The Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) rule is coming up on its 8th birthday, and that seems as good a time as any to reflect on the successes and failures of LSAs and the Sport Pilot license. Promoters of the rule argued that a simpler category of aircraft with less FAA oversight would drastically cut the cost of flying, and in doing so open up personal aviation to more people than ever before. The rule was adopted in September 2004 with much fanfare.
Eight years later, the results are mixed. On the plus side, the number of LSAs has exploded, with manufacturers ranging from tiny Eastern European companies to Cessna Aircraft. And most LSAs are indeed 30-50% less expensive than entry-level certified airplanes. Flight schools have adopted LSAs quickly, with many renting for under $100/hour wet. Finally, many pilots can fly these airplanes without a Third Class Medical.
But not all is rosy. Quality seems to vary widely from manufacturer to manufacturer, and some models of LSA hardly sell at all. The dream of a sub-$100,000 airplane simply hasn’t come true (expect to pay $150,000 for many popular models). Some pilots also find the 1320 lb. maximum weight limit to be overly restrictive.
What do you think–has the LSA rule been a success? Has the introduction of LSAs attracted new people to aviation? Or is it a failure? Share your comments below.
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I agree the weight limit is a bit low, I’d like to see the Cessna 150, Piper Tomahawk, Beech Skipper, fall into the light sport catagory. Of course I’d like the manufacturers to begin making all of them again anyway. Instead, we (the govt.) sets limits requiring them manufacturers to spend millions on design and tooling to remake the wheel.
I like the light sport catagory, I’m in the market for a light sport aircraft. I won’t buy one of the megabuck plastic wonders, I’ll more then likely purchase an Aronica Chief, or Champ, something along those lines. I don’t want to go fast, I don’t want the latest glass cockpit, I just want day VFR, with a simple point and go interface.
I say just raise the Max Gross Weight to 1500 lbs and 2 seats
The core problem with the light sport rule and the LSA industry is that it’s built on a negative- the no medical requirement. I have flown many LSAs I enjoy the recreational aspect of one. But I’ll tell you my non-pilot friends feel a whole safer in a Cirrus
The entire industry has grown up on the premise that a select group of pilots have to compromise in order to fly- pilots who fear losing their medical. If the FAA adopts the AOPA medical petition (which I will be surprised if it does) where will LSAs be then?
The planes should sell on their own merit and the light sport ticket should thrive on its own merits. I don’t think we’re there.
In Australia the motor car medical has come in
basicly the rules are
MTOW 1500 Kg
Pilot + One pax
So the FAA might pass it too
Cheers from down under
regarding the part 61 pilot licence.you seem to have knowledge of this,maybe you can explain why casa after speaking to them yesterday 30-7-12 has not yet released a syllabulus to flying schools and told me it maybe 2 years away from completing it .all i asked was who are the flying schools authorised to train students on this part 61 casa know about it but don’t to me they seem to have different interpreting ways of explaining it.it seems there are many interpretations to this.do you know of any schools training on part 61 because casa doe’s not
It’s not the fear of loosing their medical so much as the huge costs of the tests the FAA is demanding just because you are getting older.
Yes, I am 61 years old and have never been turned down for a medical. My FAA doc says I need a stress test to renew my medical. My insurance says that such a test is unnecessary and is, therefore, to be done on my nickle. I am looking at thousands of bucks to renew my medical and the FAA doc says that this will be an annual thing.
I am in the same hole. While physically fit and in good general health, my insurance won’t pay for the battery of tests the FAA would require for me to get a third-class medical. My annual inspection would cost as much as my aircraft’s annual.
Unfortunately for me, my last third-class was ten years and one month ago.
hi i agree the gross weight should be 1500lbs and 2 seats it would make for a much safer airframe for the lsa category.
I agree 100% the weight has to be raised to include many small aircraft like cessna 120–150 or 152 it was supposed to make flying less expensive so more people could afford to fly not just the affulent who could $100,000 aircraft.
Could it be that the manufactures thought that would get a windfall and sell a lot of aircrft “They are peeing into the wind!!”
Same goes for me just ran into a old pal recently 30 + years of living aviation well his pop rebuilt owned curtis pusher now his son lil. Older than me has it and talk about a wad of cash thats treasurable.
Seems to me that the weight limit is likely the least safe component to the category. Light, easily moved by the wind and likely the cause of the largest amount of accidents in the category. Landing and takeoff accidents are by far the most common in light sport. The no-medical component seems to be a huge success as I am not aware of a single medical related accident in the category.
Light Sport hasn’t opened the floodgates of new pilots any more than the Recreational category aircraft and certificate in the early 1990s, or the ultralight movement two decades before that. LSA comes at a unique time in history, however, when the majority of the existing general aviation fleet is timing out over fatigue or simply because it is no longer economical to keep aging aircraft flying. LSA, then, will likely become the dominant type of recreational airplane, especially as 100LL fuel fades away and business aviation converts entirely to turbines (or more frequently, stops flying in favor of advanced web-based virtual conferencing). So I’m glad LSA is here, because it’s how most of us will be flying 10 to 20 years from now.
By the way, I have an article on the LSA safety record eight years into the movement in the August issue of AVIATION SAFETY. And there are noticeable increases in mechanically related accidents in LSAs, perhaps reflecting on the ASTM-based approvals process.
Interesting point about the aging fleet–you’re right. I think the economics in general get better when we’re comparing used against used. a Skycatcher may be expensive compared to a 30-year old 172, but a 10-year old LSAT may be a much better deal. If they can hold up, that is. Sounds like your research suggests they may not.
Well said Thomas, if we are flying. I have serious doubts that we will have a vibrant aviation community twenty years from now.
Flight schools are not getting rich. Why would one buy a couple LSAs when they can pick up 8 C-150s for the same price?
Waaaaaaaaaay too expensive to make flying affordable. Many nice planes though.
If I’m a drivers education company in a big city (think competition) and I have my choice between 8, 2001 Honda Civic’s OR 2, 2012 Ford Mustang’s, which would I choose? All the other drivers ed schools have the civics. … I’m buying the Mustang’s cause I know kids want to drive something cool and would likely pay a few extra dollars for it.
I’ll be honest, I’ve always wanted to get my ticket but I was lukewarm to a stagnate industry who’s fraternity seemed impossible to get into. LSA and the sport rule seemed to change that and I was encouraged enough to start my training. I don’t agree with some of the current restrictions but I do think it has stirred the desires of many wanna-be pilots who are looking for a way in.
I’m currently on hour ~31 of my sport pilot training. I’ve flown only 4 (hours 0-4) of those 30hrs in an LSA. The remaining 27+ in a C150. I probably would have solo’d 10hrs ago if not for the requirement that it must be in an LSA. So, next week I finally transition to a new LSA with the intent of soloing (hopefully within about 4 or 5hrs).
Isn’t it ironic that I’m required to fly a lighter, yet larger, more powerful, and less familiar airplane to become a sport pilot? I’m tempted to just go get a medical and stick with the C150 for another 15-20hrs and just skip Sport altogether.
Why are you going with Sport at all at this point? You’ve already got nearly enough hours as total required is 40 for standard Pilot Cert..
Failure? If you expected it to solve all of general aviation’s problems, then I guess you think its a failure. If you want to fly without a medical and if you want to see innovation in light aircraft, then maybe it has something going for it. Could it have been designed better? Probably. I know I’m better off with the LSA rule – I wouldn’t be flying without it.
Same here… very well said.
Fred, very well said. I’m a new Sport Pilot, but a 65-year-old techy… and I absolutely love the technical innovations in the SLAs. I’ll probably go on to a PPL, but fear that with a C172/C182 I’ll miss the “fun” one finds in the SLAs.
I’ve flown 65 hours in the Skycatcher, 4 hours in a Samba XXL, and 4 hours in the Zenith 750 STOL. The Samba is a sports car (nimble but touchy), the Zenith 750 is a truck (it’s called a SkyJeep for a reason), and the Skycatcher is nicely inbetween (call it a Toyota compact). Hoping to fly the CTLS soon… expecting it’ll be like the Skycatcher with a little more pizazz (a small Lexus?).
I had always had it in the back of my mind to learn to fly someday. The sport pilot rule seemed to provide a quicker and cheaper way to go and was the final push for me. I earned my sport pilot ticket just over a year ago at 53 years old. In reality, I recieved all the training you would get for your private, with the exception of night flight. The LSA’s I have flown (Tecnam Eaglet, Sierra, PiperSport/Sportcruiser) are all comfortable, well equiped and perform very nicely. For me, Sport Pilot has been an unqualified success. And following up with the private will probably be a breeze, if I ever get around to it!
The question could be asked about General Aviation, are the new aircraft being marketed today successful? Is the public interested in Technically Advance Aircraft or do they just want to fly low and slow?I bought a Pipersport in 2010 and do both. BTW, I still carry a medical and fly with Private Pilot privileges. So LSA has been a success for at least one pilot.
Great Dave. you got it right also the piper sport probably only burns about 4 to 4-1/2 GPH and a lot more FUN to fly.
First, I’d like to point out that 8 years is merely a sliver of time, and it is ridiculous to evaluate the success or failure of anything worthwhile on such a tiny time slice. For example, it took 18+ years to ceate Mt Rushmore.
We have a tendency to want our innovations to go viral instead of investing the time and energy to do it right and see it through to the end. A better question for today’s LSA market is “on we on the right course?” The fact that it is difficult to answer this question means that we did not do a good job charting the course before we took off on this journey.
Second, “flight schools have adopted LSAs quickly”–I would really like to see some data to back up that wildly speculative statement. I personally don’t know of a single flight school near me or near any of my friends and colleagues that uses LSAs. Admittedly, I am using “my experience” as a data point, but if they are so popular then this digital age should expose me to some evidence of their popularity.
Finally, I do want to thank you John for creating an environment that forces us to think, raises issues that will help us fight our way forward toward the success of aviation at large.
Fair point, Mark. The trend is more important than the result right now. But what I see most is older pilots circling back into aviation via LSAs. That’s great, but that’s not the same as new people entering the industry.
I don’t have any hard data on flight schools, but I can think of a dozen off the top of my head that now use LSAs for primary trainers. Most of them aren’t marketed as “Sport Pilot” planes, just affordable replacements for aging 172s and 152s. $99/hour wet is not uncommon.
Maybe the revived passion of older pilots will spread to the next generation? will spread to a wider audience?
Mark, I think your comments are nicely on-point and much of what I wanted to write.
Eight years is a short interval of time in the aviation world since thing evolve so slowly in this industry now. I think the LSA category and Sport Pilot cert have some clear and encouraging successes, but some changes could make it more successful. Adding more oversight and regulation to the current ASTM would be wrong and damaging to the progress made.
Increasing the max gross weight, on the other hand, would dramatically increase the market acceptance and appeal for LSAs. I’m 6’3″ and weigh 260 lbs. My wife is also a big person, and we are like many, many Americans (for good and for ill). There is no LSA that we could fly together no matter how little fuel we put into the tanks. A 1500 gross would solve that problem nicely!
Thanks for an article that offers grist for a good debate, John Z.
Mark, I agree with you regarding the LSA wieght limitation. I don’t wiegh so much, but my plane does. I own a little classic Cessna 120 which has a gross of 1450 lbs. If the LSA weight limit was increased to 1500 lbs that would open it up for 10s of thousands of vintage aircraft like the Cessna 120/140. These vintage craft are much more affordable entry level aircraft to own and operate. And, we all know that the shear expense of GA is another hinderance to it’s acceptance by new potential pilots.
One of the biggest advantages of LSA’s is it puts not only new pilots but new aircraft into the air. I absolutely oppose those vintage aircraft like the Cessna 120/140 from being classified as LSA’s. LSA’s are designed to be flown for enjoyment with little cost, they are not supposed to take a family of four and their baggage to Disney World.
How would you get a “family of four” in a Cessna 120/140? I’d say this airplane is close to the definition of “enjoyment with little cost”.
Four? dennis I thought a 120-140 was a 2 place aircraft?
Ummmm …. the 120 and 140 are NOT 4-place airplanes, thus it’s not as if one want to “take a family of four and their baggage to Disney World.”
As we say here in The South, “That dog won’t hunt.” :-)
We just want more choices in aircraft to enjoy flying for pleasure and at reasonable costs.
After all … wasn’t making flying ‘more affordable’ one of the goals of LSA???
Oh yeah …. and if you like your airplane you can keep it too. LOL
I’m a big guy too, and I’ve determined that even with a light weight instructor, all the LSA’s would be over gross.
If I could take instruction in a 172 or something, then fly solo in a LSA, I’d be ok. Not sure it can work that way though. I doubt they’d turn one loose solo in an airplane they’ve never flown before.
Brent, I know what you mean. I’m a big guy too at 6’2″, and 285#. I’m getting ready for my Sport Pilot check ride and I’m flying in an Evector Sportstar. It’s all metal and with my female instructor (150#) we would exceed the overall gross weight limit if we flew with full fuel tanks. But I found that by carefully making sure of the total fuel on board and the center of gravity, we are below gross weight and able to fly. It does take some work, but it is possible.
But I do agree, it would be far easier for big guys like us if we could fly the Skyhawk 172 and I hope that the FAA lifts the medical requirement and goes to the drivers license for recreation certificates. Until then I’ll fly the sport license and make the best of it. Good luck in your persuit of your certificate!
Could we be suffering from a “Marketing Failure”. Most people, “civilians” if you will, think of aviation as the airlines and business aviation. They drive past their airports and what do they see? Big Commercial jets, or corporate aircraft for the most part. They see the hanger queens rotting at their tie downs. What they don’t see is even more important. They don’t see where the little ones that fly regularly are going and what they are doing. They don’t see the regular Joe, taking his wife or girl friend out for lunch, they don’t see the smile on the faces of the people in the planes.
If you want to encourage average Joe to come join the party, you’ve got to make it appealing. If you want LSA to be a great success and bring new blood into the industry, we as an industry/group must work with the regulating agency (FAA) to make it a marketable product that will be appealing and draw people in, then we must market it properly. Not just to the aviation community but to the non-aviation community as well.
I wholeheartedly agree with your comments regarding GA Marketing Failure. “Outsider’s” perception IS their reality, and tying in the article about airports resembling prisons certainly does not help. There has been a gradual decline of the fun in GA flying over the seventeen years I have had my private ticket. Of course, our post 911 environment has changed many aspects of our once “open society”. We have given up freedoms for security, and it is evident everywhere. Unfortunately, the FAA is in the business of promoting commercial aviation, and does not appear to value GA, at least in terms of growing this segment of aviation. Recreational tickets and LSAs are not the cure, nor are they the bane. We need to repair the image of GA, for people to want to associate with it, otherwise I see it fading into history, like the silk scarved biplane pilots of the last century.
When I was a boy, my father would take me to the airport and we’d park right next to the Approach end of the runway and run up area. We kids could see the pilots, we’d wave to them, it was a big deal to us. I got my first ride in an airplane by waving at a pilot and agreeing to help him wash his plane after the flight in exchange for the ride. I was so excited and proud… today with our airports locked down, no viewing area’s for interested people to just sit and dream and imagine. At 10 years of age I subscribed to Flying and Plane and Pilot Magazines. I read them cover to cover as soon as they arrived and I’d keep them until they were all torn up from wear and tear. My walls were covered with pictures cut from magazines etc… It all started one afternoon when my dad said lets go grab something to eat. We went to Maries Drive in and took the burger to the airport and watched the planes take off and land. I was probably 8 years old then. I got my Pvt SEL ticket on my 17th birthday, as a Junior in High School in 1973. I’d work all week long to make enough money to pay for 1 hour of flight and instructor time per week. I started when I was 15 and it took me 2 years but I paid for it myself completely in cash.
I know I miss those days, and the younger generation doesn’t know what they are missing.
You don’t need to open the airports up by removing the fence, just provide the public an exicting place to watch the operations up close and personal.
Dan, I did the same thing. My Dad loved taking us to the airport. Frankly, when I was dating, a girl who did not like spending time watching airplanes was not worthy of a second date. I married a good one. LSA’s are far too expensive. Sure, lots of schools have them because if the school is busy the expense is covered by the rental fees but for us normal aviators $200,000 (the $100,000 some talk about will get you something that looks like it was built by Revell Models) is just not affordable. Open up the airports and increase the weight for LSA’s to 1,600 lbs. and I think aviation will start to get popular again.
Try going to an airport today as a kid of 14-15 and you will get tossed out on your ear
back when I was that age ai could go to the local airport and just wander around an look at all the aircraft bur I was carefull not to touch anything. sometimes someone would sat hey kid wana go for a ride. Today I think everybody is afraid of getting sued. the yong eagle program is great them guys that particapate are saints!!!
Back when I was young you could go out to an airport an just walk in and look at Airplanes and if you didn’t touch any, nobody bothered you.
a couple times somebody would say Hey kid if you wash my airplane I’ll give you a ride. even sometimes just say wanta go for a ride
THEM DAYS ARE GONE with the fences and most all airplanes in a hanger.
LSA has been somewhat of a success. There have been some good aircraft brought to market and numerous schools using them successfully. I don’t understand the continuous whining about the weight limit though. Piper, Aeronca, Taylorcraft and others could build good, durable airplanes within that weight limit 60 years ago using carbon steel tubing and low strength aluminum alloys. Surely it can be done now, only better. I think everyone was hoping for new airplanes in the $40K-$60K range: this is not possible with engines that cost $20K and up. Historically, the old simple airplanes tracked about 4 times the cost of the engine; nowdays figure on 5 times what with the standard electric system and radios.
With the cost of liability insurance, there is no way that you’re going to see new airplanes/engines at cost in thye range we were all hoping for. When the NTSB’s probable cause of an accident can’t be used in a court of law, all it takes is a savvy lawyer to convince a non-aviation jury that the cause was the plane maker’s or the engine maker’s or the mechanic’s fault, the cost of liability insurance goes through the roof. Something really should be done about the liability end of manufacturing aircraft and aviation components.
You sure got that right!!!!!
I support the LSA category of aircraft and the related Sport / National license.
We fly a Sling 2 a South African produced “commuter/ Cruiser” which flies at 120kt comfortably at 20ltr per hour consumption. Well built and safe….most important affordable to purchase, maintain and run.
Were it not for the drastically reduced cost both myself and my partner in the aircraft would not be flying today.
Whilst the weight restriction is tough there needs to be a cut off. The Sport license is a lightweight option which allows for easy entry into aviation. The more serious aviator needing to fly heavier metal in my opinion needs to upgrade to a PPL.
Agreed there are too many wannabe manufacturers at the moment but economics will prevail…
Ivor: does South Africa allow US pilots without a medical fly light sports? I flew a C-206 around SA 12 years ago and would like to do it again in an LSA. Lauren
Whether Sport Pilot has been successful depends on how you look at it. While I agree 8 years isn’t that long in the grand scheme of things, it is enough time to merit a checkup. The question is, what was the purpose of Sport Pilot? Was it to keep medically-ineligible or potentially medically-ineligible pilots in the air? Was it to make sport flying (i.e., flying for fun) cheaper and more accessible?
I think Sport Pilot has been a huge boon for people running up against medical issues (and those that thought they might have problems) and pilots looking for lower operating costs. On the other end, I think Sport Pilot hasn’t been so successful in bringing in so-called new blood. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, but I just don’t run in to as many sport pilots as I do older pilots operating LSA with self-certified medicals.
Further hurting the initiative is the fact that in some areas, LSA, which are essential for Sport Pilots, are very hard to come by and that directly impacts the viability of Sport Pilot training. That creates an environment where LSA aren’t there, so people don’t ask for them and, unsurprisingly, since people aren’t asking for them, they don’t show up.
If you want my opinion, the over-saturated aircraft marketplace doesn’t help. There are just too many models, price points, and options. You’ve got manufacturers with a handful of planes flying competing with Cessna. Furthermore, you’ve got the hot new rides (some of which cost nearly $150,000) competing with some of the oldest birds in the sky and not much in between. There are so many options that it becomes easier to wait it out and see who comes out on top.
Staying in opinion land, I think a lot of schools were waiting for the Skycatcher and Cessna didn’t deliver what they expected. The idea being an across the board Cessna-shop would be marketable, easier to maintain, and at some point Cessna-endorsed (i.e., Cessna Pilot Centers). Furthermore, surely Cessna (a real certificated US aircraft manufacturer) with all their experience will dominate the marketplace with their offering. Then the Skycatcher shows up (delayed, in small numbers, and with higher costs) and doesn’t blow the rest of the competition out of the water and in fact looks more limited than some of the competition. At that point Sport Pilot training starts to look less attractive, because there are too many hurdles and not enough people begging for the service.
So to (not) answer the question, Sport Pilot has been a bit of a mixed bag. It’s neither a resounding success, nor a complete failure, but it’s definitely serviceable.
The real reason for the lack of new pilots is really the FAA. For commercial operations, fine, have all the regs and testing you want. But for recreational use, the thinking for both pilots and aircraft should be completely altered.
I think you have to break the whole debate into two parts. First is aircraft, and second is pilots. For aircraft, the ASTM standard only went part of the way. The Experimental groups have shown what can be done when the FAA is minimally involved. Experimental equipment (avionics and instruments) is far superior and far less expensive than certified equipment. There does not seem to be a lot of mechanical/electrical induced problems with experimental aircraft. And the aircraft themselves seem lots more efficient than certified aircraft. Seems we could use the experimental model to reduce the cost of the planes and make them more available.
Second is the pilots. I once heard an FAA rep say at a forum that their goal for the year was to get the number of pilots WITH LICENSES increased from 48% to 52% in Alaska. In AK, a plane is the same as a car would be to someone in the lower 48. The Alaskan attitude is “my grandpappy taught my daddy, and my daddy taught me”. And all this went on without FAA involvement. I think a lot more would be involved with flying if the training for it was structured for recreational use, without all the PTS’s and medical requirements.
I lived in AK from 1962 until 2004. Got my license out of Phillips Field in fairbanks in 1965 and have been an aircraft owner since 1974. Maybe I led a sheltered life but, with a few exceptions, I did not see the disregard of the regulations that you indicate.
I got my Sport License in 2010 and I spent as much as any private pilot has. There are only three planes available to rent within 100 miles and the cost is $100 plus per hour. We do need the ability to fly a plane that is heavier.
Aircraft availability is a problem. Where can one rent and LSA? I bought a J-3. I am 6’6″ and the back seat of the Cub was my only option. I really need a larger plane but I cannot get into the front seat of a Champ or any other LSA available airplane unless it is a new model. If it were not for the Cub I could not afford to fly.
Small town airports are great! My hangar rent is $60/mo. My home is a 10 min drive. An alternative education facility is on the field, so I get to introduce aviation to some young people.
The name of my J-3 is “COME FLY WITH ME”.
I agree with Rich the problem is two fold: and need to be broken down into the issue of aircraft and then the Sport Pilot certification.
I am one of those people that was drawn in because of the Sport Pilot certificate. The promise of a minimum of 20 hours of training for a recreational license to basically be a Sunday afternoon flier and enjoy the occasional $100 burger really appealed to me. But the reality is far from that. I’ve currently got 64.7 hours of flight time and still trying to get signed off to have my check-ride. I’ve had 3 instructors with each of them telling me the previous instructor as wrong in their approach to my training. There are only 2 flight schools in the greater Seattle area with LSA aircraft (both are Evector Sportstars) so potential sport pilots are limited in their choice of where to train (basically take it school 1, or leave it school 2). Finally, these are the only two places you can rent an LSA to fly after you get your license. Sadly my wife is disabled and requires an over the fuselage wing so I can get her in the aircraft, since she is unable to walk and I can’t load her into a low wing aircraft.
So that brings us to the aircraft itself. The weight limit of 1320 pounds has it’s own inherent problems. The aircraft are so light that even mild crosswinds make it detrimental to fly. I have flown Cessna 172s when I was going to attempt to pursue a private pilot certification and they are heavier, easier to fly and less ‘twitchy’ both on take off, in flight and on landing. The Evector Sportstar’s rudder and brakes are so twitchy that it is hard to maintain control of the aircraft on the centerline for takeoffs and landings. This is not just my opinion but that of two of my instructors and a third instructor (with over 1000 hours) who flew the aircraft and had the same difficulty. The LSA aircraft were supposed to be cheaper to purchase and maybe they are to some extent. Everyone knows what a new Cessna 172 or a Piper Warrior sells for. Most new LSA aircraft start at $125K and go up from there. Because LSA aircraft are new, used LSAs are few and far between for purchase. Yet I can find hundreds of used Cessna 172s for under $50K. They are less expensive to purchase easier to fly and most use the standard 6 pack instruments. Most if not all-new LSAs have state of the art electronics and navigation systems that I’m sure are fantastic but which I’ve never trained on or used. They are cheaper to purchase for LSAs since they need not be certified as in Cessna, Pipers and other certified aircraft, which is, in most cases, prohibitively expensive.
Perhaps the FAA will wake up and pass the Driver’s License use for recreational pilot certificates and we can move on to affordable aircraft that fly well, handle better then the lightweight LSAs and allow us to transition to instruments that we’ve used all along in our training. As for me, I’ll continue to hope that all this flying/training is getting me closer to a check-ride. Wish me luck!
I guess I’m one of those antidotal stories you hear about, at 52 I started my training on a life long dream, and very quickly found out that the third class medical was going to be a real issue (thanks Aopa for the guidance) so I switched from the 172 I had 7 hours in to an A32 valor, after another 4 or 5 hours switched again to the Aero AT-4 (Gobosh) and fell in love with it and never looked back. Ya the light wing loading limited the initial cross wind flying time but soloed quickly at about 12 hours LSA time and then dragged out over the northern winter months to finally pass my check ride at about 50 hours. I’ve had incredible instructors at southern maine aviation and have enjoyed every minute. After 2 years of work and 20 years of medical records I was able to obtain my third class and have since passed my private checkride and want to continue on to my instrument, AGI and maybe some day Lord willing my CFI, but the love for those little planes has never left me. When I fly an LSA, I’m a true stick and dancing on the rudder pedals pilot. The wind is always having its way with you and that’s half the fun and terror. Interestingly I just started my tailwheel in a utility category aircraft that requires a lot of rudder work and it seems that the year of pedal dancing and always glancing at the turn and bank to confirm everything was balanced worked to my advantage. So will I ever give up the LSA Gobosh, Heck NO. Like a lot of the “old” timers who lament that pilots aren’t being taught proper stick and rudder, look to us. I think our LSA CFI’s have figured something out.
A private pilot but an LSA pilot at heart.
If being able to continue flying is a measure to the success of the LSA rule, then it is a huge success for me. For years I flew on a special issuance medical with lurking around the corner the day I would be denied. Now I am flying without fear of being denied. Self certification has been a blessing in disguise.
So, no, I am not flying my Cessna 172 anymore but at least I am still flying and not worrying about being grounded until it is my decision to stop flying, and not the FAA’s. If you have ever been in the FAA special issuance medical system you know what I am talking about. For instance, twice I was grounded for no fault of my own when my cardiologist sent in a copy of my EKG rather than the original, or when in a report it was mentioned I had some arthritis in my hands… Who over sixty doesn’t? Well yes, both times the issues were resolved but not after being grounded for close to a year first.
Surprisingly, there have been some pleasant surprises flying LSA. The cost to fly has gone down by over two thirds. My LSA runs on auto gas and burns far less fuel an hour than my Cessna did, plus I am not held hostage to scrupulous maintenance shops for my annuals anymore. Now I do my own after taking the short maintenance course.
The LSA only carries me and one other person but is not a disadvantage because I cannot remember the last time I had anyone in the back seat of my Cessna anyway. As far as anything else other than weight, the LSA meets or exceeds the performance of the ‘ole Cessna. It flies just as far just as fast.
If there is any complaint about my LSA, it is the 1320 lb. weight limitation. The LSA, like a light boat, feels the bumps on a lake on a windy day far more than a larger boat does. The Cessna definitely gave a much better ride on bumpy days.
If the proposed rule for no medical to fly 180 hp or less with fixed gear, such as my old Cessna ever passed, I would have to give a lot of thought to going back. Likely I would just keep flying my LSA.
The 1320 pound weight limit may be hard on the Cessna 162, but it is at least 150 pounds over weight compared to many other LSAs. It has a published empty weight of 830 pounds. Look at Remos or Pipestrel to see what can be done. And, yes, light power loads/weight loads on wings tend to get one’s attention in windy conditions. On the other hand, most afford excellent stability, good speed, and reasonable range.
Pipestrel, by the way, will sell you an “Alpha” model for under $90,000, brand new, and a S-LSA not an experimental kit. That includes radio, transponder, Garmin Aera 500, ballistic chute, etc. You can make it a glass panel for another $5000.
Pipistrel has some attractive designs, but I think the jury is still out. Until the Alpha is in flight schools for a few years, I think it’s too early to call this a success. I’m rooting for them, just a little skeptical that it’ll still be $90,000 in 2015.
I agree that permitting heavier airplanes in the LSA category would be great, and for several reasons. But, the arguments about low weight and poor cross-wind controllability are less than compelling. Recently, the venerable Piper Cub has been featured at OSH and in print (Flying Mag #1 plane of all time). I never see articles warning prospective Cub pilots or owners about their low weight and susceptibility to cross-winds. I do see warnings like that about modern LSAs all the time. Seems a bit inconsistent to me.
My first airplane was a J-3 cub and was far more subject to cross winds than my LSA. Not only that, it was a tail dragger. My LSA is a tricycle gear and a pleasure to land in moderate cross winds. It is no more vulnerable to cross wind landings than any other light GA airplane.
Of course, the design of the airplane, whether vintage or modern LSA, makes all the difference in the world. The Aerocoupe 415C could land in some pretty stiff cross winds and so can some of the new LSAs.
Now, would I rather have the J-3 again or any other vintage airplane in the LSA category? Hell no! The modern LSA is a horse of a totally different color. With all the new technologies, composite materials and modern electronics there are no comparisons.
Those that are bringing the point out that light airplanes are more subject to cross wind landings are correct, but that includes both vintage and new LSA. More than likely, though, those pointing that out are flying much heavier airplanes and never flew a J-3, one of the most popular airplanes ever, and still are today despite the LSA rule.
Thanks for your reply. As owner and pilot of a FD CTsw, I am familiar with how this particular LSA lands in crosswinds and gusting conditions. I guess my point is that, sure, the heavier the plane and the higher the wing loading, the less it will be affected by variable and gusting conditions. But, were does that end? Do Bonanza pilots say that 150s are too light and too hard to fly? Do Caravan pilots say that Diamond Twins are too light? I think that the arbitrary line some draw between LSA and legacy aircraft, when it comes to weight and flying characteristics, is just that, arbitrary.
Oops. Meant the “lower the wing loading”.
This question is as complicated as the rule. On balance I would say that the LSA rule has been a failure. Yes it has kept people like myself (60’s, flew originally as a teenager, minor ailments) in the game but any young people quickly look at the cost of renting or buying an LSA and rapidly go for their Private. I have tried in vain to understand the reasoning that aircraft lighter than 1,320 pounds are inherently safer than say a 152 at 1,670 pounds. My only conclusion is that the weight limit is arbitrary and tied to the European regs. with no consideration of practicality. With nearly 200 hours on 5 different LSA’s over the past 3 years (Sting, Remos, Sportstar, Sport Cruiser, Tecnam), I can say without a doubt that aircraft this light are a challenge to handle safely on any day with even moderately gusty winds. In terms of stemming the attrition rate in GA pilots and attracting fresh blood, we can see that the LSA rule simply doesn’t work. Yes many the new designs are advanced and very appealing technology-wise, but how many people can expend upwards of 125k on a hobby – partnerships are the only practical way to own one of the new LSA’s. If the FAA really had any interest in strengthening the GA pilot base and promoting safety at the same time, they would have set a weight limit that includes aircraft like the 150 and 152. As it is now, the only economic alternative to flying the newer aircraft under the light sport rule is to go back in time all the way to 1946 with an Ercoupe, J-3 or Champ. Not all of us want to own a vintage aircraft borne in my case two years before I was! On balance, although the rule has spawned some very innovative and advanced designs, it has not accomplished what the originators had in mind – to make a wide selection of affordable GA aircraft available without the bureaucracy and paperwork associated with the Class 3 medical.
I’m 52 and finally started training for the Private. My wife and I want to fly from No. VA to OBX, Myrtle Beach and points in the NE. With a little lapdog and 50lbs luggage, LSA is impossible. I like full tanks whenever possible. Why would I pay 150k for a plane that I cannot carry a reasonable amount of weight for my purpose of flight?
I bought a 1974PA28 151 in excellent condition with 600 hours left on engine for 24K, spent 3k to get it they way I want it…and I am now learning in it. It affords us plenty of space and weight and is a great trainer…also will probably be the last plane I buy. There is a super used market out there for very affordable aircraft. I bought functionality, not sports car.
I’m not knocking LSA’s but for my needs, it wasn’t even an option.
When I first started thinking about flight training about two years ago, I strongly considered sport pilot because I’m a blue collar ‘joe’. My wife convinced me that I might as well go for private since the medical wasn’t an issue and I got my training for $95 per hour (that’s the C-150 AND the instructor–thanks Ben). I earned my private ticket in Feb 2012 and I’m glad I went that route, because frankly, LSAs are just too small. At 240 lbs,they just don’t make those things for me and any passenger other than a child. Furthermore, I live in Wichita, the city that gave this country wings. We have tons of pilots, instructors and ‘schools’. Only one, to my knowledge, uses LSAs. That’s the company that had the orginal contract to assemble the C-162 for Cessna, so naturally, they teach with them. The fact is, Wichita is a terrible place for LSAs. They are just too light for the high winds and extreme heat we get here. We see very few of them and almost no ultralights, etc. In regions of the world with cooler, more stable air, sure, I bet they have a place, but around here, where crosswind landings and high gusts toss 150s around like kites, they just aren’t that popular.
As for making flying more affordable…, only if you build it yourself. It seems that sellers use ‘LSA’ as a selling point for the medical pass you get and mark up the price of the aircraft accordingly. Airplanes are just too expensive for an average ‘joe’ to own, period. LSA won’t change that.Maybe someday, someone will explain why a plane costs that much more than a car. Sure, maybe a little higher, but 8-10 times higher?
I have several comments that spread over this entire blog.
I would like to see t5he Tird class medical a history lesson. there is no statistical proof that it is a benefit to aviation. It is a burden even to the very healthy. to those of us on special issuance it can be a nightmare. I have had to redo $2500 in tests because I changed a prescription, th FAA read into that change a medical event that had never happened. The system gave me no form of appeal. It also took over a year to notify me.
A good instructor will teach you to fly the aircraft you are flying every airplane and person has limitations to respect. In 69 I learned to fly in a Yankee we spun it regularly. a year later it was prohibited.
comments of why people talk about X-winds in LSA but not cubs. When those aircraft were built we learned to fly them and didn’t whine about how they flew.
As far as getting the cost Down on LSA. Good luck that problem is bigger than this forum. In 1972 I built Pipers in Vero. I could purchase one for $ 14K My aircraft (The Yankee) Cost $ 6800 in 1968 new I bought it for 15K 40 years old! The last ticket purchase of a 172 that I knew about was 313K. Don’t think I will ever write that check. But the bortom line is we liver in the USA the freeest place to live and fly on the planet. All us aviators need to work to make it even better.
A failure no fitting a need yes. Get rid of the third class medical completely. That would make flying less stressful.
What initiative in any arena of aviation hasn’t had a “mixed outcome?” I’m continually surprised by the eagerness of aviators to criticize, or outright attack the LSA concept, the Sport Pilot license, etc. Sometimes we are our own worst enemies. Many good points are made above, but I reinforce a few: first, as owner of an Aeronca Chief, I can attest that crosswinds are an issue for very light aircraft, esp. a taildragger. Um… so what’s new here? A J-3 is far worse in this regard than a trigear LSA. Second, the best of the LSAs are really fine, proper little airplanes, and they will carry out their missions admirably. I have flown in the Aerotrek, the Tecnam P2008, the Cessna Skycatcher, and the Kitfox. The Tecname gave me a bad case of “falling in lust,” with its stability on a windy day, the visibility (Cardinal-like), comfortable seating, baggage area, and splendid panel. Only the $160,000 price tag prevented purchase. But historically, airplanes have never, ever been “cheap.” Those without Major Means who wish to fly should be sharing ownership, joining or creating flying clubs, buying used, etc. Finally, it is possible to buy (or build) an LSA for well under $100K. Even at $150K, with four members, an investment of $37,500 each puts you into a brand-new, real airplane. How much does a new loaded Ford Taurus or Honda Accord cost?
In 2008 Nancy and I sold our Cherokee 140 and purchased a Flight Design CTLS and have not looked back. We have taken 1000+ mile XCs many times and with the exception of a flat tire in South Carolina, it has been a turn key operation. The autopilot is a great addition and we can fly 700 to 800 miles in a day without undue fatigue and 15kts per hour faster than the Cherokee.
I have written several articles for Light Sport Aviation concerning LSA ownership, cross country flying etc. Being able to fly without worrying about the FAA medical establishment is great. The equipment is superior to that of the Cherokee and I feel that I am saver flying today than in past–mainly because of all the data available. Moreover, the CT has a aircraft parachute, which means that there is a form of “last resort” security we did not have in past.
While I am a real fan of LSAs, they are a bit limited in weight carrying capability (easily overcome by careful packing), a bit uncomfortable in convective conditions, and light weight means that landings can be tricky in crosswind conditions. My bottomline is that the LSA are a real success and a growing segment of General Aviation!
LSA is a good idea and I hope it works out well. However, in the near term it’s not a panacea. For instance, in my case, I just turned 65, am in good health, and have been taking flight lessons for a few months. I am working to obtain my Private Pilot license. Why, instead of Sport Pilot? Well, it’s quite simple. Now bear in mind I live in Westchester County NY. Lots of people around here with many more bucks than me, but LSA rentals are pretty much nonexistent. There are a couple of places on Long Island (1 hour drive or more) that have a goodly many LSAs for rent. But who wants that for an everyday situation?
So, I passed my medical and will get my license and will rent 172’s or equivalent all day long. I just don’t want to own an airplane. I take that back, I can’t deal with the expense and aggravation and I don’t want to invest the money in an airplane.
Rental availability, for me, was the clincher that made me take the chance of getting a medical, although I had no reason to believe I couldn’t pass. That, along with with the lack of convenient rentals, in Westchester Co of all places. In fact, a year or so ago when I was agonizing over whether to go to the trouble of searching out Sport Pilot training vs PP I was talking to a guy at a prominent local FBO/training organization asking why they didn’t have Sport Pilot rentals. Very commercial organization. The guy said, and I can’t argue, that he thought the management didn’t want to rent to people without a medical.
Call it what you will, but it is what it is. I’m on my way to PP certificate primarily because of rental availability.
So far the primary result of the LSA rule has been to keep a lot of pilots flying who otherwise would have tired of jumping the medical hoops. Most of them bought Cubs, Champs, Taylorcraft, etc., which meet the LSA specification but do not cost $100K+, which is a ridiculous amount of money to spend on a toy most people will play with less than 50 hours per year. This in turn has really helped to prop up aviation in general, because most of these pilots still need A&P’s, hangars, fuel, parts & supplies, BFR’s, etc. Expanding the driver’s license medical to cover the smaller Cessnas, Pipers, and other models which many pilots already own, would really help revitalize aviation-related businesses and probably do a lot more to attract new pilots. Prospective new pilots who take a realistic look at LSA and realize that to own they will have to spend $100K to buy a plane, or to rent they will be VERY limited in their choice of FBO (enough of a problem for those of us with Private licenses), become discouraged and walk away, whereas if they had the possibility of owning an aircraft for @ $30K or (with some hassle) renting at 100’s of FBO’s who have a C152, C172, or Cherokee essentially the same as what they trained in, they’d think it much more workable and give it a try. There are, and should be, many challenges to overcome on the way to becoming a pilot. While flying is never cheap, the cost of operation may help put it within reach of more people, especially those who live near a flight school or FBO with an LSA rental that they can use to go burn holes in the sky without burning through $100/hr. in fuel. The problems causing the decline in private aviation are complex, and very few complex problems are solved using just one tool. LSA is a tool which helps address the problem, but it’s not the fairy dust which will magically turn everything to gold. The answer to whether it’s a failure or not, is determined in large part by one’s expectations.
LSA got this 800 hour comm multi pilot back in the air and it feels GREAT
A friend worked with a Czech manufacturer to develop a battery/electric LSA. By all accounts it was a solid aircraft – slow but good for soaring and sight seeing. He was advised by FAA that any change in the rules was “8 to 10 years away – this has to be studied”. Studied to death. Fortunately he has come up with a solo self launched battery/electric motorglider ultralight. So long as FAA remains inflexible, there will be no substantive changes to the regs. And we will be saddled with aircraft that are too light for most pilots and for many flight conditions. It’s all part of an unwritten policy to make light general aviation go away. Enjoy it while you can.
I am the director of marketing at one of the leading providers of accelerated flight training in the US. We recently conducted a survey which went out to about 2500 likely students and pilots-in-training and asked the question “In the next 12 months, I plan to pursue flight training for the following pilot certificates and ratings:” The list ranged from Sport Pilot Licenses all the way up to Airline Transport Pilot Licenses and everything in between. We received a little over 150 responses and out of all the responses only one person indicated they planned to pursue training for a Sport Pilot License – compared to 26 who planned to train for a Private Pilot License, 47 planning to train for their instrument rating and 24 planning to train for their multi-engine rating.
We do have two Skycatchers in service right now and plans for at least one additional Skycatcher in the near future. The usage of the Skycatchers has been largely for hour building and training for Private Pilot Licenses, so at least from our perspective, the Skycatchers have been warmly received and has provided a lower-cost option for flight training, but not for Sport Pilot Licenses.
In my opinion, the LSA rule was simply a “stimulus” rule designed to create a niche market that manufacturers would rush to fill. Sure, it plays off of everyone’s desire to fly cheaper, but that’s not the bottom line, IMO.
NOTHING UNDER $100,000? — That is simply not true!
It is nonsense that no LSA are available for less than $100,000. On my LSA-centric website (ByDanJohnson.com), I just wrote about one that is selling for $74,900 and several other choices are available.
Of course, if you want autopilot, glass screens, the fastest performance and every desirable accessory, you can spend more than $100,000. Yet you do not have to even if you want a brand new, quality airplane.
Please do some research before you believe me or anyone else. Lots of info is available and you do not need to take the advice of any one person.
All of these are very valid points. The life of aviation is barely over 100 years old. Great advances have taken little or no time in the grand scheme of things. Eight years is plenty of time to see a trend and it’s not where we wanted it to be. Something has to change to make this viable for the future. The cost of “new” production designs have pushed the price out of the common man’s income bracket. If we could use older, proven designs that tooling and support and parts already exist for it would lower the price back into the affordable park.
Looking at older production aircraft like the 150, tomahawk’s and skipper’s they weighted up to 1675lbs. They still had the limited horsepower and speed requirements but let you actually have two people in the aircraft. Unfortunatly a FAA standard pilot is rare today. Raising the wieght limit up to say 1700lbs would allow these aircraft to be utilized and even open up some new production helping out the manufactures as well. It would still limit the size of the category keeping 4 seater aircraft like the 172 which weighs in around 2400lbs. In the height of just the 150 there were some 23,000 aircraft built. Looking at online sales boards you can find many on the market for less than $20,000. The market for FBO’s to upgrade the older aircraft would be a huge buisness opertunity as well.
Good points, Carl. There’s no reason a 150 can’t be a Sport aircraft. But I worry that we’re sort of kicking the can down the road. What happens in 15 years when all of these “golden era” airplanes are really too old to fly. Only then will we find a way to manufacture more affordable LSAs?
why do people keep talking about aircraft weight when the FAR’s say 1320Lbs GROSS weight.
remember that is as left the factory and cannot be changed, even if you put it on a diet.
Please corect me if I am wrong!!
We are talking about changing the FAR’s to increase the gross weight limit for LSA’s to allow more existing (C-150, 152’s, Ercoupes (D models), etc.) into the LSA catagory. By the way, these aircraft will last as long as people want to take care of them.
I was looking more in the short term window of pulling more pilots into the fold. Getting the ability to fly to everyone. The aging fleet is a problem but one that can be controlled with vigilant maintenance up keep until a new solution is found. There are exceptions to everything of course. There are 1940 era aircraft out there today that look brand new and some newer aircraft I feel that I need a tetnus shot just to look at. Is this a cure all for LSA? No, mabybe just a baby step in the right direction.
I learned a long time ago (50 years at least), that any activity that takes a lot of money to pursue must offer the opportunity to earn at least enough money to support the habit. It is often unnecessary to earn a profit or perhaps you may suffer a slight loss but anything more and your interest in the activity wanes. Your family deserves the benefits of your earnings as much as you do. Once an activity starts to eat into the family’s share you will face a serious resistance at home.
The LSA movement ignores this fact of life. For the “well heeled” this may not be a problem but for most of the pilots (or potential pilots) I know it is a fact of life. Actual recreational flying tends to be a small portion of many pilots actual flying. There are some uses to which an LSA can be applied as well as a certified aircraft, but they are few.
For the amount of money most LSA aircraft cost to own and operate, I can purchase a certified airplane that can serve both recreational and commercial needs. The LSA concept is a good one. However, it does not address the real needs of the potential pilot or the already certified pilot. Sadly, I will remain in the non LSA camp until my needs are met by the LSAs at a reasonable price.
We keep talking about affordable legacy airplanes that are still attractive to private pilots. Fair enough. But remember, LSAs haven’t been around for 40 years to create a large pool of high hour planes for rent or purchase at reasonable prices. So, the comparison between legacy and LSA planes is not well matched.
Used, well equipped, modern LSAs (less than ten years old, even less than six years old) can be had for half of the the $150K price of new “luxury” LSAs (those with all bells and whistles). If the plane flies only 50 hours per year, why not split it among several pilots? Now we are talking about money not much different than legacy planes.
” If the plane flies only 50 hours per year, why not split it among several pilots? Now we are talking about money not much different than legacy planes.”
With the greatest respect, your statement omits the fact that with the legacy plane you do not have to share. That is a major game changer. I wouldn’t share a boat or motorhome, why would I share my plane? If the only reason for sharing is because of cost, I would think long and hard. Sharing amongst friends or family for reasons other than cost would be a somewhat different story but still fraught with risk.
There are many aspects to sharing. It’s not all bad, but the risk vs. your investment is significant. We all try our best to plan, say, 5 years ahead for our own lives. How can we possibly plan for others as well? Who know what the state of your partners’ life conditions will be a year from now, much less five?
I bought a 74 Warrior for 24K, 380 a month payments for five years and I am in complete control and have total access to that aircraft. I can’t imagine why I would want to enter into a sharing agreement for a lower price, knowing what I would have to give up. I would urge fellow pilots to read your post but to consider all of the consequences.
The Sport Pilot rule allowed me to get a pilot’s license and fly, which would not have possible otherwise. I am very thankful for that. On the other side, it is an example of the capricious, arbitrary and preposterous way in which government unnecessarily regulates. Private Pilots should not need a third class medical, period.
Agree 100%! It’s PRIVATE for a reason. Strictly recreational, nothing for hire or profit. The proposed AOPA third class medical waiver is a good compromise but should never have been necessary in the first place. The aircraft is already FAA certified, the trained pilot is already FAA certified.
Regardless of what your third class medical says about your health on Monday, Tuesday you must completely recertify your medical condition. Its an absolute waste of public and private sector resources AND ties up medical professionals who are needed more and more for basic medical care.
Time is quickly running out, comment to the FAA today via the AOPA website on the waiver.
I feel better now.
I bought a PiperSport:
I wish I could take more stuff. When my wife & I take a trip I’m always looking closely at the weight to insure we don’t exceed the Max Take Off Weight (MTOW). It means she packs lighter and we NEVER have full gas tanks. I usually plan enough gas for two hour (5 gals/hour) legs with reserve. On the other hand, most of the time I fly solo. So MY utilization is good as it meets MOST of my weight requirements. (BTW, I’m also on a diet program)
I don’t fly on windy days. I have a personal wind gust limit and if the forecast goes above that I stay on the ground. So I am grounded on some days that other pilots might fly. (I also don’t fly in IMC any more, a personal choice.) I don’t believe that LSA is less safe, but one must understand their own personal limitations and the decision making can be more critical.
I still fly with a medical, without any special issuance. If the Sport Pilot Rules allow more pilots to fly then I say it is a good thing. I don’t know of any LSA accidents attributed to pilot incapacitation.
Flying is expensive, period. Like any other avocation you can spend what you want to and then some. It is unreasonable to think that you can buy a new product at the same price as an old one. I have found my operating costs to be lower than what I would have spent on an older airplane.
I wish more Flight Schools would adopt an LSA program. This is somewhat of a “Chicken & Egg” story. Flight schools want students, students want new airplanes, but flight schools won’t buy new airplanes until they have students. My airplane draws a crowd wherever we go. I think having an attractive new airplane on a flight line would be a great draw for new students, as long as the hourly rental costs were set properly.
It has been a long transition, but I like glass over steam gauges. If it weren’t for LSA I wouldn’t own a plane with a glass panel, autopilot, BRS system or other modern innovations. The technology is simply fantastic.
I hope that everyone who wants to fly LSA, because it does not require an FAA Physical, does pay attention to their health with an annual physical with their private physician.
It is a good idea to sepearte our thinking between LSA and sport pilot. The exemption is a good idea and many have expressed excelent reasons for it. I hope you’ve all left comments for the FAA to support the exception. Arbitrary weight limits imposed by the FAA limit safety and flying, just look at teh weight limits for ultralight. It’s a shame to leave the standard training aircraft for 50 years out of hte loop for LSA/Sport Pilot. It just doesn’t make sense.
I think however that we are leaving out a fairly large segment of aviation aircraft; consider experimenatal aircraft in the mix and you have a much larger group of aircraft to chose from in the Sport Pilot/LSA world. They’re more affordable to boot.
Take a Van’s RV-12. In kit form this will cost about 65K. They routinely sell for 75K already built. This includes a glass panel (SkyView 10″)and the latest in equipment. It will carry two 210 pound adults, full fuel and 50 pounds of luggage and optional auto-pilot. It uses the Rotax 100 hp engine like most in the LSA lineup.
This is an easy build with everything laid out. All the wiring bundles are pre-built, every hole is thought out and head scratching is left to decide wether you want a Coke or a Pepsi. It’ll take somewhere around 800 hours to build and comes in sub-kits.
Sorry but with aircraft like this available, I wouldn’t even consider another commerical LSA except for rental.
I fly because of the the new (8 year old) sport pilot ticket. I’m too new to see many drawbacks other than in my area, there is only one Evector Sport Star to rent. Or any other LSA. I’m lucky that I have a great FBO and rental folks (not to mention the great training I recieved from a very good instructor)close by but it’s still only one plane that is available.
My solution my be to purchase a smaller tandem seat “ultralight type” LSA for most of my flying and only rent the sport star occasionally.
The one thing I don’t understand or am currently ignorant of is why the folks who are selling the 40K SLSA don’t have the financing ready to go for you. I honestly think that if these dealers set up the payment plans with the lending institutions so that when a customer comes in, takes a ride and wants to put some money down and get a plane and insurance……….you just do it. Like buying a car. I’d like to pay cash for the plane but it’s not reality. Just give me that number per month so I can figure in hanger fees and decide what I’m willing to do.
Light Sport is why I’m able to fly today!
People seem to forget the rules for LSA are GROSS weight 1320 LBS that is as it left the factory and cannot be changed. You just cannot put it on a diet.
George: That is a false assumption. The LSA rule states that 1320 lbs. is max takeoff weight, not max factory weight, that is unless the airplane is fitted with floats, whereas the max takeoff weight would be 1430 lbs.
The Light Sport rule is an unmitigated disaster:
1. The affordable LSA has not materialized.
2. It has crippled the ultralight industry and therefore impaired any pilots from the lower or middle class from participating in aviation with lower cost “two seat ultralights”. Finding an ultralight instructor or airplane to rent is impossible.
3. The lack of an affordable LSA is blamed on the economy. Sorry, but the ECONOMY is not the reason. The sticker shock is the reason. Don’t believe me? Let’s do a little test. I’ll write a check to the first Flight Design or Remos dealer who sells me a new LSA airplane for $50,000. No takers? Yeah, didn’t think so. It’s the PRICE! Not the economy, not the Euro, or any other excuse.
I’m flying a classic Cessna 152 because $25,000 is all I can afford, and the family won’t fly in anything that doesn’t look to them like a “real airplane”. (That doesn’t mean that I won’t fly, but it means that I’m all alone in an ultralight or most new planes that try to squeeze into the LSA weight limit.)
This has been a great debate and one of the longest strings I have encountered on the Air Facts Journal website. The pros and cons of the success of the LSA rule are varied with roughly half of the comments addressing weight limitations. True, the weight limitation rule for a normal LSA is 1320 lbs unless it is a LSA seaplane, which is then allowed 1430 lbs.
What has not been mentioned is the fact that the weight limitation is a rule and not criteria for the airplanes mechanically or aerodynamically. A good many LSAs are built in other countries with design weights to fly safely as high as 1500 lbs. Those that are designed to also be fitted with floats certainly will fly safely at a takeoff weight of 1430 lbs. without the floats.
What I am saying here, is many of the LSAs out there are designed to fly at higher weight limits than 1320 lbs. But, please be cautioned! There are some LSAs that barely get off the ground at 1320 lbs. You have to know what you’re flying.
Now, I am not advocating breaking the LSA Rule. I am just saying I have never heard of the FAA weighing an LSA aircraft on the ramp to see if it is overweight. Besides, if it was overweight during takeoff because of a little excess fuel, then upon landing it would most likely fall in the legal range again. Have you ever witnessed the FAA weighing a LSA aircraft on the ramp? If so, please let me know.
I’m sure many of you will comment with the ramifications of flying above 1320 lbs, like the legalities, insurance and liabilities, etc., but just know that many LSA manufacturers de-rated their airplanes simply to meet the 1320 lb. LSA rule for the American market. Flying one of these aircraft a little over 1320 lbs. is not going to make it unsafe, nor do you have to worry about it falling out of the sky. So, does this open a can of worms?
Hold on here. It is never good practice to fly an airplane over the published gross weight just because you not likely be caught. If you crash on take-off and the plane is over gross, the NTSB findings will be “pilot error” no matter what the real cause. Don’t take the chance. Be sides, the gross weight discussion is not about being able to fly a $100,000 + LSA over gross, the reason is opening up the LSA category to many fine aircraft that can be purchased for 25% of that and be much less costly to operate.
Art: When the speed limit on the Interstate is posted at 70 mph, how fast do you drive? … Be honest! Have you ever exceeded that limit?
Nice try but it won’t work. Of course I have driven over the posted speed limit but my car does not have a published design speed limit. In fact my car is designed to go twice that fast. You are talking about exceeding the manufacturers published design weight limit for a machine we call an aircraft. You say the manufacturer limits the weight in order to come under the LSA limit. That may well be but I am not willing to assume the aircraft will perform correctly over the published gross weight. I have studied aircraft design, restored antique aircraft and built an experimental airplane. I have seen aircraft come apart in flight when the design limits were exceeded. But, again, the purpose of the gross weight limit increase discussion is to bring more good solid, affordable aircraft into the LSA category. Not fly an airplane beyond its design limits.
We need not start a feud. I too have been in aviation for over forty years but I do not propose to be an expert, though flying since 1966 I have learned a thing or two. My post was to simply state that many LSA manufacturers who’s airplanes are sold here from other countries are certified at higher takeoff weights. In fact, some are four place airplanes in their own countries with the rear seats removed here, then re-certified at 1320 lbs. to meet our LSA rule. Some LSA manufacturers even boast this on their websites.
There was some discussion about raising the weight limit to 1500 lbs. so we could have safer LSA airplanes. But the fact is they are already here. If the proposed abolishment of the 3rd class medical ever became a reality for under 180 hp and fixed gear GA airplanes, I can guarantee you the weight limitations on these aircraft would be revised to their true designed takeoff weight.
So, it may not be politically correct to point out these airplanes can carry more than the published (here in America) weight, but it is never the less true. Point in case: The companies who sell these airplanes routinely fly them cross-country overweight to display them at LSA expos.
Okay, so if you accidentally went a few pounds overweight with fuel in one of these airplanes, would you really be under any peril? I don’t think so, and it certainly would not be any more dangerous than driving over published speed limits, which by the way, many Americans do routinely every day.
Is the rule reviewed on an international level? Or is each country separated in its adoption or changing of the rule?
OK, I am 62 and have fulfilled a life-long dream by getting my LS. I fly a CTLS, and yes, it was not cheap. However I now fly at 100+ kts, because I like keeping the mogas use well below 5 gph. As we speak, I am in Oshkosh taking a 120 hr. course that will allow me to do my own inspections and line maintenance on my plane and others. (I could have taken the 16 hr. to only do my own inspections.) Incidentally, this does not apply to Standard certificated planes that fit the LSA category, like Piper Cubs, Aeroncas, Ercoupes, Taylorcraft, and the like – you still have to take them to an A & P for annuals and repairs.
My CTLS will hold 32 useable gallons of fuel, and keep me in the air much longer than most anyone’s bladder will hold out. If I am flying with a passenger and weight is an issue, I really don’t need to have 6+ hours of fuel.
I don’t plan to make a career out of flying, I just like to fly. The CTLS is likely my first and only airplane – LS works for me
The development of LSA’s has largely worked well. It has spurred technical development of composite aircraft and shown it is possible to build new airplanes much less expensively than building 50+ year-old designs. My Jabiru J230 performs almost identically as a new Cessna 172 yet costs only about 1/3 as much. Yes, I can only haul one passenger but I rarely hauled anyone besides me in my Cessna 210 and the Jabiru has plenty of room for luggage, fishing gear, my dog, etc.
The biggest problem I face is the difficulty of upgrading avionics. Under FAA rules, any alteration must be approved by the factory, requiring voluminous, difficult paperwork on their part. Factories cannot issue more paperwork for every new model of avionics manufacturers bring out so this rule serves only to discourage owners from installing safety-enhancing avionics. This cumbersome, needless rule should be corrected.
I do believe the altitude, weight and horsepower limits should be raised. The strict limits we have now cause manufacturers to design to the edge of the envelope and as we all know, if you always fly at the edge of the envelope, sooner or later, you’ll wreck the plane. If you fly in the West where surface altitudes are high, the 2,000 ft agl limit comes into play and I’d feel much safer flying 4-5,000 ft agl over Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and the Sierras.
The high cost of LSA is driven only by the growing number of baby boomers that can no longer pass their medical. These guys have a lifetime of accumulated savings but can no longer fly the traditional route. It was for those kind of people that the light sport aircraft category was created by people exactly like them. It’s no cheaper to fly in the new LSA category now than it was before they came along. I remember flying the piper Tomahawk wet for $17/hour in the mid 90’s which wasn’t that terribly long ago. I for one won’t pay the kind of money that’s being asked, no matter how much I want to fly. When the rest of you come to your senses, the price of those planes must come down.
I am pretty typical of the LSA aircraft owner. I am over 60, I have never had a medica turn down, but I am at the age where getting a medical isn’t a sure thing either. So, I bought, in 2006 and Evektor sportstar. I have flow many other LSAs and ultralights. Here are my comments:
1. All of these airplanes are very light and have tightly coupled wheels. this makes them squirmy at takeoff speeds. thus, you have a lot of landing and takeoff accidents. What helps me, I think, is that I have owned a Beech Musketeer and a Mooney. Both are fairly squirmy planes. And, by the way, both were known for landing accidents.
2. Most of the LSAs I have been in are really quite well engineered. They are constructed well but not as well as part 23. For example, my aircraft came with motorbike voltage regulators and automotive hoses. I have had regulator and hose failures. They have all been replaced with aircraft parts.
3. No one manufacturer has enough volume to drop the price. This is a big problem. When general aviation really did well, the cost of an entry piper cherokee or a C-172 was about three times the price of a fullsize chevy. The chevy, today, is $25,000. I think these aircraft need to be $75,000.
4. My little LSa is fine in the air. It carries 620 lbs useful load and does 110 kts. Not great, but for two, not bad.
LSA category was an EU deal. lsa just followed eu ultralight category with the blessing from the fas to finish off the us companies.
I’m interested in possibly getting a Sport Pilot License, but after much googling, I can’t even find a school in the seattle area.
For me, I have a strong passion to fly, but a private license is too prohibitive both cost wise and restriction wise. I don’t make much money, and although I believe I could afford lessons gradually spaced out, and occasional rentals afterwards, I don’t think I can afford all the medical tests (I don’t have health insurance). And the extreme rules for remaining current, I just know there will be times that I won’t have the time or money to get up in the air in time, or I’ll be forcing myself to fly at inopportune times just to maintain currency.
I just want to be able to get up and have a fun flight every couple months or so, which is what makes me interested in the Sport Pilot License.
Anyone have any input if the program is right for me, and if there are good schools around seattle?
You can always start with a Sport license and then move up to a Private, most of the hours count. However, unless you can afford to buy a plane, you might find it more difficult to rent a LSA than a standard a/c, and in the end you might be better off to bite the bullet and just get the Private. I finished my Private for about $6K. As for the medical, unless you have significant health issues, all you need is a flight physical which should cost you @ $200, every 2 – 5 years depending on your age. Insurance generally doesn’t cover those, either. There are different issues w/currency. FAA currency just says you have to make 3 T/O & landings in 90 days to carry passengers – if you want to fly alone you can fly once a year if that suits you. However, most FBO’s have their own rules for currency to be eligible to rent their a/c. If you don’t meet their requirements, you will have to spend some refresher time with their instructor or check pilot, whether renting a standard a/c or LSA. I am part of a group with shared ownership of a small plane, and the group imposes no such restrictions, so members can fly as much or as little as they wish or can afford, and can take the plane up as long as they’re comfortable with their skills. Which is the remaining point about currency. Some pilots can go 3, 6, 12 months between flights and feel perfectly comfortable in their abilities. Others become doubtful if they haven’t flown in a month or two, and feel the need to take an instructor along on the first flight after a break. You won’t know what kind of pilot you are until you get to that point.
If you want to spend less on instruction, “lessons gradually spaced out” is not the way to go. Especially when learning, you need to fly as often as you can, for most people at least once a week and twice is even better. When you’re just beginning to develop those skills and abilities, one lesson builds on the other, and if you don’t fly often, you spend most of a lesson re-learning the previous lesson and progress is slow. You’d be best off to save up for lessons and not start until you have the money to pay for lessons and the checkride. And don’t figure on the minimum hours, almost everyone has 1.5 – 2X the FAA minimums before they’re ready for the checkride.
I’m not wealthy, I’m a chubby middle aged tech worker with all the usual ailments of middle aged men, I had to do a SODA ride with the FAA because of a lazy eye, and I’m a private pilot, not only my proudest accomplishment of my life, but I have the freedom to fly at will (well, working around weather, work schedules, other owners, a/c maintenance schedules, etc.). If you really want to do it, find a way and don’t let anyone talk you out of it.
Thank you Mark!
I am 66 and always had a love for flying. In my 20’s I took some lessons and then my life collided with the Viet Nam war era. Then schooling, jobs and family buried the flying desire and life went on until two years ago when I was selected to take a UAS Technician class. My instructor, a well qualified military and General Aviation CFI “re-lit” my passion for aviation. I then purchased RC software and got very good at flying an RC. I then progressed to MS FSX and have flown many virtual hours, using a 172 as my choice of aircraft. Then I learned about about the LSA/sport licensing arena, I was blown away with fact that I could achieve my dream of years ago..to solo, fly local and as the saying goes “low and slow”. I am working on my ticket now and feel so energized to achieve this goal.
So for any of you who are reading this and have flying as a “bucket list” item..Go for it!
Way too expensive. I use to rent a Piper Tamahawk in Tampa Fl for $17/hour wet back in the late 80s. Now, everything cost $100/hour and more. LSA doesn’t appear to be any cheaper. In my opinion, the category was created so that old guys that could no longer pass the physical could continue to fly! The prices are all targeted to old people that had a life time to save money. The young people these days don’t have that kind of money. General Aviation is going the way of the Dodo bird!
I am a certified flight instructor. I have been teaching in all kinds of general aviation aircraft for more than 45 years. I have had many students complete their PPL training in little more than 40 hours. Very few LSA pilots have completed their training in less than 35 hours. The reason? All students must know how to operate everything on the airplane before they can pass a flight test. The fabulous full panel LSA models available today are so complicated that a student can’t learn to use it proficiently after only 15 hours of in-flight training. I have done some training in LSA Ercoupe 415C airplanes. No rudder pedals! No navigation equipment! No communications equipment! The simplest, most basic, easiest-to-fly, certified airplane you can buy! Students can easily pass a Light Sport flight test after 15 hours of flight training and 5 hours of solo time! Of course they need additional training to transition into anything else but they have crossed the Rubicon! They have entered the promised land! The biggest obstacle is behind them! When they begin to transition into other aircraft they do that as pilots . . . not as students! That difference is huge and the gateway drug is not very expensive.
Introduce student pilots in the simplest, greenest airplane you can find and the path will be smoother and the rewards will be great!
If the FAA enforces their proposed sleep apnea directive, look for more sport pilots. Of course anyone with a BMI over 40 will find it hard to fit into most LSA’s.
I would like to see reform in the weight class qualification for LSA, to around 1500 to 2000 lbs. gross. Furthermore, there needs to be a relaxation on medical requirements around the issue of coumadin, for non-heart related conditions.. It will always be the case that our freedoms are limited and expenses escalated when the government regulation goes wild. Government induced expenses on the general aviation industry has destroyed the affordability of flying, enough with the regulatory agency’s over-reach.
I own a light sport airplane simply because it is the only way I can continue flying. I would love to see the Pilots Bill of Rights pass so I could go back to flying a Cessna which is much safer. The 1320 lb. rule is simply too light an airplane and subjects the pilot to stressful, unsafe, bouncy flying.
Great discussion stimulated by John Zimmerman. I’m looking to get back into GenAv after a significant hiatus, so this is a timely topic for me. Option “A” would be to purchase a late 70s or early 80s vintage Piper Warrior or Archer or similar, but the more I look into it, these airframes (particularly the wing spars) are coming under increased scrutiny in the form of corrosion inspection mandatory service bulletins or in some cases ADs. The Cessna Cardinals have a significant potential “gotcha” in the form of corrosion on the wing spar carry through and Cessna doesn’t make a replacement part, so you have to look around for a used one from a parted out airframe. The Beech Musketeers and Sundowners have issues with outer spar corrosion near the ailerons that can require expensive repairs or even in some cases condemning the entire wing. Then there are the recent spate of engine ADs. So for me, this means that a purchaser has to be extra-careful not to select an aircraft that is going to incur repair costs well out of proportion of its worth.
The advantage of a new (or recent used) LSA is that you’re getting an airframe and engine that are hopefully years away from having these kinds of age-related issues, plus some can be had with the latest whiz-bang avionics which improve situational awareness.
I decided a long time ago that I was a fair-weather flier, and that I have no desire to attempt single engine IFR in the cold climates where I live where icing is an issue for much of the winter, so having a IFR-certified aircraft and avionics isn’t as high priority for me as I used to think it was.
While the entry price for some LSAs have ballooned into the near ridiculous due to many buyers wanting the latest and greatest avionics options, a 2-5 year old LSA can be had for approx. half that cost.
So while it would be nice to have a used 5-year old Cirrus SR20 for about the same price of a new LSA (say Czech SportCruiser with all the bells and whistles), the operational costs associated with the Cirrus are much, much higher. While the Cirrus is a great plane for a business person who needs that level of capability, and who can take advantage of the tax code and write it off over time, operating expenses are arguably even more expensive than initial acquisition cost. Another advantage of some LSAs is that they can be had with the ballistic recovery parachute option.
One other option that I’m still considering is getting a good (i.e., corrosion-free) 1970s airframe with a run-out engine with vintage steam gauges and ancient avionics and restoring the airframe and putting in new avionics and completely overhauling the engine. I’ll be aiming for a highly reliable 160 or 180 HP 2000 TBO type engine. I’m kind of surprised there isn’t a cottage industry doing this, because you could have a nice restored 70s vintage 172/Skyhawk, Warrier or Archer for about 1/4 – 1/3 the price of a factory new one. Perhaps with the medical reform this will become a viable option for more pilots who don’t want to settle for the artificial performance limitations of LSA?
Whatever I end up, I have absolutely decided that retractable gear is just not worth it for the type of missions that I will typically be flying, which will save an enormous amount of money on maintenance and insurance.
I’ve looked at every GA airport within an hour of my home in MA, and there is not one FBO or club that has an LSA in their fleet. One FBO told me that he can get a used 172 for half the price of a new LSA, so it makes no economical sense.
This spring I will investigate forming an LSA club.
I think, for me, one of the biggest issues has to be that of SAFETY as to one good reason to increase the LSA weight limits!
#1 How many vintage ‘affordable’ airplanes have an electrical system???? With an electrical system, you have lighting (for safety), you can install an ADS-B (for safety), you can have panel mount and aircraft powered Navcoms (for safety), aircraft position lights (for safety), and other avionics conducive to promoting SAFETY!
#2 Is is safer to ‘hand prop’ an airplane like the Champ or Chief, or is it safer to have an electric start??? Again …. SAFETY
#3 As was pointed out in one article I read, there are many aircraft with a lot more wing surface and are just as safe as any other LSA … which happen to be 2 seaters …. yet they don’t qualify because they are ‘overweight’ …. exceeding the ‘1320 Rule’.
#4 One of the alleged goals of LSA, was to promote aviation and to make flying ‘more affordable’. Here again, we’re limited to aircraft choices, and there are several vintage aircraft we would like to fly (many of which also happen to have an electrical system) but they just happen to be over the weight limits. Otherwise, they fit within all of the other rules such as limited to 2 seats, limited in maximum KIAS, etc.
I guess, if I were to put my bureaucrat hat on and think, I’d probably think, “Lighting? No! We can’t have that! Safety aside! We don’t trust those LSA pilots not to fly after dark!”
Speaking of bureaucratic conspiracy theories and thinking, we all know that the reason that LSA aircraft are limited to 2 seats, is because the bureaucrats don’t trust LSA pilots to follow the rules. So, forget even about an airplane with 3 seats that meets all of the specifications except as to the seat capacity ……..
I say, let’s increase the rule to 1800 pounds, and then a fine airplane like the 2 SEAT Piper Colt, which otherwise meets all requirements other than being overweight would qualify! (And happens to have a large wing surface area)
I agree as well, that the Cessna 120/140 series and he Cessna 150/152 series outta be included among thousands of other options we’d like to have!