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The Light Ahead


“For once you have tasted flight, you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.” –Leonardo da Vinci

It’s clear that Leonardo da Vinci understood man’s obsession with the desire to fly, but it’s doubtful even he could have imagined an annual event like the one in Oshkosh. AirVenture confirms what da Vinci predicted; once a person is exposed to aviation, it can become an obsession. Simply put, people love airplanes and the approximately 580,000 people who visited AirVenture this summer must agree.

The number of attendees is impressive, but in the shadow of an anemic economy, a more than 10 percent increase from 2008’s attendance is positive news.

According to recent figures from the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), general aviation deliveries were off 45 percent for the first half of the year reflecting challenges in the industry due to the recession. There are some signs of stabilization in the economy; GDP was reported to have fallen by 1 percent from the 2005 baseline in the second quarter compared to a 6.4 percent decline in the first quarter. While it would appear that the GA market is no longer sinking in quicksand, it may take some time to climb out of the mud. The good news is that inventory levels appear to be remaining fairly constant, and dealers and brokers have indicated they are beginning to see more interest from buyers.

On the heels of good and bad news, Cessna’s SkyCatcher has finally complied with the ASTM International standards for light sport aircraft and is anticipated to begin deliveries of more than 1000 orders before year’s end. According to Cessna, the SkyCatcher will cruise at speeds up to 188 knots powered by a Continental O-200D 100-hp, air-cooled, carbureted engine. The SkyCatcher, like many of the LSAs on the market, will be manufactured outside of the United States and reassembled at several regional locations. With Cirrus deciding to shelve their SRS program, Cessna will be the only legacy manufacturer to enter the LSA field. Stay tuned to see how this all plays out.

Since debuting the A5 at AirVenture 2008, Icon Aircraft has reported more than 400 orders for the LSA and hopes to begin deliveries in late 2011. The amphibious aircraft, which also has retractable landing gear, is estimated to cost $139,000 with standard equipment and can be reserved on the company’s website for $5,000. The A5 has foldable wings, a simple sports car-type cockpit and a boat-type trailer to transport it from the garage to the lake. The A5 is powered by the familiar Rotax 912 ULS 100-hp engine and is expected to have a range of about 300 nm.

With the stock market entering the notoriously poor performing month of September, all attention will likely remain on the economy’s progress. While there doesn’t appear to be a consensus that the recession is over yet, there is definitely more positive news than a year ago. The reports from Oshkosh along with the multitude of LSA orders indicate that people love to look and still buy airplanes, and in a consumer driven economy, buying is good. Air-Venture has once again proved that even in tough times, people are still fascinated with aviation. Maybe Mr. da Vinci was imagining Oshkosh after all.

Chris Reynolds
Aircraft Bluebook-Price Digest®
9800 Metcalf Avenue
Overland Park, KS 66212

October 2009 Light Aviation Edition

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