One year on the promise of VLJs is starting to deliver and the Light Sport Aircraft category is a declared success. The Pilot team reports from the 33rd annual fly in at Lakeland, Florida.

Sun’n Fun 2007

Full report – from PILOT team John Baker, Brian Barr, Ian Davies, Simon Finlay.

A fatal accident on arrival day at the annual Sun’n fun event in Lakeland, Florida, cast a small shadow over the lead up to the event but when it came to the official opening the skies resounded to the usual mix of experimental, classic, and warbird aircraft.

Where Sun’n fun 2006 raised the prospect of a plethora of Very Light Jets (VLJs) being delivered over the following 12 months. The position in 2007 has brought us back down to earth with a reality check. Some have delivered on their promise, others, are still claiming that there will be jam tomorrow, and others still have entered the fray having been out of the game this time last year. Cessna are delivering the Citation Mustang in the U.S and expect to have EASA certification later this year. The Mustang makes its international debut at Friedrichshafen in Germany. Cessna is also celebrating 80 years of aircraft manufacture at the show.

At the lower end of the market Cessna were showing their proof of concept ‘Light Sport’ and ‘New Generation Piston’ aircraft to visitors. The ‘Light Sport’, or ‘Sport’, as they prefer to call it, has had a number of outings in recent months.

Cessna LSA

The ‘New Generation Piston’, however is a relative recluse and its clean composite lines have not been seen a great deal. Cessna CEO, Jack Pelton, told Pilot that they represent the future of the company at the entry level.

Cessna NGP

VIDEO: PILOT TV: Cessna CEO, Jack Pelton, talks about their new light aircraft.

Piper used the occasion of Sun’n fun to announce a new avionics package for the PA32 series (Saratoga II TC and Piper 6X). The Garmin 1000 is now an option for buyers (instead of the Avidyne FlightMax Entegra).



Asked whether they will continue to deliver aircraft with ‘steam driven’ instruments Piper suggested that they would only consider doing so if someone placed a large enough order. In other words the days of the traditional panel have now gone. New build, big manufacturer, aviation is now a fully digital world. Strangely, important though this decision was, the more interesting question was where they were on progress with the Piper jet joint venture with Honda. A year ago Piper CEO Jim Bass was tight lipped about Piper falling behind in the rush to offer a light jet. During the year, though, the announcement of the jet arrived and at Lakeland visitors could see a mock up.