Record numbers attend Expo
January 26, 2009 — Someone forgot to tell the attendees at the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo about the recession. With something in excess of 15 aircraft sales reported from the airframe manufacturers and two record-breaking attendance days, this year’s Expo set the recreational aviation industry off to a positive start for 2009.
Expo Chairman Bob Wood said Thursday’s attendance was the highest-ever on opening day in the five-year history of the event. That was surpassed on Friday, Wood added, when the Expo set a new single-day attendance record. As EAAer Travis Clements of North Carolina stated on Thursday when we spoke with him, “I was told that Sebring was the place to go if I was interested in a light-sport aircraft.”
Robb Rollison, president of Rollison LSA, captured the sentiments of many exhibitors, stating, “The people coming to the Expo aren’t here to watch an air show and they’re not here to see warbirds; they’re because they’re interested in light-sport aircraft. Consequently, they’re solid, potential customers.”
Tragedy struck the final day of the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo in Sebring when a Remos GX aircraft crashed on takeoff Sunday morning, taking the life of the passenger, identified as Steven Fletcher, a photographer for UK publication Today’s Pilot. The accident occurred about 7:35 a.m. on January 25, before the gates opened for the Expo’s final day.
The pilot, Mike Kostelac, was airlifted from the scene to a Tampa hospital and is listed in stable condition. The FAA and NTSB are investigating the cause. The Tampa Tribune reported Tuesday that Todd Gunther, air safety investigator with the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), said there was no "pre-impact structural failure" of the plane and the engine was running.
A preliminary report is expected within seven to 10 days.