dollars. But a new Skyhawk sells for a little more than $300,000. What gives?

Part of the answer lies in plotting new aircraft prices against the inflation curve. Throughout the 1960s and early 1970s, the two curves tracked nearly parallel. But beginning in 1978, the new aircraft price began a steeper climb that continues yet today. Recall that 1978 marked the leading edge of the great GA downturn, when production plunged from more than 17,000 airplanes to under 3000. As the leading producer at the time, Cessna remained profitable through both volume and a realistic margin. When the market soured, it appears to have simply raised its prices to hold a profitable margin, even if it wasn't making quite as much money. It seems to have simply divided its overhead by fewer units and arrived at a higher price. I think it has done exactly the same thing with the Skycatcher.

You can complain about the price increase and argue that the industry will never prosper trying to sell $150,000 LSAs. And that might be true, but the fact that Cessna has always been profitable means that it has kept its dealer and support network in place without interruption while other airplane companies have come and gone. High prices or not, if you own a Cessna, it's in your interest that the company remain profitable.

For as long as I can remember, Cessna's marketing ethos was to produce a model for every conceivable buyer on the brand loyalty theory. If you got the buyer with a Skyhawk, you could step him right up to a 182, a 206 and maybe even a Citation. I don't know how true this was, if it was at all, but I wonder if it still guides Cessna's decisionmaking. Or has the market become so fragmented and competitive and disposable income so stretched that brand loyalty is but an illusion? Either way, Cessna never seemed to be a proponent of loss leader marketing and it appears as if it still isn't.

Only one thing mystifies me about this decision. Cessna is the only LSA manufacturer well established with manufacturing in China. If a company with Cessna's economy of scale and marketing acumen can't make an LSA more affordable by building it in China, the notion of low-cost aircraft may very well be the myth that many people think it is.

Comments (190)

Just another fine example of how sending American jobs overseas doesn't keep the cost of a product down. I'm sure the cost of production didn't go up 30 percent. The only thing that really increased here is profit margin. And the price we the consumer must pay for such a fine product with quality we surely can't produce, especially at such a price point. After the cost of building factories in Mexico, paying the Mexican workforce, and the fines for their mistakes in the corvalis debacle, you have to ask them, how much did you actually save, from outsourcing?..

Posted by: rob haschat | November 27, 2011 9:52 PM    Report this comment

Just another fine example of how sending American jobs overseas doesn't keep the cost of a product down. I'm sure the cost of production didn't go up 30 percent. The only thing that really increased here is profit margin. And the price we the consumer must pay for such a fine product with quality we surely can't produce, especially at such a price point. After the cost of building factories in Mexico, paying the Mexican workforce, and the fines for their mistakes in the corvalis debacle, you have to ask them, how much did you actually save, from outsourcing?..

Posted by: rob haschat | November 27, 2011 9:52 PM    Report this comment

You can't lay it on Cessna or the Chinese, or the export of jobs. As the numbers of GA aircraft sold continues downward we can only expect that just to stay in business, a firm must charge ever increasing prices simply to keep product available. Just look at what's happening with avgas. DDSOS The only way to reverse this is to bring up overall industry numbers including profitability. Given the hostile environment toward GA and aviation in general, that's not likely to happen in the forseeable future. Add to that the increasing trend away from activities like aviation that require people to deal with real objects and people and toward "virtual" and game based entertainment and you have a recipe for GA to become an endangered species all on its own. I find it fascinating that China has the opposite perspective. They view GA as valuable and an economic asset rather than a source of noise complaints and lead pollution. Perhaps eventually our descendants will not even know how to fly or repair the machines left to them. Then we will have only ourselves to blame.

Posted by: FILL CEE | November 28, 2011 1:55 AM    Report this comment

Even self-built aircraft like RVs cost over 100k all-in. This has little to do with cost of labor. Perhaps with the FAA's blessing we can cut the cost of avionics : next-gen tablet's will provide more functionality that a 5-year old 777 for less than $1000. That would shave a nice amount off the total tag... but it still would be beyond my reach :-)

Posted by: Peter De Ceulaer | November 28, 2011 4:31 AM    Report this comment

When Cessna brought their proof of concept LSA airplane to AirVenture 2006, pilots were hopeful that they'd build it. In 2007 when Cessna unveiled the SkyCatcher and started taking orders, jubilant pilots signed up in droves to part with their deposit money. THEN came the sad announcement that it would be made in China (which I feel Cessna knew all along). Many folks walked away. New orders dried up. I believe Cessna thought they'd sell 'em in numbers like 70's C172 production. When it didn't happen, the price HAD to rise. Cessna may well consider giving up the LSA idea just like Cirrus and Piper before them. Pilots are red-blooded Americans and won't put up with Chinese manufacturing OR prices that are beyond ridiculous given limited usefullness. At this point, all pilots can hope for is that the pending AOPA/EAA recreational pilot sub-rule will pass making 56,000 GA airplanes usable. Face the music, folks, LSA is not working despite pockets of success. One razor blade cut at a time, GA is dying in America. Will the last GA pilot remember to turn out the lights in the hangar.

Posted by: Larry Stencel | November 28, 2011 4:36 AM    Report this comment

The failure of the Cessna 162 should not come as a big surprise to anyone. Cessna hasn't designed a new light plane in several decades, and the problems it had with this program were numerous and immense.

I think the big attraction of the 162 to many buyers was the choice to use a Continental engine instead of the Rotax used in most LSA. This meant existing power plant know-how and parts distribution systems could be employed by the FBOs who wanted to update their training fleets to include lower cost LSA. Unfortunately, the Continental choice meant an extra 100 pounds empty weight in an aircraft class severely limited by gross weight.

Now that a number of years experience with the more numerous Rotax engines have gone by it is easier for FBOs to consider employing the much more popular aircraft that use this engine instead of the Cessna. The 162 had a lot of promise, but it never became fact. Cessna just wasn't able to produce the planes in the numbers it expected in a timely manner.

The other development which hasn't been discussed here is the relative strength of the US Dollar, Euro, and Chinese money. The Euro is finally falling compared to US money, and that means potentially lower prices for the fine LSA produced there. The Chinese money is gaining strength against the Dollar so products like the Cessna 162 must see price increases here. As Paul B. pointed out I suspect the European LSA manufacturers are jumping for joy.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | November 28, 2011 5:23 AM    Report this comment

An AOPA (or EAA) article I read over the weekend indicated part of the increase was due to an improved 'glass' cockpit and Cessna was going to discontinue the 'basic' model. So Cessna is at the point several other LSA OEMs discovered a while back - even though LSAs were suppose to be entry-level, basic trainers selling to a large group of new (young) buyers the reality is these buyers never showed up for numerous reasons: the economy, entry cost and operational costs, other interests, etc. At this point it appears most of the LSA buyers are already private pilots that want to step back from more expensive or complex GA aircraft and/or don't want to deal with the third-class medical any longer.

Paul M., good to hear from you again. Regarding your continental versus Rotax comment, there are some other pros and cons, but for me the primary was the Rotax can run on automotive gas instead of 100LL. With the doubts on long-term availability of 100LL and the significant price difference, this should be a significant decision factor for any buyer.

Posted by: Richard Norris | November 28, 2011 6:16 AM    Report this comment

Interesting that within a week of Pipistrel announcing a training LSA for $83,000, Avweb announces that "Whatever the reason or effect, it ends the notion of a 'cheap' LSA".

Okay, $83,000 isn't cheap, but it's a full composite airframe, and isn't an ultralight-style design, and it's cheaper by far than anything comparable.

I don't know why LSA hasn't succumbed to the downturn, but those little airplanes just keep on coming. Yet again, I suspect that rumors of the death of the dream may prove premature.

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | November 28, 2011 6:42 AM    Report this comment

Richard, Thanks for the kind words.

While Rotax claims the 912 ULS is a purpose built aircraft engine it seems to me it is loaded with automotive technology. It prefers auto fuel (without ethanol) over avgas and if you put aviation oil in it that voids the warranty. It likes only high end motorcycle oil.

Thomas, I think LSA have suffered from the economic downturn. Sales could be a lot higher than they are. The LSA approach has proven to be a winner. LSA standards have a "Consensus" basis rather than the part 23 approach of the government dictating the design rules. This has worked so well the FAA is now seriously considering rewriting the whole set of part 23 rules.

I think LSA are much more practical aircraft than new part 23 products. They cost a lot less than TC'd models and generally outperform them. The LSA standards are designed to satisfy recreational fliers and I think LSA outperform all other aircraft for that purpose. Now that Pipistrel has designed a purpose built trainer that also meets LSA standards I think the future is even brighter for LSA. I don't know how bright the future is for TC'd light planes. They are beat at the low "Recreational flier" end by LSA and crushed for business purposes by much faster turboprop and pure jet business planes.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | November 28, 2011 7:05 AM    Report this comment

My anecdotal evidence is that skilled workers in China are now asking for, and getting, about the same wages as skilled Americans. If not they walk away.
The same thing happened with IT in India -- great workers at half the price of elsewhere until the first company conference when they got to talk with their colleagues. The next week they ask for the same, and walk if they do not get it.
Not surprising when you see that a house and a motor car cost as much there as in Kansas.

Posted by: Brian McCulloch | November 28, 2011 8:06 AM    Report this comment

After reading the book Made in China Poorly recommended to me by Paul B it is more likely that Cessna is not realizing the expected cost savings of Chinese production as they chose to sub-contract and are now likely being squeezed by the Chinese producer. Piper chose to sub-contract as well but with an 'interity-challenged' Czech/Slovak firm and ended up backing out of a market they wanted to stay in and could have done very well in claiming 'differences in business philosophy.'

IMHO LSA are over priced. The price of the engine has a lot to do with it with Rotax being over $18k and others even more. And aircraft are labor-intensive so they must be produced in a low labor-cost region. Labor rates in Eastern Europe have risen more than 400% in USD terms and are no longer competitive. Asia could work with the proper business structure and QC oversight.

Posted by: CHIP ERWIN | November 28, 2011 8:07 AM    Report this comment

"the notion of low-cost aircraft may very well be the myth that many people think it is."

The myth was that LSA aircraft would be low cost.
That myth that a brand new designed LSA aircraft would be less inexpensive than just building a C-152 or Cub or Yankee was swallowed whole (even the aviation press).

Thank goodness this LSA myth is finally being exposed for what it is. Paying the same for less.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | November 28, 2011 10:03 AM    Report this comment

Chip and Mark,

You say LSA are overpriced compared to the competition. So, where can I buy a similar airplane for less? Do you mean a 40 year old clapped out 150 costs less than a new LSA?

I haven't seen a new TC'd plane that costs less than an LSA. If there is such a thing I would love to know about it.

I think what you guys are trying to say is LSA have failed to make aviation cheap enough so everyone can buy a new plane. Sadly, flying costs a lot of money. It always has and always will.

If you want a really low priced transportation device I suggest you look at canoes and row boats.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | November 28, 2011 10:20 AM    Report this comment

Paul, What I am saying is that low cost LSA will not be possible with the current engines. Lower-cost LSA are possible now if produced in a low labor-cost country and with a properly structured business. I am confident that someone will make at least the low labor cost action in the near future. Market forces hopefully will result in a lower-cost engine. Some are emerging already. So there is some hope for more reasonably-priced LSA. BTW, have you looked at the price of a canoe lately?

Posted by: CHIP ERWIN | November 28, 2011 10:50 AM    Report this comment

No, Chip, I must admit I have no idea what a canoe costs. I tried boats once and discovered they are not compatible with my personality.

There are over 100 models of S-LSA currently available on the market. On top of that there are a bunch of "Old" designs such as the Champ and variations on the Cub that are available as new production. With all this competition I would think the market produces a wide variety of choices of cost vs. product features and value for pilots who fly for fun.

I just don't think it is the price tag of the new planes that limits aviation today. For those with a smaller budget there are many used planes available. You can buy a very nice C-150 for around $20,000.

I know I am spending more time on this corner of the market than makes sense. I just get tired of hearing people say LSA are a failure because they don't meet everyone's price wishes - whether their expectations are reasonable or not.

I know NASA "Engineers" predict there will be a Personal Air Vehicle that will fly itself from short runways installed every few blocks in the suburbs. What they will tell you if you corner them is that this option won't be available until everyone alive today has died of old age. Put another way, they are just smoking funny stuff in their pipes.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | November 28, 2011 11:20 AM    Report this comment

I think the larger problem is that the leisure activities are ALL disappearing. Back in the 60's and 70's, you finally worked your way up through the ranks, got the kids started in college, and felt secure enough to start flying, boating, camping, etc. Those days are gone.

To enjoy leisure activities requires a) job security, b) disposable income and c) spare time.

Not as likely these days. The results: low volume and high prices, as others have pointed out.

Posted by: Roy Adams | November 28, 2011 11:28 AM    Report this comment

Paul, the real problem is the lack of a replacement outside the USA for the C152 series of aircraft and the problems of the availability of Avgas outside North America. You probably have better figures than I do but of the 20,000+ 150/152's that have been produced there are probably a couple of thousand of those operating in the Asia Pacific region alone.

The big problem is the lack of a certified replacement for the aircraft since the C162 is only LSA certified and this of course is not recognised outside the USA and is not accepted yet by ICAO. FAR 23, as it stands now is complicated and expensive and is strangling the introduction of new models. There needs to be a solution to a problem that is obviously going to require addressing as those old C150s reach the end of their useful lives.

Posted by: Trevor Evans | November 28, 2011 11:46 AM    Report this comment

One idea is to re-manufacture the C150/152s like Robinson helicopters do with their R22/R44 series, wherein Cessna would take back the old aircraft, add a new engine such as a new 0-200(preferably one that runs on Autogas), new radios and interior and strip and re-paint the airframe etc for a fee. You could do this at certain designated Cessna service centres worldwide, which would require no new certification.

The second idea is to fit the C162 with the Rotax 912S engine (100HP, 2000 hour TBO and runs on Mogas or 100LL), basic avionics and go through certification in an ICAO member country such as Australia or NZ that is acceptable to Asian and European Countries. These C162s would then be acceptable as replacements for the huge fleet of C150/152s that are out there still soldiering on with flying schools. That way Cessna could drive up numbers so that the cost per unit is reduced and they make a profit from these. Don't forget China is a huge potential market. If you could sell these new units at a price around $120K it would be affordable for flying schools and at the numbers we are talking about it would be a very successful model for Cessna.

Posted by: Trevor Evans | November 28, 2011 11:52 AM    Report this comment

One thing to remember is that the problem outside North America is not drop out rate for pilots, it's a lack of pilots to feed the airlines, China alone has a need for 18,000 pilots in the next three years. The fancy garmin G1000 is very nice, but things like XM weather and AOPA airport guides are useless outside the USA. I have spoken to Garmin about this at Oshkosh a few times regarding their handheld models but they are USA focused, all they do is offer a model that doesn't have XM weather, but has all the extras that are useless outside the States. Seems to me they could offer a certified version of the 300 that has no XM, or AOPA charts, just the basics like the Dynon EFIS systems. If you could get a certified version of the 162 out there, with basic avionics and running on Mogas you would have a real winner.

Posted by: Trevor Evans | November 28, 2011 11:53 AM    Report this comment

The given reason that the 152 was discontinued was that it essentially cost the same to produce as the 172, the current king of the US primary training fleet. A bigger vehicle is always going to be a better "value" based on production cost. The only way it is going to work is to get the price down to where the volume goes up, cutting the overhead per unit drastically. Operating cost to the owner also involves fuel, not just payments. The bigger plane, with two empty seats, still burns significantly more fuel per hour.

Posted by: Jim Lo Bue | November 28, 2011 12:01 PM    Report this comment

"You say LSA are overpriced compared to the competition."

No, I said it was always a myth that LSA's could be low cost. Engineering costs money, saving weight costs money, certification costs money, liability costs money.

The MYTH is that LSA's would be less expensive than building any other 2 seat aircraft. They aren't. The fact is that you pay the same BUT you are become weight and speed limited. That's what I call paying the same but getting less.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | November 28, 2011 1:35 PM    Report this comment

Cessna has the right to price any product in any way. Thats business. We the consumers get to choose based on the options available. Cessna allowed all 162 contracts to be completed at the old price if the customer wanted write a check and take a plane. Sounds fair to me. Remember Cessna is no longer Cessna. The old school is gone and now you got Textron run by bean counters. These arent GA enthuiasts trying to help the flight school make pilots and customers for the long run. These are lawyers and CPA's trying to justify corporate risk in a few thousand dollar potential profit/162 in a multi-billion dollar company. I predict that you are looking at the last days of 162, 182, and 206 production. The bean counters got together last week around the water cooler and scratched their collective bald heads and said "We're doing what, for what?!?!"

Posted by: Dan Gryder | November 28, 2011 2:14 PM    Report this comment

In my opinion, the "failure" of the LSA market is that you can't legally fly them in IMC. As a result, the market has failed to attract many private pilots (other than those choosing to only fly by sport pilot rules) who may have invested much time and money in achieving an instrument rating. I've read too many accident reports of VFR-into-IMC, and personally don't feel comfortable flying in less-than-ideal weather unless I'm in an aircraft capable of instrument flight (and remaining instrument current). If LSAs become certified for flight into IMC, I think you will see them becoming more popular; otherwise, something like a 150/152 becomes a better choice (excluding the obvious price difference).

Posted by: Gary Baluha | November 28, 2011 4:15 PM    Report this comment


I'm afraid you are mistaken about LSA and IMC. LSA can be flown in IMC if properly equipped AND the manufacturer allows it. This is unlikely in a plastic plane but (I think) normal in metal planes. There is nothing in the rules or standards that prohibits use of LSA in IMC.

Please don't interpret my comment as suggesting LSA are a good choice for hard IFR. I don't think this is true. They must have something like 10 pounds per square foot of wing area to meet the stall speed requirements and this means they are not very nice in unstable air. On the other hand, there is no reason an LSA can't be equipped with a full IFR instrument panel (many are) and there is no reason why an inadvertent IMC experience needs to end in catastrophe.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | November 28, 2011 4:23 PM    Report this comment

Thanks for the correction; I guess I just haven't seen many LSAs equipped as such. Though I thought I read somewhere that the C162, for example, is not capable of flight into IMC. Perhaps I am wrong, and am just thinking of sport pilot rules.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | November 28, 2011 4:29 PM    Report this comment


There are a lot of good reasons why you might be confused on this point. Rotax demands more money for the same engine if you want to use it under IFR. Also, some of the plastic plane manufacturers have built planes that are not safe in the general area of thunderstorms. They keep trying to get the rules changed to forbid all IMC use of LSA. This won't happen, but I doubt they will give up easily. I guess they see this as a competitive disadvantage.

I am not suggesting I think LSA are ideal for use in IMC. They all have about 10 pounds per sq. ft. wing loading, and this means they don't handle well in rough air. However, it is common for LSA to be equipped with complete instrument panels. This means an inadvertent IMC experience need not end in catastrophe.

Many LSA have Dynon glass installed. This is a complete gyro panel in a single unit. Just add appropriate radios and possibly GPS and you are set to go - with proper certification of the avionics (altimeter and transponder). Once again, this is not ideal equipment for intentional IFR flight but it is wonderful for inadvertent IMC.
Most people think of S-LSA (factory built Light Sport Aircraft) when they think of LSA, but this is not the whole story. Many E-AB planes meet the LSA definition. Also there are a number of Type Certificated planes that meet the LSA definition. All of these planes are eligible for IFR and IMC flight, but the rules for S-LSA require permission from the manufacturer.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | November 28, 2011 4:47 PM    Report this comment

I have a crazy theory that a lot of our current socio-economic issues have to do with the flattening of the modern management chain, the lack of real leadership, job hopping, and inability/desire to train new employees. Relating this back to your comment, I would say you can't have more time and money because you can no longer monetize your experience by leading others as your parents' generation did.
Too many employers are free riding on the education and skills transfers from other companies. It's cheaper to compete for the existing talent rather than create it.
At the same time, all the plane manufacturers are unwilling to create demand. Instead, they fight over market share of the dwindling GA population which are created by flight schools who would rather pilots rent than own.
Cessna survives because they actually have a poorly designed and run program to work with flight schools and help create demand. The others are all failing because they don't even have a program.
Any business which depends on high risk, capital intense, low profit companies which are actually in competition with them to create their customers isn't going to grow quickly.
No one in the industry has ever argued with me about this problem but they don't want to do anything about it either.

Posted by: Eric Warren | November 28, 2011 5:05 PM    Report this comment

On LSA's and IMC.

We could do a lot to improve the usefulness, and therefore desiribility, of light aircraft if we could get serious about making the pilots and aircraft light IFR capable without all the costs and hassles of full IFR (like lightning protection).
Before getting my instrument I waited days to avoid legal hassles when I knew that I could safely climb through a layer I could see through and fly a matter of minutes on top into totally clear VFR. VFR flight following would have sufficed, and if I had been willing to lie about what I could see, I would likely been fine with the feds.
OTOH, I had been put into real danger by ATC who directed into bad weather in order to keep me a million miles away from airspace that is unnecessarily reserved by procedure, and not by regulation.


Posted by: Eric Warren | November 28, 2011 5:18 PM    Report this comment

Wow - They now should think of moving production of the 162.5 to Bangalore and call it the FlyCatcher. Whether or not it's built by the Chicomm's or the Punjabi's this LSA if it were outfitted with a 10 hour range and a camera could be better put to use in catching Illegals. Oh I forgot about remote control - but for 130K - Just like Ron Popeil - you just fly it and forget it.

Posted by: William Pereira | November 28, 2011 7:13 PM    Report this comment

Mark, LSA's are cheaper than FAR 23 Aircraft to build and they aren't actually slower or worse performing either. For example, In Asia and Canada I sell the Rotax 912ULS powered Aeroprakt A22LS that is built in the Ukraine and looks a lot like a C152 and runs on Mogas, but is wider, more comfortable, climbs at more than twice the rate, cruises faster and stalls at a slower speed than the old 150/152. With average equipment, including a Dynon Glass Panel, GPS and a BRS safety system I can sell it for around $80K and still make money, and so does the factory, therefore the 'cheap' two seat LSA is no myth. The difference you will find is that Cessna carries a lot of baggage as a company and that includes massive litigation insurance which adds to the cost. You can thank the legal system in the USA for that. If they built the Skycatcher outside the USA under a different company using another legal jurisdiction it would be far cheaper and more profitable for that company, however it would not be a 'Cessna'. However, if Cessna focused on sales outside the USA as a C152 replacement as I mentioned above, the volume would be there and the cost would be reduced.

Posted by: Trevor Evans | November 28, 2011 7:15 PM    Report this comment

I love LSA's. New everything instead of 30 to 60 year old airframes, avionics, engines. The technology is fantastic. Glass cockpits, good speed (compared to 150's, Yankees, many 172's, etc). At least many of them do. You can burn auto gas straight from the pump, conduct your own maintenance - legally and they are very economical to operate.

I'm also intrigued why people feel they are too expensive. They're new folks. Wrap your head around the fact they are not "old airplanes". If you can't afford one, find a newly restored older plane and enjoy it. I have a 64 year old plane and I'm looking forward to adding a new LSA in my hanger - as soon as I can afford it.

Posted by: Jay Manor | November 28, 2011 7:16 PM    Report this comment

Jay, have YOU ever flown a 160HP Yankee? A used $24K 160HP Yankee that keeps up with RV's and is IFR certified? I seriously doubt if LSA's are simpler than a Yankee or less expensive to manufacture than the slab-sided Yankee with interchangeable parts. Building a FAR 23 Yankee would also be leagues cheaper than starting from scratch on a serious LSA...

Posted by: Mark Fraser | November 28, 2011 9:26 PM    Report this comment

Paul writes "I have to think some of them are going to say no thanks and take a second look at a Flight Design, a Remos, a Legend or any of a dozen other choices."

Those that have considered, or already made a deposit on a Skycatcher - the attraction must be...
High-Wings, Side-By-Side Seating, Baggage space, & Glass Panels

Why wouldn't one consider a Kitfox? And get a lot more performance, capability, and visibility from an ALL-American-made product for a lot less money.

In my opinion "the notion of low-cost aircraft" (IS NOT) the myth that many people think it is".

Posted by: Paul Leadabrand | November 28, 2011 9:58 PM    Report this comment

Mark, isn't a Yankee a 40 year old airplane? I remember you being the anti-LSA guy on here always slagging them off and singing the virtues of airplanes that are decades old and designed nearly 50 years ago. LSA's are the only true modern small GA aircraft being produced and designed today, using CAD design and modern materials they are fast, fun, safe and efficient. If you want to do seriours IFR then get a 172, if you want to fly for fun and personal pleasure in a modern aircraft sipping unleaded car fuel with low maintenance costs, then buy an LSA.

Posted by: Trevor Evans | November 29, 2011 12:50 AM    Report this comment

Mark, the original American Aviation AA-1 Yankee developed a poor reputation for safety, Many of the early flying school accidents were related to spin-training. Once the AA-1 entered a fully developed spin and exceeded three turns, it was usually not recoverable. The AA-1 had been spin-tested as part of its certification, but in 1973 the FAA issued Airworthiness Directive 73-13-07 ordering the aircraft placarded against spins. The remaining accidents were generally attributed to the AA-1's short endurance (3.3 hours), inability to use short grass strips and high approach speeds (85-90 mph).
Over 1770 aircraft were built from 1969 to 1978. The original American AA1 Yankee Clipper came out in 1969, and the Yankee model continued through 1971. This first model was one of the fastest; it also had one of the worst reputations for handling. The wing airfoil and the overall design created a fast airplane that had a quick stall (i.e. dangerous for the inexperienced) that would roll over on a wing if the pilot was behind the airplane. It also lacked enough rudder to get out of spins. In fact, NASA did a spin test with a Yankee and used ballistic chutes to get it to stop. Not good!

Posted by: Trevor Evans | November 29, 2011 12:56 AM    Report this comment

Mark, enjoy the old airframes, etc. I enjoy mine but I also really like new. Why do you keep posting on LSA's? You don't like them. We get that. Try posting positive items.

Posted by: Jay Manor | November 29, 2011 6:16 AM    Report this comment

Trevor, I trained in an original Yankee in the 70's. Handling was fantastic, I flew it off 2000' grass strips, it performed exactly like the POH said (no surprises). Anyone who could read English and an airspeed indicator could fly that certified airplane just fine.

What's interesting is that people who think the Yankee was dangerous are pro-LSA (short range, quirky handling, unique systems,low production) It's NOT that I don't like LSA's, it's just that pro-LSA folks seem awfully defensive and dismissive of alternatives.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | November 29, 2011 7:38 AM    Report this comment

Mark, I think comparing the Yankee to LSA type aircraft is like chalk and cheese. Its not an alternative, its a completely different animal. Regardless of your experiences in the Yankee it is not a very good basic trainer unless you are training fighter pilots and the accident stats prove that. I'm sure handling was fantastic at high speed and you seem to have bucked the trend as far as using it from grass strips. LSAs are like very modern Piper Cubs, they handle well and are very stable, you can land them on small strips less than 1,000 ft without worrying about wing drops and screaming in at 90 mph. Most LSAs have greater than 5 hour endurance (I think your 160HP Yankee had less than 2 hours endurance), they handle fine, are easy to repair and maintain and have simple systems. I was trained in the military (rotary wing) and have flown all sorts of aircraft, both certified and non certified, I've flown various LSAs, even trikes and PPCs and the most fun I have had is in LSA. How many LSA aircraft have you flown?

Posted by: Trevor Evans | November 29, 2011 8:02 AM    Report this comment

"the Yankee it is not a very good basic trainer unless you are training fighter pilots and the accident stats prove that."

No, that shows that CFI's were lacking.
The 160HP Yankee has exactly the same range and endurance as a 108hp version. That's WHY you read the book on %power. It's that reading thing again.

LSA's are not magic, you still need to read the book and learn. Landing at 45mph instead of 75 is not a grantee of safer at all. In fact, I prefer the stubby Yankee to a Cub when it's gusty and turbulent.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | November 29, 2011 9:43 AM    Report this comment

"Mark, LSA's are cheaper than FAR 23 Aircraft to build and they aren't actually slower or worse performing either."

This is demonstrably easy to prove for new airplanes, but Mark doesn't want to accept the numbers. Just look at the Diamond DA20 as an example. With one exception, it's as close to an LSA as you can get in a certified airplane. Figure about $180,000 for a DA20 new, if it were in production.

The least expensive LSAs are less than half of that cost, but the median $130,000 would get you similar performance, albeit not necessarily durability. The exception is the American Champion 7EC, which is a new LSA that also happens to be certified. (CAR 3 not FAR 23). Step up a little and an entry level Skyhawk is around $300,000.

"Cheap" is relative. I don't think anything costing $100,000 would be considered cheap by anyone. It's less expensive by a wide margin than any new certified airplane. In that sense, LSA has succeeded.

It simply hasn't delivered the volume that many in the industry hoped for.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | November 29, 2011 10:21 AM    Report this comment

I wonder if part of the problem LSAs aren't in the volume they were expected is because of the push to go glass-panel in them. Really, is anything more than what you'll find in a J3's panel necessary for recreational flying under sport pilot rules? Sure, the glass panels are nice, but you could easily supplement a basic panel with a 496/etc and accomplish the same thing for a lot cheaper.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | November 29, 2011 10:30 AM    Report this comment

Gary, I agree the old instruments would have been OK, but the reality for LSA OEMs is like any other manufacturer - they have to sell what the market wanted and would pay for and since the bulk of the sales appear to be going to flight schools and private pilots who want glass rather than a new Sport Pilot who wants a basic cockpit. Skycatcher is just the latest in a series of LSA OEMs that have all but given up selling a 'basic' instrument package because no one was buying them. I have heard this several times for various OEMs. To sell enough LSAs to even try and stay in business each LSA OEM must offer and produce what the customer wants to buy - and that is glass.

Posted by: Richard Norris | November 29, 2011 10:38 AM    Report this comment

Ha!The CFI's were lacking!LMAO That's a good one..I won't even try to address that bizarre statement. An average O-320 Lycoming 150-hp burns 7 to 8 gph. Standard fuel in the Yankee is 22gal. That's about 2.75 hours maximum, no reserve. I just don't get where you are coming from logically. Higher stall speeds, blistering approach speeds and nasty wing drop tendencies do not a good trainer make. The Light Sport License is for recreational flying and to introduce people to aviation and encourage them to move onwards and upwards in certification and higher performance airplanes. Throwing them in an aircraft like the Yankee is not only silly, it's unsafe and foolhardy, which is why the C152 and PA-28 were and are far more successful trainers than your beloved Yankee. Just read the regulations for LSA; they are designed for safety. Further, as an IFR aircraft the Yankee is not very good either, it's short range, lack of spin recovery and high stall and approach speeds mean that it is not very suitable in that regime either...unless you are on a very short trip and have a very good autopilot. Also, I would prefer to crash my car at 45 mph rather than 75mph, my chances of survival are higher.

Posted by: Trevor Evans | November 29, 2011 10:42 AM    Report this comment

Some LSA's are excellent cross country machines. My new machine will have a 2axis AP, XM weather and get me back and forth between Detroit and Denver in a single day, weather permitting. At 5 to 5.5 gpg I will take that trip any day over a 172, Yankee, Cherokee, etc.

Posted by: Jay Manor | November 29, 2011 11:27 AM    Report this comment

It is a mistake to think uncertified glass panels are more expensive than old fashioned "Steam gauges". This is not correct. Modern electronics get less expensive with each year that goes by while old fashioned instruments tend to go up in price.

There is a regulation that requires a fairly large number of instruments in any new plane. I am too lazy to look up the details right now, but I know this includes flight instruments and engine instruments. You must have a magnetic compass, airspeed, altimeter, and inclinometer. On the engine side you need tachometer, oil pressure, oil temperature, and fuel gauges for each fuel tank. It turns out that the package deal from Dynon and others includes everything you need for a relatively low price. It also gives you a lot of features you might want like full gyro panel and extensive engine instrumentation. You can also purchase pre-wired sensors and the other wires you need for a moderate price. For a low volume producer (like me for my kit plane) it was a lot less expensive and a lot simpler to buy the package from Dynon than to find quality steam gauges and install and connect them. I suppose you can find cheaper instruments and if you don't count the installation time and cost you would start with a lower price. Then you need to include the cost of repairing these poor quality items as they fail.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | November 29, 2011 11:40 AM    Report this comment

Really? Yankees? Look, there were great reasons the Yankee was a popular niche bird. There are also great reasons they aren't anymore. I am not going to call anyone's baby ugly, just saying the market has spoken. Game Over.

The LSA's aren't taking off because they haven't changed the business model. The first manufacturer that figures out how to beat the Cessna Pilot Center model wins. They will be way ahead when the rest try to catch up.

It's not tough. You own or partner with schools that are interested in marketing an avocation. Make the school a desirable destination that covers all your flying needs, soup to nuts, and outclasses it's neighbors because it makes lots of money selling planes and partnerships.

Cater to people who can afford to own a plane or decent fraction. Sell them on the idea of coming to the field on a regular basis, planning day or weekend trips, sharing the activity with their friends, and being part of a community of similar people.

Golf and Sailing are the competition and model, not the automotive world and not low end motor boating. Certainly not fishing and hunting.

Posted by: Eric Warren | November 29, 2011 11:40 AM    Report this comment

Paul M.,
For an air-cooled engine and constant-speed prop, Day VFR, it's: Tach, Oil Pressure, Oil Temp, Fuel Gauge, Altimeter, Airspeed, Magnetic Compass. Quite extensive indeed ;-)

Of course, instrument flight requires more instrumentation and in that case all-glass might make sense. But if the LSAs are being sold to sport pilots in mind, I still say there's no need for a fancy panel. If they're being sold to private pilots and for instrument flight, then it does.

Posted by: Gary Baluha | November 29, 2011 12:10 PM    Report this comment

I've never flown one, but I understand the AA-1's stall characteristics depend on the specific model.

That said, I've had a chance to look at some AA-1s, and they'd have a tough time competing against the high-end LSAs. They're no faster, the cabin is much more cramped, they have poor useful load of under 500lbs, they have a lower power-to-weight and a very significantly higher stall speed. The extra weight may make them tougher, and the ride is surely smoother with their much higher wing loading. Still, looking at the specs that sell LSAs, if the AA-1 were an LSA it would have a tough time competing.

I agree enthusiastically with Eric Warren, on his point about the social aspect of flying. This is entirely missing from most suburban airports today, which feature vast areas of asphalt and are oriented toward business jets and moving people efficiently through the airport. Being a sport pilot at such a place is a lonely experience, and (even) pilots are social animals. Yacht clubs and golf clubs have it right: the activity is fun - even for people with little passion for it - if you make it a social scene, and that in turn makes life a lot easier and more fun for those who do have the passion. That formula is almost entirely absent in sport aviation today, with the exception of some soaring clubs (sailplane and hang/para gliders).

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | November 29, 2011 12:38 PM    Report this comment

Gary, I agree with you that Sport Pilots are not going to file IFR flight plans and fly to a distant location in the soup.

On the other hand, I would not consider flying a plane with no gyros at all. There is too much chance of getting into a situation where visual orientation is impossible. This has happened to me at least twice over the years while flying in perfectly legal VFR conditions. With no gyros at all this condition can be fatal.

Sport Pilots were not originally required to have any training in flight by instruments only, but that has now been changed. Many people, including me, felt it just wasn't safe to have people flying in planes that would be destroyed with their occupants when even a single gyro instrument and a little training on straight and level flight and a 180 degree turn could save it all. Especially for an inexperienced pilot it is easier to recover from these events with a full instrument panel rather than doing it with needle ball and airspeed.

I know there are some pilots who think an absolute minimum price for a new plane is a good idea. However, when you talk to actual airplane owners I think you will discover a relatively small increment in price that gives a large return in functionality will be preferred.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | November 29, 2011 12:40 PM    Report this comment

I scanned quickly through all the comments and didn't see this, - but wasn't the Sport Pilot Certificate along with the 'Drivers License Medical' the primary motivator for the LSA class aircraft?
If true, and if the FAA should allow the AOPA and EAA proposal to expand the 'drivers license medical' to include the C172-class airplane, that alone might drive LSA prices down. I say MIGHT. Not holding my breath, but I happen to know a gentleman who is already contemplating the sale of his LSA while the value is still there.

Posted by: Nick Sargent | November 29, 2011 2:49 PM    Report this comment

I've been "in" aviation since 1940 when I was 10 and had my first airplane ride (Stinson Reliant at KWBW). I've seen the Ups (WWII and aftermaths) and Downs (1948, 1979 and now). If the China arm of Cessna isn't solving the present cost problem, then it has to be something else. Aviation has always been a labor-intensive activity at all levels. I believe that this is the crux today... The labor hours per flight hour parameter has likely not changes except for regulations compliance. Even if you call that compliance labor a wash, the real bugaboo is the cost per labor hour, all overhead items included. That's where our government is now seriously compromising EVERY fabrication activity in all 50 states. Cost sensitive products such as aircraft are being driven to point-of-no-return rapidly. Until the DC Administration changes, this trend of Aviation death throes will continue.

Posted by: Angelo Campanella | November 29, 2011 2:55 PM    Report this comment

"On the other hand, I would not consider flying a plane with no gyros at all."

Really? Why just today, I managed to fly and navigate my Cub all the way to the neighboring airport and I wasn't worried a bit. No gyro. No radio. A sort-of compass. And I found the other airport and made my way back entirely without federal assistance.

As far as LSAs and IFR, it's pretty much DOA. Only one company that I can think of says you can do it with their airplanes and that's Eastman. Airplane has to be equipped with TSO'd radios and instruments, they say. If you push this up the line for a legal interp, you'll fall in the rabbit hole.

Personally, I'd do it in soft IFR. It would extend the utility of the airplane and make the investment worth it. But it is a legal gray area. And as you know, ASTM is not warm toward the idea.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | November 29, 2011 3:20 PM    Report this comment

I skimmed through the various posts rather quickly, but one thing I didn't see mentioned was the impact of liability insurance costs. I had read some time ago that litigation and resultant insurance price increases had been a big factor in GA aircraft prices going up. Does anyone have the facts?

Posted by: Walt Woltosz | November 29, 2011 3:51 PM    Report this comment

Nick Sargent, I've wondered whether the connection of LSA to "no medical"/Sport Pilot didn't create a huge branding problem for LSA. I still regularly encounter pilots who think a) you can't fly an LSA on a Private Pilot certificate and b) LSA are big ultralights for old guys who can't get a medical any more.

It's as if you had launched the iPad with a suite of apps for Social Security recipients.

There's nothing wrong with "no medical," of course - sailplanes have done it since time began. And there's nothing wrong with Sport Pilot. But their close association with LSA has destroyed the opportunity to brand LSA as "new and cool" instead of "for old guys only".

It will take years to fix the brand damage, I fear.

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | November 29, 2011 4:33 PM    Report this comment

Walt Woltosz, I have requested cost breakdown on aircraft - at least materials, labor, engine, systems, liability - on this and other forums repeatedly over the past year, in an effort to understand why airplanes have become so expensive.

It appears that there is no-one who a) knows, b) reads these discussions and c) is willing to say.

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | November 29, 2011 4:38 PM    Report this comment

Paul B,

Of course you can fly without gyros. That is, when the weather and the rest of the world decide to cooperate. There are rare occasions when this doesn't happen. Let me give you an example from my own flying experience.

I took off from Norfolk, VA with weather overcast at high altitude and 7 miles visibility. Plenty of margin for VFR. I planned to skip over Hampton Rhodes and fly up the VA mainland to return to my home base - Leesburg, VA. That all changed when the tower asked me to extend my climb on the runway heading (towards the Del-Mar-Va peninsula) to allow for a DC-9 making an instrument approach down the middle of Chesapeake bay. I flew over the Bridge-Tunnel for a while and climbed to around 5,000 feet. Then I saw the DC-9 below me and the tower cleared me to continue on my own navigation. That is when the lights went out. I found myself in 7 miles visibility with 15 miles to get across the bay. The air was grey, the sky was grey and the water was grey. There was absolutely no way to see which way was up or down. Mind you this was perfectly legal VFR. My wife was with me so I told her to watch for traffic and flew completely on the gauges for a few minutes while crossing the bay. Without any gyros I'd have been screwed. In that case I had a full 6-pack and the plane was even certified.

This doesn't happen often, but when it does you really need a gyro or two. You also need a pilot, even a Sport Pilot, with a little instrument flying skill.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | November 29, 2011 4:47 PM    Report this comment

A quick Google search found at least this:

Craig Fuller, president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), is worried about the expense of flying. “The cost of aircraft and flying is a serious concern,” he said, “but there’s not a lot of ways we can control that.” What he is more worried about is that product liability insurance costs are once again contributing appreciably to the overall cost of flying. The aviation industry was able to help legislators enact the General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994, limiting product liability to the first 18 years of an aircraft’s or partπs lifetime, but lawyers are finding ways to prosecute lawsuits anyway. “We were able to change laws in the past,” he said, “and we might have to look at that again.”

Shakespeare had it right a few hundred years ago: "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers" (Henry VI, Act IV, Scene II)

Posted by: Walt Woltosz | November 29, 2011 4:50 PM    Report this comment

Thomas, You brought up some interesting issues. Let me try to address them.

My kit plane, a Zodiac XL which was available as either kit or factory built, cost around $50,000 in parts, engine, and avionics. It sold for around $100,000 with similar panel, so the price for labor, paint (I don't have paint), and factory overhead and profit is around $50,000. This particular company never reached the kind of volume you see at a Cessna or Piper, so their overhead and profits might be different.

The other point, branding of LSA, is very interesting. I have run into a lot of people who feel the only reason to fly an LSA is because you only have a SP license or don't have or want a medical certificate. I don't think this is actually true, but many people believe this. I think LSA are actually ideal for the mission they were designed for - recreational flying. They will probably experience a noticeable drop in sales if the AOPA/EAA proposal is accepted by FAA, but I think this will be temporary. When the smoke all clears LSA are still delightful and inexpensive planes to fly for fun. The old TC'd planes will expand the number of older pilots who are still flying (or flying again, like me) but the costs for fuel, maintenance, and annual inspections will make these planes less and less desirable as time marches on.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | November 29, 2011 4:56 PM    Report this comment

Paul B. Let me address your comments about LSA and IFR.

First, I don't think the ASTM F37 committee has a position on IMC one way or the other. I do think there is wide agreement on the committee that IFR training is just fine in VMC on planes subject to ASTM standards. It is only the question of IMC - particularly flying around thunderstorms - that there is any issue at all and that is limited to only a few members.

IFR in LSA is not a legal grey area. It is absolutely legal to fly LSA in IFR and IMC. There are limits on S-LSA (factory built planes with LSA airworthiness certificates) that require the manufacturer to approve this. Again this is not grey it is black and white. For LSA that have other types of certificates including Type Certificated and E-AB it is perfectly legal to fly in IFR and IMC with appropriate equipment and pilot rating.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | November 29, 2011 5:03 PM    Report this comment

Cessna is a great company, LSA's are an exciting, sexy addition to the industry, but I couldn't stomach even half the typical LSA cost for my first airplane.

Thank goodness for TC'd old beaters. I ended up with a '79 Cheetah (pea-green plaid seats - party!). This damn hobby does not have to be exhorbitant. Yes, I do feel FAA regs actually hold back safety innovations (thankfully LSA's use a different system) and yes flying with a 30's technology engine is beyond annoying, but at least I'm building hours. The sixties and seventies must have been an awesome time for pilots!

Posted by: Peter Kuhns | November 29, 2011 5:25 PM    Report this comment

First, I don't think the ASTM F37 committee has a position on IMC one way or the other.

Are you sure about this? My information--from Earl Lawrence before he joined the FAA--was that the F37 committee agreed that IFR would be the off the table and up to each manufacturer. In other words, it wouldn't endorse it.

Having said that, it is further my understanding that if the manufacturer okays it, it's approved. Other than Eastman, I don't know know any that do.

Maybe I'm mistaken. Are there others?

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | November 29, 2011 6:04 PM    Report this comment

Paul B.

Earl Lawrence is not a member of the F37 committee. I am. I am not allowed to repeat things said in this committee but I can assure you this subject has been discussed frequently among committee members - often over lunch or dinner.

I don't know which of 80 or so manufacturers of S-LSA approve or disapprove of IMC. For LSA that are not S-LSA there is no question that IMC is legal. Even I'm not sure about E-LSA certified planes. There are several different kinds of them and they are all quite different. I don't think anyone would want to fly a fat ultralight (one version of E-LSA) in IMC or IFR. Kit planes like the RV-12 (another version of E-LSA) would clearly be OK in IFR/IMC. The third kind of E-LSA is orphan S-LSA planes that have lost their manufacturer and converted to E-LSA status. I don't know if this has happened yet and I have no clue how this might work for IFR or many other issues.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | November 29, 2011 6:58 PM    Report this comment

Walt and Thomas, here's some figures for you. A rotax 912 ULS cost around $22K and depending on where the aircraft is built, what it's made of and labor costs associated with it, the airframe with basic instruments cost around $30-35K to produce. The remaining cost is profit, avionics etc. It is entirely feasable to sell these aircraft for $75K with a radio and transponder and to give the manufacturer a small profit. If you are a manufacturer in a Country like the Ukraine, you manufacture the aircraft using one company and sell it using another, that way you contain the liability and can roll up one company if you get sued and not lose your entire business, also the laws in the Ukraine are more manufacturer friendly and severely limit liability to only a few years and to reasonable compensation, lowering insurance costs. If you are Cessna, you spend maybe another $20K on Garmin avionics and extras and the rest is product liability and brand management protection.

Posted by: Trevor Evans | November 29, 2011 9:14 PM    Report this comment

I was at the Redbird Skyport Launch and combined Cessna Pilot Training Center Event in Austin TX earlier this month and it was telling to hear from Cessna that they spend around 30% of the cost of the aircraft on Liability Protection for LSA and over 50% for each FAR 23 Aircraft they produce. Therefore, if they moved their production of C172/182/210 etc offshore and rebranded the company you could buy a brand new C172 for around $150K. They also said that certifying aircraft under FAR 23 has become so expensive and complex that it has basically killed the introduction of all new models except business jets as the profit in those warrants the expense. So who is killing GA in America?

Posted by: Trevor Evans | November 29, 2011 9:16 PM    Report this comment

Sounds like the FAA and lawyers are major contributors.

Posted by: Walt Woltosz | November 30, 2011 12:30 AM    Report this comment


I'll agree on the issue of lawyers, but I think there are at least some FAA people who are trying very hard to loosen up the rules to enable more GA activity. The Sport Pilot and Light Sport Aircraft rules were major improvements - especially the part about any pilot being allowed to fly with a driver's license instead of the 3rd class medical.

I think the big "Battle" will take place early next year to see who is interested in promoting general aviation and who is more interested in preventing GA success. This will be fought over the 3rd class exemption being proposed by AOPA and EAA. I don't think they are going far enough, but even the wimpy proposal they are making would do a lot to revitalize GA if the FAA accepts it as proposed.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | November 30, 2011 12:54 AM    Report this comment

Paul, Thanks for your reply. I agree that there are those in the FAA who are working to help GA. But I also have had dealings with FAA people who appear either to be on a power trip or are unable/afraid to make logical decisions and hide behind onerous regulations when they don't have to. As a former FAA and government employee I witnessed both types. GA manufacturers, like many others, are suffering from the costs of too much government "help". The costs of complying with mounds of regulations (not just the FAA, but the SEC for public companies and the IRS for everyone) must be passed on to the customer. There is no other source of funds to pay for the additional overhead of staff, accountants, lawyers, and tax specialists required to keep up with the frequent changes to the regulations. So prices go up.

Posted by: Walt Woltosz | November 30, 2011 1:17 AM    Report this comment

Paul M, The Drivers License issue is an interesting one, currently a Sport Pilot without a medical cannot fly into Canada or an ICAO member country because he/she only has a Drivers License instead of a medical, however the FAA lets Canadian UL Pilots fly into the USA because they have Class 4 Medicals (I.e. Self Declared and co-signed by their Family Doctor) I don't know why the USA doesn't use this system instead of a DL, however if the DL is accepted for Certified Aircraft then many of the purchasers of LSA, why are older pilots moving to LSA because of medical issues, will no longer do so, which will really impact the LSA market in a negative way. The real problem, as has been mentioned above, is that Sport Pilot has not been well promoted as a fun activity for the young, except by folks like Icon with the A5.

Posted by: Trevor Evans | November 30, 2011 1:17 AM    Report this comment

Further, it seems to me that aside from the Lawyers who have needlessly hamstrung the industry, the FAA has been slow to get on board with changes also. Let's look at Sport Pilot instructors; if you don't get trained by a "proper CFI" (Not a Sport Pilot Instructor) then only minimum training time in an LSA counts towards a PPL. This would seem contrary to the idea of using a SPL as a stepping stone to a higher certificate. In the end it's all flying and you have to be proficient enough to pass your checkride regardless. If you want to fix GA, bring in 4th class medicals, reduce the liability time frame from 18 years to 10 years and re-work FAR 23 to have a reduced requirement for aircraft below a certain weight class and with only four seats. Let all the time used for an SPL count towards a PPL, regardles of who is teaching which would encourage Flying Schools to use LSA for basic training. Most LSA's use Mogas so that also reduces training and operating costs and consumption of 100LL.

Posted by: Trevor Evans | November 30, 2011 1:45 AM    Report this comment

As I posted previously, since the cost of a new FAR 23 trainer is so expensive and re-certifying the C162 as such is cost prohibitive, one idea is to re-manufacture the C150/152s like Robinson helicopters do with their R22/R44 series, wherein Cessna would take back the old aircraft, add a new engine such as a new 0-200(preferably one STCd to run on Autogas), new radios and interior and strip and re-paint the airframe etc for a fee. You could do this at certain designated Cessna service centres worldwide using a kit supplied by Cessna, which would require very little in the way of new certification.

Posted by: Trevor Evans | November 30, 2011 1:54 AM    Report this comment

Hi all, let's be honest with the Skycatcer. In my oppinion Cessna doesen't want to sell the airplane! It is simply impossible that the company that had three yaers ago more than 2500 orders (I remember the sign on Sun 'n Fun 2009) is not able to manufacure it on a decent rate for 130K$. Give any other major manufacturer 100 orders and you will get the same airplane for 99K! Just take a look to the newest Pipistrel Alpha Trainer - two seater LSA, made in the European Comunity, ready to fly for less than 80.000$. I'm in the world of aviation since 1974 and I think that I know the market. It simply must be doable to manufacture -in cheap China- and sell the airplne -in expensive- Western World for less than 100K having thousands of written contracts!

Posted by: Mario Giaccomi | November 30, 2011 4:51 AM    Report this comment

Trevor, You have a lot of good ideas. For me there is not enough time left to fight all those little battles. I think the 3rd class medical battle is shaping up very nicely. It is a worthy goal to eliminate the 3rd class medical altogether and that is exactly what I will try to accomplish. I will be happy to settle for a slightly lesser goal of eliminating the 3rd class for ALL recreational flying without regard to the conditions (VFR/IFR) or aircraft type. If you can afford to fly a 707 for fun then I think you should be allowed to do so without having to drag the FAA aeromedical bureaucrats along for the ride.

I'll leave all those other battles for you to fight.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | November 30, 2011 5:16 AM    Report this comment

Mario, I think you might be right about Cessna and the Skycatcher. I spoke with a grey-haired Cessna guy at the same Sun n Fun event you mentioned. He said they expected to ship 700 Skycatchers per year. Today the reality is they have barely shipped 100 of them since the announcement.

Surely raising the price is not the way to increase shipping numbers.

I like many Cessna single engine planes. I am particularly fond of the 182 and 182RG. This is not the most popular light plane they ever did (the 172 is) but it is the 3rd most popular plane ever built by any light plane manufacturer. They just don't seem to have the same design talent that made Cessna such a big success after the war. I wish them well, but doubt they will remain a significant force in the light plane market. It is time for the guys who have done such a great job designing the most successful LSA to dominate the market.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | November 30, 2011 5:24 AM    Report this comment

Paul M. a minor point: Earl Lawrence is still a member of the F37 Committe - he just doesn't hold any officer positions or have an official vote on ballots any longer. In fact, he attended the F37 meeting in Tampa and gave a presentation for the FAA related to S-LSA issues.

Posted by: Richard Norris | November 30, 2011 5:45 AM    Report this comment

Regarding the price of an S-LSA, everyone seems to forget the support costs related to compliance with the ASTM Standards, engineering, customer service, manuals, spare parts, etc before and after the sale of an S-LSA to a customer. For an S-LSA OEM to be compliant (and be able to prove compliance to the FAA) on all of these the first time and 'as required' can easily cost as must as one S-LSA every year! This cost is further compounded by slightly different designs, updating and maintaining the engineering data and manuals for every version of S-LSA sold for as long as that S-LSA is in service.

Initial and on-going compliance with all the applicable standards and FAA (or other CAA) regulations are time-consuming and cost money.

To complicate this further, there are to many S-LSA OEMs producing aircraft (even with some really good designs) for the available market sales. This means everyone is only getting a tiny piece of the sales pie which makes it even harder to maintain compliance with the standards. At the last ASTM F37 Committee meeting I heard there were still about 86 S-LSA OEMs in the USA and overseas; however, the market cannot support this number which could decrease in the next few years by less than half the current number.

Posted by: Richard Norris | November 30, 2011 6:00 AM    Report this comment

Paul M, I also really like the C182, it's probably my favorite Cessna to fly. You may be right with Flight Design, the C4 looks like a winner with both diesel and avgas engines and the price is right. The problem with Cessna is the entrenched thinking and the corporate offices of Textron killing creativity. They just have a very hard time thinking out of the box, which is evident by their approach to things I saw and heard at the Redbird Skyport Launch. Very institutional thinking, very US centric even though they build the skycatcher in China. Oh, and I very much think John Travolta will appreciate your efforts to keep him in the Captains Seat of his 707 as he approaches old age.. ;)

Posted by: Trevor Evans | November 30, 2011 6:08 AM    Report this comment

Richard, I stand corrected. Thank you.

Still, my impression of the big picture of F37 is that IFR flight (like primary training) is outside the parameters considered when defining the LSA standards. It is neither required nor prohibited. I just don't think the committee has a consensus on IFR/IMC and I doubt it ever will.

One thing the members I have discussed this issue with seem to agree on is they don't like a small number of manufacturers trying to change the standards to improve their competitive position in the market. I think that is enough to be confident there will never be a firm position taken by the committee on this issue.

Since I am a new member it is not surprising I missed out on Earl Lawrence's contributions before I arrived. I can say for certain that I will always vote against any prohibition of IMC use for LSA. In the consensus world it only takes one spoil sport.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | November 30, 2011 6:38 AM    Report this comment

Paul M. I have been involved in many committee and task group discussions on IMC/IFR and I believe the discussion will continue during the Sebring work groups. What I have heard is the only agreement really reached is no agreement. Sewveral draft documents have been reviewed but can never get a majority approval of the task group or committee to move forward. One 'sticking' point seems to be is it just IMC, just IFR training or 'real' IFR.

Even after the S-LSA OEMs express their opinion, the major component OEMs (engines, avionics) are also saying what has been noted above: if you want to use our product in an IFR environment it must be certified to a different level of quality (and be more expensive). It is what it is.

Posted by: Richard Norris | November 30, 2011 6:47 AM    Report this comment

Richard, Thanks again.

I think the IFR question will be the key point in the discussions next year over the 3rd class medical. The FAA and every instructor I have ever discussed the subject with says a pilot's skills are vastly improved when the study for and get an instrument rating. However, the current version of the EAA/AOPA proposal prohibits driver's license medical qualification for anything beyond VFR/DAY. I think this is a huge mistake. It means anyone who chooses the driver's license qualification (which I think is superior to the 3rd class medical) is prohibited from advancing their pilot skills. It just shouldn't be this way.

Also, the proposal is clearly not hinged on safety issues. If it were, D/L pilots would be allowed to fly 182's that have wonderful safety records and not allowed to fly Yankees that have horrible safety records. The current proposal is just the other way around.

I also don't think changing from the subjective 3rd class medical to the more objective state driver's license means experienced and well qualified pilots will suddenly forget how to handle a large engine or retractable landing gear.

I intend to argue (as I have already done) that the 3rd class should be eliminated altogether or just for recreational operations. That way all pilots will be encouraged and allowed to continue their pilot training and advancement.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | November 30, 2011 7:06 AM    Report this comment

"Yankees that have horrible safety records"

Only when CFI's teach you to fly them like C182's.
The safety record of Yankees(in private hands with the AYA)is fine.

Safety requires active participation by the PIC; not primary training, airframes, or elaborate regs. Every flight means the PIC has to be a PIC.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | November 30, 2011 7:35 AM    Report this comment

Gentlemen, and ladies if any observing/reading this free-for-all, congratulations on a very broad outlook. With so many distractors from the REAL story here, Cessna raising the price of its cheapest production aircraft, it's a wonder the truth can actually be found out there.
Forget IFR vs. VFR, forget glass vs. steam gages, forget LSA vs. standard, just think of what it ACTUALLY costs to manufacture an aircraft of this purpose, size, and complexity anywhere here in the USA.
The wife and I just bought her a new, small, compact car, built overseas. Reason for "overseas." Cost! That, plus quality is comparable, or better, than a car made here. Russian built aircraft, in the same category as the Skycatcher, are coming in, tens of thousands of dollars cheaper, as the manufacturers over there in the former Soviet Blok countries are hungry for work.
Please. Let's ALL get back to what is REALLY important: GA needs to recover, and it cannot, as long as the basic costs of this flying are exhorbitant.

Posted by: Doyle Frost | November 30, 2011 7:38 AM    Report this comment

My approach to reducing costs is to improve volume. The only other fix, IMO, is to reduce litigation costs. Given my experience with foreign manufacture, you don't generally get cheaper price at high quality without very high volumes. OTOH, higher volume can reduce litigation risk per unit.

Yes, it's a chicken and egg thing. No matter what you need to sell more planes. The latest GA boom was a volume joke that likely turned off more customers in the long term than it created in the short term.

We have to stop thinking as aviators first and start thinking like business people first. All the rule changes in the world won't put more people in the seats if they don't get more people in the schools first.

Posted by: Eric Warren | November 30, 2011 7:54 AM    Report this comment

Eric, I like your thoughts.

My take on the issue of promoting recreational aviation is to find ways to make this activity more fun. The FAA approach to pilot training is clearly oriented toward producing airline pilots. It is all about flying long distances under ever increasing difficulties like getting paid and meeting schedules. The last FAA administrator went so far as to declare airlines are the FAA's "Customer".

The Sport Pilot certificate is designed for recreational fliers. Now we need some innovation in the area of making recreational flying more fun. I don't have any good ideas for this but I'm sure the aviation community can come up with all sorts of things. If we can say to the average 18 year old "You should learn how to fly because you can have a lot of fun" then the problem is solved.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | November 30, 2011 8:10 AM    Report this comment

Great discussion & lots of passion among the contributors.

I'm with Eric. Volume is the holy grail. How?
1) Automated production of a simple design. The tooling is an expensive investment, but it is a long-term solution. Target $50k-$60k sale price for today's $150k aircraft.
2) Volume training with low-cost (not $60k) simulators. Classrooms at the mall, not the airport!
3) Shared ownership will help. Four owners of a $60k airplane = $15k each....VERY affordable.
4) A major marketing effort. Today, the general public is not even aware that aviation is possible for them. It's more an education effort than marketing.

The secondary effect of volume is much lower liability & insurance costs.

I'm curious why none of the crowd has compared the $20k 40 year old trainers to the widely publicized $60k motion simulator "solution". There are much lower cost motion simulators that can be part of the volume training effort.

Just my $0.02.

Posted by: Tim Busch | November 30, 2011 9:01 AM    Report this comment

"I'm curious why none of the crowd has compared the $20k 40 year old trainers "

I'm curious why no one compared the price hike to the cost of a used trainer. $35K price hike is more than the cost of a used plane. The used market looks better and better for that value thing.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | November 30, 2011 9:31 AM    Report this comment

Paul's comment about the split between inflation and airplane cost increases is interesting. After 1978, the industry effectively lost its customer base.

The price of a 1931 Cub was $1825, approximately $19k in 2011 dollars. In volume production, could we produce a credible airplane for twice that? Could we make a C172-alike in volume for the $105k that Paul points out?

Ok "Out of the box" thinkers: Could we? Can we? Will we?

Posted by: Tim Busch | November 30, 2011 9:50 AM    Report this comment

The riff about the Grumman Yankees made me think about the song "Judy in Disguise" by John Fred & His Playboy Band. If I ever get my Lynx painted I'll have to put Judy in Disguise on it since it seems to some to be an airplane in disguise. As far as the Skycatcher goes, $100,000 or $130,000 it isn't in the cards for me. So, Please Mr. FAA I don't want to go to the row boat or the canoe. Just get rid of that 3rd class medical!!

Posted by: Unknown | November 30, 2011 10:12 AM    Report this comment

Paul, as Richard pointed out, Lawrence was and I assume still is on F37. Moreover, his involvement in the LSA concept pre-dates it, since he was doing work with the FAA on what became the LSA rule.

As for the IFR/LSA issue, only three manufacturers that I know of specifically support it: Tecnam, Evektor and AMD/Eastman. If the POH says day and night VFR only, then IFR and IMC are prohibited. There may be others.

The ASTM discussed a new ruling drawing a distinction between IFR and IMC, which allows schools to file IFR flight plans for training, but not fly in IMC. I don't know if that rule was finalized.

Bottom line: if the POH is silent on it, you're legal. If it prohibits it, you're not, since you'd exceed 91.9.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | November 30, 2011 11:09 AM    Report this comment

Let's not put the cart before the horse. If you can rent a plane for 60 plus hours a month, the price of the plane becomes fairly unimportant. Engine cost is still important, but the airframe cost disappears.

I always bring it back to the schools because they are the hard cap on growth. Demand has to start there and supply will never quadruple without a big trend up in potential customers (pilots by avocation not vocation).

To change some of the school base into customer recruiting centers for aircraft manufacturers (rather than businesses competing for rental and training dollars) requires a lot of things, but primarily an opportunity to keep the customers they find and monetize the full value of finding and creating a pilot over time. Specifically, the type of pilot who will be an owner and regular flyer. A customer who will refer others in their demographic.

Until you do that, you keep having schools run primarily to keep the apparent price down while minimizing their own costs and offering hard to sell value (safety and competence).

We all know they need to be selling fun and life experiences and value first. The competence and safety parts need to be overt, but not the only thing offered.

Posted by: Eric Warren | November 30, 2011 11:14 AM    Report this comment

Tim Busch,

The answer to your question is that, in fact, you can buy a new aircraft with performance and reliability comparable to a 1931 Cub for something close to 2x$20k. For example, the X-Air is priced in that range, and you should be able to complete a Kolb Firestar II with a Rotax 503 for under $40k even if you pay someone to build it.

People tend to balk at these "ultalight-style" designs, and forget that the 1931 Piper Cub was very much an ultralight-style aircraft. It had 2 seats, a useful load of 450lbs, a cruise speed of 65kt, and a wing loading of only 6.8lb/sq ft.

Compare to the X-Air: 2 seats, 574lb useful, cruise of 70-75kt. Or the Kolb: 2 seats, 450lb useful, cruise 60kt. Either aircraft - even the Kolb with a 2-stroke Rotax - will have a more reliable engine than the Cub.

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | November 30, 2011 11:35 AM    Report this comment

"LSA can be flown in IMC if properly equipped AND the manufacturer allows it."

"There is nothing in the rules or standards that prohibits use of LSA in IMC."

Paul M.-
Unfortunately, these statements will no longer be true for S-LSA. The latest version of the Light Sport Airplane standard (ASTM F2245-11) states in section 9.2.2, "Flight operations in IMC (instrument meteorological conditions) are prohibited." This blanket prohibition was added by the F37 despite the impassioned protests of many voting members (including myself). It is no longer at the manufacturer's discretion. This version will not take effect for a few more months, and in my understanding it does not apply to aircraft already built.

Posted by: Lafe Wood | November 30, 2011 11:44 AM    Report this comment

Paul B. Thanks for the updates.

I think you are mistaken on the details of the IFR vs. IMC issue. I don't think there is any reason or rule that would prevent using LSA for instrument training. This includes the ability to file and fly under instrument flight rules. There is nothing about these rules that has anything to do with the airplane involved - so long as proper equipment is installed and maintained. IMC is a different matter. Some aircraft are just not built to be compatible with heavy electrical weather activity. These planes are not safe in IMC and the manufacturers must prohibit their use in this environment.

The ballot items I have seen have all been attempts to prohibit IMC use for all LSA (which in this case means S-LSA). These items not only failed, they were declared to be inappropriate for balloting. My take on this is the IMC question just isn't appropriate for ASTM treatment. Perhaps there is a need for FAA or other CAAs to address this question, but the F37 committee has no basis for this determination.

It may help if you remember the ASTM doesn't control any regulations at all. It creates international standards and other related documents. It is not up to ASTM to permit or prohibit anything. It is the national civil aviation authorities that issue and monitor regulations. I realize this can be a difficult distinction to understand but it is very important when discussing issues like prohibiting IMC flight.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | November 30, 2011 11:46 AM    Report this comment

People tend to agonize over inflation - for example, why should an X-Air cost TWICE what a 1931 Piper Cub did, after adjusting for inflation?

Part of the reason is that inflation is tricky to measure. Because of productivity increases, a person produces a lot more output in 2011 than they did in 1931, and that means they can buy a lot more of most things - food, for example - with the proceeds from an hour's work. But that's only true for things that have seen productivity increases (like farming). Airplanes are manufactured in almost exactly the same way as they were in 1931.

Although I can't go all the way back to 1931, I have estimated that the price of a C-172 represented about 9,000 hours of pretax income at the average wage at the time. Today, that would be about $190,000, but the inflation-adjusted price is only about $100,000. So, a C-172 costs just about twice as much as it did 30 years ago, relative to the price of other goods, simply because it hasn't gotten cheaper in terms of the labor hours required to produce it! The remaining $100,000, unfortunately, is another matter and one I can't explain.

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | November 30, 2011 11:50 AM    Report this comment

What all this means is that if we want airplane prices to track inflation, then airplane production techniques have to track other technologies - and they haven't. I don't know what the answer is, but some out-of-the-box ideas would include injection/roto/blow molding, extensive use of 3D printing, increased use of standardized structural parts (similar to the standardized use of engines, tires, avionics and even stick grips in LSA, but taking it much farther), and pre-production of wiring and systems.

I also believe there are creative ways to get around product liability, both by changing the law and by adapting to the laws we have. But that's for another day.

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | November 30, 2011 11:50 AM    Report this comment

Lafe, you are correct in what you are saying, but we need to keep in mind this standard does not apply Internationally until approved published by ASTM. Further, it does not apply within the USA until approved by the FAA and published in the NOA. Rather than a few months -think years until this is done.

Posted by: Richard Norris | November 30, 2011 11:51 AM    Report this comment

Lafe, I just looked at my working copy of F2245-11 and confirmed your comment that this prohibits IMC. I believe this is a mistake in this version of the document that was (Possibly intentionally) included without authorization from the committee. I don't think there was a ballot on this question that was approved. I certainly voted against the ones that were sent to me (which should have included all of them).

I wonder how this paragraph (9.2) got into the document without authorization from the committee.

As I mentioned in my last comment to Paul B. The ASTM has no authority to prohibit or allow anything.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | November 30, 2011 11:54 AM    Report this comment

Paul M, I fear that when you say the ASTM has no authority to prohibit, you are making a distinction without a difference. The FAA has effectively outsourced its rulemaking. Once the FAA adopts the new ASTM standard, the prohibition will have the force of law. To prevent that, will require having the offending paragraph removed from the ASTM standard first; failure to do so will eventually result in this becoming US law.

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | November 30, 2011 11:59 AM    Report this comment

Sorry Tim, I don't know of any low cost motions sims less than 60K unless you are talking link trainers. The $60K motion sim is simply a revelation to the flight training industry. Have you tried one? Have you seen or heard any feedback from those that have? We have one, as do many other schools, and because of this one tool our students are getting their certificates faster, at less cost than before, they are also more proficient pilots because of it. We can have them do things in these sims that they never would want to try in an aircraft, we can demonstrate things and have them repeat them again and again until they get it right, much better and more efficiently than we can in the aircraft, like emergency procedures, crosswind landings, static system and other instrument failures. When they need to demonstrate it in the aircraft they are much better because of the sim. These sims are so real they are like Level D sims costing millions of $. Don't knock them before you try them. Ask anyone who uses them as a student or a teacher..they are valuable. Put one of these in a shopping mall and see how many people sign up for flying lessons.

Posted by: Trevor Evans | November 30, 2011 12:17 PM    Report this comment

Thomas, I suspect you are correct.

That is why I just wrote some emails to inquire how this paragraph got into a working copy of the primary LSA airplane standard. Either I went to sleep and missed the approval of this provision or someone is trying to slip this provision through without proper approval from the committee. I assure you that I will make enough noise to see that this doesn't happen quietly.

It is true that ASTM has no power to enforce any provision in its standards. However, you may be right that a standard provision might sneak into approval by FAA or other CAA because nobody noticed it.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | November 30, 2011 12:31 PM    Report this comment

Paul, Thomas, and anyone else interested:

An ASTM standard is a guide on how to do something. For S-LSA the governing CAA can 'tailor' the standard in terms of deciding what they will or will not use or approve. It isn't all or nothing.

One example is LSA-Repairman. The FAA is just about the only CAA that recognizes this designation. Therefore, the maintenance manual standard has to be changed to remove this reference (and all FAA specific references) from the body of the standard and put them in an ANNEX only applicable to that CAA.

Posted by: Richard Norris | November 30, 2011 1:10 PM    Report this comment

Trevor mentions remanufacturing airplanes--something I've championed for years. If product liability IS the bugbear that the manufacturers say it is--remanufacturing takes that issue right off the table. Manufacturers pay on the number of units exposed. If a manufacturer took one aircraft out of exposure and remanufactured it--there should be no increase. It also would allow the manufacturer to update the aircraft to fix known deficiencies--resulting in an even better liability rate.

Like the engine manufacturers, the airframe manufacturer can certify it as zero time.

As an OEM--Cessna can also access engines, instruments, and avionics at wholesale prices, further keeping the costs down.

Beech did it with the "R" (remanufactured original) Bonanza--and with the C-45 to Beech 18. I see that they are "zero-timing" Twin Otters, as well.

Buy a 152 for $15,000. Add an engine for another $15. Paint and interior for another $15. Avionics for $15. Electrical, brakes, glass for another $15. That's $90,000 TOPS--BUT, the engine, avionics, and anything else reduces that figure. Sell a "Zero Timed" aircraft for far less than the Chinese-made 162--and a far more capable aircraft, as well.

Posted by: jim hanson | November 30, 2011 1:15 PM    Report this comment

Remanufacturing a 172 or 182 wouldn't be vastly different in cost. Would a zero-timed 172 sell well at $150,000? Yes--it would probably sell at that "4 times today's production" previously mentioned--and still provide a profit for the manufacturer.

While on the subject of aircraft more affordable than the Skycatcher--it's time to give manufacturers the option of removing their light aircraft from charter operations capability. The FAA certification requirements are meant to "protect the non-flying public"--operating under the doctrine of "apparent risk"--a pilot would know the risks involved--but not a passenger. It's one of the reasons for the requirement for a readily-seen "Experimental" warning on homebuilts. Absent the need to "protect the non-flying public", these proven aircraft would fall into the same catagory as homebuilts and LSAs. Another analogy would be with medical drugs--the FDA lists some as "GRAS--Generally Regarded As Safe"--letting them skip the certification.

It's not as though there are a lot of 172s on charter, anyway. Let them be flown for flight instruction, rental, and personal flying--and keep the costs down!

Posted by: jim hanson | November 30, 2011 1:24 PM    Report this comment

Jim, I totally agree with you. The idea is not without precedent. Bell, also a Textron Company like Cessna, teamed with Lycoming and Bogan Aerotech in the 1990s to offer kits to re-manufacture the UH-1H "Huey" to a new zero timed and upgraded UH-1HP "Huey II" standard. It featured a new lift beam, new rotor blades, transmissions and tail boom, as well as re-manufactured engines with more performance and longer TBO. The avionics, wiring and other systems were also upgraded and modernized through Bogan based on the customers requirements. The aircraft performed better than a new 212 and cost one third of the new price. I don't see why Cessna cannot do that and I mentioned it to Jodi Noah, the VP at Cessna for Single engine aircraft. Maybe it is something they may consider since they are not selling as many 162s as they had hoped.

Posted by: Trevor Evans | November 30, 2011 2:21 PM    Report this comment

Quite frankly, I can't think of many things that would be worse for GA than remanufacturing C150's. I understand the reman of bush planes, but 150's? Seriously? Are you trying to let GA fade away?

You guys are operating under a lot of misconceptions. Number one of those is that old pilots have anything in common with possibly new pilots when it comes to what they want to spend their time in.

I am sure there actually is a market for remanned antique aircraft, but why bother with a 150? Yuck!

Posted by: Eric Warren | November 30, 2011 2:41 PM    Report this comment

"but why bother with a 150? Yuck!"

Tell that to Cessna. Cessna did not produce a modern or a sexy aircraft. They designed a C150 "light", complete with an O-200 engine.

Do you think that new pilots given a blank-sheet for a new LSA would have asked for anything close to the C162? Nope.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | November 30, 2011 4:08 PM    Report this comment

We all seem to want something new for the price of used. That is until we sell it. Then we want a kings ransom. My dad built a house for 13k. Sold it for north of 130k. He told me I was nuts for paying the price I did for my home until I pointed out that he paid 7 times his annual salary at the time for his home and I paid 2 times my annual salary for my home. This argument here reminds me of that. Think about it.

Posted by: Jay Manor | November 30, 2011 5:26 PM    Report this comment

Well Tim, Comparing the Dreamflyer to the Redbird is like comparing a bicycle to a CBR1000 motorbike. I know your product and it is a pretty neat little device and I'm sure it would train people to have the feeling of flying, more so than one would get by just sitting in front of a monitor or three at a desk using Flight Sim X and a gaming Joystick and Throttle control, but that's just what it is, it's a swing with some monitors attached and a gaming joystick and throttle. Your Dreamflyer is a completely different animal to a Redbird AATD. You simply can't compare the two. It's like comparing the Redbird to an Airbus A320 Level 7 sim. As someone mentioned, I'm not hoing to call anyone's baby ugly, but the market has spoken and there are over 300 Redbirds in operation at flying schools and universities and over 100 on order.

Posted by: Trevor Evans | November 30, 2011 10:51 PM    Report this comment

Further, I think any gadget that encourages people to fly and to get the feeling of flight is fantastic, but I don't think that slagging off other people's products is a good way to start. There are horses for courses as they say, your device is a good place to start and is innovative and I wish you could put a few of these in Malls to encourage people to try flying as a hobby or in Schools to encourage kids to look at aviation as a career. Take a good look at a Redbird with a C172 cockpit, then go sit in the C172 itself, look at the breakers, panel and switches. Then get back in the sim and use the instructors station to set you up on an approach in a thunderstorm to an airport of your choice and then you will see why the unit is an AATD and why everyone is raving about it as a tool for training pilots at all levels. Cheers

Posted by: Trevor Evans | November 30, 2011 11:00 PM    Report this comment

Pick on the 162 all you want. I haven't actually seen one. The descriptions would lead me to think it's a competitor to CT and Remos. I know it's better than the 150 in several categories.

The engine choice was a good one for Textron, bad for GA. If every Cessna pilot center became a competent rotax repair center, Lycoming would lose a big competitive advantage. Furthermore, having sold planes to schools, they do not want any new engine technology.

Posted by: Eric Warren | December 1, 2011 8:55 AM    Report this comment

Honestly if I were to buy a LSA it would either be a flight design or a Kitfox SLSA. Since the Kitfox comes in at just shy of $90k and can be stored at home (folding wings) the TCO wins out every time. The cessna isn't the end all be all LSA plane, its probably better suited as a trainer than a personal plane.

At 100k+ I can buy a really nice used 182, so unless I needed an LSA because of the medical I would go that rout.

The only advantage I see in the skycatcher is the direct drive engine with a longer TBO and metal construction. I've not flown the skycatcher but I did get in one at the local flight school. I am 6'2" and I always look at this when looking at planes to fly. If I were in an accident in it my legs would be the first part of my body to hid the plane. This would be about 2-3 inches below my knees into a hard edge of the instrument panel. In fact its so close I would bump them in turbulence even with the belts tight. The flight design LSA has more clearance and I would mostly be kept clear of the plane by the belts with maybe minor knee impact.

Posted by: Joseph Chambers | December 1, 2011 9:08 AM    Report this comment

Eric, Having seen a 162 and perused the specs, I believe it is NOT a competitor to the CT or Remos, but IS a competitor to the SportCruiser.

With LSA the weight limits are severe, so you have to pick 2 out of 3 of a) useful load b) ease of maintenance & repair c) non-pilot appeal.

The result is that the market has split into essentially 3 categories, defined by type of construction: all-composite (gives you useful load and non-pilot appeal); all-metal (gives you ease of maintenance and non-pilot appeal); rage-and-tube (gives you useful load and ease of maintenance).

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | December 1, 2011 9:26 AM    Report this comment

The all-metal designs (SportCruiser and SkyCatcher) appeal to flight schools, where non-pilot appeal is a must-have, and the use of familiar maintenance & repair methods is key. Hence the use of the Continental engine (oddly, not a Lycoming), too. This is also why Flight Design offers an all-metal airplane (so far with few takers). But all-metal is heavy, and you lose useful load, i.e., range and baggage capacity, neither of which matters in training flying. The challenge for Pipistrel's new trainer will be to convince flight schools that all-composite is okay. The price point will help there.

The all-composite designs (CT, Remos, etc.) are substantially lighter than all-metal ones, and appeal to private owners, who value useful load and non-pilot appeal. Private owners are less concerned with repair because they believe they are better than average pilots (most pilots believe this).

Finally, the rag-and-tube designs offer very high useful load, as well as (fairly) conventional maintenance & repair - but nonpilot passengers generally don't feel all that comfortable with fabric-covered aircraft, especially ones where they can actually see the glow of the sun through the wing! Rag-and-tube is often cheaper and slower, too.

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | December 1, 2011 9:26 AM    Report this comment

I haven't flown the SkyCatcher. It is a fairly comfortable aircraft - much more comfortable than a 152, being 5 inches wider! The interior is spartan in appearance, although the painted metal will wear much better than more luxurious finishes and I predict will wind up looking more attractive after 2-3 years in flight school use, when compared to worn carpet and cracked plastic. I wasn't a fan of the exposed control cables, though. The baggage area is large, although somewhat useless unless the aircraft is flown solo! The control system, a yoke that mimics a stick, struck me as genius in some ways, and overcomplicated in others. Entry and exit are extremely awkward: the door opening is too short front-to-back, and I had difficulty with it - as did many people I watched get in and out. You almost have to shift your butt to the space between the seats, to have enough legroom to swing your legs out the door. Visibility forward looks to be similar to a 152, maybe a bit better, and otherwise, visibility is standard Cessna: you can see down to the side, and forward, but almost nothing above or to the side (unless you duck) or in turns. For nonpilot appeal, the SportCruiser's amazing visibility and sportier cockpit are winners. The low-wing design is easier to get into and less awkward to get in/out of, but you need more agility to climb onto the wing and - like all the low-wing LSAs - to stand up again once seated.

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | December 1, 2011 9:31 AM    Report this comment

Here is the thing. There are two worlds.

In the world of the surviving flight school owner, metal and ancient engine tech are far superior in cost of repair and flight availability. they have excellent reasons for believing these things. They have been proven tome after time just like the dangers of new pilots entering IMC.

In the world the rest of us live in, spam can fuselages should be outlawed. Aluminum wings are a weight and price savings but cost more to repair than quality composite. New engines may or may not be superior, but getting them maintained properly brings risks and costs.

The existing flight school population is incapable of change without strong outside influence. They create every new member of the aviation community. Change them or GA will never grow back to real health.

Posted by: Eric Warren | December 1, 2011 9:55 AM    Report this comment

I think the engine choice has a lot more impact on empty weight than construction materials. Continental or Lycoming have installed weight about 100 pounds higher than Rotax or Jabiru engines.

I think most flight schools and FBOs are likely to want outside storage which favors all metal construction. Personal plane owners are more likely to have hangars.

I think LSA are very sensitive to wind and cross winds. It seems low wing designs are more tolerant of cross winds than the high wing designs. They can also be easier to land because of a more pronounced ground effect.

Ease of entry and exit are important considerations for all design styles. This is something you just have to try to see how it works out.

My wife really doesn't like having a stick between her legs. I suspect this is a common reaction for female occupants. Most LSA seem to have dual sticks, but any other control configuration might be more desirable.

For anyone considering a personal plane purchase I highly recommend a thorough test flight program including a full checkout and a ride for any passenger you want to carry often. This sounds expensive and difficult to pull off, but it is a lot less than the risk of buying a nice plane that just doesn't work the way you expect after you purchase it.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | December 1, 2011 10:02 AM    Report this comment


Posted by: Eric Warren | December 1, 2011 10:06 AM    Report this comment

Why do you think metal stores better outside? It doesn't in my experience.

Posted by: Eric Warren | December 1, 2011 10:07 AM    Report this comment

At this new price you would think they could put a decent interior in the Skycatcher instead of the bar bones, nearly no trim that it has. I know this supposed to be for weight savings but it really looks terrible.

Posted by: ED FOGLE | December 1, 2011 10:15 AM    Report this comment

The LSA vs certificated aircraft debate can sound like a discussion about performance, but it’s really about one set of rules vs another. Part 23 has evolved well beyond its reason for existence (which was a “small plane” appropriate alternative to Part 25). At a minimum, Part 23 needs to be split into two or three sets of rules, because that old sharp dividing line between “toy airplanes that endanger few” (CAR 3 / FAR 23) and “real airplanes that serve the flying public” (FAR 25) has been blurred into oblivion.

Composite construction is here to stay. We’re already at an inflection point similar to the one we experienced when all-metal monocoque construction replaced fabric-over-tube. The same thing is true about solid-state glass instrumentation. In each case, a new technology that offered improved performance at reduced cost supplanted the previous generation.

As for flight school operators, a refurbished Tomahawk or Skyhawk still offers a vastly better opportunity to make a profit, than does even a $100k comparable-performance new vehicle. Staying in business is a powerful shaper of equipment-purchase decisions. Been there.

Posted by: Tom Yarsley | December 1, 2011 10:50 AM    Report this comment

I don't think metal stores better outside. I think it holds up better when stored outside than the other construction materials.

In LSA the weight of interior materials is a problem. A plush interior may look nice and also reduce noise, but I prefer more useful load. Active noise reduction headphones weigh a lot less than interior panels.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | December 1, 2011 10:50 AM    Report this comment

Eric doesn't think there is a market for remanufactured 152s and 172s. He obviously hasn't noticed the runup in value of legacy taildraggers--or noted that the cub clones are some of the best sellers--DESPITE their being basic taildraggers. A reman 152 would fare even better.

Eric also points out that there are "differences between old and new pilots". Fair enough--but there are a LOT MORE old aircraft available than the Euro offerings--and at a far better price. An aircraft like a remanufactured 172 spans both worlds--a proven, substantial aircraft--good as new--at a price of the cheapest LSAs.

Eric--I don't know if you've noticed this, but the LSAs havent' exactly been setting the world on fire with sales, either. Do you suppose the marketplace has noticed something that you haven't?

Posted by: jim hanson | December 1, 2011 11:28 AM    Report this comment

Paul M, do you know how the modern, painted composites are doing when stored outdoors? Gelcoat, as used on sailplanes until recently, deteriorated horribly in direct sunlight but the new paint finishes allegedly don't. Cirruses and Diamonds have been parked outside, in some cases, for over a decade now - some DA-20s for over 20 years - but I don't know how they're doing.

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | December 1, 2011 12:39 PM    Report this comment

Jim H, reman sounds like a good idea to me at first glance, but there are shops that could do that (you don't need to own the type certificate to reman, as long as you use original, PMA or STCed parts) and they're not doing it. Any thoughts on why not? I'm thinking that the labor cost of both disassembling and reassembling an aircraft is just too high. The marketplace may have spoken on this, too.

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | December 1, 2011 12:41 PM    Report this comment


There is a reason why composites are almost always white. I don't know all the variations, but some composites tend to soften when they get hot. Leaving this material out in direct sun light is not good for it. It has been common practice to store metal planes outside, and if you don't count the paint they hold up pretty well.

I don't know where a lot of the information that shows up in discussions like this originates. To my knowledge composite construction is the heaviest and most expensive material there is in aircraft use. It offers wonderful advantages for complex aerodynamic shapes, but this doesn't show up very much at LSA speeds. All metal planes often include composite fairings. They seem to hold up pretty well, but they are generally not critical to the aircraft structure.

At my home airport (1W1) there are hundreds of hangars holding private aircraft. For the most part it is only those planes too large for the hangars that are kept outside.

Hangar storage is the best way to go for private owners, but it costs more than outside storage. This is a big factor for a commercial venture like a flight school or rental operation.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | December 1, 2011 12:54 PM    Report this comment

Thomas--as an FBO, we used to rebuild damaged aircraft (what ELSE do you do in winter in Minnesota?) With the increased cost of parts, it no longer made sense--the airplanes had to compete against the rest of the marketplace--and though completely disassembled and rebuilt, they lacked the cachet of being "remanufactured." Only the type certificate holder can do that.

I don't care how good the shop--people aren't going to pay $100,000 for a shop-restored 172--but they will gladly pay that amount (less than half the cost of new) for a "factory zero-timed" aircraft--and the resale will continue to reflect the factory restoration, where it wouldn't with an FBO restoration.

The manufacturer also has the advantage of being able to bring the aircraft up to current standards. They have the price advantage of buying at Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEM) rates on engines, props, glass, avionics, instruments, and everything else that goes into the aircraft--something that even large shops do not have.

Given the choice between a "zero timed factory restoration" on a Skyhawk--or the European LSA offerings at the same price--or a NEW Skyhawk at twice the price, I know which one I would be purchasing!

Posted by: jim hanson | December 1, 2011 12:56 PM    Report this comment

Paul M., I was assuming composite offered lighter construction based on the fact that - with exceptions - all-metal LSA offerings (Cessna, CZAW, Rans, although Tecnam and Vans do somewhat better) tend to be heavier (or much heavier) than the all-composite ones (Flight Design, Remos, Pipistrel) using the same engine... Of course, that's only true of (expensive) carbon fiber; fiberglass would be much heavier.

Jim H., duh! Aftermarket parts! 'Nuff said. You're right, a "factory zero-timed" offering would have more value, although I would imagine that over time a reman house could develop a brand of its own. But... it could never be cost-effective using aftermarket parts.

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | December 1, 2011 1:12 PM    Report this comment

Paul, again, just looking at 2 designs from the same manufacturer, the Flight Design MC (metal) lists with an empty weight of 795lbs, while the CTLS lists at 770lbs and the CTLS Lite lists at 720lbs, and the (shorter) CTSW lists at 698lbs.

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | December 1, 2011 1:21 PM    Report this comment

Wow, where to start?

If you look at my above posts, you will see a couple words that were missed. Quality and Bush.

Quality composites are superior and cheaper to repair. Diamond and Columbia used quality composites, but the rest, I don't know about. Stored in or outside, you are better off with a quality composite.

Bush as in bush plane. Yes remanning bush planes makes sense because they are not bent aluminum. They also are still the best designs for what they do. The Cseries piston planes ARE NOT. The advantage of the 150/172 planes is almost exclusive to their volume place in the market and familiarity to instructors and repairmen.

Composite v Aluminum weight. IT DEPENDS. Generally, composite makes a lighter, stronger, safer aerodynamic fuselage. Aluminum makes a lighter, cheaper wing. Composite is still a better long term value, IMO.

If you make a fuselage out of bent aluminum, you should be shot. It's that bad a plan. Stop it, Bad Dog.

The 172 makes up for it's old design only because of it's school domination. They crash rarely so the main problem with aluminum fuselage (death trapness) is mitigated. Still, they are loud, cramped, rickety, and rarely not bent.

Lastly, I have sold airplanes. I know you can sell remans at a decent price. SO WHAT! It won't save GA, and it's simply a quirky technicality making it workable. Pilots have been speculating on how to reduce costs sense 1980. How is it working for you?

Posted by: Eric Warren | December 1, 2011 2:02 PM    Report this comment


Why is aluminum fuselage a death trap?

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | December 1, 2011 2:28 PM    Report this comment

You used to be able to make a case for Alum vs Steel. You just can't make that case against composites. The crash protection is just too much better for everything other than aluminum. I don't know about wood, but I would bet on wood over aluminum anyway. New, and especially older, aluminum cockpits generally just crunch up at a fraction of the impact that steel and composite ones do.

There is no longer a decent trade off for semi monocoque aluminum. There is no advantage except that the guy building it has done it before. Well, sorry, that's no longer an acceptable advantage. Teach him a new trick.

Posted by: Eric Warren | December 1, 2011 3:46 PM    Report this comment

Great thread. I really like the "crazy theory" posted by Eric Warren on November 28, 2011, above.

Sorry if I missed this, but I've looked for it twice:

What is the value of the higher end avionics package Cessna currently offers? It doesn't make sense to compare their bare-bones $109K to the fully-equipped $109K. Thank you!

Posted by: Bill Polits | December 1, 2011 4:37 PM    Report this comment

Eric, I might take exception to your claims here. In the lab and on the test range, composite may seem more crashworthy than aluminum. In the real world, things are different.

I'm just completing a budget busting research project comparing recent model airplane accident rates. The results don't support the superiority of composite. Residing at either end of the scale is Cirrus with the highest fatal accident rate, among the highest occupant injury rate and Diamond, which has the lowest of each. Cirrus has a high rate of fuel tank breach and postcrash fire. Diamond is the opposite.

In between are the Cessnas and Mooneys. With its welded steel cage, the Mooney proves quite crashworthy at speeds where the others don't seem to. ("Seem" is operative, because we don't have good measured data on crash forces.) The 182 has a very low fatal rate.

This tells me a couple of things. First, it's not so simple to say one material is better than the other. It depends on the design. Second, human factors--how the thing is flown, what kind of operations it does, where and when and by whom--can easily wipe out any minor advantage of one material over the other.

Again, the Cirrus: On paper, it should be the safest airplane ever. It's got a lot going for it, not the least of which is BRS. The reality is somewhat less than that.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | December 1, 2011 4:59 PM    Report this comment

Same deal with weight and payload. The 182 beats the SR22 and both of them beat the Columbia for payload with full fuel.
The composite designs simply haven't blown aluminum away yet. They might some day.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | December 1, 2011 4:59 PM    Report this comment

I am not going to fight the Cirrus fight here. We would have to do that off line. It always causes a mess. Materials have properties, designs differ in what they use and how they use it. Manufacturers have a duty to build right so the lab matters.

Let's look at Diamond's parachute story. The designed without a chute, and adding one is a redesign. They are planning for a chute in the super and jet at least as an option. That's responsible. OTOH, they say you are better off in a Star than a Cirrus because of other safety aspects, and they appear to be correct. Still if they were going to design again today the chute would at least be an option.

At any rate, if you are designing today, what's your reason for semi monocoque? You don't have a viable argument. it's one thing to try and fail, it's another thing altogether to point to the 172 stats and say aluminum is a good choice. That's bull. Even Cessna could build a better 172 with composites than aluminum today, and unless they kept the right Columbia talent, their skill set is mostly metal.

Sorry about your budget, but I see you telling me which design is best, not material. Comparing Diamond and Columbia composites to most others is like lumping Mooney in with Grumman and classing them both as metal.

Posted by: Eric Warren | December 1, 2011 6:25 PM    Report this comment

Come on Paul, full fuel is the saddest spec in the book and tells you nothing about materials. I can improve your full fuel payload by sealing off part of your tanks. How does that improve a plane?

Posted by: Eric Warren | December 1, 2011 6:32 PM    Report this comment

I've never been in a Cirrus, but I think the most notable aspect of it is the marketing approach. They seem to say you don't really need to be a good pilot to fly a Cirrus because it has so much inherent safety, like the 'Chute, all you need is lots of money to fly one. I suspect this approach puts marginal pilots in high performance airplanes - a poor combination.

I'm glad the FAA has been pushing the "Transition Training" for new LSA pilots. These very light planes are really quite difficult to fly well. It helps they are simple from a systems point of view, but they still can be quite a challenge. Part 23 pilots are used to very docile handling and LSA don't have the same requirements at all.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | December 1, 2011 6:42 PM    Report this comment

Come on Paul, full fuel is the saddest spec in the book and tells you nothing about materials. I can improve your full fuel payload by sealing off part of your tanks. How does that improve a plane?

Huh? All carrier, no mod.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | December 1, 2011 7:25 PM    Report this comment

Even Cessna could build a better 172 with composites than aluminum today, and unless they kept the right Columbia talent, their skill set is mostly metal.

Saying that is one thing, proving it another. I have given you some data here, which you are dismissive of. Your argument seems to be damn the results and field performance, I know I am right.

So me the data. Big promises were made by the composite apologists, but so far, they haven't delivered impressive results. They have delivered equivalent and sometimes spotty results.

Get your data out here. Show some numbers on safety and economics. Otherwise, I am unimpressed.

The viable argument of semi-monocoque aluminum is Cessna, Beech, Embraer, Gulfstream, Boeing and so forth. The viable argument for plastic is Cirrus, Diamond, Cessna, Boeing and Embraer. It's neither all black nor all white, even if the plastic airplane are.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | December 1, 2011 7:37 PM    Report this comment

This is the longest thread ever - I checked!

Posted by: Peter Kuhns | December 1, 2011 7:48 PM    Report this comment

"If you make a fuselage out of bent aluminum, you should be shot. It's that bad a plan. Stop it"

The Yankee is slab sided, light, simple, roomy, and extremely tough. It's a great aluminum fuselage.
My contribution to thread spread...

Posted by: Mark Fraser | December 1, 2011 8:59 PM    Report this comment

Paul B. I suspect a big part of the reason for the 182's great safety record is the low stall speed. It is also very roomy. This might play out as a safety issue when you consider how tightly packed some other planes are.

I don't see the choice of materials as a big factor in aircraft safety. I think it is other design issues that are most important. I do think the choice of materials has a huge impact on the cost of a plane. Different materials require different operations to build the plane and different labor costs. Wood is probably the least expensive material to buy but the most expensive one for plane construction. It requires especially high skill levels from the workers.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | December 1, 2011 9:07 PM    Report this comment

Greedy Cessna, New World Order types can cram the "skycatcher" up where the sun doesn't shine!

Posted by: Ron Brown | December 1, 2011 10:19 PM    Report this comment

Greedy Cessna, New World Order types can cram the "skycatcher" up where the sun doesn't shine!

Posted by: Ron Brown | December 1, 2011 10:21 PM    Report this comment

...and Mark's in with the Yankee again...Go Yankee!! ;) Back to LSA. The Aeroprakt A22 (same as the FPNA A22 Valor LSA) is a mix of Aluminum skin on the fuselage, eppenage and upper wings, doped fabric on the control surfaces and under the wings and composite on the engine cowling, doors etc. This combination is light, strong and easy to manufacture and repair. It is also easy to repair hanger rash on these aircraft. They are priced around $80K reasonably equiped and have control yolks, so it can be done at a reasonable price. I think crashworthyness comes down to design of the structure that you are in, just like in a car, and what you hit, how you hit it and at what speed. Since we don't crash test aircraft in controlled conditions like we do cars, it is spaculative to say what is best.

Posted by: Trevor Evans | December 2, 2011 12:41 AM    Report this comment

..the point I'm making about the A22 is that most of it is aluminum so it wears well outside and since the doped fabric is under the wings and on the control surfaces it is cheap to repair and maintain when it comes to just those parts, as the doped fabric does not hold up well when exposed to UV in sunny climates. If the composite on the engine cover get's damaged and needs replacing it's easy to just get a new part, if the whole fuselage is made from it, it is very hard to repair if you get some serious damage, whereas if it's riveted aluminum it can be reapaired or replaced and repainted easily. If an aircraft can be made like that with a 100HP Rotax burning mogas and with a 2000 hr TBO, for about $80K, why is the C162 $149K?

Posted by: Trevor Evans | December 2, 2011 12:50 AM    Report this comment

I have noticed numerous comments on certain types of aircraft and/or constructions methods being 'easy to repair and/or maintain'. That is fine - if you talking about a CAR/FAR compliant aircraft. However, the original topic was the Skycatcher - an S-LSA.

Everyone needs to keep in mind maintenance and repair of an S-LSA are significantly different then a CAR/FAR aircraft. Put simply, if the repair isn't in the S-LSA Maintenance Manual or authorized by the S-LSA OEM in writing (with complete instructions) you cannot do the work. It doesn't make any difference whether you are an A&P or 'know' how to do the work. This includes the replacement of any assemblies or detail parts and any 'improvements or modifications' to the S-LSA. Also, except in very limited cases related to TC'd parts, you cannot document 'maintenance or modifications' to an S-LSA on a 337.

The maintenance or repair may be 'simple' but failing to do the work in compliance with the FARs and Standards can result in the S-LSA being considered non-compliant with the Standards and illegal to fly - which could also have some impact on insurance coverage.

Finally, if the S-LSA OEM will not provide information or authorization to do anything not in the maintenance manual, the owner only has two options: Don't do the work or convert the S-LSA to an E-LSA and do what they want to do.

Posted by: Richard Norris | December 2, 2011 6:06 AM    Report this comment

Richard, I've read your recent post several times and I'm still trying to figure out exactly what you were trying to say. I know the individual facts you presented are all correct, but I still wonder where you are going.

I think you are pointing out there are two distinct issues when it comes to aircraft repairs. There is the question of fixing the problem on the aircraft, and then there is the problem of dealing with the regulatory environment to get the paperwork to match the work.

The point of view from the other end of the system is different. Here you are asking the question: "How can I perform a repair so that I am in compliance with all the regulations before I start the repair".

The newness of the S-LSA environment seems to make the last question very difficult to answer. In the real world things work differently from the envisioned system. When an owner and/or mechanic is faced with a needed repair they are more likely to perform the repair than search through the maintenance manual for the exact aircraft in question (without a type certificate there is a unique document for each aircraft) to see if the paper work allows the repair to take place.

Perhaps the most interesting point in this esoteric discussion is your comment that the aircraft might be found non-compliant with the standards. I wonder how such a determination might take place. The real world just doesn't go to great lengths to mimic the environment envisioned when the standards are drafted.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | December 2, 2011 6:32 AM    Report this comment

Paul M, I should have been more specific. The impression I was getting from this thread was S-LSAs were going to be easy, simple, and cheap to work on - based on past experiences with CAR-FAR aircraft. I agree with you the work might be; however, the requirements are actually more involved and all of this extra paperwork effort costs the S-LSA OEM time and money - both to create and even more important to maintain over the life of the S-LSA. Just like product liability insureance, the cost of this life-time support has to be factored into the selling price of the new S-LSA.

Regarding your other comments, I'd be glad to discuss them further which should probably be done off-line (email) or in a new thread.

That said, non-compliance with the Standards is now being pushed by the FAA. If you doubt that, go look at the Report they published about a year ago related to S-LSA and compiance with the Standards. That said, how would 'the field' determine whether an S-LSA was non-compiant with the Standards?

Let's use the Maintenance Manual Standard as an example. Put simply, this standards says: if it isn't in the S-LSA maintenance manual you cannot do it (without permission from the OEM). Most S-LSAs come with some kind of 'as originally built' list of major components. Remove or replace one of those and the S-LSA is now non-compliant with the standard. Add a new radio or Nav panel - same result. continued

Posted by: Richard Norris | December 2, 2011 7:11 AM    Report this comment

continued ....

How would anyone know? An S-LSA has to have an annual inspection which includes checking the logbooks. If the work above has been done without the 'proper' paperwork, then the inspector can't legally sign-off the S-LSA which means it is illegal to fly.

Posted by: Richard Norris | December 2, 2011 7:13 AM    Report this comment


I am sorry for whatever I did to punch your buttons. I didn't mean to question your survey, only to point out it doesn't invalidate my argument. Obviously, the performance of a bad design should not reflect on a material used in it. It's simply my opinion that trying to stick with aluminum fuselages is akin to building a car without crumple zones or reinforcements. We know better now, so why go back unless you are simply copying an old design?

Lastly, I can never overstate that full fuel payload is a bad spec that misleads buyers into bad decisions. Sorry if you can't agree. More full is more better. People pay a lot to add fuel capacity even on Mooneys. This reduces full fuel payload down to 2 pax and bags. It's still a good thing (many airports have a single pump, if it fails-no fuel for you!)

Posted by: Eric Warren | December 2, 2011 9:23 AM    Report this comment

May I suggest that if you haven't already you should try to speak with a few designers about composites, the safety cage, fuselage design, etc. ?

Posted by: Eric Warren | December 2, 2011 9:26 AM    Report this comment

Since we now seem to be on the subject of what's the best material for aircraft construction, we should also address the end game. Once you pull the chute on a Cirrus and drop it in somebody's back yard, what do you do with the airframe? A crunched Cessna can be recycled indefinitly as beer cans but what happens to old composite? Even rolled up in a ball an aluminum airframe is worth a couple of hundred bucks. What does scrap composite go for?

Posted by: Richard Montague | December 2, 2011 9:39 AM    Report this comment

I am no Cirrus fan, but in that scenario who cares? The widow would rather have the pilot than the scrap. Also, I have appraised a few rebuilt cessnas. It's not worth the rebuild of either the Cessna or the cirrus unless you never want to sell it afterwards. Yes, you can rebuild the cirrus.

Posted by: Eric Warren | December 2, 2011 9:49 AM    Report this comment

Richard, It is my understanding that the Manufacturer can approve your repairs, or anticipated repairs and can issue a letter appointing a service center to conduct repairs on the aircraft to bring it back to it's original configuration. Either the Manufacturer can send a representative or it can appoint a rep to re-inspect the aircraft and approve the repairs, thereby re-validating it's certificate of compliance. In this instance, it's not the FAA that approves the repair station, it's the manufacturer since it is the one that issues the certificate of compliance. If the Manufacturer is interested in running a successful business, he will provide that kind of support. Aeroprakt, the company I deal with, are happy to issue letters to allow an owner to change his radio or modify the panel, provided it doesn't make the aircraft unsafe. It's not as complicated as it seems.

Posted by: Trevor Evans | December 2, 2011 10:12 AM    Report this comment

Trevor, the S-LSA OEM cannot just issue a letter saying it is 'OK' to fix an S-LSA in any way not provided in the maintenance manual. They can issue a maintenance repair authorization which must include a complete set of instructions on how to do the repair, which S-LSA(s) the procedure can be used on, whether any other repairs have to be done first, what changes must be documented in the logbook AND the manuals. They also need to follow-up to determine whether the 'fix' was ever done so their in-house records can track the configuration.

As a matter of fact, the F37 Committee (me) is now writing an MRA Form ANNEX to the Maintenance Manual to address this very topic. The data that must be provided by the S-LSA OEM to the owner/mechanic can run several pages depending on the complexity of the maintenance, repair, or alteration.

Put simply the S-LSA OEM is the final authority on what maintenance, repair, alteration can be done to their S-LSA. However, it has to be in writting - either in the Maintenance Manual OR the MRA format noted above. Failure to do so can result in the S-LSA being non-compliant with the standards.

Posted by: Richard Norris | December 2, 2011 10:29 AM    Report this comment

Richard, It sounds like you need to write that annex to make life simpler for everyone, not to make it more complicated and difficult. Wasn't that the whole idea? If you see the problem, and control the solution...

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | December 2, 2011 10:36 AM    Report this comment

I have noticed a tendency for the ASTM committees to start getting more conservative - even more so than the FAA, in some cases (e.g., LSA in IMC). I hope this isn't turning into another example: it would be easy for ASTM/LSA to become irrelevant by becoming more onerous/impractical than Part 23, through a series of conservative decisions.

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | December 2, 2011 10:42 AM    Report this comment

HI Richard, I agree with you, but it seems extremely complicated for aircraft that are very simple. The repairs should not be detailed in a novel, they should be simple. I think Thomas is correct, these things need to be simplified, not made more complex. Surprisingly, in Canada, where many Americans from the land of the free believe we are over regulated, the system works very well. Advanced Ultralights (our version of LSA) need to be repaired by a Transport Canada Authorized Aircraft Service & repair facility in accordance with the Manufacturers Instructions to repair the aircraft in compliance with the Manufacturers certificate of Airworthiness and in Compliance with the regulations. It's not rocket science, these things are not complicated. Seems to me the FAA needs to relax a little and get back to simplicity for simple aircraft.

Posted by: Trevor Evans | December 2, 2011 10:57 AM    Report this comment

In other words, the repair facility which is obviously used to working on aircarft, will notify the manufacturer of what it belives will be required to return the aircarft to airworth shape and in compliance with the aircraft's original certificate of compliance. The Manufacturer issues a letter of authorization, the repairs are done and the repair facility issues a letter of completion, then the manufacturer re-validates the aircraft's compliance certificate. As long as the paperwork is correct and the repairs are done properly, no problems.

Posted by: Trevor Evans | December 2, 2011 11:05 AM    Report this comment

This subject is surreal to me. Cessna pulls 35K out of their accounting ethers to add to a finished airplane that was outsourced to China, of all places. I built a safe, fun, 162 performance comparable homebuilt for the cost of their phantom 35K, making their solid 120K airplane cost my phantom, added-on cost. Long live the homebuilt community.

Add to that the onerous regulations and complexity that are being bantered about here - can I repair my own aircraft, why not?, does the FAA or ASTM allow LSA in IMC with or without an A&P in Part 23 with an MRA and S-LSA for the OEM... are you in compliance with the Standards or not, mister?! And how do these crafts fair when they crash, huh! My materials are better than yours, uhuh. Seriously, a lawyer and bureaucrat's dream this flyin' biz has become.

Leo Da Vinci had it right, 'Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.' That, and keep your mini-motorhome in top shape.

Posted by: David Miller | December 2, 2011 12:30 PM    Report this comment


I agree with you. Home built airplanes are superior to all the other choices. Of course this approach only works for people with a little skill and a lot of persistence. You really need to approach this idea with the notion that you really enjoy building stuff and the bonus at the end of this huge task is you have a plane to fly.

The people in this discussion don't seem to be leaning in that direction. They want to get a nice new airplane - already put together and ready to fly - for the price of a used car. No matter how you go about it this just ain't gonna happen.

I don't know why so many people think you should be able to buy a high value product for a low price. Perhaps it is the "Hand out" government that wants to redistribute wealth - but mostly to the politician's contributors. Or maybe it is the ridiculous NASA "Personal Air Vehicle" notion that for a few thousand dollars you can buy a plane that will fly itself from your neighborhood runway wherever you want to go.

Still, for those with the right amount of skill, time, and money you just can't beat home built airplanes.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | December 2, 2011 12:45 PM    Report this comment

Paul M., I don't think that's fair. People want to buy a high value product for a price comparable to other high value products. A nice sports car can be had, new, for $50k. For $150k you can buy a supercar, manufactured in small quantities by craftsmen in near-cottage-industry factories.

I don't think people have unreasonable expectations at all. Wrong, for now, but not unreasonable.

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | December 2, 2011 1:04 PM    Report this comment

Material safety has allot to do with design. Look at the corvette, mostly composite and still passes the crash test, in a minor accident the composite car is more expensive to repair.

What damage is usually repairable and what totals the plane, what type of damage is likely to occur in its mission this should define the buying decision. A metal plane in general is cheaper to fix at an FBO because of tooling and knowledge.

The question is what am I most likely to survive a hard forced landing in. The answer to this is a combination of material. The occupants should be surrounded in a crash cage. The wings should be aluminum and the rest composites. This way you can dissipate energy with things breaking off as you slide into what you end up hitting. There is a reason why home built like the glasair have a very good survivability rate, if they would actually do crash tests and design out all occupant area incursions they could build a LSA that could landed softly and then hit a wall at 30mph and the occupants survive. Look up the NTSB crash test between the 2009 Malibu and 1959 belair, you will not believe the difference. The crash dummy showed minor knee injury in the 2009 the dummy in the 1959 would of died instantly.

The material debate though doesn't greatly effect the cost of the plane. The major cost is over instrumentation and engine.

Posted by: Joseph Chambers | December 2, 2011 1:15 PM    Report this comment

Thomas, If I am being unfair then so be it.

$50,000 is about what my Zodiac XL (meets LSA definition) cost me. I also spent 6 years of nearly constant effort to assemble it and design and build the instrument panel, electrical system, and interior. I decided against paint for the exterior and have started polishing the aluminum. My interior is also mostly bare metal. This gives me a low empty weight - critical on LSA.

I have everything the way I want it. My engine, a Jabiru 3300, is larger and much nicer than most S-LSA (some of them have the same engine). Performance is just at the maximum to meet the LSA definition. For me this is an ideal LSA.

You can buy a similar plane - A Zodiac 650 from Eastman in GA for around $100,000 with a Continental engine and some minor differences in the panel from my plane (e.g. no VOR/ILS receiver). That price difference seems fair to me. The factory has to pay for labor, SG&A, overhead, profits, and reserves for the required support of planes in the field. You just can't get a plane with anything like similar performance for much under $100,000. I don't think the future holds lower prices for anything.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | December 2, 2011 5:36 PM    Report this comment

Paul, your aircraft is evidently the result of craftsmanship. Artisan-produced goods are very expensive, as you note. But people who want to buy airplanes don't look at it that way. They compare the functionality of a small, 2-seat aircraft to a luxury sports car and think the airplane "shouldn't" cost more. Perhaps a helpful (if exaggerated) way to think about it is in terms of wristwatches. Hand-built mechanical watches are extraordinary pieces of craftsmanship. Given the hours of effort that go into them, they are naturally very expensive. It would be churlish and foolish to expect to buy one for the price of a movie ticket. But, if what you want is just a watch, you don't buy a Patek Philippe. Your hand-crafted airplane is a mechanical work of art, and I wouldn't expect anyone to be able to sell an equivalent cheaply. But I do believe - not because I know how, but because of a career that involved benchmarking - that the airplane equivalent of the quartz watch should be perfectly possible.

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | December 2, 2011 10:50 PM    Report this comment

"This is the longest thread ever - I checked!"

You didn't check back far enough. We've gone over 200 several times.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | December 3, 2011 5:50 AM    Report this comment

It would be nice if your ideas worked, but they do not.

I learned in the electronic product business that there are three common product volume levels: onesies/twosies; 5,000 units per year; million units per year. Each group has its own cost and manufacturing process characteristic.

For extremely low volume products nearly all the cost is in the engineering. For the million unit per year items the engineering cost just doesn't matter. For the biggest sector both engineering cost and production cost (materials and labor) are critical.

The numbers are different for airplanes but the principal is the same. For those designs fortunate enough to generate a moderate number of sales the volume is probably tens of units per year. Cessna hoped to build hundreds of Skycatchers per year and failed. With this kind of environment the engineering costs are a big part of each unit's cost and the volume is so low you just can't afford fancy manufacturing tooling to reduce labor costs. It is a hand made custom product environment. It must stay that way until you can get to the point of thousands or millions of units per year. This will never happen. The demand isn't there for thousands or millions of new planes per year at any cost. So the unit cost will always stay at the custom built product levels we see today.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | December 3, 2011 5:58 AM    Report this comment

I'm not sure where everyone gets the idea the Skycatcher is a failure. Cessna reported selling 102 units through the 3rd quarter 2011 (GAMA). This is more than all the others of the type through the same period put together.

Hopefully, the price increase will give Cessna funds to aggressively support something like the old 'Flight Centers' to bring new pilots into the system.

I do seem to recall that when announced, Cessna viewed flight schools as the primary customer. This drove the use of the O-200 and probably a lot more flight testing than the minimum required.

Posted by: Edd Weninger | December 3, 2011 12:23 PM    Report this comment

Edd, There is a big problem with the choice of words in your comment. Cessna hasn't sold 102 units. They sold over 2500 units. They just delivered the hundred units.

Cessna sold thousands of units before the first one was shipped. Their plans called for 700 units per year to be shipped. Now after several years they have shipped only 100. That is why we say Cessna has a failure on their hands.

Perhaps one reason they had to have such a huge price increase is they just couldn't ship the number of units required by their original plan.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | December 3, 2011 12:49 PM    Report this comment

There is also a big problem using GAMA numbers to try to understand aircraft sales. They only report sales of planes from members of their association. Light Sport aircraft manufacturers might be members of GAMA like Cessna or they might not. I'm not sure what the real numbers are (if I wanted to know I'd ask Dan Johnson) but I suspect many more Light Sport Airplanes were sold than the ones GAMA reports.

My last tally from Dan Johnson show around 2,000 S-LSA planes sold over the last 5 or so years.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | December 3, 2011 12:53 PM    Report this comment

Speaking of 2011 only, Dan Johnson reports 140 Skycatchers through the 3rd quarter. He estimates 75 others total through the 3rd quarter.

His estamites are derived from FAA registrations. This is somewhat misleading. E.G. there are >100 registrations for the RV-12 but I'd guess most of those kits are not flying yet, and if things go as normal in the kit-build world, half never will.

Posted by: Edd Weninger | December 3, 2011 1:01 PM    Report this comment

Paul Mulwitz gives an excellent commentary on why LSAs will never be cheap--as well as explaining the economics of homebuilding.

Eric advocates for the superiority of glass airplanes, despite admitting that he has never even SEEN a 162.

We've all seen that legacy airplanes that can be flown as LSAs are in great demand--and that even NEW and expensive versions of those same airplanes are among the sales leaders.

There are thousands of existing and proven legacy airplanes out there. If we do away with the 3rd class medical, these airplanes will also be in demand.

The supply of good used airplanes will continue to shrink. Remanufacturing these airplanes--WITHOUT further insurance costs, will provide a "new" aircraft for the same cost or less than the current LSAs.

You might complain that it's "old technology"--but at least it's AFFORDABLE technology.

Posted by: jim hanson | December 3, 2011 2:04 PM    Report this comment

You didn't check back far enough. We've gone over 200 several times.>

And there was the we-need-more-women-pilots thread that I think went over 300 posts - longest roller coaster ride I'd ever been on.

Posted by: David Miller | December 3, 2011 2:32 PM    Report this comment

Edd, I suspect most of the registered home built planes are indeed flying. A builder has no incentive to register his plane before he is ready to get it certified. There is a small lag (several months) between the time a builder starts to get his plane registered until he actually accomplishes this miserable task. Think state motor vehicle licensing bureau and multiply the pain by 100.

I'm not sure, but I suspect LSA are outselling GAMA members sales by a large amount. If you include kit planes (E-AB) then multiply that by ten. This is not hard to guess since LSA cost a lot less than most GAMA planes and kit planes cost a lot less than S-LSA (when you don't count the labor input).

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | December 3, 2011 2:43 PM    Report this comment

Paul, I should clarify that I'm very familiar with the issues around aircraft costs, and my comparisons are not being made from a position of naivete. I nevertheless contend that customers are not being unreasonable when they develop their "should cost" estimate by comparing airplanes to other comparable products. The fact that no-one has figured out how to produce airplanes cost-effectively is the producers' fault, not the customers'.

I also believe that the "it can't be done" school will be very surprised indeed when it turns out that it can, in fact, be done. There is a clear trend in manufacturing toward having smaller and smaller production runs required for efficient scale. As for the engineering costs, with the improvement in design software and a century of accumulated experience, the labor hours required to design a simple airplane are minimal compared to the past.

In my experience consulting to various organizations over the years, it's always been the case that there are good reasons why things are done the way they've always been done. Right up until someone sees a new way - and often for quite a while after that.

A common attribute of the "new way," incidentally, is that it will have some characteristic that was formerly considered "unacceptable", but that turns out to be acceptable after all if the cost improvement is great enough.

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | December 4, 2011 12:01 AM    Report this comment

Paul, I should clarify that I'm very familiar with the issues around aircraft costs, and my comparisons are not being made from a position of naivete. I nevertheless contend that customers are not being unreasonable when they develop their "should cost" estimate by comparing airplanes to other comparable products. The fact that no-one has figured out how to produce airplanes cost-effectively is the producers' fault, not the customers'.

I also believe that the "it can't be done" school will be very surprised indeed when it turns out that it can, in fact, be done. There is a clear trend in manufacturing toward having smaller and smaller production runs required for efficient scale. As for the engineering costs, with the improvement in design software and a century of accumulated experience, the labor hours required to design a simple airplane are minimal compared to the past.

In my experience consulting to various organizations over the years, it's always been the case that there are good reasons why things are done the way they've always been done. Right up until someone sees a new way - and often for quite a while after that.

A common attribute of the "new way," incidentally, is that it will have some characteristic that was formerly considered "unacceptable", but that turns out to be acceptable after all if the cost improvement is great enough.

Posted by: Thomas Boyle | December 4, 2011 12:01 AM    Report this comment


Design of aircraft is a tough nut to crack. Besides all the standard manufacturing issues you have to come up with a design that is attractive to potential buyers, relatively easy to fly, generally well behaved, efficient, comfortable, well suited to its intended purpose, and generally safe. Even if you could solve the manufacturing puzzle and produce a low cost model you still have to hit all the other targets to have a winner.

If you think this is easy you should consider that Cessna, one of the most successful aircraft manufacturing companies of all time, couldn't design an LSA that could recover from a spin. Chris Heintz, also a very experienced designer, managed to design the Zodiac XL so poorly the wings tended to come off in normal flight.

Some day airplane sales volume could be huge. You still need to get all the ground pounders to learn to fly. Perhaps this will happen in NASA time (hundreds of years from now) but we will all be gone before then.

I believe the LSA standards are well built to describe a fun plane to fly. That was their goal. However, to reach the kind of volumes you need for really low cost manufacturing I think you need to build an efficient and practical general transportation device. Perhaps a car or motorcycle would fit that niche better than an airplane.

Posted by: PAUL MULWITZ | December 4, 2011 6:12 AM    Report this comment

How about powered parachutes, cheap to make, safe and easy to fly.

Posted by: Trevor Evans | December 4, 2011 8:03 AM    Report this comment


I completely agree that it's hard. I guess I like to think of it as a fun and interesting challenge!


Posted by: Thomas Boyle | December 4, 2011 10:31 AM    Report this comment

I teach part time at the local flying club. I am a 6300 + hr ATP CFI and the airplane I got my initial check out in 1979 as a 75 hr Private pilot was a C 152. It was bought new 6 months earlier and had 400 hrs TT. That exact airplane is still on line. It now has almost 21,000 hrs TT and is still going strong. Will the Cessna Ground Catcher still be making money for a flight school 30 + years and 20K flight hours later..........

Posted by: DAVID GAGLIARDI | December 7, 2011 11:52 PM    Report this comment

Stop the internationalist bastards and boycott the skycatcher, local pilots that I know have! My friend is 83, and he cancelled his order, and he will keep flying his C-170, American made, and Americain staid!

Posted by: Ron Brown | December 8, 2011 12:29 AM    Report this comment

That's right Ron, while your at it., better throw out everything else you own that isn't made in the US. All your foreign made clothes, electronics, watches etc. We foreign bastards will stop exporting our crap to the US. No more electronics for your Chevy, your microwave, your tv etc. Should work out great for you. ;)

Posted by: Trevor Evans | December 8, 2011 2:12 AM    Report this comment

Already got your socialist message, Trevor, and that's why you can keep all your crappy garbage, doesn't bother me, at all!

I hate to tell you, I don't have TV, watches, etc. nor the Chevy! It does work out great for me!

I will admit to having the iPhone, made in China, it was just too cute to pass up!

Posted by: Ron Brown | December 8, 2011 2:55 AM    Report this comment

Sorry Ron, not much of a socialist, sorry to disappoint, just a realist. Unless you live in a log cabin, don't shave and wear bear skins most of everything you use or wear has elements of foreign countries. Even the computer you are using has electronics made in China, Taiwan or Japan. Your clothes are probably made in Mexico, Costa Rica, India, Thailand or the Philippines, the server hosting this blog was made in Asia as are all the networking components. The light bulbs, switches and wiring in your house is probably made overseas. The components in your radio in your airplane is made overseas as are most of the gaskets, hoses and spark plugs. Your shoes are probably made in Vietnam or China, unless you are barefoot.I could go on and on, but I won't. I'm glad at least you are using an iphone,...I'd hate to think you are not "Connected" there in your log cabin...BTW, I Love the US and have a Motorhome in Storage there, most of it was made in the US. Cheers.

Posted by: Trevor Evans | December 8, 2011 4:05 AM    Report this comment

Well Ron, not so much of a socialist, more of a realist, I certainly hope you have some clothes and shoes on, because these were probably made overseas, as is your razor, unless you have a beard, as are the electronic components in the radio in your friends C-170. It may come as a surprise, but unless you are living in a log cabin using gas lamps for lights and wood for cooking, wearing bear skins etc, probably everything you wear, touch, use or own has some elements of other countries labor, materials and technology in it. At least you have an iphone as I would hate to think you are not "connected" to the outside world. Speaking of which, the computer hosting this blog is probably made in Taiwan. BTW, I love the US, I have a motorhome there in storage at the moment, most of it was made in the US (and Canada). Cheers, Buddy. ;)

Posted by: Trevor Evans | December 8, 2011 4:18 AM    Report this comment see, this is what happens when you depend on these stupid international hosting networks to post your comment properly. First it tells you that your comment was not submitted, then you have to re-type everything only to find out it was bastards..damn right!! I'm with you now Ron.

Posted by: Trevor Evans | December 8, 2011 4:22 AM    Report this comment

Jolly Good, Trevor, you're from the U.K. then?

Posted by: Ron Brown | December 8, 2011 12:21 PM    Report this comment

Hi Ron, no, Im from the colonies, Australian and Canadian dual citizen who spent some early school years in New Mexico. Bit of a mongrel really.

Posted by: Trevor Evans | December 8, 2011 5:52 PM    Report this comment

The Sports Pilot License program, established in 2005, has accounted for only 3,680 Sport Pilots certificates mostly coming from where the money is, an older crowd averaging 53.8 years of age. California holding the most pilots, aircraft and flight instructor in the US accounted for only 286 LSA pilot certificates and the California Riverside County FSDO, the second largest district where I instruct, totaled 16. In late 2011 the price of the Cessna Skycatcher LSA aircraft increased to about $150,000 (the price of three good running VFR/IFR C172s) encouraging the rest of the manufacturers to increase prices as well. As the demand declines other disincentives have been developing, as an example, the offshore manufacturing in China for Cessna has been nationalistically controversial. Furthermore, AOPA and EAA are now lobbying for the elimination of the Third Class medical to enhance much needed new starts and promote inactive to active pilot ranks. The elimination of the Third Class medical started the LSA attraction and clearly this AOPA/EAA joint proposal does not go well with the present LSA manufacturers giving way to an LSA market instability.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | December 19, 2011 4:57 PM    Report this comment

(Continued) Other factors affect the LSA market; higher sales and property taxes, lack of equipment standardization between manufacturers, higher hull insurance costs, higher rental rates, small market getting smaller and limited use of the unit (VFR only) do not help making it difficult for flight schools or individuals like me to justify such an investment.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | December 19, 2011 4:58 PM    Report this comment

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