hen the light-sport aircraft rules were released in 2004, the aviation industry was excited about the prospect of brand-new airplanes becoming more affordable. With the cost and complexity of Part 23 certification and the introduction of advanced cockpit technologies, factory-new certified airplanes were outside the budget of many pilots. The LSA category was expected to breathe new life into the declining industry, making flight training and flying for fun more affordable. LSAs were expected to go out the door for around $100,000 apiece. Many airplane manufacturers envisioned a return to general aviation’s glory days, when airplanes were pushed out of the factories by the thousands, as they were from the 1950s through the 1970s. From well-established giants like Cessna and Piper to budding plane-makers near and far, companies tried their hand at building airplanes to successfully fit the new category. But designing a safe airplane for $100,000 or less within the LSA restrictions, particularly the 1,320-pound takeoff weight limit, has proved more challenging than originally thought. With more than 100 different LSA models introduced, no company has succeeded in achieving mass production at the targeted price point. Cessna and Piper have dropped out of the market completely. The cost of some LSAs, such as the Icon A5 light-sport amphibian at almost $400,000, has even surpassed that of larger Part 23-certified airplanes. Enter Vashon Aircraft — a company named after a small island in the Puget Sound region of Washington state, off the coast of Seattle’s sprawling metropolis. The company’s first airplane, the Ranger, has become the light-sport industry’s best-kept secret. With a base price tag just below $100,000, the high-wing Continental-powered Ranger R7 LSA, which features the latest in glass-panel technology, could just make the dream of the affordable LSA a reality.