In a unique show of cooperation among competitors, representatives from 10 light sport aircraft manufacturers and dealers on their way home from Sun ‘n Fun flew their demos to Georgia and South Carolina last week to participate in the 2011 Southeast LSA Tour. Over the course of four days, the group made four stops for a few hours each day to showcase their airplanes to the public: first stop was Savannah (LHW), then Greenville (GMU) before rounding out the tour with stops in South Atlanta (GA2) and Atlanta (PDK).
“We’re taking the aircraft to the people instead of waiting for people to walk by,” says Bill Canino of Sport Air USA, dealer for the Sprint, Sirius and iCub. “They seem to be very responsive.”
The Southeast tour marked the second of what’s expected to be many such tours. The first was January’s Florida Tour that followed on the heels of the Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring.
Given that the two tours have been loosely promoted — the manufacturers, FBOs and regional dealers each promote the event via e-mail blasts to names on their respective databases — the interest is promising.
“These types of tours benefit from being a very captive experience,” says Clay Hammond, who flew the CarbonCub for Cubcrafters during the SE tour. “There are no airshows or unassociated vendors or manufacturers to dilute the attention of the prospect.”
The idea of the tour was the brainchild of American Legend Aircraft Company General Manager Kurt Sehnert and RANS CEO Randy Schlitter. The two competitors (and friends) found themselves brainstorming together at shows or on the phone on new ways to generate sales. Actualizing the idea was a bit more difficult, due to time and resources; that is until David Graham came onboard at American Legend and put together the first tour in Florida.
So, why such a spirit of cooperation among competitors, you may ask?
Schlitter believes it has formed out of an overall need to bring awareness to the GA crowd that light sport planes are a viable, practical, affordable option.
“What other part of aviation is so full of choices for new airplanes?” he asks.
“The goal of these tours is to sell the LSA niche, not just your brand of airplane,” says tour participant Jim Julius of Sport Planes Florida, dealer of Jabiru, Remos and Czech Sport Aircraft. “When a customer comes up and is looking for a feature on an airplane that it doesn’t have, we’ll direct them over to an airplane that does.”
Though it might be too early in the tour’s lifespan to gauge actual sales generated by the events, the grassroots effort seems to be gaining momentum, at least enough to motivate participants to join in upcoming tours this year, including in Colorado, the Midwest and Dallas.
According to Schlitter, though the first stop at LWH was a bit slow, “Well over 100 people attended the second day event at Greenville. We had great weather, an accessible location and Mint Air, the FBO, was enthusiastic in promotion of the event.”
Flight Design’s John Gilmore, who participated at Saturday’s stop in PDK and gave four demo rides to potential buyers, thinks the tours make a lot of sense from a regional perspective and that FD will participate when they have a demo at or near the tour locales.
“Everyone who came out was interested in the airplanes, these people were not window shopping,” he says. “And some had been at Sun ‘n Fun but came back to look specifically at the LSAs.”
“This tour is better than the first tour in terms of number of people who came out; we learn something each time,” says Dave Graham. “Locale and onsite support are crucial. Our first day at LHW was slow because it was under promoted and at a military field and not near a population base. The Greenville and PDK stops were well attended, thanks to easy access and promotion and support by the FBOs.”
The next LSA Tour is scheduled to take place in Colorado May 12-15. Visit the websites of any of the aforementioned manufactures for details._