"You start introducing complexities: retractable landing gear, fancy props, higher weights, higher speeds, and the price escalates," James Parle said. "Then you end up back where you were with a general aviation airplane."
Fuel and time efficient
While larger aircraft burn eight to 10 gallons of fuel per hour, the sport planes churns through about four gallons per hour. It can fly 800 to 1,000 miles on 30 gallons of fuel, traveling at 115 to 120 miles per hour, Fred Parle said.
It's also cheaper to get certified as a pilot. A sport-plane license requires only 20 hours of flight time, compared with the general aviation license that requires 40 hours of flying, which can run $4,000 to $6,000. The flight time required for a sport-pilot license cost from $2,500 to $3,000.
The sport-plane training takes fewer hours because these aircraft are flown at lower speeds and altitude. Also, sport pilots are not to fly at night or in "complex airspace" ? areas that have air traffic control towers, said Dick Knapinski, Experimental Aircraft Association spokesman.
Often, those pursuing a private pilot's license become discouraged, Knapinski said.
"Studies have shown that out of every 100 people that begin flight training for their pilot's license, only about 35 ever finish," he said. "The biggest hurdles are time and money. The sport plane offers a great entry-level way to begin flying."
Many flight schools are retiring their aging trainer fleet and replacing them with the more efficient light-sport aircraft, the FAA's Gregor said.
"These are the safest aircraft we've ever sold," said James Parle, 27, of Thousand Oaks. "We're used to dealing with kit planes, which are not financeable and not insurable. Needless to say, a difficult sale. It's harder to sell something the customers have to build and can't finance and can't insure."
Changing with the times
For more than 25 years, Fred Parle has flown, sold, built and test-flown lightweight aircraft, starting with hang gliders. About 15 years ago, when Ultralights were introduced, his Hemet business became Ultralight Safaris. An Ultralight is a kit plane that is more complex and sophisticated than a hang glider. Parle also taught people to fly.
After the introduction of the sport-plane category in 2004, his business changed names again. The Parles now sell only sport planes and no longer offer flying lessons. The Hemet location offers maintenance, which the Camarillo operation does not because of space limitations.
"We don't sell anything in the previous experimental aircraft category, sadly," James Parle said. "The business model was too difficult. We're now expanding. That gives you an idea that business is better and easier than in the kit plane world. So, 2004 meant a lot to us for our small business."
It meant a lot to others as well.
Hoping buyers spread the word
Edwin Miller, owner of Kappa Aircraft, a Pennsylvania-based company that imports Kappa planes, had waited years for the category to launch in the United States.
When it finally did, "it was exhilarating," Miller said. "It was a very good, comfortable feeling that it actually became a reality."
He sells the Kappa planes through five dealers across the country, including Sport Planes West. Miller said he expects sales to double this year as word spreads, and is in the process of bringing on six or seven more dealers.
"Now we're starting to see nonpilots become interested ? people who have always wanted to be a pilot, but couldn't necessarily afford it," he said. "This category really makes it within their grasp."
The sport plane was intended for pilots just starting out and to make flying as easy as possible, but most customers so far are older men, James Parle said.
One of the fastest-growing recreational industries in the country is the light-sport aircraft, a plane - which can be purchased in kit form - that costs a third of conventional small planes and...
-- May 27--Inside a brightly lit hangar at Yingling Aviation on Tuesday, two Cessna Aircraft 162 Skycatchers were delivered to the Experimental Aircraft Association, an industry trade...
On July 16, 2004, FAA Administrator Marion C. Blakey signed the long-awaited light-sport aircraft rule.
Think of the new "light sport aircraft" as the Corvettes of the field. You can't take grandma, the kids and the family dog. There's just no room.