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Great weather, friendly organizers and volunteers, and a variety of aircraft vendors and suppliers created a wonderful atmosphere for aviation enthusiasts attending the first-ever U.S. Sport Aviation Expo held in Sebring, Florida, October 28-31. The Expo, dedicated strictly to light-sport and other sport pilot-eligible aircraft, provided an opportunity for interested buyers to talk with aircraft manufacturers and other suppliers to the LSA industry.

The layout of the event at Sebring Regional Airport offered an easy environment for would-be buyers to view aircraft up close, take a demonstration or instructional flight, watch the aircraft take off and land, or attend educational forums. Forum subjects covered information about the sport pilot/light-sport aircraft (SP/LSA) rule, what to consider when buying an LSA, Rotax engines, fractional aircraft ownership, offerings from King Schools, and more.

Aviation enthusiasts from throughout the United States attended. Don Prosser and Joe Davis, EAAers from the San Francisco area, journeyed to the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo “just so we could say we attended the first event dedicated to sport pilot and light-sport aircraft stuff,” said Don, who’s currently completing his 17th aircraft project. Joe, who flies hang gliders and a Cessna 172, added, “We’re both excited about the new sport pilot/light-sport aircraft rule and the opportunities it offers. We’ve been here for two days, and we’ve learned a lot and had a great time.”

Kevin Hartley, of Boone, North Carolina, traveled to the Expo to continue his investigation into which aircraft he’ll buy. “I’m buying some property on which I hope to build a small grass strip, so I’m looking for an aircraft that will handle a short strip well. I’ve been concentrating on three particular aircraft models, but while I was here, I may have added another aircraft to the list. I thought the Expo would give me a chance to look at the aircraft closely and have time to talk with the manufacturers in detail, and that’s exactly what happened. I’m glad I came. I’m a couple of years away from buying an airplane, but coming here helped me along my decision path.”

Paul Garvison of Frederick, Maryland, flew his Grumman Tiger to Sebring with a friend, and was checking out the Zenair 601 when we chatted with him. “I’m looking for an aircraft that will be less expensive to maintain. That’s why I flew down. So far, I haven’t been disappointed.”

Lee and Paula Crevier, of Essex, Illinois, attended the Expo to cement their decision on which aircraft to buy. “We’re both pilots, and we never buy an aircraft without both of us flying it, so we came here to fly,” said Lee. “We combined attending the Expo with vacation, and we’re going home with a RANS S-6 on order.”

Manufacturers and other vendors present were also positive about the event. Ram Pattisipu, president of IndUS Aviation, distributors of the Thorp T-211, commented, “The organizers have made it easy for us to demo the aircraft, and the people we’re talking with are a distilled audience. They’re informed about aircraft and they’re here seriously studying aircraft to make a buying decision. Those are good people to talk with.”

Mike Hansen, of Hansen Aero, distributors of the Sky Arrow and P-96 Golf, echoed those comments, adding that “tire kickers” were few and far between.

In a post-event interview, Expo chairperson Bob Wood said the organizing committee was “very positive” about the success of the event; however, he said the organization would not be releasing an official attendance figure. “We’re going to let the media that was present speculate on attendance rather than make our own estimate. Our neighbors here on the airport, the Sebring International Raceway, never release attendance numbers because keeping track of the gate is so difficult. We, too, didn’t have a solid system for tracking wrist bands and traffic in out of the gate, so we’re going to focus more on the dollar value of business transacted at the event as our final gauge of its success.”

Wood added that organizers would ask the manufacturers and other vendors present to share sales revenue figures and then they’d compile the total value of business transacted during the Expo. “We won’t share individual vendors’ results…we’ll promise to keep those confidential…but we think the value of business transacted is a more meaningful number for exhibitors than how many people came through the gate. The purpose of this event was to bring aviation buyers and sellers together to transact business.”

Wood concluded by adding that planning is already underway for the second annual Expo, October 27-30, 2005, with an emphasis on broadening the audience. “We want to help introduce light-sport aviation to more people,” Wood said. “We’re going to work on attracting folks who have been curious about flying in the past but perhaps haven’t been serious about getting involved. We want to reach out to them, bring them to the Expo, and have them get the bug to start flying. We don’t want to lose our focus of bringing buyers and sellers together, but we want to broaden the spectrum of folks visiting.

“We thank everyone for coming…and make your hotel reservations for next year’s event early. We’re going to have another great year.”

The Korben Baby Ace, an experimental amateur-built
category aircraft that’s sport pilot-eligible, on display at
the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo.


Ernest and Barbara Greene of Sebring, Florida, check
out the Mermaid amphibious aircraft. This potential light-
sport aircraft is manufactured by Czech Aircraft works
and will be available through U.S. distributors. Ernest,
who built and currently flies an Aerolite 103, says he’s
always in the market for a new aircraft.

Martin Weaver, manager of the Light Sport Aviation
Branch headquartered in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma,
takes an introductory flight in the Astra trike.

This sporty looking powered parachute made its debut
at the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo, looking like a fun
recreational flying machine. Check out
for more information.


Paul Garvison, of Frederick, Maryland, tries the Zenith
601 on for size.

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