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January 21, 2010
By Dave Hirschman
In what was surely the worst-kept secret in the aviation industry, Piper Aircraft announced Jan. 21 that it is entering the light sport aircraft category with the PiperSport, a rebranded aircraft built in the Czech Republic that was formerly known as the Sport Cruiser.
Piper CEO Kevin Gould hearkened back to the company’s origins and the legendary J-3 Cub when introducing the PiperSport during a press conference at the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Fla.
“Seventy-five years ago, Piper offered an aircraft that was easy to learn in, fun to fly, and affordable,” Gould said. “The PiperSport has the same characteristics, and it will have the same impact on aviation. It’s a blast to fly, and it will lead people to fall in love with our sport and our industry.”
Piper will offer three models of the airplane with different levels of instrumentation and range in price from $119,900 to $139,900. Deliveries are scheduled to begin in April.
The fact that Piper was planning to enter the LSA market was perhaps the worst-kept secret in the aviation industry. Aviation trade media have been speculating for weeks that a marriage between Piper and Czech Sport Aircraft was in the works.
The aircraft will continue to be manufactured in the Czech Republic and delivered worldwide through Piper’s extensive dealership network. Czech Sport Aircraft first flew the all metal, low-wing design in 2006.
Czech Sport Aircraft offered the aircraft in both kit- and factory-built forms. Now, it will only be offered as a factory-built aircraft, or S-LSA.
Piper officials said they plan no major modifications to the aircraft that claims a top speed of 120 knots and a range of 600 nautical miles. Piper’s Vero Beach manufacturing plant will play no role in Sport Cruiser construction, and the company will support the new aircraft with logistics and parts distribution.
AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Dave Hirschman joined AOPA in 2008. He has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates. Dave flies vintage, historical, and Experimental airplanes and specializes in tailwheel and aerobatic instruction.
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