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Tue, Dec 20, 2005

The Year That Was: Part One With EAA's Tom Poberezny On 2005

AirVenture, Young Eagles, And LSA

It was an interesting year for the Aero-Biz... and few organizations had as big a stake in 2005 as did EAA.

EAA Boss Tom Poberezny (above) went through the year, warts and all, with ANN Editor-In-Chief Jim Campbell to talk out the best and worst of 2005 and to check with the Poberezny crystal ball for a gander at our collective prospects for 2006. Part One of that candid interview is our ANN Special Report Aero-Cast for Tuesday... but we think some of his comments bear repeating in print.

2005 was the year that Sport Pilot got some serious air-time, the Young Eagles recorded its 1.2 millionth flyer, and the annual rites of Oshkosh were some of the some the best we remember... all in all, a good year for sport aviation. 

To begin, Oshkosh 2005 featured such special visitors as WhiteKnight, SpaceShipOne, and the GlobalFlyer... but also saw such notables as the HondaJet (above) -- which goes to show that "[Oshkosh] has become the place where innovation is introduced and recognized," said Poberezny. "What AirVenture is, is a mirror of what EAA is on a year-round basis."

The EAA's Young Eagles program also saw over 90,000 kids fly for their first time this year. The EAA also signed its 1.2 millionth member to the program... but sadly, there was also loss, as the program suffered its first fatalities when a Young Eagles pilot and two young girls went down on takeoff from Washington's Payne Field.

"That was an emotional time for all of us, and very debilitating," said Poberezny. "But as a result of that, too, the outpouring of support and recognition for the program... was reinforced."

Where the EAA has seen some of its greatest accomplishments, however, was in the still-emerging Light Sport Aircraft movement.

"This was an important year for making progress and building a solid foundation on Sport Pilot," said Poberezny. "We've come from having a lot of skeptics -- and there still are -- to the point where more and more people are jumping onboard, and building a solid base."

"A lot has been invested by the EAA and various members of the sport pilot community to making sport pilot a reality, and its a marathon," added the EAA President. "It's a 26-mile marathon, and we're probably only at mile three or four."

While the light-sport market is growing, however, so are the price tags on the entries, with the average price of entry to an LSA hovering around $85K. Poberezny is hopeful, though, that future designs will lower future prices closer to $45K... and stresses that today's offerings in LSA still provide a far more cost-effective entry route into aviation.

"[LSA price tags] are still significantly below the market prices on used airplanes," said P. "And the main thing is, that $65-$85 bracket is less than half the cost of a new production airplane today."

In summary, on LSA the EAA has "made progress in 2005," says Poberezny. "Can I call it significant, given the size and scope of the marketplace? No... but I think we've established credibility now... to say that people will respond, and they're interested."

There were downfalls, as well... The ADIZ fight reached a fever pitch, other security issues got in the way, the 51% rule got pushed a tad too far and SportPlane accident stats were a bit higher than we'd prefer. Poberezny has a lot to say about those, as well... but those will have to wait for Part Two.

FMI: www.eaa.org

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