Maybe people would buy a "bare-bones" aircraft if it was the same cost as a family Sedan (say about $30,000; though I question whether you could manufacture and aircraft for that little in this day and age).
The reason people are buying these LSAs with all the options is because the people who can afford a base price near $100,000 can afford all the options. Let's face it: most of these LSA's would still be in the $60,000+ range if they had simple gauges and interiors and fewer features. $60,000 (plus hangar, insurance, and fuel costs) is still more than most folks can afford, even aviation enthusiasts who are willing to own a smaller house, an older car, etc. In fact, I would argue that the entire used airplane market is proof of this fact - there are plenty of aircraft out there for $20k to $40k that still use mostly steam gauges and are bought and sold frequently. Indeed, the existence of that market of used aircraft may itself be an impediment to the low-cost-but-new-airplane segment. As has been discussed - how many makes and models do you need, in order to saturate the market? Its not just new aircraft; used aircraft count towards that saturation point, too!
Noel Wade's comment is spot on. It's surprising Goyer didn't recognize it. If one is wealthy enough to afford a new LSA -- with their 6 digit price tags -- then by definition one can afford the bells and whistles, too.
Thomas brushes up against the simple answer. Why can't a C152 be classified as an LSA? Some Ercoupes do, and they are often used for LSA training -- remember that lower cost appeals to the FBO as well as the potential owner.
Since the venerable C152's are everywhere, and their weight and performance only slightly exceeds the LSA regulations, why not lobby the FAA to stretch those limits to include the 152 and others like it? Doing so would open up a whole new tier of possibilities for potential recreational pilots on a budget, and the increasing number of baby-boomers (read geezers) for whom flight has long occupied a high ranking on their bucket lists.
What I am missing is, that the aspect of private transportation with cheaper prop driven private airplanes, in comparison to airline transportation, is not a factor in all discussions.
I believe that this is the main point why private GA is going down. The availability of airline transportation has widened and has become cheaper in the last decades. But instead of making private transportation with small private airplanes cheaper and easier to keep up the same direction as airline transportation did, private flying became more complicated and much more expensive.
Can somebody explain family members who are not pilots and not flight enthusiasts why the family should pay $ 150,000 or $ 350,000 and additionally all the cost only to make the pilot somewhat more happy? In comparison to airline transportation there is no argument anymore possible with the high prices for small planes and the weight limits for ULs.
When we do not get much cheaper and much faster SE airplanes which make sense for transportation GA will go down to the level of very few pilot enthusiasts and hobby clubs like in Europe. May be for this LSA would be mostly enough.
So, can I buy a CTLS with a few steam gauges, no parachute, a transponder, and cloth seats for $60,000?
Good post and some good comments here, although I disagree with airsteve172 - cumon Steve, you're being a bit harsh, right? Plenty of people look at any be-winged contraption with wonder. And LSAs allow people to commit aviation more cheaply and to keep flying independently well past the age at which they previously would have had to hand in their certificate.
Where I think we're going wrong with LSAs is this. They really do have the potential to revolutionise and reinvigorate aviation but aircraft alone are only half the story. The other half is creating the environment in which normal people will, for the first time in decades, be able to start considering aviation as a hobby, pastime, interest, work tool etc. Now obviously aviation is full of normal people who know how to afford it, but aside from some real devotees, most had family histories and ready-made support networks so they knew all along it was possible. LSA is the way to get everyone else involved, and they're being wasted. We need to be saying to people, "Join this club, pay a modest amount up-front, get training cheaply in the aircraft you part own then fly places surprisingly cheaply for the rest of your life." Currently we're saying, "Pay Ferrari money for a Camry that will sit in the garage most of the month, pay lots of money for training and then pay lots of money all the time for something you probably won't much more than a fishing boat." It's not the full answer, but if something like the club/group ownership model can be embraced, along with many of the community-oriented things that make gliding so cheap, people will come, especially with a PR push. How many kids dream of flying? How many parents would help their kids achieve that dream if it was affordable and they knew how? How many kids would be saving up to fly if it was affordable? Does anyone doubt that "Lots" is the answer to all 3 questions?
I agree that affordability is the issue here. The LSA concept is an exciting one until one realizes that the admission price to this club is over six figures. That might appeal to a small segment of the market liike flight schools but not to many others. If I had that much money to spend, I'd buy a more capable used aircraft. If I didn't have that much money to spend, I'd buy a used 172 or something similar. I don't think a new LSA is ever going to be affordable for the most of the market is is targeting.
+1 for Wingking's comment. Couldn't have said it better.
I earned my Sport Pilot certificate solely due to a discovery flight in a Remos GX that was given to me as a gift.
It definitely inspired me to become a pilot.
I'm surprised so many thing it's the cost of aircraft. I would have thought it was partially cost of entry (which, aircraft notwithstanding, I thought was much less a barrier with LSA) and mostly with the regulation differences (medical, simplicity, etc).
I like the comment above about the SeaMax. That's probably how I'd become a pilot. I think the considerations of cost & fun favor LSA, and probably would get me out there more often than GA.
I think what you're asking is, why can't Sport Pilots fly trainers like the C152, Tomahawk, DA-20, Ercoupe, etc.? (Technically, to be pedantic, "LSA" is a certification class, and these airplanes are already certified under Part 23. Some Ercoupes can be flown by Sport Pilots, but they are not LSA.)
As it happens, there is hope. Last year, AOPA and EAA filed a request with the FAA, asking that Private pilots be allowed to fly fixed gear up to 180 hp, with no more than 2 aboard, on a driver license medical. More than 16,000 people commented, almost all in favor. We haven't seen much (any) movement since. Even more unfortunately, there have been rumors that the FAA's internal reaction to the request was "over our dead bodies!" but I hope that's just a mean rumor and that the FAA knows its budget is better spent elsewhere.
To further the comments from Shutterjocky and Thomas Boyle as well as Sonex1542 by slightly extending the LSA cat to include fixed gear, prop, <180 hp as being pursued by AOPA and EAA we could expand employment opportunities (jobs) for a great many more people and small companies through the ability to recapture and rebuild and in some cases enhance such GA aircraft.
But alas, the FAA, the politicians, the manufacturers will not hear of such opportunities. All of this is of course is absurdity as it would not cost any of the deep pocketed ones a dime. Those with adequate funds will always buy what they can/want. The remaining ones with the spirit and shallow pockets...will just have to settle for cake.
I came back to general aviation later in life. I looked around and found a place to train that had an LSA. I specifically wanted an LSA because I wanted a new plane with a glass panel. Now this may be silly, but it is the reason I got back into flying. 25 years ago I trained in a beat up old tomahawk, with a CFI that considered yelling at the student good for them. I personally know lots of places where this is still true.
This time I trained in a modern plane, with a CFI that actually wanted to teach aviation, not show how cool he was. Last fall I finally finished my PPL, and now fly a steam gauge DA-20.
The club I am in has LSAs, DA-20s, and 172's as trainers. All three types of trainers are heavily used. With very little real experience I will offer this opinion. LSA's bring new people to the flying community. A lot of these folks are drawn by the new technology. Some folks just want to get their sport license. Some like me go on and get their PPL.
If LSA's bring in new people, then I think they are serving a very needed service to the GA market. In addition, it looks like some part of the LSA certification process may eventually wind its way into the rest of the GA market. This would be a huge win, bringing down the price of the GA fleet.
Let's be serious. The bells and whistles LSA cited above costs new between 125-200k. A new DA-20 starts at something like 225k. Sure you can buy older GA aircraft that are great for training. Some folks won't fly them and this is a loss to the GA market. I say leave the LSA market to sort itself out, and quit tossing rocks. We are a small community, let's work together to improve GA for all.
More great comments! Editors, could you please include a button so people can be automatically emailed if there are follow-up comments?
Where LSA really start to make sense is down in the Sonex price range. More than that, it's when (say) 3 or 4 people or parties get together to either buy or build something. Then you're talking no more than 10 or so grand each, plus some elbow grease. The car-like interior with acres of LCD panels help sell a design but once you've spent any period of time in it, you forget all about it. It just something to impress friends or make the significant other more likely to hop in :-). For most of the people who would fly if they could, access to a basic aircraft for seriously reasonable money is the key issue - that's where LSAs could reach their potential. For people who've seen aviation as an unobtainable dream, being able to afford it is a paradigm shifting life event. "I could actually be one of those people who fly in the air." The composition of the panel means nothing to these people. At least not at first. When I started to hear about how LSAs were typically going out fully loaded and that sales were nothing like predictions, that's when I realised that LSAs weren't reaching their intended audience and having their intended effects. Full marks to the people who are buying them though - as others have explained, it makes perfect sense.
How many people do you know or ever heard of that were inspired to aviation by an LSA? I personally don't know of any. My general experience with pilot and non-pilot enthusiasts of aviation is that they dream of flying a jet fighter, an airliner, a high performance aerobatic aircraft, etc. Never in my life have I seen anyone gaze into the skies and proclaim, "Gee, I want to fly a little buzzing contraption just like that one".
Although the LSA industry might like to think of itself as being part of the aviation mainstream, it's not. The unspoken truth is that an LSA is often not looked upon as an airplane, but as a substitute for one.
I'm curious as to how many of those pilots who bought the aforementioned LSAs (with all the bells and whistles) still have a valid medical. The reason I ask is that there's bound to be a number of affluent pilots out there whose medical is expired or otherwise at risk, pilots who can afford an LSA so they can continue flying and would like it to have some semblance of a "real" airplane.
In spite of the fact that some of us might be willing to descend to the LSA class of aircraft, the price tag still seems far too big for the amount of airplane one gets in return, even if it's new.
So what's the price for an average bare-bone LSA these days anyway???
The comment about not being inspired by lsa is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. I have no interest in flying fighter jets or passenger airliners other than the fact that they are both cool. I got excited about flying and learned to do just that when I realized I could fly my light sport amphibian SeaMax from my marina near NYC to Nantucket, Martha's Vineyard, Connecticut, Atlantic city, New Hampshire, Florida and so on. I do it cheaply and easily to and from anywhere, airports or not using small amounts of mogas with a glass panel that rivals a 747. LSA like mine are the most inspiring and fun airplanes on earth.
In the LSA market, 'fixed wing' aircraft sales rank 3rd in sales volume of the 4 cat/class options availabe. PPC & WSC sales have continued to grow annually by double digit percentatges for the last 6 years with #4, rotorcraft, gaining fast on fixed wing sales. So, I'm not sure how Mr Goyer can use fixed wing sales as an indicator species for the entire industry - regardless of cost. However, if we are truly asking the question of why people are buying fixed wing LSA's, it might be more revealing to simply compare demand for Composite vs Metal airplanes - or something that actually scratches the surface of true market research.
"Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder." As far as economics are concerned, acquisition costs and operational expenses per seat combined with airframe/license limitations make LSAs just a toy. Sail planes, auto gyros and RC models are fun recreational items too. In my opinion, the planes in this category satisfy a boutique market among the very wealthy.
Those of us desiring a privately owned aircraft for practical transportation are not going to benefit from the LSA. It might have been intended to introduce more student starts at FBOs, but, I have read negative reports from flight schools on their migration from GA trainers to the LSAs. The LSA does not appear to be effective so far at growing the licensed pilot population.
The pie isn't getting bigger; it's being sliced into smaller and smaller pieces. Unfortunately, the pie is shrinking ever more rapidly reducing the likelihood that R&D resources will be expended on advancements in 4 - 6 place singles that more people might be able to afford for personal transportation.
Funny thing, I was at the airport this weekend when a young woman came in for her first flying lesson. She specifically wanted to fly in the LSA the school had just acquired. Overhearing this, I asked her, "why the LSA specifically?" and she told me it would be easier and cheaper to get a sport pilot license - she only wants to fly in nice weather anyway, and isn't planning to be a professional pilot.
Anecdote is not data, but it is proof of existence. Someone WAS inspired to fly by the availability of LSA/Sport Pilot. What's more, that person was both young and a woman - both something aviation needs more of!
Who is buying brand-new LSA?
For someone looking for the cheapest way into the air, a used C152 is cheaper than any LSA. It's also less capable than any of the high-end LSA but it IS cheaper, and it flies. Did I mention it's cheaper?
It may be that the reason why you see people paying $160k for an LSA is NOT that, "hey, if you've got $100k, then you can afford $160k too" (which, I'm afraid, isn't true).
Instead, the reason may be that, if you've got $300k for a new C172, maybe you should stop and consider a luxury LSA for half the price...
The LSA is 10kt slower than a new 172, and has 2 fewer (but wider) seats. The LSA isn't IFR legal, but IFR-type avionics are very useful in poorer VFR conditions (whether in haze or at night), you can operate "in the system" as long as you maintain at least basic VFR, and if you really get that wrong at least you have an autopilot and nav system that can do the flying while you sort it out. Meanwhile it burns about 40% less fuel, and when you want to upgrade the avionics it's going to cost a heck of a lot less if you don't have to get everything TSOed.
Oh, and it's $150k cheaper.
A unicorn.. Well I totally disagree with this article and the idea of flying unicorns. I earned my Sport license for a reason, many reasons to be exact. If I wanted to fly a scaled down Gulfstream I would have just gone and spent every penny I don't have. But being a single dad, supporting a family on a single paycheck forces me to fly unicorns. Unlike the majority of pilots who have a boatload of money (mostly on paper, but money none the less) I would be happy for an LSA that was affordable. The class I believe was designed just for that purpose and not for companies to be charging 90,000 plus for what is basically a Yugo or Chevette.
I've resorted to build my own LSA to be able to enjoy the hobby, and from scratch! Why, there isn't one company out there that understands that an LSA is VFR only, and limited on top of that. Don't try and sell us the idea that we need glass panels, leather seats, expensive radios, top of the line avionics. What we need is a basic plane that has the basic gauges, is reliable, and isn't designed to line the pockets of the designer or fab that can punch out aluminum. It's a shame aviation just doesn't get it yet. I wish the Chinese would put out an import we could buy on the cheap. Maybe teach aviation manufacturing a lesson about greed like it did for the rest of the companies that outsourced years ago. How does it cost 20,000 for a kit that is 3,000 in material that I pay. Machine time does not cost 17,ooo. Come on.
To prove it... AHRS units start at a grand for the basic model. I can buy 10DOF guts for 30 bucks on eBay and interface to a computer. Who puts the 970.00 in the pocket for profit?
Aviation still doesn't get it!
Airplane that (presumably) will get you up in the air, steam gauges, for under $20k, complete: search for Aerolite 103 (I cannot vouch for the aircraft, I'm just going by the ad). For something with 2 seats, open cockpit, look up Quicksilver Sprint. Both of these list at under $20k, complete, with engines - although the Quicksilver is a kit, while the Aerolite is sold RTF.
If you want a closed cockpit, look up Quicksilver GT 500, or Quad City Challenger II or Kolb Firestar II. All three are kits, and they'll run right around $30k or maybe a little over, depending on options etc.
So, yes you can have an airplane for under $20k, complete. If you want 2 seats, you'll have to do some construction work on it and it will cost more like $30k.
This is America we live in for pete's sake. There is no reason why we can not have a
$60,000 certified LSA! We have not challenged the manufactures enough, lets just say that no one is willing to put a little effort into making this happen. Seriously has anyone here read the ASTM to see what is required to make a LSA. Van's can sell the RV-12 kit for about $60,000-70,000. This includes glass and engine, it will probably be able to handle ADS-in shortly. The catch is that you have to build it; and that is the problem we do not manufacture stuff in the U.S. that is why other countries are making everything for us; a good example is Apple products. Manufactures are trying to charge us $100,000 for a very simple plane that really is only worth about $60,000. This is the reason in my opinion why no one is buying them. They should try creating the unicorn that can be user upgradable at a future date. Initially the aircraft starts at $60,000, but if you want your leather seats and glass then you can purchase approved upgrades that can be installed. GA is too closed minded everybody expects things to be expensive because it fly's. That gives the manufactures the right to charge premium. Maybe if someone sold the killer product at a reasonable price that would jumpstart the sales of LSA aircraft. It is 2012, people are building aircraft with glass panels and installing state of the art reciprocating engines in a kit plane in their garage and no manufacture can figure out how mass produce the same type of planes in a factory for less than $100,000 a copy. this is a paradigm shift that needs to happen in order for the average citizen to have his personal flying machine.
The LSA...the most disappointing GA opportunity of all time.
First, the LSA wasn't marketed correctly, mainly because an aviation business approach wasn't implemented. The assumption in aviation, is that because it is an airplane and is considered "cool", that it will automatically sell. Instead of offering a sales network to someone who so happened to buy an LSA, why wouldn't the manufacturer identify geographic locations that a flight school could thrive in this market, AND sell the airplane in much greater quantities.
The problem is that most flight schools don't understand that a flight school is really a loss leader to future business. Back when GA was growing in the late 60's through the mid 70's, Cessna brought the flight school a way to be profitable by 1) Training how to run an business 2) Selling airplanes to the clients that were learning to fly. This aspect of building the brand will still work, but for the most part, flight school business operators don't understand this, so they don't demonstrate the benefits of the light sport pilot license.
IF 83% of the student pilots never complete their training...is it because of money? No. The Internet has all the information on pricing before they arrive at the flight school. The easy answer is to offer the LSA as a way to obtain certification much quicker and easier...while the option for the private is fully available. And, with 83% not finishing, VERY EASY marketing to put the promotion to use.
All of this would benefit the industry as more pilots = more sales, while the LSA would be earning income for the flight school. Put these pieces of the puzzle together, and I think you will find that the LSA would really grow and become much more popular.
Aviation Business Consultant