What began as a showcase for light sport aircraft makers has grown in recent years, and is poised to expand further still. Nearly 100 exhibitors have registered for the 2015 U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Florida, Jan. 14 through 17, and that list includes about two dozen first-timers.
Used aircraft for sale by private owners will mark another first for the expo, poised to mark its eleventh year.
U.S. Sport Aviation Expo Director Jana Filips said light sport aircraft remain central to the event, which began in 2004 as a showcase for the LSA industry. The expo’s focus has expanded to include ultralights, four-seat singles, and single-seat jets. Triple R Affordable Aircraft will have refurbished, certified aircraft on display.
“I think the word is just now getting out that we are not LSA-specific,” Filip said. “That is where the growth has come.”
Filip said the addition of private sales was driven by demand. Private owners in years past would often call a month or so before the event, hoping to snag a vacant booth where their airplane could be displayed. Filip used to decline such requests, though owners were welcome to post signs on their aircraft in the general parking area. Eyeing the potential for an expansion of the event in keeping with the broader theme of affordable aviation, Filip began asking exhibitors, and heard no objection to private sales.
This year, she has a new answer for private owners looking to sell: For $100 (a fixed price that covers the entire event, or any portion of it), owners can park in a designated 36,000-square-foot display area on the ramp between the main expo area and the Sebring Regional Airport terminal. Filip has arranged 24-hour security, and brought in Aviators Hot Line to manage the new sales lot. Aircraft title, insurance, and financing services will be available onsite, and registered owners will be allowed to conduct demonstration flights. Filip said an aircraft appraiser contacted her Dec. 8 and is expected to be on hand as well.
Filip hopes the new offering will be a boon to both buyers and sellers, and another draw for the expo as a whole.
“I’m really keeping my fingers crossed,” Filip said. “This is kind of a service to people, to keep people in affordable aircraft, and to show people that you can do this, you really can.”
Filip said about a half dozen private sellers registered almost immediately, and there is space for up to 20 aircraft or so, depending on sizes. Sellers are encouraged to register online (space is limited, and a wait list may be established if necessary).
Filip said owners who wish to display in the sales area, the homebuilt area, or camp out under the wing should all register in advance to gain immediate access to the appropriate location on arrival. Unregistered arrivals will be directed to park on the opposite side of the airport, and will need to move their aircraft following registration.
The sales area will be open for arrivals beginning Jan. 13 (set-up day), and the sales area will be open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily during the show.
Discounted tickets can be purchased online through Jan. 1; AOPA members are eligible for an additional admission discount. AOPA Senior Editor Dave Hirschman will be one of three keynote speakers at the event, with an opening day talk about how LSAs have matured from the fringe of general aviation to the mainstream, producing technology and regulated with a strategy the certified aircraft segment may come to replicate. Retired U.S. Air Force Col. Richard Graham will share insights from his seven years flying the SR-71 Blackbird, and retired astronaut and entrepreneur Story Musgrave is the third keynote speaker.