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    A letter from Sporty's President Michael Wolf [printer friendly]
    Dear Colleague,

    At Sporty's we don't just know how one product or product line is selling -- we have a feel for how general aviation as a whole is faring. By studying our own sales history, we can spot trends early and we want to share some of the observations we've made for 2009 and what you might expect to see going into 2010.

    We considered whether this information should be a news release or simply an email to our colleagues in the media, and we thought we'd leave that choice to you. Publish the trends, or merely ponder them -- your call.

    Pilots are flying "smarter." Which means less. But they still want to stay current, so they're getting more interested in continuous home learning. If they can't fly regularly, they can at least keep their head in the game. That's why at Sporty's we're doing more DVD and online refresher training than ever, including multiple titles with FAA WINGS credit.

    Touch screen GPSs are here and for real. People are used to their iPhones and car GPSs, and they love them. The move to aviation touch screens has been welcomed with open arms, as evidenced by the Garmin aera and Bendix/King AV8OR lines. Knob turning and button pushing may even be a thing of the past in new glass cockpits.

    Pilots are getting picky about their flight bags. One size doesn't fit all, or even most, anymore. Like so many consumer goods, everybody wants to have the perfect setup for them. That's why we've expanded our Flight Gear line to include a wide variety of sizes and styles. We've also added accessories, ranging from cell phone holders to water bottles, to customize each bag.

    Flight simulators are no longer just games. Time was when pilots flew airplanes and non-pilots played with simulators. That's no longer the case. Pilots are turning to home simulators with more sophisticated accessories and options than ever to make home flying surprisingly realistic.

    Personal Locator Beacons are going mainstream. As prices have dropped 40% in the past few years, more and more pilots are appreciating the value of these life-saving devices. They are now part and parcel of a pilot's basic survival equipment.

    Avionics training has never been more important. Steam gauges are definitely not dead -- in fact, most pilots flying today have never flown glass. But that doesn't mean avionics isn't important. While pilots have always honed their skills, even experienced pilots have to make much more of an effort to keep up with new technology and new avionics. In fact, avionics is now as important, if not more, to check out in than the actual airplane. That's why we've focused extensively on avionics training programs on the Aspen Evolution, Garmin G1000 Checkout, WAAS Approaches and Modern Autopilots. That's also why we offer our range of power supplies, so pilots can learn on the ground, not in the air.

    Demand is high for online video. Seems obvious, but worth stating. Sporty's sales of downloads and streaming video courses continues unabated, with pilots in particular valuing the portability and convenience of watching video on their iPhone or laptop. DVDs aren't going away anytime soon, but look for more innovations online for 2010.

    Having real, live customer service representatives is a selling point. Call our customer service line and a knowledgeable, cheerful human answers the phone. Consumers have more power in a tough economy, and Sporty's has raised our own high bar for customer service. This past year, we added online customer reviews, our unique fly-thru service and added new products, and new product features, based on customer feedback. We continue our tradition of same day shipping, a no-questions asked one-year guarantee, and two-day standard shipping.

    As 2009 draws to a close, those are our observations. We appreciate your support during the year and wish for all of us a happy, healthy and successful 2010.

    Best regards,

    Michael Wolf and the staff of Sporty's Pilot Shop

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