Light Sport Rule V 2.0: A (Qualified) Step Forward


Somewhere, in a hangar equipped with SolidWorks, an enterprising airplane designer is dreaming of finally putting a stake through the heart of the sclerotic Cessna 172. Fueling the fever dream is the just-announced results of the FAA’s MOSAIC project to modernize the Light Sport Aircraft rule. We don’t have the final rules details yet, but the NPRM announcement suggests the thing is going in the right direction. For once. (See the NPRM here.)

In a nutshell, the new rule would remove the onerous and arbitrary 1320-pound weight limit, would increase stall speed to 54 knots from the current 45, and would allow retractable landing gear and controllable pitch propellors. Current LSAs are limited to 120 knots, but under the new rule, the limit would be 250 knots. Not many certified airplanes can steam along that fast, so we’re looking at the probability of some real hot rods.

So yeah, this is a good thing, but let’s keep the heavy breathing in check by reviewing what got us here. By next AirVenture, the Light Sport Aircraft rule will celebrate its 20th anniversary. Light sport was supposed to ignite a wave of innovation and cheap—check that, less expensive—airframes. The Sport Pilot rule would allow pilots to fly them sans medical and would make it easier to obtain certificates. So did it? A lukewarm sort of maybe. Many LSAs are flown by pilots with higher certificates, stepping down from expensive airframes they no longer need. The FAA says 7000 sport pilots were certificated since the 2004 rule. That’s under 400 a year.

I consider the light sport industry a modest success because I never expected much of it. There are too many airplane types chasing too few buyers at prices that definitely are lower than new certified aircraft but that aren’t cheap, exactly. I think we talked ourselves into the idea that $40,000 LSA airplanes would gin up demand and we would be in the tall cotton of 1978. But buyers persistently larded up the new airplanes with all the options available, soon driving the mean LSA sticker toward $150,000. Buyers say they want cheap airplanes, they just don’t buy cheap airplanes. Or cheap avionics, either.

LSA did produce some innovation. The list is short, but the Icon A5 is on it, despite carping about its limitations and over the top promotion. CubCrafters ran with it and the Sport Cub begat the Carbon Cub, which has evolved to a deserved status as a classic. The company also developed its own engine. Legend put a second door on the Cub, which makes the airplane more fun to fly and a better floatplane. Pipistrel leveraged the LSA ripple to produce the first not-yet-practical electric airplane and got it certified in Europe. They’re still moving forward.

Sales volume was anemic and remains that way. In 2022, Tecnam was a sales leader with 70 ASTM airplanes, Icon had 36, Pipistrel 41 and Flight Design 7. The FAA claims 4459 airplanes were built under the rule or about 230 a year in the aggregate. If those numbers keep the lights on, who am I to call it a failure?

Why didn’t light sports sell better? The weight limitation was part of it, I’d guess, but the larger driver was lack of cost-value. The Icon’s come on price, for instance, was around $150,000, but it’s $390,000 now, fully equipped. And it doesn’t do much. Cross countries require patience, so it’s a runabout airplane for lake and river sport flying. So, a lot of money for not much utility. At least you could take an old Cessna 180 on floats to Alaska.

Now comes Son of LSA in the form of MOSAIC. Higher weights, faster speeds, bigger. We just reported on Texas Aircraft’s Stallion LSA, a four-place airframe powered by an IO-360. Think about the possibilities here. These airframes are still consensus ASTM approved, not certified. That means they’ll be cheaper to develop and pound for pound, should be less expensive than certified aircraft are now. (The NPRM makes vague reference to “revisions” of the consensus standard, but it’s unclear what this means.)

Without the weight restriction, designers can put more structure into them so they might survive the rigors of daily training, which flight schools have found current LSAs can’t always do. Broken landing gear, cracked mounts and chintzy door latches on the Skycatcher come to mind. I can imagine a modernized reiteration of the Cessna 150 as an LSA, powered by a Rotax and robust enough to survive the rigors of flight schools. Recall that Mooney’s aborted M10 was heading in that direction, but tanked after a $20 million investment poured into the dark hole of a sparse trainer market. The M10 was developed in anticipation of CS23’s streamlined requirements, but it was still a certified airplane. MOSAIC airplanes shouldn’t cost as much to develop.

When LSA first appeared, I imagined my ideal airplane would be sort of an upsized Globe Swift with 160 HP, turbocharged, retractable, side-by-side seating and full IFR. Except for the IFR part, all that is doable under MOSAIC. Rotax has the 916, Garmin and Dynon reasonably priced avionics and as Randy Schlitter and I discussed in this week’s video, small airplane factories can increasingly afford CNC equipment that dramatically improves productivity, at least limiting the rise in manufacturing expenses. You may recall that the same tech-driven economies were supposed to apply to the Eclipse Jet 18 years ago and, well, Eclipse was going to show us all how it was done. But what we saw was the bottom of a billion-dollar crater.

If you ever hear me say, well, this time is different, just slug me. But with the ASTM standards, the investments should be lower, the developmental times faster, capabilities higher and sticker prices lower. Not $40,000, but not $400,000 either would be a dreamy hope. Perhaps I lack imagination, but I don’t expect much market expansion here based on price alone, just as there wasn’t with the 2004 rule. Manufacturers entering this new realm should, in my view, think about one thing: ballistic parachutes for every new model. Perceived crash risk weighs heavily on people considering coming into or staying in aviation. If Cirrus proved anything, it proved that parachutes are a real safety enhancement that also broaden market appeal. Higher weights also allow more passive safety systems like belts, flail space, protected fuel lines and tanks. These airplanes need to have these things.

Now on to the legacy implications. The rule isn’t fleshed out yet, but apparently proposes to eliminate the definition of Light Sport Aircraft in favor of something else derived from a performance-based standard. That led the FAA to set a weight limit of “about 3000 pounds.” But it’s not a hard limit, rather one based on a clean stall speed of 54 knots. Make that speed and you’re in. I’m sure this will be sending many of us to paw through POHs looking at stall speeds. A 172, at 50 knots, makes it and so does the 182 at 53. But not the 210 and not the 177 Cardinal. Yes to the Piper Archer, no to the Dakota. V35 Bonanzas? Sorry.

Your guess is as good as mine for what implications this may have on the legacy market and on attracting new pilots into aviation. My guess is some, but not a measurable change. The 2004 rule gave the market for Cubs, Champs and Ercoupes a little boost, but it could hardly have been called frenzied. The advent of Basic Med softened the legacy market because medically challenged pilots could stay in or move up to heavier aircraft. Maybe it will be the same the second time around for 172s and Archers.

I disagree with the FAA’s rosy view of LSA safety. The agency’s own research revealed that light sports, as a cohort, have a higher accident rate than certified aircraft. My research into 200 light sport crashes revealed that many appeared to be the result of runway loss of control or stalls often related to low wing loading and light control forces. Adding weight and size to the airframe helps by making the airplane less of a kite in crosswinds with less tendency to overcontrol or PIO. Remains to be seen what manufacturers will do with that, but that new Stallion from Texas Aircraft may be a harbinger.  

And you know what? All things considered, I would rather have the option of flying these more capable airplanes on driver’s license certification than not having it. I would rather have 4500 LSAs in the fleet than not have them and I’d rather have the prospect of new, more capable LSAs—or whatever we’re going to call them—than not have it.

So let’s call it MOSAIC what it appears to be: a promising step forward.

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  1. I agree with Paul, MOSAIC is a good step forward, but the problem with recreational aviation isn’t the lack of airplanes, it is the lack of new pilots.

    I think fundamentally it is that flying is not “special” anymore. The high point of GA was the 1970’s. Most people had never flown, flying was glamorous and exciting.

    Now almost everyone has experienced the “delights” of an airline flight and young people have many more choices for recreational activities. I started flying at my local flying club in 1979. 70 % of the club’s annual hours was recreational flying or training for pilots intending to fly recreationally. The other 30 % was people training for a flying career. Now it is the opposite.

    The recreational flying community is now mostly comprised of people like myself, someone over 60.

    Recreational aviation as we now understand it is slowly disappearing. I don’t think there is anything anyone can do about it, but personally I am OK with this reality. There will always be a cohort of young people that have the flying virus. It will be smaller but it will always be there. Pay it forward so when you find one nurture the connection.

    • “The high point of General Aviation (GA) was the 1970s.”

      Under the GI Bill for Aviation, veterans had the opportunity to receive flight training and obtain pilot licenses. This opened up aviation as a career option for many returning servicemen and significantly contributed to the growth of the aviation industry in the United States. Flight schools were busy, and everything seemed to mesh during that time as the combination of veterans using the GI Bill for Aviation, a strong economy, rising interest in aviation, a growing industry, accessible training resources, and favorable regulations resulted in a balance between flight training demand and supply that was favorable to flight schools and the aviation industry. Repeat?

  2. Get ready for some opposition. Remember when the airline pilots union fought, and successfully watered down, BasicMed? Don’t be surprised if the legacy piston airplane manufacturers have their lobbyists working OT also. The monopoly they have been enjoying will come to an end. All the opposition will be in the name of safety of course.

  3. I’ve only glanced at the 300+ page tome, but I like the direction the FAA is taking on this. The original Light Sport regulations were one detailed requirement after another that severely constrained the designs to something that resembled a Cub. All of the innovative designs (like Icon) required waiver after waiver. No adjustable props (hence no motorgliders), no non-IC engines (hence no electric planes), etc etc. Basing everything on Vs is reasonable, as a low stall speed is what separates the tame planes from the wild ones, and Vs typically limits the other performance parameters while not proscribing unique design features.

    What I hope this doesn’t become is just another way to slide a larger slice of what’s left of the ancient GA fleet under the ‘Light Sport’ tent. What GA needs is innovative products and training, not just a mechanism for allowing aging pilots to keep flying the family Cherokee.

    • Actually, the original LSA rule did allow motorgliders to have feathering props.

      I agree with you, in hoping that this will give rise to a new era of innovation for light GA. I do have hope for that: the LSA rule we already have, gave rise to well over 100 new aircraft designs that made it to market – even though it turned out there wasn’t much demand for aircraft with the performance, but not the durability, of training airplanes.

  4. I agree with Paul’s assessment. As usual, he hit pretty close to the bullseye. That said, as a person who plunked down his $5K to Cessna for a FlyCatcher only to face delivery delay after delay and finally the Hecho en China insult forcing his order cancelation, I see something less than tail winds ahead. At THAT time, an LSA was the only way an aging pilot could reasonably ensure their ability to keep aviating. Yes, MOSAIC IS better than LSA V1.0 BUT … it coulda been SO much better. The NPRM IS titillating but it isn’t a final rule YET. Let’s massage it, boys and girls !! We can’t wait another 20 years for V3.0.

    IF — as David G alludes to above — recreational GA is to grow and prosper, several things have to happen. There’s a shortage of mechanics and IA’s. If new MOSAIC compliant airplanes are still too expensive and have to be maintained like a certificated airplane … it just isn’t gonna do much beyond a slight bulge in the numbers … just like LSA and Basic Med did and Paul opined. We’ve GOT to reduce the costs and complexity of the “process” to first become a recreational pilot and then to acquire an airplane with a modicum of usefullness. 60 year old’s with disposable income are fine to keep the infrastructure going short term but the younger crowd has to be drawn in to provide for a lasting aviation segment.

    Personally, I am STILL miffed that the FAR Part 23 Rewrite didn’t result in the establishment of the EAA Appendix “Primary Category” of airworthiness allowing Condition Inspections of any airplane moved (reversibly) into that category. Had that happened, maintenance costs would have remained easier and cheaper for rec. pilots who might choose to move their certificated airplanes into that category. Any new MOSAIC airplanes MUST be able to be maintained that way. Thus far, all the effort has been on the pilots and on new aircraft to the exclusion of the maintenance end of things. Success in the recreational end of aviation is a multi-factored equation. Any one factor can unbalance the equation. We’ve now got Basic Med and LSA V2.0 imminent. If we could just finish the job, I think things WOULD improve.

    I’ve been in aviation for 56 years and a pilot and mechanic for most of ’em. As I approach MY sunset as an aviator, I want one more shot at having something better than my trusty Skyhawk sitting in my hangar. I see the planets potentially aligning with the coming of the RV-15. If Vans would just offer the possibility of hanging a Rotax 916iS on the thing, I might just finally have what I wanted … a great airplane with the reasonable expectation that I’ll be able to use it until I determine it’s time to hang up my A20’s. Are ya listening, Van? Well, OK … maybe a Stallion would do with the right engine, too? I don’t think any factory built airplane will ever be cheap enough for mere mortals to acquire but I do see an airplane built like the RV-12 SLSA as an option. If Vans does that … he’ll have to build another factory 🙂

    Everyone needs to put their comments into the NPRM … NOW is our chance … DO IT!

    • Yes, the P-NC proposal from 2013 is still missing. That said, I don’t see why the process has to be reversible; who would bother going back? Give people the option to take their old Part 23 airplane and permanently convert it to an E-LSA (or even equivalent to a homebuilt) and it would help.

      I do think the FAA is still missing the mark about why people fly LSA’s. In round 1.0, they assumed (as was stated in the Federal Register) that most LSAs would be open-frame, no-electrical “fat ultralight” equivalents used for training new ultralight pilots.
      Now in round 2.0, they assume that people are seeking out LSAs over homebuilts because they are enticed by the “safety” afforded by some sort of certification.
      In reality I think the reasoning goes more like this:

      1. Driver’s license medical
      2. Driver’s license medical
      3. No 51% rule (for E-LSA)
      4. Driver’s license medical

  5. The huge thing isn’t new designs, which will remain out of reach for almost everyone. If this actually survives all the vested interests, the huge thing is that all those 172s are about to become LSAs. The price of beat-up old trainers is about to skyrocket, and the $150k to $390k (!) slow movers are toast.

  6. If Cessna would have brought back the 152 with lighter materials, made it and assembled it in the USA, and not charged a fortune, it might have worked.

    The 162 wad doomed from the start.

  7. Until this set of rules gets approved, I’m still skeptical of anything a “Bureaucratic Think Tank” comes up with. But, If this moves forward with American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) Consensus Standards intact? We will see the modernization of aircraft. There’s electronic ignition and fuel control kits for Lycoming and Continental engines that make flying exciting again. There’s wing modifications that will bring many faster aircraft in under the Vs 54. Interior modifications, improved landing gear capabilities and reduced parts pricing $$$

    The real big elephant in the room is still the insurance companies view of ASTM Consensus Standards built and modified aircraft ??? If the accident rate per 100,000 hours doesn’t drop low enough the insurance will continue to stifle aviation operation cost. Can’t get a loan without insurance. Maybe limiting the aircraft to one passenger will be the reason for decreased liability payouts ?

    MOSAIC is better then nothing, let’s get it approved and see what happens.

      • I ask my all knowing friend at openAI:
        What is the FAA definition of ASTM?

        ” As of my last update in September 2021, the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) did not have a specific definition for “ASTM” in the context of aviation. However, ASTM International (formerly known as the American Society for Testing and Materials) is an organization that develops and publishes technical standards for various industries, including aviation.

        In the aviation industry, ASTM standards are often used for materials, components, and testing procedures to ensure safety, quality, and performance. These standards cover a wide range of topics, including aircraft materials, fuel specifications, aerospace equipment, testing methods, and more.

        For example, some commonly referenced ASTM standards in aviation include:

        – ASTM F2413: Standard Specification for Performance Requirements for Protective (Safety) Toe Cap Footwear
        – ASTM D1655: Standard Specification for Aviation Turbine Fuels
        – ASTM F1110: Standard Test Method for Sandwich Corrosion Test

        It’s important to note that aviation authorities, like the FAA, often reference ASTM standards in their regulations and guidelines to ensure compliance with established industry best practices.

        Since standards and regulations can evolve over time, I recommend checking the latest FAA documentation or the ASTM website for the most up-to-date information on specific standards and their applications in aviation.”

        We’re Doomed 😱

  8. Paul, you make a good point about MOSAIC offering a fresh start if it will include safety items similar to modern automobiles. The ballistic parachute and crash protective seating are already known designs that could easily be incorporated into just about any new airframe. Those ideas were a great selling point for Cirrus, after the company finally convinced their customers to actually pull the handle and live to deal with the insurance company. Electronic ignition, which is finally being offered from the factory by Lycoming, will improve engine performance and reliability while also offering better fuel economy. Win-win there. As several posters have said, MOSAIC should be an opportunity to bring aircraft design into at least the latter half of the 20th century. If they can produce safer, better performing aircraft that are affordable to flying clubs, then just about anyone who wants to fly can participate.

  9. “Buyers say they want cheap airplanes, they just don’t buy cheap airplanes.”

    Reminds me of the old saying in real estate, ‘no one wants to live in a house they can afford.’

  10. As I remember, the original charter of the FAA (when it was formed out of the old CAA) was to promote and regulate aviation.
    Can anyone name a single significant thing the FAA has done to promote aviation? Virtually every positive change in aviation has literally been FORCED onto the FAA by outside forces, Basic Med is an excellent example. I’m afraid anyone thinking the FAA will come up with ways to revitalize ( read promote aviation) from the inside is thinking against history and past performance.

  11. Allowing for less exotic heavier but cheaper materials which can hold up to the rigors of pilot training and rentals will stimulate the industry. The big advantage is under the current weight restrictions, the availability of engines pretty much favored one supplier only. The cost of certification of new players in this market faced an uphill battle from a near monopoly. Lycomimg and Continental, in my opinion, was hesitant to invest in a retool of their product to compete seeing the reality of the sales figures. Let’s face it, aviation on the entry level has not been strong for decades. To sit at this game, the cost to play was high and the payoff is peanuts. This lack of suitable power plants even affected the home built market and in my opinion, designers got lazy and only created airframes which fit the power to weight of what the big dog in that market provided. Maybe now the shackles of the rules will allow a new surge of creativity of design to gush forth. Besides batteries are heavy and we all know the push for electric anything by the controlling bodies.

  12. Seems like the FAA is finally getting nearer to reality!
    Recently flew a Vashon Ranger; great little aircraft, except for two things; a Stone Age engine, and couldn’t be flown with full fuel and two normal sized adults. (not super sized adults)
    A Vashon with a Rotax 916 and a realistic gross weight would be pretty near perfect for most purposes.
    Even better would be a Diesel engine to ensure fuel availability everywhere.
    A MOSAIC aircraft should be allowed IFR flight if flown by a qualified pilot; not reason not to allow that.
    And Please! No requirement for a ballistic parachute. Diamonds have a better safety record than Cirrus aircraft; fewer crashes, and more survivable.
    A Diamond in a full stall is coming down slower than a Cirrus under parachute.

    • “A Diamond in a full stall is coming down slower than a Cirrus under parachute.”

      Yeah… sort of…

      A Cirrus under canopy descends vertically at 1,700 fpm, or about 16 knots. But (except for wind) there is no horizontal speed.

      A Diamond DA40 with full nose-up trim and idle speed can descend vertically at a varying speed of 600-1200 fpm. But horizontally it’s still moving at 48 knots.

      How fast do you want to be going when you crash into trees or buildings? 19 knots or 48 knots?

      The Diamond is neat, but your numbers are taken out of context. You can read more here:

  13. Paul, you didn’t bring up one important point about the NPRM that has a potentially large impact. Sport pilots will still be limited to one passenger despite the allowance for 4 seat aircraft in the proposal. How do you think that impacts the story?

    • I cut a comment on this in the original because of length. Short answer, I don’t really know. My guess is that the one-pax limit will eventually be lifted. Also, we o know that the vast majority of GA flights are with one or two seats filled in four-place airplanes.

      • With a limit of pilot and one passenger there is still real value in Mosaic as heavier aircraft will allow more reasonable fuel and baggage. Will be great to go flyout camping with all the goodies, camping gear, bikes, ice chests, etc.

        One other thing. If Sport Pilot night flying will be allowed why not IFR if the pilot is properly trained and certified?

        • As a practical matter, as written the proposal will not allow Sport Pilots to fly at night. The key attribute of the Sport Pilot rating is the driver license medical. The proposal will allow someone trained as a Sport Pilot, but who has at least BasicMed, to fly at night. But, as a practical matter, almost everyone who qualifies for at least BasicMed will quickly move on to a Private rating. Anyone who flies Sport Pilot (either trained as such, or using Sport privileges with a Private certificate) will be limited to Day VFR.
          This does not make any actual sense: it’s hard to think of a medical condition that is only an issue after sunset or when it’s cloudy out. It seems to be the result of continuing opposition/resentment, within the FAA, toward BasicMed and the driver license medical.

          • But what about the jobs of all those FAA medical folks in OKC who are valiantly protecting us from… what exactly?

            Maybe if we stopped trying to chase down every blip in an applicant’s medical record from decades ago, and spend that effort instead on addressing the things that ACTUALLY cause accidents instead of the “maybe could theoretically possibly potentially” stuff the medical branch dreams up, we might see an actual safety improvement!

  14. I’m truly puzzled – as I have been all along – by Paul’s attitude toward LSA. He flies a Cub, which has all the drawbacks he complains about in LSAs – and then some. It has a lower wing loading than most LSAs. It has a higher power loading than most LSAs. It is draggier than most LSAs. It is less crashworthy than virtually all LSAs. It is less innovative, by virtue of its age, than almost any LSA. It is not available with a ballistic chute. And, of course, it has the third wheel at the back, a feature that was corrected during WWII. And yet, the Cub is Paul’s airplane of choice.

    Paul didn’t see much innovation; I did. My own LSA has a carbon fiber airframe, cruises close to the LSA limit (so, at pretty much the same speed as a C172 or PA28-140), has an airframe parachute, has unbeatable visibility, and offers a general “fun” factor unmatched by any of the legacy airplanes. Its demonstrated crosswind limit matches a Bonanza’s – and its cabin is wider. It has a full set of modern avionics, which can be upgraded at Experimental prices instead of Certificated prices.

    As for cost, you can buy an Aeroprakt A22 or a Bushcat for about $85k or an all-composite Pipistrel Alpha for $95k. In 2004 dollars, those prices would be $54k and $60k, so not the $40-50k that was hoped for, but these are excellent products and the price is at least in the hoped-for ballpark. Mission accomplished – except that, as Paul points out, most of the sales are for high-end traveling machines fully spec’d out with avionics worth more than the airframes. It seems that cost of getting in the air is not, after all, the primary reason there aren’t more recreational pilots – and that was a useful insight. The likely problem is that there needs to be a cost-value point, and merely getting into the air for $60k (in 2004 dollars) is not good enough: people want to load up and go places, which requires higher weights and speeds. The proof: even without higher weights, people are paying a lot for LSAs with go-places utility.

    The industry delivered – in spades, in my opinion – against the original requirement. That requirement turned out to be of limited appeal. So, on to the next iteration. It’s a pity it took so long to get here – nearly 20 years – but I have hopes the industry will deliver useful designs at realistic (but very likely not cheap) prices.

  15. Re: “Except for the IFR part, all that is doable under MOSAIC.” Paul can you clarify what MOSAIC states regarding IFR? If it’s not allowed, why not??

    Last time I checked, the AIRPLANE ITSELF can’t tell the difference between sunny & cloudy. Obviously you need proper equipment and a pilot certification to fly IFR, but you don’t need to build the airplane differently. A limitation to VFR seems just as arbitrary and counter to their stated goals as the 1320 lb weight limit was.

    • I was thinking intent. Some time ago, we determined that LSAs can be flown under IFR, if the manufacturer specifically deems it so. Not many have or are. And of course, there’s the pilot qualification under Sport Pilot rules.

    • The proposal does allow for IFR but it notes that a consensus standard would need to be developed. In fact, LSA rules are silent on IFR, but ASTM has stonewalled efforts to establish an IFR consensus standard. LSA can be – and are – flown under IFR by properly-rated pilots, if they are registered as ELSA rather than SLSA.

      That ASTM stonewalling may well continue, or it may change because manufacturers of 4-seat airplanes for Instrument-rated pilots demand action.

      But the absence of IFR-rated LSA is not the FAA’s fault.

      Sport Pilot privileges do not include IFR and the proposed rule change does not include that. To fly IFR you need a Private with an Instrument Rating and at least BasicMed, and the FAA is not proposing to change that.

  16. A lot has been made about the fact that most LSAs sold are decked out to the max with avionics and other options instead of the bare-bones entry level plane. Why is everyone surprised? Look at car sales and you will see the same thing. Ford, GM and Chrysler all offer pickup trucks at a reasonable price, but if you look at what people are buying, they are driving off in $60,000+ vehicles equipped with every available option. With LSAs, if someone can afford to spend $150K on a plane, they can probably afford to plunk down another $40K or so to get something that is actually useful. Otherwise, they would purchase a J3 that is the very definition of bare-bones. Sorry Paul, no offense intended.

    • The cost difference is even less than that. A decent VFR glass panel for a homebuilt or LSA would be $20k or less.

      And for much the same reasons, this is why the super-simple “fat ultralight” style LSA the FAA envisioned 20+ years ago never flourished. Cost doesn’t scale linearly with performance; the materials and manufacturing costs for an open-frame tube-and-fabric aircraft aren’t that different from a composite or sheetmetal one, and they probably use the same engine. The design and certification costs aren’t much different either. So rather than getting 50% of the airplane at 50% of the cost, you get 50% of the airplane at 85% of the cost.

  17. What will bring down the cost of new aircraft is the economy of scale. Airplanes need to be built in huge numbers to be profitable at reasonable prices. My beloved Tomahawk started out at a little over $16,000 in 1978 and the bulk of the production run was 1978-1980. By the time they shut the line in 1982 ( “where’s another hurricane when you need it” I’m sure was whispered through the factory) it had ballooned to almost $40,000.

    My suggestion to Cessna to start, would be to bring back one model per year to build on a pre-order basis. Say 2025 was the Aerobat year, then 2026 was Cessna 210s, then Cardinals in 2027 and so on. Build the volume necessary to sell them profitably and add new production aircraft to the fleet. They might even go up in value as folks wait for their favorite to come back around.

    Corrosion and a careless attitude about initial and recurrent training is leaving us all flying antique aircraft.

    • You certainly cannot get economy of scale for airplanes pretty much unusable for travel. The US needs something short of an IFR rating and certification. I flew IFR for two years with one simple, actual, and easily avoidably IFR approach. The year before that I lost 5 days to being stuck due to easily penetrated layers at low enough levels to not require real IFR skills.
      It’s bad enough they close every airport near to a high customer base, they make it so using the plane is less convenient than driving.

  18. As some may recall, at the beginning of LSA/SP for the first two years there was only one aviation insurance underwriter insuring Light Sport Aircraft and Sport Pilots. I don’t mean one insurance company, which is also true by default. There was only one underwriter: me.

    Let’s bring a bit of perspective for those that don’t me: Army AH-1 mechanic and UH-1/UH-60 crew chief (when the 60s had the “new car” smell), Radar ATC (tactical and fixed), civilian parts manager at an FAA Authorized Repair Station, and other aviation experience. At the time I was underwriting Light Sport, I was also doing “non-standard risks”, meaning aircraft that were somehow unusual or steep pilot transitions. Prior to joining the Army, I had the wonderful experience of helping to restore the clipped wing Cup that formerly belonged to Hazel Sig. In short, I can spell “airplane” and “helicopter”.

    When the LSA program was initiated, I read the NPRM and talked with some of the people on the ASTM team. For the first two years of insuring LSA and Sport Pilots, life was easy. I insured a lot of retired pilots in Cubs, Champs and Ercoupes. I also stayed in contact with developers of new aircraft. I was a bit disappointed that there wasn’t an exception made for the Cessna 150/152. It was discussed but the decision makers decided to stick to the rules. We had all been through the Recreational Pilot fiasco. After two years of seeing my results, other insurance companies decided to jump onboard. That was right when the 20 hour pilots and the new airplanes came into play. The other companies were using the insurance rates I had been using for two years and it didn’t work out well for them. I knew from the beginning what I wanted to do when the Diamond DV-20 and Flight Design CT were gaining competitors. I flew a lot of the new airplanes. I also had non pilots get some seat time with with experienced pilots. I did the research. That the other companies were business from me didn’t bother me at all. I knew their rates were too low for the transition to low time pilots and expensive airplanes. I was also at Sebring when a highly regarded Light Sport airplane blew over in light winds turning of the runway. I thought it might and even expressed my concerns to the factory pilot when he was preparing to give a demo ride to a potential customer.. I wasn’t the one insuring that airplane, so there wasn’t much I could say about it.

    So, here we are 20 years later. There aren’t many insurance companies left that will even look at light sport and sport pilots. Several reasons are responsible for the insurance companies pulling back. A lot has to do with ground accidents. Other reasons involve low time pilots in expensive airplanes that push the performance limits set by the FAA, ASTM and the industry consensus. Light sport went from inexpensive easy to fly airplanes, mostly having highly qualified pilots, to expensive airplanes that are costly to repair being operated by pilots with slightly over 20 hours flight time. Put succinctly, y’all did it to yourselves.

    Now we’re looking at MOSAIC. Every underwriter that has been paying attention just ha a “good grief” moment. Pilots that have proven they can’t handle the available airplanes will now be able to fly higher, faster, farther, in more complex expensive airplanes with more passengers.Anyone else seeing a problem here?

    There are solutions. The solutions may not be popular with some people. Then again, insurance is never popular with anyone. The FAA still mostly ignores General Aviation (except to make really stupid rules about training in non standard airworthiness aircraft), leaving “regulation” of general aviation in the hands of the insurance companies, which is fine if the FAA can stay out of our way and let us do what they can’t.

    As far as medicals go, for the most part, I really couldn’t care less until pilots start getting my age or have health conditions. A third class med every two years isn’t a big deal. As for pilots a lot older than me, I don’t know everyone. I have no idea what physical condition anyone is in. I don’t know your cognitive abilities. All I have to go on is a medical examiner’s word that a given pilot survived the medical exam.

    MOSAIC doesn’t excite or worry me. It’s just another situation to deal with. The underwriters can’t stop anyone from flying. All they can do is decide if they want to take the financial risk or not. I could say a lot more on this subject, but neither of us have the time for it in this forum. 😀

    (A nod to Paul, there is still a lot unknown, and it’s true that even most flights in light jets are conducted with only one or two souls on board. A lot needs to be considered.)

    • If you are an insurance guy who can think out of the box. You could really help new aircraft sales. I’m assuming leasebacks are still insured as they were 20 years ago.
      Separate the risk for ground and flight. Take the ground part and charge that monthly. Take the flight part and charge that by the hour.
      As a former leaseback owner I would have gladly risked paying more in the months with high rental to reduce financial risk which is very high when a lane is new in the fleet and especially new in the market.

    • Understood all except the MOSAIC allowing more passengers. In relation to Sport Pilots they will still be limited to one passenger I believe.

  19. Granted I have not read the 300+ page MOSAIC document but I have not heard one discussion about solving the Ultralight training issue. LSA killed ultralight training by prohibiting training in 2 place ultralight aircraft. Thousands of people learned to fly “fat ultralights” by instructor pilots who self-regulated by means of the United States Ultralight Association. The cheapest way to get in the air (and some would argue the most fun) is still a Quicksilver MX or Phantom. If MOSAIC doesn’t enabling training in inexpensive aircraft, it’s of no use. Sorry.

  20. The 172 is sclerotic? Rather, I think it’s closer to evergreen. My 172 with 180HP is very lively and supremely useful. It’s the best, most easily own-able all around airplane out here.

    • I guess that depends on which generation of Skyhawk you reference. The affordable ones (pre-shutdown generation) may be getting that way, just due to their age. The problem is that they are now charging over $430,000 for almost the same plane that used to sell for a tenth of that. I just watched a YouTube video where a Textron sales type was talking about the spiffy new interiors being offered on the 172. They are supposed to be easier to maintain because they are using hex-head screws to hold the plastic in place rather than the old sheet metal ones. And, you can now get the 172 logo stitched into the seat back on real leather. Really? That’s what you get for 430 grand? Don’t get me wrong, the Skyhawk is one of the best planes ever built, both from the standpoint of utility and benign flight characteristics. It’s just, well, old. And a nice fancy interior isn’t going to do anything to change that. Hell, I should talk… My 177 Cardinal is the same and you can’t even buy a new one. 😢

  21. Lots of comments here about the lack of innovation and market for LSA’s – in the US. No talk about the real and diverse innovation going on in Europe – and the robust market for them there. There are a lot of great “LSA’s” in Europe that would find a ready market here, but the FAA makes it nearly impossible to sell them here due simply to the headaches of registering and operating under the US LSA rules. If MOSAIC comes true, I hope to see a real influx of those fast, fuel-sipping, beautiful, comfortable planes that *already exist*, because today, “yah jes cain’t get them from theah” (in your best yankee accent)

    • Agreed! European LSA capability is FAR AHEAD of what is available in the U.S.A. They offer designs which provide actual utility as a cross-country travel machine. Here, regulations prevent it, with predictible effects on the industry.

      The appeal of general avaition here will continue dwindle and die until/unless the value of GA improves. Flying only once per week (or less) to eat a pancake or a hamburger at a small airport restaurant isn’t sustainable. Sure, flying is fun, but considering the true cost of the plane, its cost to operate and maintain, and pilot training… are we getting a utility that justifies the cost, time, effort, or risk? Of course not.

      Speaking for myself, I fly only because I enjoy the process and I can ignore the fact that it costs so much. Until I don’t or can’t. Is there any wonder why GA is declining?

  22. “The advent of Basic Med softened the legacy market because medically challenged pilots could stay in or move up to heavier aircraft.”

    I’m definitely going to disagree with that statement. BasicMed did not change the medical standards. It only changed who can approve you to fly – or deny you. You still have to meet the exact same medical standards under BasicMed that you have to meet under 3rd Class. Everything that was disqualifying under 3rd class is also disqualifying under BasicMed. If you were a “medically challenged pilot” under 3rd class, you are still a “medically challenged pilot” under BasicMed. If you can’t pass a 3rd class medical, you can’t pass a BasicMed exam. The new proposal is a game changer. If this passes, many grounded pilots will once again be able to fly a 172 or Archer or other aircraft commonly found in rental fleets.

  23. Paul,


    For the last two years – YES TWO, S-LSA have had less fatalities per 100k flight hours than certified non-comm GA. If you insist on lying at least clarify you a lumping EAB together with S-LSA.

    S-LSA had been matching GA certified accident rates, but it has finally past certified GA. Be careful about people using “LSA” to describe accident rates. LSA accidents disproportionately involve E-AB LSAs and ELSAs. Those types of LSAs, however, cannot be rented as a matter of law. So if your renting an LSA it has to be an S-LSA, which are statistically in less fatal accidents than certified GA. Until certified non-commercial GA comes up to speed re modern engines and instrumentation it likely S-LSAs will be continue to be safer. Lots of other reasons explain the better safety record related to sport pilot limitations – VFR only, day only, older more experienced pilots, etc. S-LSAs just have a bunch of inherent safety factors that other types of GA planes don’t have so it is a bit of an unfair apples to oranges comparison between certified non-comm GA and S-LSA safety stats.

    Edit – adding following from an old email so you have the link (also correction – second year in a row S-LSA have less fatalities per 100k flight hours than certified non-comm GA.

    On 5/20/2022 12:35 AM

    Nice – 2021 was the second year in a row SLSAs had fewer fatal accidents per 100k flight hours than certified/ga/non-commercial planes.

    Always interesting to review the latest SLSA safety stats – 56 pages of fatal and non-fatal accident SLSA data.