In talks I give at airshows, I’ve begun to focus on what I term the “real” LSA market. Many folks are confused and even our ByDanJohnson.com statistics and articles about market share ranking add to the fog obscuring the big picture. The chart below attempts to burn off that fog and provide a clearer understanding. However, the table — meant for use when I proceeded line by line in a live presentation — needs some explanations. The chart attempts two tricks. The first goal was to contrast general aviation (GA) with Light-Sport aviation. We compare only to single engine piston GA aircraft as we saw that as the closest match. So the chart has at top left, a figure of 790, which is the number of Type Certified general aviation aircraft delivered in 2012, the latest full year of information at the time of the chart’s creation. Come down one line to see the total of Special LSA airplanes registered in 2012, again noting that LSA report registrations where the GA industry states deliveries; these two stats are not identical but are close enough for the purposes of this discussion.
At least aviation is not bowling! Recent articles say the number of American bowlers has plummeted from nine million to two million, a drop of 78%. Compared to that the aviation industry looks far more durable (line chart). Indeed, aviation in all sectors is facing challenges but we are buoyed by reports in the same newspapers that say Americans are feeling more financially secure since stock markets are up substantially and houses are selling faster and at better prices. However, as we’ll show below, 2013 is one of those transition years. That means that sales have been occurring at an increased pace, but due to companies assuming a defensive posture in the 2007-2011 downturn, production is now lagging behind sales just as it was in 2005-2006 when LSA burst on the scene. I’m optimistic that 2014 is going to be a much stronger year. I am not the only one. “I feel we will be experiencing two significant growth years in 2014 and 2015 based on the continued aging of the pilot population and the pent-up demand in the marketplace,” said Tim Casey, Garmin‘s sales manager for portables, LSA, and experimental aircraft markets.
A number of you have asked about an updated sales report for 2013. While remembering that we report registrations not sales, this year has been a different sort. Registrations are down from 2012, with the exception that CubCrafters remains the registration (and presumably sales) leader. American Legend and their Cubs are also showing more activity than previous years. Beyond the yellow taildragger squadron, it’s something of a mixed bag. More on that below. ••• Let me offer you another statistic that amazes me while speaking to ever-growing interest in Light-Sport Aircraft and light kit aircraft that Sport Pilots may fly. In September, ByDanJohnson.com set an all-time record with 71,400 Unique Visitors, 25% higher than our previous record (July 2013). In 2013, Unique Visitors have averaged more than 35,000 per month, a figure more than double 2012, which had been our best year ever. If I appear to be bragging too loudly, let me say that I believe this website is merely the messenger and that it is a fleet of great LSA and a solid team of suppliers and service providers that is delivering visitor growth.
At the Midwest LSA Expo that concluded a few days back, I delivered a presentation called “20+ Reasons to Buy an LSA.” However, to handle the subject a little bit differently, I turned it into an audience participation exercise. As I presented each slide of one particular reason, I explained what was meant and elaborated on how each reason made LSA different from other sorts of aircraft someone might consider buying. Then, I asked the audience to raise their hand if that reason was one that might cause them to buy a Light-Sport. I advised that no one was recording their names, so they remained anonymous. Each person could raise their hand as many times as they wanted or never raise their hand if they chose. No one had to participate. About 35 people listened and somewhere between 15 and 25 answered most of the time. The following chart shows the responses.
Our annual review of LSA Market Share brings our updated fleet chart and a second chart showing prior-year registrations. While sales of new SLSA remains below par, the market appears to be experiencing spotty but regular recovery from earlier low points. The first half the year foretold a better recovery but the last half of the year stalled somewhat. Regardless, based on traffic to this website, LSA interest is higher than ever. For January 2013, ByDanJohnson.com set all-time records in Unique Visitors and all other measuring criteria Thank you for your support! 2012 Market Share report — Nearby, we present our standard market share numbers. Our original chart remains consistent, illustrating the “installed base,” or “fleet size.” Because we know many of you seek recent-year information we are repeating the Calendar Year chart that debuted last year. For the second year in a row Cessna lead in 2012 with an impressive 94 registrations though this is down 30% from 134 in 2011.
We’ve been getting requests for market share information and I am happy to provide an update, thanks to my European associate Jan Fridrich who does the hard work of sifting through FAA’s database. I remind you that his efforts are not merely tallying whatever FAA publishes. In fairness, Jan has to evaluate many pieces of information and judge accuracy of the entries. This isn’t because FAA’s registrars are bumbling fools that cannot enter data accurately. The challenges come from sheer number of brands (90) and models (127) over a mere seven years… unprecedented in aviation history. To that add the variations of Experimental Amateur Built (EAB), Special Light-Sport Aircraft (SLSA), Experimental Light-Sport Aircraft kits (ELSA) and converted two-place ultralights to LSA status. Then factor in that some standard category or homebuilt aircraft meet the LSA parameters of weight and speed and such so some people consider them “LSA,” when in fact they mean they can be flown by some possessing a Sport Pilot certificate.
We try not to overdo this, but we have a new benchmark to share with you. *** One year ago, we loaded a new graphic onto our home page. The idea was to better identify where in the world we were finding visitors so we put up Flag Counter, which you can see at the bottom of the Featured Aircraft listing in the right column. It’s been fun to watch the numbers and flags adjust. *** If you click on that image you can get much more info. One thing you’ll see is that we’ve had 191 countries come to visit, including some you may not know existed. Indeed, the entire world has an interest in affordable, recreational aircraft. *** You’ll also note a count of Unique Visitors. At the end of the first year of having this counter on ByDanJohnson.com, we exceeded 150,000 Unique Visitors, according to Flag Counter. Our own stats counter — which doesn’t simply sample as most other counters do, instead counting every visit — shows an even larger number: 181,846 or more than 15,150 per month.
FAA issued its 20-year forecast for aviation showing growth prospects for business jets and Light-Sport Aircraft. It also forecasts a decline in the total number of piston-powered aircraft. Viewed from a distance, this might seem beneficial to Light-Sport Aircraft producers and sellers. Reasonably, FAA’s report appears to suggest recreational pilots will enjoy more hours aloft in a growing fleet of LSA. *** Against a backdrop of what seems to be continuously increasing prices for avgas — some believe 100LL might even disappear — the fuel efficiency of LSA becomes more important. For example, Rotax just launched their 912 iS fuel-injected engine boasting a 21% reduction in fuel consumption, taking the popular engine from burning about five gallons per hour to a theoretical four gallons in an hour of flying. Should we LSA enthusiasts celebrate these facts? *** Regretfully, I find FAA’s forecast improbable (see details below). Not that the agency’s number crunchers are wrong; in fact, I hope they might be right.
The LSA Market Share numbers are complete for 2011 and we offer them below. But first, if you will permit, I wish to say a hearty thanks to all the visitors that helped ByDanJohnson.com achieve an all-time record month in January 2012 following a strong December 2011. In the first month of the new year we broke nearly every prior record: Unique Visitors, Total Visits, and Hits. We also serve a 25% international audience in nearly every country on Earth. We appreciate the long-term loyalty of our sponsors and each of you who are Members. Your $29 annual donation to this website helps us provide lots of free information. Thank you for your support. 2011 Market Share Report Nearby, we present our standard market share numbers. Our original chart remains consistent, illustrating the “installed base,” or “fleet size.” However, we know many of you want current-year information and therefore we begin our first Calendar Year chart.
Sure enough, by several measures and based on multiple conversations, 2011 is shaping up to be a better year than 2010. Of course, that’s not saying much as all of aviation worldwide was slow last year and in 2009. When you’re near the bottom of the well, everything starts looking up. *** With those thoughts in mind, we present the newest market share report, this one through the third quarter of 2011. In recent years we’ve had folks tell us we ought to show charts of this year’s or this quarter’s performance. But most readers want to know the “installed base,” to borrow a phrase from the trend-setting tech industry. When people talk about Windows versus Apple market share or iOS versus Android, they generally mean how many of all buyers have those systems. *** Nonetheless, we recognize pilots are hungry for more recent info. So for several years, we have discussed near-term performance in the text of our articles even while we present a graphic showing FAA N-number registrations since the beginning.