June 20, 2005
A new generation of aircraft from around the world converged on AOPA headquarters at the Frederick Municipal Airport in Maryland Monday during a special light sport aircraft event. Airplanes made in Italy, Australia, the Czech Republic, and America lined AOPA's ramp, ready for demonstration flights.
"AOPA represents pilots and owners, from airline pilots to J-3 Cub owners, and we are here to keep their flying safe, fun, and affordable," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "These airplanes open a wider door into general aviation flying. They cater not only to new students who are looking for a more affordable way to learn to fly but also to veteran pilots who may want to get back to the joys of flying a simple, easy-to-handle airplane."
The event, organized in conjunction with the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association (LAMA), was designed to help AOPA staffers become better acquainted with this new category of aircraft - knowledge they'll put to use in their ongoing advocacy and education efforts on behalf of all general aviation pilots and aircraft owners. The gathering also helped manufacturers and representatives get a better understanding of the many assets that AOPA can provide to their customers - the owners and pilots of these planes.
"It's clear that pilots who fly light sport aircraft have critical interests in common with every other GA pilot - like access to airports, airspace, and air traffic services," said Boyer. "By understanding what this new group of airplanes and pilots has in common with more traditional GA, and what is different, AOPA can better serve this exciting new segment."
Throughout the morning, AOPA staffers had the chance to get close to the airplanes, examining the cockpits and taking demonstration flights. [See their reactions in this 3:30 video (Windows Media 9 and broadband connection recommended).] Their conclusion? These are very much "real" airplanes, many with very affordable purchase and operating costs.
In the afternoon, members of the AOPA management team met with representatives of the aircraft companies to discuss the best ways for the two groups to work together on behalf of their mutual customers - airplane pilots and owners.
Representatives from the aircraft companies discussed how to help owners and pilots obtain financing and affordable insurance for these airplanes. "They [buyers] want to change a $100 hamburger into a $35 hamburger," one distributor explained.
The group also focused on the importance of high-quality training and establishing a positive safety track record from the outset. AOPA Air Safety Foundation Executive Director Bruce Landsberg, who flew many of the aircraft that came to AOPA, pointed out that, as with other general aviation aircraft, pilot error is more likely to be the cause of an accident than the aircraft itself.
Participating companies included B Bar D Aviation, Flightstar Sportsplanes, IndUS Aviation, Kappa Aircraft, Rollison LSA, Sportair USA, Legend Aircraft, Jabiru USA, Tecnam, Sport Aircraft International, and Sports Planes. See pictures of the aircraft and find out more about their flight characteristics. To learn more about the regulations governing light sport aircraft and sport flying, see the special sport pilot section of AOPA Online.
Pilots who want to see these and other light sport aircraft for themselves should plan to visit the expansive flight line at AOPA Expo 2005, November 3 through 5, at the Peter O. Knight Airport and Tampa Convention Center in Tampa.
June 20, 2005
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