6th U.S. Sport Aviation Expo showcase for LSA, innovation
Story and photos by Kent Misegades for EAA.org
January 26, 2010 — Challenged by weather that made flying difficult at times, the sixth annual U.S. Sport Aviation Expo at Sebring, Florida, surprised everyone again with strong attendance and aircraft sales. Chairman Bob Wood remarked that attendance was about the same as in 2009, despite less than perfect weather and a weak economy compared to a year ago. “Saturday’s attendance was the best in the history of the Expo,” he said. Exhibitor participation remained strong, with more companies displaying outdoors and approximately the same number indoors as last year.
Sebring has cultivated an enviable reputation in its six years of existence, drawing folks from around the country who are interested in the growing light-sport aircraft category. At the start of his well-attended forum on Rotax engines, Lockwood Aviation’s president Phil Lockwood asked who had traveled to Sebring from out of state and about two-thirds raised their hands.
At a restaurant in nearby Lake Placid, the author met two pilots from the Philadelphia area who had driven down to make a final decision on a new LSA. They had narrowed their selection to two airplanes and planned to put a deposit down on one of these before going home on Sunday.
While this was not an EAA event, a lot of EAAers were on hand and the organization’s presence was widely felt throughout the four-day Expo. EAA again coordinated a full schedule of well-attended forums on numerous sport pilot/light-sport aircraft subjects. Ron Wagner, manager of field operations and presenter of six sport pilot forums, organized the series for the sixth year. “We met with a lot of EAA members and other attendees, discussing virtually everything possible within the LSA category and sport pilot,” Wagner said.
Earl Lawrence, vice president of industry and regulatory affairs, had meetings with a number of manufacturers and also attended the ASTM meetings held prior to the Expo. David Oord, EAA government and advocacy specialist, served as co-chair of the Light Sport - Joint Safety Committee of the GA-Joint Steering Committee that met for the first time. EAA’s membership tent was bustling all week, with folks stopping by to join or renew their memberships, find out about EAA programs and services, get a quote from the EAA Aircraft Insurance Plan, or enter the EAA Aircraft Sweepstakes. An Aviat Husky similar to this year’s grand prize was on display.
Sales of aircraft were again brisk. Wood commented on his informal survey of outdoor exhibitors near the end of the show: “I counted 18 S-LSA’s and one new kit sold, and I wasn’t able to speak with everyone,” he said. “Cessna even sold the fully-equipped C172SP they had on display. Piper made the first sale of their new PiperSport that was announced on Thursday at the show. A number of other exhibitors made multiple sales of top-of-the line S-LSAs, so clearly people come to the show prepared to buy.”
Pete Krotje, head of Jabiru USA, claimed he and his associates at Arion Aircraft sold four aircraft and made more demo flights – 51 - than ever before at any show of its kind, Wood added.
In addition to our list of the Nine of the Hottest New Innovations seen in Sebring, here are a few other notable sightings at Sebring this year:
Van’s Aircraft, exhibiting for the first time at the Expo, displayed their “blue ship” RV-12 in Sebring. Company representative Mitchell Lock reported that 338 kits had been sold and 17 were flying as of January 22. He expects 3-4 customer aircraft at Sun ’n Fun, and perhaps an entire row of RV-12s by AirVenture 2010.
Zaon Flight System traffic data displayed on Garmin’s new Aera portable touch-screen GPS.
Aerotoons (Bradenton, Florida, www.aerotoons.com) displayed their line of children’s e-books and T-shirts featuring the caricatures of airline pilot, Scott Roberts.
Belite Aircraft’s (Wichita, Kansas, www.beliteaircraft.com) minimalist airplanes flew constantly, despite blustery conditions.
Breezer Aircraft (Ruessenkoege, Germany, www.breezeraircraft.de) sent its top officials to Sebring in preparation for expanding their business in the U.S. in 2010. Two of their S-LSA aircraft were on display.
Hansen Air Group (Kennesaw, Georgia, www.hansenairgroup.com) confirmed that they are now offering the FK-9 from FK Lightplanes of Germany. They plan to bring the MK V version of the popular FK-9 as well as the FK-12 biplane to AirVenture 2010.
Jabiru USA (Shelbyville, Tennessee, www.usjabiru.com) displayed an aircraft with a new Garmin G3X display, a major departure from their past exclusive use of avionics from Grand Rapids Technologies.
Midwest LSA Expo (Mt. Vernon, Illinois, www.midwestlsashow.com) organizers have moved the date of their 2010 event to September 23-25 to avoid last year’s weather problems. This new LSA-focused event has formed a friendly collaboration with the organizers of the Sebring Expo.
Van’s Aircraft (Aurora, Oregon, www.vansaircraft.com) exhibited for the first time, showing their “blue ship” RV-12 E-LSA.
Zaon Flight Systems (Addison, Texas, www.zaon.aero) showed their new link to Garmin’s Aera portable touch-screen GPS, available in February.
A final date for the 2011 Sport Aviation Expo has not yet been set, but according to the event’s Chairman Bob Wood it will likely again be in the final weeks of January.