Sport aviation is personal flying for pleasure rather than for military, commercial, or business purposes. Sport pilots fly gliders, sailplanes, hang gliders, ultralights, homebuilts, and other types of aircraft that date to the earliest days of aviation. The growth in popularity of ultralights—the most economical powered airplanes flying—is an important trend.
At the turn of the 21st century, Beechcraft, Cessna, Piper, and other companies were still mass-producing designs nearly a half-century old. By contrast, designers of homebuilt aircraft use the most advanced ideas in aerodynamics, propulsion, and structures. Their airplanes often perform better than assembly line models and usually cost less to construct and fly. Burt Rutan exemplifies the creative talent often seen among homebuilt designers. His VariEze, on display here, is one of the most innovative and influential homebuilt airplanes.