When Piper announced its partnership with Czech Sport Aircraft to market and support the PiperSport LSA last week at the Sebring Sport Aviation Expo, it cemented the concept that the new category of light, basic airplanes is a key to a revival in pilot training.
Cessna was first to adapt to the cost savings of the LSA rules when it began development of its 162 SkyCatcher about three years ago. Cessna took the long route designing the 162 from scratch and optimizing the airplane for the training mission. It's tough to build an all-new airplane in a new category and Cessna is still working on ramping up production now that the first 162 has been delivered. But the 162 looks like it will meet every objective.
Piper, with solid support from its new owners in Brunei, didn't have the time to create an all-new LSA to build a training program around so it made a deal with Czech to build a specifically tailored version of the Sport Cruiser. The airplane is a pretty natural fit into the Piper product line with its low wing and swept vertical fin. If Piper had designed an LSA from scratch it probably would have looked very much like the PiperSport, and several years of work would have been required.
I'm glad that Piper didn't want to wait the years it would have taken to create a brand new LSA and is instead working hard to enter that market segment now. Like Cessna, Piper has succeeded over the decades by having a full line of airplanes that people could learn to fly in, and then move up to more capable transportation machines. It's a business strategy that has worked, and I'm happy that Piper's new owners understand that and are supporting the PiperSport. Making flying more accessible to people here, and around the world, is what we need to keep general aviation from shrinking more and the Cessna SkyCatcher and PiperSport are important steps toward that goal.