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Ninth Annual U.S. Sport Aviation Expo Takes Off

 

Sebring
Team Breezer flies four Breezer LSA in daily close-formation fly-bys at the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring. Two of the team pilots are high school students who earned their pilot certificates at age 17. (Photo by Dan Grunloh)

By Dan Grunloh

January 17, 2013 - The ninth annual U.S. Sport Aviation Expo is underway at the Sebring, Florida, airport with high temperatures forecasted in the upper 70s throughout the four-day event ending Sunday, January 20.

More than 80 light-sport display aircraft are expected along with 80 indoor exhibitors representing engines, avionics, accessories, and aviation services. Attendees from the north can forget for awhile the single-digit temperatures and ice storms back home and sample the aviation possibilities in the coming year.

Originally conceived as trade show and sales event in 2004, Sebring has grown to include an air show, aircraft auction, seaplane operations, and educational forums. Thanks to Expo Director Jana Filip, and with the help of commercial partners and sponsors, the event is expected to draw a total attendance of 20,000 people.

If last year is any indication, there will be about 40 aircraft sold as a result of the event. The remaining 19,960 gate admissions represent folks coming down to sunny Florida to have fun and soak up the latest in light-sport aviation.

The feature attractions include aerobatic champion Patty Wagstaff in a twilight air show, and a performance by Team AeroDynamix (formerly Team RV, the world's largest air show team). Attendees will have a chance to hear former FAA administrator Randy Babbitt give a keynote address at the annual Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association (LAMA) dinner Thursday night, sponsored by Aviators Hotline.

Originally described as an invitational dinner for about 300 people in the light-sport industry, the sponsor's website indicates twice that many are now expected. Babbitt was also scheduled to have a Q&A session in one of forum areas on Friday.

The main attraction, however, is the largest collection of LSA in the world (or at least in this hemisphere), according to a statement by LAMA President Dan Johnson. On display are samples of the best aviation technologies from around the world. This the first chance for the public to see and hear the new fuel-injected Rotax 912iS engine in aircraft like the Flight Design's CTLSi. It is reported to start more easily, run more smoothly, and be 20 percent more fuel-efficient than the carbureted version.

Kitfox Aircraft is also offering the engine in both its S-LSA and experimental amateur-built kits - the first U.S. manufacturer to do so. Also anticipated is the first example in the U.S. of the Brazilian-built, bi-wing amphibian, the Super Petrel LS.

A new feature this year is ExpoRadio, providing live streaming audio coverage of the event that will feature interviews with sponsors and exhibitors along with schedule announcements and expert commentary.

It's not all work and no play at the Expo. New this year are four upscale gastronomic adventure sessions involving food, wine, and cheese tasting to benefit local charities. John Zapp and members of the Flying Musicians Association provide entertainment, performing and conducting "jam sessions" from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the AeroShell tent. John and his fellow members also conduct nightly sessions in the forums plaza at AirVenture.

The first of the approximately 40 forums conducted at the Expo is "Over Water Survival 101" by Ron Owen. Some of the pilots attending will be among the dozen or more who will embark on a group flight to the Bahamas Sunday afternoon after the close of the Expo. For more information, visit the Expo website and watch here and on the EAA Facebook page for more news and images from Sebring.

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