Light Sport in Sebring: Bucking the Tide

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I arrived at Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Florida last week, I didnít know quite what to expect. Given the seemingly unending river of discouraging economic news, all of us were concerned that the show would take a serious hit. It may have suffered some but, as with Oshkosh last July, I canít say I saw it in an attendance drop off.

In fact, Bob Wood, the event organizer, just told me attendance at Expo may have in fact increased a bit over last yearís numbers. The final count isnít in, but he said it could be as high at 11,500. If thatís true, it confirms what many of us think about the LSA segment. Itís gaining traction at every turn. I asked Wood if heís given any consideration to moving Expo back a month, toward the end of February, when the cold fronts sinking into Florida are both milder and drier. (It was as cold as 29 degrees on Thursday morning.)

But Wood says shifting the show dates isnít an option. By February, the Sebring race season is getting underway and between the racing noise and the competition for hotel rooms, moving the show is a non-starter. (Not that I much mind the full-throat scream of the Indy cars that see test laps at Sebring.)

This year, there were more fly-in attendees in all sorts of airplanes, but fewer arriving by car. I was a little surprised to see a number of people I know who own serious airplanesóserious meaning four seats and IFR-capableówho are more than casually looking at LSAs, either as replacements or second, fun-flyer sport aircraft.

Some of these buyers are doing what Iím doing: Wondering if any of LSAs are practical for modest cross-country trips. The short answer to that is that they are, as long as youíre not in a hurry or trying to keep to a schedule. In the next issue of Aviation Consumer, weíll be examining that very topic. Jeff Van West borrowed a Remos and used for it for a trip of moderate length in Louisiana and Texas. So if weíre doing stuff like that, you can believe other would-be buyers are, too.

On the other hand, even if you just use an LSA for tooling around your local county or for the $63.56 hamburger (fuel price drop), thatís reason enough to own one.

Comments (3)

There is no reason a light sport couldn't be used for cross-country. Through the 70's my wife and I flew all over the country in a Luscombe. We made dozens of trips of several hundred to two thousand miles. Attention to weather and flexibility are the key. It was surprising how close we could come to a set schedule. There were a few times though where we got to know people in some pretty out of the way places. With both of us and full tanks the baggage was severely limited, we often sent our baggage and laundry by UPS.

Posted by: Richard Montague | January 27, 2009 1:01 PM    Report this comment

I flew from Indianapolis to Montreal in a Cessna 172M with such a load that I could fill fuel only to half-tanks. I think a light sport trip would require the same stops, and and be just as much fun! Later in the trip, we sent the basggage home by Trailways bus.

Posted by: Cecil Tune | January 29, 2009 7:33 AM    Report this comment

I use my AMD Zodiac for trips other pilots think of 172s and Warriors for. As long as your mission fits in two seats, it'll do fine. You can even get IFR-certified LSAs. (Mine is.) You can't operate IFR if you're using the sport pilot rules, but an appropriately rated pilot with a medical can use an LSA just as he would any other comparably equipped light single.

Posted by: Jay Maynard | January 29, 2009 10:00 AM    Report this comment

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