Sunday, 25 April 2010


I'm not an aeroplane salesman. There are lots of people who know a lot more than I do about selling aeroplanes, but I still find myself wondering what they're doing sometimes.

Every year for the last eight years hundreds of Cirrus owners have flown to Duluth (the home of Cirrus) for a social event - known as 'Migration'. It's a great opportunity for past, present and future owners to get together and talk aeroplanes. This year, the eighth Migration, they're not going to Duluth, but to Dayton, Ohio, instead. The birthplace of aviation rather than the birthplace of their aeroplane.

So given that many Cirrus owners have a habit of buying a new (Cirrus) aircraft each time there's a significant upgrade (turbo, avionics, FIKI, etc.) how come the Platinum sponsor is - wait for it - Piper, while Cirrus itself is listed as a silver sponsor?

A smart move for Piper, given that many Cirrus owners seem to be see the PA46 as a natural step up. I were Cirrus, I'd be figuring out how to make silver look better than platinum.

Piper may have been smart with that move, but I don't understand what Piper is doing with some of the marketing for the Sport Cruiser, sorry PiperSport in the UK. They sign an exclusive agreement to sell the PiperSport worldwide, and at the same time cancel the kit version (the Sport Cruiser started life as a homebuilders' kit before becoming available as a ready-to-fly LSA). I can understand that decision, but I don't understand why they're spending money advertising the aeroplane to a group of people who are defined by the fact that they're homebuilders! But like I said, what do I know? Perhaps they'll persuade builders to buy a factory-made aircraft at two or three times the price they would have paid for the kit.


Ben Fitzgerald-O'Connot said...

I can't speak for Piper, but I can speak for Czech Sport Aircraft as UK Agents, and as such agents for the SportCruiser / PiperSport aircraft.

When we met the guys from Piper recently at Friedrichshafen, we had good conversations in between showing off the aircraft to potential clients. One of the things that impressed me was that the people at Piper are passionate about aviation, and in particular in reconnecting with grass roots aviation. The much loved Piper Cub after all could arguably be classified as the original LSA - light, fun, affordable and reliable. In the same way, Piper see the PiperSport as being an accessible and affordable aircraft in which aviators and those who would be, can find their wings - either at a flying school (with the forthcoming RTC), group ownership, or outright purchase if you're lucky enough to be able to afford a plane all to yourself.

The PiperSport is still remarkably affordable as an aircraft, and innovative ownership packages allow clubs or individuals to fly a superb new aircraft for less overall than their old gas guzzlers.

The LAA is all about grass roots aviation and the love of flying; it is not just about home-building. Owners of factory produced SportCruiser / PiperSport aircraft are encouraged to join the vibrant LAA community, to pick up engineering tips, participate in the busy LAA events calendar, and socialise in the Struts up and down the country.

Finally, it may be premature to write off the future of the amateur constructed SportCruiser just yet..

To sum up, LAA Members have a passion for aviation, Piper embody this passion throughout their organisation, and the PiperSport aircraft realises the passion for us all (until you win the lottery and order a PiperJet - though I'd still keep my SportCruiser alongside!).


Ben Fitzgerald

Onega Aviation / Czech Sport Aircraft UK

Important Legal stuff: Piper is a trademark of Piper Aircraft Inc. Any and all thoughts and comments here are our own and should be taken in this light. No contract is formed by this post, and your aircraft may go up and down (we hope it does a lot).

Ian Seager said...

Hi Ben

As I said, I'm sure that Piper know more about selling aircraft than me, but I still think that marketing a factory built aircraft to a homebuilt organisation is marginal at best.

You mention factory-built owners joing the LAA to pick up engineering tips. I understood that factory built aircraft are to be maintained under Part M. Has that changed?


PS For teh record, I think it is very good for all owners to get involved in their maintenance

Ben Fitzgerald said...

Good points you make here.

Re Maintenance, whilst a private owner does indeed need to engage with an approved maintenance organisation (and the SportCruiser has a significant number of Czech Sport Aircraft UK Approved Service Centres already - more than any other LSA to my knowledge); there is quite a bit of owner maintenance that is possible within this framework. As much as anything, the extra mechanical empathy that comes from understanding the oily bits makes for safer flight and reduces overall costs of ownership.

Not everyone has the time to get involved with maintenance, but for those with an interest and a little time, we actively encourage this and have organised courses specifically on SportCruiser owner maintenance aspects.


PS - We, like you may wish to see the SportCruiser grace the pages of Flyer in editorial and ad copy going forward.