Cessna’s a sport

The dozens of small manufacturers building LSAs – light sport aircraft – have just been given what they most wanted…and feared. Cessna has decided to enter the market. It’s like getting the Good Housekeeping seal of approval from the 800lb gorilla in the room.

Cessna’s decision to build a two-seat sport aircraft follows an exhaustive analysis of the market and is a massive endorsement for the LSA concept. And, judging by the proof-of-concept aircraft flown late last year, it marks the birth of a modern Cessna 150 – one of the most-produced light aircraft of all time.

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Another classic in the making?

Designed to be cheaper to buy and easier to fly than typical piston singles, the LSA is a new class of light aircraft intended to make recreational flying enjoyable and affordable again – and arrest the declining interest in learning to fly. It comes with strict performance and complexity limits and a new sport pilot license that is quicker and cheaper to obtain.

It took Cessna a while to decide whether to enter the LSA market, not least because it had to be sure it could price the aircraft right around $100,000 to be competitive. That’s a sporty price point for an established manufacturer like Cessna to meet, but in the end, the need to stimulate new-pilot starts and keep existing pilots flying by driving down costs was too compelling.

theits price point is by keeping the aircraft simple. Another is by using the same streamlined industry-developed consensus standards as all the other LSA manufacturers, and not sticking with the traditional FAA-regulated Part 23 certification process used for its other piston singles. Cessna will be the first “established” manufacturer to use the ASTM standards.

Cessna will provide details of its LSA when it unveils a full-scale mockup on 22 July at the AirVenture show in Oshkosh – but don’t hold you breath for substantive news on its other single-engine project, the Next Generation Piston. It’s still thinking about that one…

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