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Plans under way for 2007…and beyond

Florida’s Sebring Regional Airport was the place to be last weekend if you wanted to learn about the latest offerings in the light-sport aircraft world. The second U.S. Sport Aviation Expo, held January 12-15, featured more than 100 exhibitors, including most of the certificated fixed wings, several trikes, powered parachutes, and a number of gyroplanes in the new, exciting aircraft category.

A lot of folks walking through the front gates had visions of walking out with an airplane…and many of them did! Exhibiting manufacturers reported brisk activity around their aircraft displays, which in many cases translated into aircraft sales.

Some purchases were reportedly a direct result of plentiful flight demo opportunities available during most of the Expo. Other than Saturday, which experienced steady 25 mph winds and even higher gusts, exhibitors were able to show off their machines to serious buyers in the air as well as on the ground.

The crowds were well in excess of last year, organizers said. And this was by no means a state or regional event. People came to Sebring from throughout the country, from places like Georgia, California, Washington, Michigan, Wisconsin, and Alabama, to name a few.

EAA’s Ron Wagner and EAA marketing consultant Dan Johnson presented largely filled-to-capacity forums. FAA representatives from the Light Sport Aviation Branch in Oklahoma City and the Small Airplane Directorate in Kansas City also delivered presentations and were able to meet many people and answer their regulatory questions.

Volunteers from EAA Chapter 66, Fort Meyers, parked airplanes, provided ground transportation for those arriving, and performed several other duties to help the event run smoothly.

About 75 people took advantage of EAA’s offer to provide those who asked with free sport pilot student pilot certificates.

A good number (if not a majority) of attendees were EAA members, and many were able to renew their memberships on site. Significant numbers of new members were realized as well, according to Katrina Bradshaw, EAA director of membership marketing. She called the Sebring Expo, “The NBAA for LSA.”

When Hurricane Wilma forced the 2005 Expo to forego its original October dates (the event was also jeopardized by Hurricane Jeanne damage in 2004), the Expo was moved to January. Things worked out so well that organizers decided to make the change to January permanent and take hurricanes out of the equation altogether. The next Sport Aviation Expo is scheduled for January 11-14, 2007.

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