Cessna is considering entering the rapidly growing US light sport aircraft (LSA) market and will display a full-scale proof-of-concept aircraft at the AirVenture show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin next month. A decision on whether to produce the two-seat aircraft will be made in the first quarter of 2007.

Evaluation of the LSA market is separate from Cessna’s plans to launch a new family of single-engined aircraft under its Next Generation Piston (NGP) project to follow its 172, 182 and 206. An announcement on the NGP is expected later this year, but the LSA is a different airframe.

Cessna is looking at the LSA market’s “value in terms of new-pilot starts”, says chairman, president and chief executive Jack Pelton, and whether the “powerful force” of brand loyalty could provide “a conduit for new pilots to grow through the Cessna product line”.

If it proceeds, Cessna would be the first major manufacturer of certificated aircraft to enter the LSA market, which has so far been dominated by Europe.

LSAs are restricted to a maximum gross weight of 600kg (1,320lb), maximum level speed of 120kt (220km/h), fixed gear, fixed-pitch propeller and no more than two seats. Cessna built almost 24,000 two-seat 150s between 1959 and 1997, with 20,000 still flying. Although within LSA performance limits, the 150 is too heavy to qualify. Cessna’s proof-of-concept aircraft will be a new design.

Source: Flight International