Jan. 22--SEBRING -- Several thousand people turned out Thursday for the first of four days to "Catch the Spirit of Aviation" at the Sebring U.S. Sport Aviation Expo at Sebring Regional Airport, presented by Cessna.
Flying enthusiasts flocked to the Cessna display and to get information on its SkyCatcher aircraft.
There are more than 130 booths and vendors.
At 11 a.m. Piper rolled out its entry into the Light Sport Aircraft market, when it unveiled its new PiperSport.
"With the PiperSport," said Piper President and CEO Kevin J. Gould, "Piper is entering what is undeniably one of the most exciting market segments in general aviation. This burgeoning segment is becoming vital to our industry and playing an ever-increasing role in developing general aviation's next generation of pilots."
He described the PiperSport as an entry-level aircraft that will bring new customers to Piper and lead the way into more sophisticated aircraft.
The PiperSport is manufactured under a licensing agreement with Czech Sport Aircraft and distributed through Piper's master distributor, PiperSport Distribution Inc.
The airplane is immediately available for sale with first deliveries scheduled for April.
"We want global distribution of this aircraft immediately," said Gould.
There are three variants of the aircraft: The PiperSport, which sells for $119,900; the PiperSport LT (primarily a training model) which sells for $129,900 and the PiperSport LTD, a professional model, which sells for $139,900.
Lockwood Aircraft Corp., located at Sebring Regional Airport, had its AirCam aircraft on display. George Weber, director of sales and marketing, was there to answer questions.
"Phil (Lockwood) designed the aircraft for National Geographic to fly over the rain forest in South Africa," said Webber, speaking of the twin engine open cockpit aircraft designed for shooting video.
He has a video and information packet that shows a lot of what this aircraft can do.
The aircraft comes as a self-build kit.
"It can take off and land on a single engine," he said.
Dave Juwal, of Jacksonville, walked under the canopy and began complimenting Weber on the locally built aircraft.
"It was the most fun I've ever had in the air," Juwal said. "It's just an awesome airplane. Unfortunately it's not LSA (a light sport aircraft)."
No, it's not, Weber agreed.
"But if you can't get a license to fly this airplane, at least take a flight in the airplane," said Juwal.
Weber said so far Lockwood has 137 AirCam planes flying and has sold 158 kits. The price for the build-it-yourself kit is $115,000, including the radio and instrumentation. It is also available on floats.
Why the fuss about Light Sport Aircraft?
In most cases all you need is a driver's license and flying lessons to fly one.
Highlands Today reporter Joe Seelig can be reached at 863-386-5834 or email@example.com