The U.S. economy is hardly crashing, but while slipping backwards in late 2007 and early 2008, it has been on a bumpy plateau. This unevenness causes trouble for many businesses. Even giant coffee seller, Starbucks, is rejiggering their business model to adjust for folks balking at $4 coffee while their stock portfolio lurches up and down. Light-Sport Aircraft sales also reflect that lack of consumer confidence. *** Figures for the first two months of 2008 show slightly more than 40 aircraft registrations per month. In 2007, the industry averaged 47 aircraft registrations per month. Of course, this 15% decrease also comes while many northern states have endured awful winter flying weather, partially explaining why sales are off the beat. Despite a cloudy overcast some bright spots emerge. *** CZAW‘s SportCruiser led the pack with more than 17% growth during January and February. AMD is close behind with 14% growth, and CubCrafters continues their climb with 7.5% growth.
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They are lining up, literally, at Sportsplanes.com’s Plant City, Florida airport (PCM) assembly station. Michael Zidziunas — everyone calls him “Mike Z” — assembled three of the new Breezer II SLSA and arranged for DAR inspection. Mike Z is a well-known flight instructor and licensed mechanic working in the LSA arena. *** Last fall, at the AOPA Expo, Josh Foss of Sportsplanes.com unveiled the new Breezer II. The all-metal low wing was introduced more than a year earlier but disputes over the design rights and manufacturing put a halt to shipments. Since then, German designer Ralf Magnussen found a new investor, Dirk Ketelsen, a builder of windmills for electric power generation. They established a new 17,000 square foot plant near Husum, Germany (west of Hamburg at the North Sea coastline) where Josh reports they can build more than 100 aircraft a year.
SEBRING 2008 — Opening day started fast with press announcements from Cirrus — the GA company started taking orders for their SRS — and from Flight Design as the company unveiled their much-anticipated CTLS. But that was hardly all as the fourth Sebring Expo got going. I found a dozen newsworthy airplanes at the event and I may have missed some (I’ll keep searching). *** Gobosh introduced the 800XP, a sleek composite companion to the metal 700S. Sport Aircraft Works offered their just approved Dynamic LSA with fixed gear and prop. Skykits showed their shiny new Rampage with electric slots and Fowler flaps, and Urban Air USA showed their Lamabada LSA motorglider for the first time at a U.S. airshow. SportairUSA revealed their third generation Sting S3 with a new wing design and other updates.
SEBRING 2008 UPDATE — U.S. rep’ Lynne Birmingham beamed, “The Eaglet has landed!” She referred to the newest Tecnam model to win SLSA approval — the fourth model from the Italian manufacturer. Eaglet makes its worldwide debut at Sebring 2008, which opens today. Tecnam has achieved an enviable #4 rank in the U.S. Light-Sport Aircraft fleet. And around the world, Tecnam, a six-decade-old Italian company, has more than 2,100 aircraft flying making it arguably the largest producer of this class of airplane. *** Mike Birmingham reports the new Eaglet is a blend of the best qualities of the strutted Echo Super and the cantilevered Bravo; Eaglet is strutted. It has a new look with resculpted wing root and larger door windows to allow better lateral visibility plus longer, more comfortable seat cushions. The new model sports a redesigned instrument panel that will appear in other models later.
Most pilots know AOPA, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, has been fighting the user fee battle…and they’ve been doing well resisting the might of the U.S. government. But they must also have a connection with Mother Nature as warm, beautiful weather shined on opening day at Connecticut’s Brainard airport. *** On display: StingSport, Skylark, the new Breezer II, Allegro 2000, SportCruiser, Sigma, Thorpedo, Sport Cub, Bravo, Sierra, CTsw, Jabiru J-250, Gobosh G-700S, and Remos G-3. Contrary to earlier info, American Champion brought The Champ, Cessna displayed their Skycatcher mockup, and Cirrus flew their SRS. In all, I counted 17 LSA at Hartford. That amounts to a healthy 19% of all airplanes on display.