Around the Patch

An awakening in Wisconsin.

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Over the last month our friends at the Experimental Aircraft Association have been trumpeting changes to the firms publications that should be public by the time you read this. To kick off the 2010 publishing season-a bizarre quirk of timing that has us finishing the pages of this magazine before the baseball World Series is played (go Angels!)-EAA is promising big things.

For starters, the EAA Sport Pilot and Light Sport Aircraft titles will be no more, merged into a larger format EAA Sport Aviation. What are we to make of this? Not much, if you have been watching the industry closely. Here at KITPLANES, we have tracked the development and growth of the LSA segment, and four years ago considered launching a magazine to serve buyers and fliers of fully built SLSA models.

Unfortunately, the LSA movement was just getting traction when the economy veered off the runway and into the high grass. Whats more, our research said that the SLSA buyers were unlikely to be joiners, and the curious composition of the manufacturers cooled our jets-there were lots of small players, almost none large enough to support the advertising bulk needed to launch the title. To fully support a magazine in such a niche, you need dedicated staff with specific content. EAA admitted that its members recoiled from content mirrored from Sport Aviation. Cant say I blame them. The simple fact is that LSA coverage isn’t a self sustaining publishing business.

Here at KITPLANES, we’re a little different. Our editors and writers actually build and fly Experimental aircraft. Even to Winnemucca.

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Im still optimistic about the LSA market, but it hasn’t proven capable of bringing a ton of new faces into aviation, and hasn’t sparked a revival of light-aircraft manufacturing in the U.S. At least not yet.

While Sport Aviation is tipped to become a broader-spectrum magazine, EAA is also promising more How do I? content. Im not quite sure what that means, but I can tell you this: The entire editorial thrust at this magazine is to answer just those sorts of How do I? questions. In order to fulfill my own mandate to make the very best magazine for people who really are serious about building aircraft, the practical, hands-on focus is king, and within that focus naturally appear the answers to all of the major How do I? queries. Some of the important categories, in my view:

How do you know which aircraft kit is best for you? Find a source that provides honest, thorough evaluations that are far more than fluff and happy talk. It helps to have pilots who are also builders inspecting the designs; there’s nothing like an informed perspective.

How do you learn a new skill or work with a new material? Follow the lead and gain from the experience of real builders making their way through metal, composites or tube-and-fabric. (Helps, too, if the descriptions are lucid and the photography first rate, which is the opening bid in my world.)

How do you stay up to date on new technologies and trends that affect Experimental/Amateur-Built aircraft? You don’t go looking for a press release saying that Cirrus has a new cup holder for the SR-22.

Don’t misunderstand. I have a lot of respect for what EAA does for our industry, and I was delighted to see Contact! magazines Pat Panzera tapped to create the online newsletter Experimenter to serve those readers who are deeply involved in this homebuilt-aircraft endeavor. But as Sport Aviation goes even broader based-covering, no doubt, warbirds, classics, modern iron, restorations, airshows, social activities and homebuilts-my resolve only strengthens to keep KITPLANES tightly focused on what you have told us (in letters and in person at airshows) is important to you: getting the best, most accurate, even entertaining information to help you choose, then build and then (crucially, I think) actually finish your own airplane. Seems so obvious to me…

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