Affordable Aircraft: Find Your New Dream Plane in 2024

The truth is you have so many choices when shopping for aircraft that this column offers perhaps its most useful function: helping you sift through the many aircraft you could fly. If you find a number of aircraft you like, how can you narrow your choices to find the one that best fits your needs?

Find Your Dream Plane

Maybe you haven’t explored these tools, but you might find them fun and worthwhile.

  • PlaneFinder 2.0 — Answer a few this-or-that questions and the system reduces a long list to matching aircraft.
  • SLSA List — Every light sport aircraft that has won FAA acceptance, with links to more info.
  • Part 103 List — For those who want fun flying machines that won’t exceed their budget.
  • Advanced Search — Search through brands, models, or providers on an extensive database.
  • LSA Market Info — Search the most comprehensive record of all LSA and SP kits in the U.S.; sort many ways.

All these resources are free to use (although your email is requested to use PlaneFinder 2.0). I hope you’ll go explore the Affordable Aviation (byDanJohnson) website thoroughly. 

Still, nothing beats an airshow, where you can actually examine, touch, and sit in an airplane that catches your fancy. For a half century, airshows have dictated my annual calendar. These events bring together the best of aviation and form a target-rich environment for anyone shopping for, or selling, an airplane.

Airshows 2024

This list is not exhaustive. These are the events I’ve attended for many years. 

Sun ‘n Fun / April 9-14 — Happy Birthday! Sun ‘n Fun will celebrate 50 years this year. Starting out as an EAA regional fly-in, Sun ‘n Fun has grown to the second largest airshow in the U.S., and the one that kicks off the recreational flying season year after year. While Sun ‘n Fun has branched out into education, a museum, and many other activities (not unlike EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh), it is the spring airshow at the perfect time of year that draws attendees by the hundreds of thousands. This year at Sun ‘n Fun, look for the new LSA Mall with some very special coming attractions as new LAMA president Scott Severen takes over the Mall with professional assistance from Jana Filip of Sebring and DeLand Expo fame.

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Besides the breadth of aviation it offers, Sun ‘n Fun is home to LSA Mall, now beginning its 17th year as an attraction at the show. Visitors are urged to visit the light aircraft area called Paradise City. [Image by Dan Johnson]

Aero Friedrichshafen / April 17-20 — Easily my favorite aviation event in Europe, Aero Friedrichshafen also has a big birthday in 2024; this will be the 30th running of the popular event that draws many from all over Europe. If you want to see aviation development in its brightest bloom, I recommend Aero, where more interesting aircraft appear than at any other show I have attended. The event commonly occurs soon after Sun ‘n Fun but takes place almost exclusively indoors, so attendees are comfortable (and well fed). Most important, visitors will be dazzled by beautiful displays of handsome aircraft one after another after another… it’s simply a delicious event.

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Semi-trailers in Europe open on the side like this one revealing the arrival of helicopters at the Aero Friedrichshafen show in southern Germany. [Image by Dan Johnson]

EAA AirVenture Oshkosh /July 22-28 — Turning 70 in 2023, EAA AirVenture Oshkosh is the undisputed king of airshows. If you can only attend one event in 2024, this is surely the best one, although you are already late to find lodging. Oshkosh swells from a normal population of around 50,000 to close to half a million during the week. Chicago and Atlanta may vie for the busiest airport in the world for 51 weeks of the year, but during Oshkosh, this event rises to the very top measured by flight operations — the busiest airport in the world for seven days. If it flies and you want to see it up close and person, AirVenture is the place. By all means GO, but start your planning now. It’s not too soon.

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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh hosts nearly every sort of aircraft you may ever see including a profusion of light and affordable aircraft, most easily found in the Fun Fly Zone. [Image by Dan Johnson]

Midwest Aviation Expo / September 5-7 — Since this is a year of benchmark editions of airshows, why not Midwest? The event taking place at the Mt. Vernon, Illinois airport (KMVN) is doing two big things this year, The show has renamed itself Midwest Aviation Expo, from Midwest LSA Expo. Having “LSA” in the name when it began in 2009 was a great idea but the event has always featured more than LSA, though it has plenty of them. In addition, Midwest has drawn Part 103 ultralights on one side and numerous kit builders on the other. Beside offering a good selection of airplanes with no entrance fee, no parking fee, and great facilities including a very popular restaurant, Midwest has long had a mission to please everyone that comes, vendor or attendee. Now for 2024, this show celebrates its 16th running, making it the longest-running event among sector-specific event. Congratulation to team Midwest Aviation Expo!

05dj012924 Midwest Aviation Expo ByDanJohnson
Renamed and repositioned as it becomes the longest-running airshow catering to light aviation: LSA, Sport Pilot kits, ultralights and more.

DeLand Aero Showcase / October 18-19 — Formed after the DeLand Sport Aviation Expo was discontinued by city officials, this restructured event is now in the capable and energetic hands of Alex Rolinski and Doma Andreka. If you don’t already know these fellows (think about Aero Adventure and Magnus Aircraft), you may want to pay attention. This pair of entrepreneurs has ambitious plans to expand at DeLand Airport, already a hotbed of recreational flying and sky diving. DeLand Aero Showcase is on for its annual event in mid-October when Florida enjoys wonderful weather but also ample hotel rooms and rental cars. Fly south like the birds when it gets cold back home. The Sunshine State welcomes you and so does Aero Showcase.

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Closing out the recreational flying season in October is the DeLand Aero Showcase. [Image by Dan Johnson]

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