First Word: 06/09


When the light sport idea morphed out of the ultralight industry not quite a decade ago, the idea was that the airplanes would be simple to build and wouldnt be burdened with excessive regulatory oversight. That part has largely panned out. The parallel implication was that LSAs would be cheap. That part of the dream hasnt materialized.

Or has it? Cheap is relative. A new Cirrus SR22 invoices for around $600,000, give or take. A new Bonanza is three-quarters of a million. Compared to those numbers, a $100,000 LSA is, at one-sixth the price, cheap. But some buyers define cheap as under, say, $60,000. In my estimation, youre not going to see any LSAs in that

price range built by a company that will survive the inevitable shakeout.

So if any company proposes to prevail selling LSAs at a price point that low, my advice is don’t buy it. The quality is unlikely to be there and the company is unlikely to last. As we all know, even companies selling at the right prices are always one or two sales away from bankruptcy.

In this issue, were reviewing Cub Crafters new Cub SuperSport LSA, a $160,000-plus hotrod with astonishing short field capability and innovative construction. When we posted a video on this, I got an e-mail from a reader saying nice airplane, but they should bring the price down to $120,000.

No, they shouldnt. I get tired of people outgassing about airplane companies charging too much for their products even as we watch some of them teeter on the edge of insolvency. If we have proven anything in this industry, its that lowball prices are a quick ticket to bankruptcy. Lemme see if I can think of an example. Oh, yeah…Eclipse.

Cub Crafters has been around long enough to understand what margins it needs to survive. If a $160,000 price point provides that margin, so be it. Theyll either sell enough to make a go of the product line or they wont. But if they do, the margin will allow them to remain profitably in business and that is of benefit to buyers and the industry. The fewer bankruptcies we have going forward, the better.

Not that Im unsympathetic to buyers to whom $160,000 is far too much. For them, there are dozens of other choices across a range of designs-high wing, low wing, glass, metal, fabric. The choices are many.

That is, of itself, a serious problem for the LSA industry. There are just too many entrants for the market to absorb. Too many companies, too many airplanes . We saw some more new ones at Sun n Fun in April. I think this has the effect of causing more buyers to sit on the fence to see whos going to survive and who isn’t. While they wait, yet more entrants materialize, aggravating the choice glut. Companies are then tempted to sell their products at cost or below just to sell something. Thats not a business plan, thats suicide.

Im all for competition, but this is ridiculous. In my view, there’s just no way this many companies can hope to survive. My guess is the market can support a half dozen and maybe a couple of thousand airframes a year, tops.

In that context, the Cub Crafters price doesnt look quite so daunting, given that the airplane is produced by a company whose primary business has been not LSAs, but kit and certified aircraft. That probably gives them a leg up on survival as other LSA companies wither for lack of sales.

-Paul Bertorelli

Paul Bertorelli is Aviation Consumer’s Editor at Large. In addition to his valued contributions to Aviation Consumer, his in-depth video productions on sister publication AVweb cover a wide variety of topics that greatly contribute to safety, operation and aircraft ownership. When Paul isn’t writing or filming, he’s out flying his J3 Cub.