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Eighteen months ago, EAA hit the road in an effort to educate the public about sport pilot/light-sport aircraft--the new, less expensive, less cumbersome way to reach the skies. The first EAA Sport Pilot Tour stop was held during the June 2005 Golden West EAA Regional Fly-In at Marysville, California. At the time there were seven newly certificated LSA on the market, a handful of certificated instructors in the field, and fewer aircraft dealers.

As the year’s final tour stop (and 13th overall) was held at Brown Field in San Diego last Saturday, there are now 44 certificated special LSA on the market, EAA’s instructor database lists about 550 sport pilot flight instructors, and the dealer network has expanded as the number of available aircraft has grown.

San Diego was the second of two tour stops in Southern California to wrap up 2006. Host EAA Chapter 14 welcomed more than 700 people for the event, which featured 18 aircraft on display and presentations from EAA’s experts. Both the attendance and display aircraft numbers represent tour highs since the beginning of the tour.

More than 6,000 people have attended these special EAA tour events since the start. Add to that the other EAA and affiliate events such as the EAA regional fly-ins; U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring, Florida; EAA forums presented at Sun ’n Fun, and of course, EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, where the EAA sport pilot team has reached out to tens of thousands of aviation enthusiasts.

“Two years ago we designed the Sport Pilot Tour as a way to introduce sport pilot and light-sport aircraft to the aviation community and answer as many questions as we could,” said Ron Wagner, EAA manager of field relations and tour coordinator. ”We believe the tour’s success greatly helped introduce these exciting new aircraft and pilot opportunities from coast to coast.”

The tour and other events also expanded the ranks of eligible student pilots, as nearly 400 sport pilot student pilot certificates were handed out to EAA members during the tour. Hundreds more were provided at AirVenture and other events.

Wagner stresses that people need to remember that this is still a relatively new initiative and the limiting factors, such as limited availability of rental aircraft, show there is still much to be done. “But a lot has been done and EAA looks forward to the next stage of evolution for sport pilot/light-sport aircraft.”

Perhaps one of the most gratifying aspects of the tour has been the opportunity to meet with a wide variety of EAA members throughout the country, Wagner said. “It makes me appreciate even more the great amount of effort put forth by the chapter leaders,” he explained. “There are so many opportunities for participation provided by EAA’s chapter network and regional fly-ins. I encourage those members who are not in chapters to seek them out.”

The next sport pilot-related event on the horizon is the Sebring Expo, slated for January 11-14 at Sebring Regional Airport, Florida. Visit www.sport-aviation-expo.com for more information.

A Sting Sport seen on display
at San Diego.

EAA's Ron Wagner tells a forum audience,
"Now you can!!"

The Met Life blimp can be seen in the
background as people register at San Diego.

People gathering along the flight line
at Brown Field.

Although light, the blimps flying overhead
in San Diego were not part of the
Sport Pilot Tour stop.

It's hard to beat December
weather in Southern California.

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