Editor’s note: This article appeared on Plane & Pilot.
One sure way to know if a show works is to observe vendor participation over a number of years. As this is my 14th year attending the Midwest LSA Expo, I can tell you that 2023 represents a strong turnout. Companies come back year after year because it works to connect them with interested customers. Both sides end up smiling.
Here is a glimpse of what you can see if you can attend on Friday and Saturday. For those who cannot come, this will provide some taste of what happens in Mount Vernon, Illinois, in early September. Hopefully, you can make it in 2024.
What this illustrates is that the Midwest LSA Expo (about an hour’s drive east of St. Louis) has become a standard-bearer in the aviation calendar. Indeed, this is Midwest LSA’s 15th event, tying it with the longest-running prior such show, the Sebring Sport Aviation Expo. After catalyzing these LSA-focused shows, Sebring concluded its 15-year run in 2019.
AeroTrek returned after a few years’ absence and it came in force. As of opening day, three aircraft had arrived and two more are expected. In addition, the company showed off its new open trailer ,which looks enormously easier to load and secure so long as you’re not trying to drive all the way across the country. For transportation in a local or regional area, this looks like a great choice with significantly lower costs.
Rob Rollison, the longtime importer of this successful brand of modestly-priced LSA, has long maintained a steady rate of business because his supplier in Europe has maintained an prudent approach to business. This has helped the manufacturer remain very stable but it also means delivery times now reach about one year. Rollison indicated most customers are willing to wait. It was good to see him back in Mt. Vernon with his handsome airplanes and new trailer.
Texas Aircraft appeared at Midwest LSA some years back when its Colt LSA was a new entry in the game. Now the company reports it just delivered the first batch of airplanes to a nearby flight school and it is excited about the future of the FAA’s Modernization of Special Airworthiness Certification regulation rulemaking (MOSAIC) with its new four-seat Stallion model already flying in Brazil.
In some ways, the Texas company, which is directly associated with the Brazilian organization, is ahead of the game because Brazil’s ANAC has already created a very MOSAIC-like regulation with minor differences. Approving that aircraft in its home country should make for a much easier entry to the U.S. market and this Hondo, Texas organization is ready to roll.
Bristell representative Piston Aviation reports running an active flight school operation. I plan to discuss this further with the company to see how its flight school operates with the LSA of today. In the MOSAIC preamble, the FAA said extra weight was needed to make LSA into viable flight school aircraft, but I think it’s missing that these aircraft are already working well in that environment, assuming good flight school management and properly-qualified instructors. (To be forthright, Piston also operates Piper Cherokees.)
Joe Ord’s company operates at Creve Coeur airport (1H0), Maryland Heights, Missouri, in the St. Louis area. It offers a wide range of flight instruction and lists its prices right on its homepage. You can tell that this company has a sense of style and it had handsome, custom-painted aircraft on display. Again, you see the commitment people make to the Midwest LSA Expo if Piston Aviation will bring aircraft that could be in flight training to display for you at the show.
Vashon brought two of its Ranger LSAs to Midwest LSA perhaps five years ago, and the company has been back every year since—and it doesn’t come with just a single airplane. I hope you’re starting to get the message that these companies like this show and they don’t come here just to bond with their fellow vendors. They know they will meet people like you. Likewise, people who come to this event tend to be serious and ready to take their aviation interest to the next level.
While Vashon’s prices have risen slightly over the last couple years–along with virtually everything else you buy—they are still affordable to a wide range of pilots, and have particular appeal to some by virtue of the use of a Continental O-200 powerplant. Lots of pilots and mechanics are familiar with that engine and, combined with a new and spacious airframe, the company is finding customers. Clearly, it finds some of them right here in Mt. Vernon, Illinois.
TL Sport Aircraft had two of its four models on display at Mt. Vernon. After a couple of U.S. distributors didn’t work as well as expected, Trey Murdaugh’s company is bringing a more business-like approach. At Midwest LSA, he appropriately had on display a TL-3000 Sirius and an S-4 Sting. The latter (in an earlier model) was the #5 aircraft accepted by the FAA as a Special LSA out of 158 now on our SLSA list.
However, Murdaugh is also nicely positioned for MOSAIC with two other aircraft that did not travel to Mt. Vernon. One is the tandem-seating Stream, which I flew with him after Sun ‘n Fun 2022. That was a fine experience in a beautiful-flying aircraft. I look forward later this year to a flight in the company’s side-by-side MOSAIC-ready entry called Sparker that is the highest-performing of their line. Of course, prices follow capability, so the Sirius or Sting may be the more affordable buy, but this company has got choices for you.
Zenith arrived with two of its popular sport pilot-eligible kit aircraft, the Cruzer and Super Duty. Probably most readers are aware that Zenith is the leading kit builder in the light aircraft space (as only one Van’s model can presently qualify as an LSA). This should surprise no one as these aircraft are highly proven, and the manufacturing of Zenith kits has become quite sophisticated under the leadership of Sebastien Heintz.
The Mexico, Missouri-based kit producer also hosts one of the largest events of its kind in the country, in fact, drawing even more people to it than the Midwest LSA Expo. Now in its 32nd year, “Homecoming” is a must-go for any Zenith enthusiast. I’ve never been able to make it because it occurs right after the Midwest LSA event but I hope many of you can and will attend. You can learn a lot at the event plus enjoy the camaraderie of others with similar interests.
Magni Gyro rep Greg Gremminger brought two gyroplanes, as he often has. Gremminger is one of those regulars that has made every Midwest LSA event, along with a handful of others. It helps that he’s based nearby, but this has proven to be a good event where he can give rampside talks about gyros to people who are interested. He’s done this for years, and every time I’ve seen quite a collection of people listening intently as he describes his rotary-winged aircraft and how they fly.
A couple years ago my wife and I each took a flight with Gremminger, and had a marvelous experience. I’m not qualified to fly gyroplanes solo, but I have learned from some experiences and I see the magic that so many enjoy. Gremminger was one of the original people to fight for 10 years asking the FAA to finally allow fully-built gyroplanes. He didn’t get a yes, but when Roy Beisswenger and I started our advocacy work, we took up the case again. Between Gremminger’s efforts and ours, I’m pleased that we will finally have factory-built gyros available for enthusiasts.
All this and more was available on opening day, despite weather challenges to the east, holding up the arrival of some aircraft. BushCat is expecting two aircraft, as is Jabiru. What I believe this list shows is that these companies are all willing to spend the money and take the time to bring multiple aircraft to the Midwest LSA Expo. One of the main reasons the show is popular and successful is the great ease of getting a demo flight in an airplane. Get on the schedule and when it’s your turn, it takes literally a few minutes to get airborne. Marvelous! Plus, entry to the show and parking are free.