Are low-cost light sport aircraft only a dream?

Recently, both AVweb and the AOPA Pilot Blog reported the announcement from Cessna that they can no longer hold down the cost of the Skycatcher, their light sport aircraft (LSA) – meaning that prices in 2012 will rise to $149,900 (but I should add that many previous “options” will become standard features). Alton K. Marsh’s AOPA Pilot Blog article noted that the Skycatcher had started out at $110,000 and then the price rose to $115,000 but even at these prices, the aircraft was still selling at below cost. Alton also pointed out that the dream of having an LSA that would start at $20,000 for the basic option and rise no higher than $60,000 once its all “tricked out” appears to be a dream as the lowest priced LSA now starts at the $80k level.

Meanwhile, Paul Bertorelli in AVweb pointed out that Cessna has now gone from being middle of the pack pricewise, to almost near the top on base price. On the other hand, Paul has also pointed out that Cessna has always been profitable and has managed to keep its dealer network. Given how many aircraft makers have come and gone, its in the interest of aircraft buyers that Cessna remain profitable and keeps a strong network of dealers.

However, Paul also recalled how he had received an email from an engineer working in general aviation who was trying to understand why new aircraft prices have exceeded the rate of inflation. For example: A new Skyhawk cost $27,667 (typically equipped) in 1976 which adjusts to $105,000 in 2011 dollars but a new Skyhawk will now sell for more than $300,000.

Of course, glass cockpits and other fancy gadgets can account for some of the price rise but Paul then ended his post by pointing out that:

Cessna is the only LSA manufacturer well established with manufacturing in China. If a company with Cessna’s economy of scale and marketing acumen can’t make an LSA more affordable by building it in China, the notion of low-cost aircraft may very well be the myth that many people think it is…

Sadly for many pilots or would-be aircraft owners, both Paul and Alton are probably right.

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One Response to Are low-cost light sport aircraft only a dream?

  1. Andy Fling January 14, 2012 at 17:20 #

    I guess everyone needs to make a profit. They're a trustworthy aircraft, and deserving of your investment. It's just a big price tag.

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