Ian Twombly

Is aviation splitting in two?

January 15, 2009 by Ian J. Twombly, Associate Editor

Some events have transpired lately that have led me to believe aviation may be splitting into two distinct camps–the no foolin’ around go-somewhere types, and the very light airplane fly around the pattern type. The first type uses the airplane as a tool, whether for business or pleasure.  The second group uses it purely for fun, and wants flying to become more and more fun as time goes on.

In other words, we have one group that wants airplanes to be faster, carry more, and have a high dispatch rate, and another group that wants the airplane to be cheap, slow, and carry one or two people. An extreme view might be that when the dust settles, no airplanes exist between a Cirrus and a Sport Cub. Well, nothing except for 172s used for training.

The driving force is obviously cold hard cash. As things get more expensive, credit becomes tighter, and a family’s income increasingly is dedicated to survival–do the haves and have nots move into TBMs and LSAs, respectively? Or, has it always been this way? Those who believe the middle class in this country is going away probably also think our industry is changing to reflect the split scenario.


36 Responses to “Is aviation splitting in two?”

  1. Rod Paul Says:

    I don’t think this is anything new. I operated an FBO for 8 years, and can say that the pilots divided themselves that way from the beginning. In some cases it was due to training-the better trained pilots flew with more confidence and went places. In other cases it was money- and for some people it was just a frame of mind…that’s all they wanted from an airplane. Since money is tighter, the travelers may become the fly around the pattern type, but as soon as money frees up, they may travel again.

  2. Tom Palmer Says:

    I think we have all seen this phenomenon, but it seems to be getting worse. My local airport in Somerville, TN. Has an airport manager that went so far as to kick out two local pilots that flew Pitts aerobatic planes. Of course he cites all sorts of politically correct reasons for not wanting them, but it boils down to the fact that our local airports only want the business or travel type planes. Fun planes of any type are just not welcome.

    The attitudes and personalities of many people working at our ga airports these days match the cold, uninviting look of the airport security fence. It’s no wonder people that might fly for fun choose instead to buy a motorcycle or a boat.

  3. John Ritchie Says:

    I agree with Rod; the pilot population has been divided this way at least since the 1970s when I first learned to fly. Most people fly either for love or for money, but rarely both. I’m kinda surprised AOPA is just now noticing this…?

  4. Colin K. Says:

    I agree that the divide is getting larger. I wonder if the various safety campaigns over the years are part of the reason. Maybe we’ve succeeded in convincing a lot more pilots that scud running of any kind and flying IFR without being truly proficient, flying in known icing, etc., are all ridiculously dangerous and foolish things to do. Unless you own your own business, I wonder how many people who have the income to afford a good IFR airplane will also have the time to maintain proficiency in it?

    However, I don’t yet see this as necessarily fatal–important concerns like airspace and airport access, maintenance infrastructure, fuel and operating costs, are largely the same for both groups. If we can get a lot more LSAs in the air, it could mean a larger population to sustain the whole system. A class-D field like Dutchess County in Poughkeepsie, or Lawrence, Mass seems to fairly happily serve all kinds. However, there is something of a rift in the reliever fields like White Plains, Teterboro, or Hanscom, where both the private facilities and the public operator are clearly catering to the kerosene-burning crowd, and see bug-smashers like us as a distraction, though so far they only try to chase us away.

  5. Steve Conroy Says:

    I’m one of those that when I climb in the cockpit, I have somewhere to go. The real reason we bought the plane is because my wife has a lucrative job that requires her to travel quite a bit, and we also have a farm out of state that has to be managed. I put in more flight hours than anyone else at my local airport. I do enjoy flying, but were it not for the necessity, I probably wouldn’t be flying. (And, hey, that 172 gets us around just fine LOL!)

    I will admit, there are two distinct crowds of people in the skies. Those that want to fly, and those that have to (like myself.) And, I don’t think they are necessarily completely different from each other, or totally one way or the other. Every now and then, we will climb into the plane, and just go somewhere to get away. But, I am mindful of the “pattern warriors” that I encounter at busy metropolitan airports, because I too once was a student pilot, and all GA pilots have one thing in common: a right to fly the friendly skies.

  6. phillip elgin Says:

    i am based at a small airport with no real transient activity. the FBO closed down years ago because they just could not make a living selling fuel just to us “weekend warriors” so i understand many airports catering to the “big iron” types, thats where the money is made. BUT, just a few weeks ago i flew in FTY @ Hill aircraft in my supercub, parked between a citation X and a King Air, the guys out on the line came out and helped me unload just like i was one of the big guys. seems like they were actually glad i was there, something different i guess. didnt even charge me a ramp fee.

  7. Randy F. Says:

    I am one of those guys who just likes airplanes and flying around. I just like to be up in the air and spend most of my flying time just flying over cow pastures or visiting another small airfield within a 50 mile radius of my home base. I make a concerted effort to not think of the cost /benefit of what I would term, sport, hobby or recreational flying or I would surely walk away from it.

    I agree that there is a large segment of pilots just like me who are content with their Cessna 152’s or an old Aeronca etc. It irks folks like us that there are increasing regulations and associated costs that we must incur just to fliy over a corn field on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Most of us rarely take anyone with us. Couple that with the periodic medical requirement and sometimes it does seem to be more hassle to fly than what it might be worth simply for fun.

    It always puzzled me why the FAA did not include Cessna 150’s and 152 in their definition of Sport Aircraft. It meets the requirement in all aspects except that its’ gross weight is 280 pounds more than 1320. It sure would be nice if the FAA would allow these planes in the Sport Pilot category.

  8. Chris Burns Says:

    A dismal economy and a protracted threat to the middle class exacerbates a situation that has existed throughout my aviation career. General aviation has never fulfilled an early expectation that it would provide real utility to a broad segment of the population. Even among the pilot population, those who have attained a measure of regular utility from their personal flying are a minority. This minority has expended tremendous effort and intentionality to achieve meaningful light plane transportation. While this process provides extreme satisfaction, it is, nonetheless, a limiting factor which constrains the growth of general aviation in the lower economic reaches. Utility is not easily achieved. Without utility, a light plane is an expensive and expendable hobby.

    Oddly enough, it has never been easier to fly. The airplanes and the system we fly in is better in many, many ways than in any previous era of flight. As someone who navigated with a sextant, the ease of navigation is but one extraordinary example. The promise of utility has never been greater. What has not change is man himself. Man in three dimensional flight requires an extraordinary range of varied response to counter the incomparable number of random events which can befall a flight. Some may be gifted decision makers but the majority are not. While I believe in the value of training, I do not believe that training alone can make an average pilot successful in the area of decision making. Many, many pilots are aware of this limitation in themselves and thus never venture far from the pattern. As our most recent history will suggest, man’s inherent rationality is debatable.

    As someone who has cherished a life of GA involvement, I would wish for a practical GA experience more affordable and more accessible to average pilots of average means. Here are five ideas for improving the ease of utility for general aviation: (1) Make the knowledge of the ages available to GA pilots through the availability of dispatch services that provide support before, during and after a flight. (2) Automate the collection and dissemination of pilot reports through available technology. (3) Enhance in flight data communications to provide meaningful flight following for dispatched aircraft. (5) Lower insurance rates for pilots who use a dispatch service.

    These suggestions would have seemed ridiculous only five years ago but in the age of wireless Internet and blackberries — not so ridiculous.

  9. lance f Says:

    I think I belong to a third group, one that combines the two separate ones Mr.Twombly described. In my case this is evidenced by ownership of a different airplane for each, one a no-systems 2 place taildragger and the other a light twin travelling machine. I do log considerably more time in the twin but that’s at least partly due to the longer flights in that ship plus the fact that I also fly the twin locally for practice and just plain fun, not to mention that the taildragger isn’t flown much in the cold northern winters.

    And I’m not all that unique in my circle of pilot friends many of whom fly combinations of “sport” aircraft and cross country airplanes. It also seems to me that many pilots that appear to be firmly ensconced in one of these two groups have aspirations within the other further diluting the “split”.

  10. Robert Koeblitz Says:

    I took Ian’s comments to apply to essentially single engine light aircraft only – not counting the heavy business iron flying. In my opinion, the hydraulic ram that split the log into two distinct pieces was the advent of Cirrus aircraft. Their marketing touched all of the right hot buttons – speed, great electronics, safety, great looks, and more speed. Instantly, 200 knots was available for the price of 150 knot airplanes, and with a panel far superior to anything then on the market. With the ability to beat or match commercial airlines door to door anywhere up to 1000 miles away, any of us would easily gravitate to the group who uses their airplane to really go somewhere. There is also probably a bit of adverse preselection that took place. All of a sudden, all the well heeled would be 182, Mooney, or Saratoga buyers owned a Cirrus because it was 50 knots (or better) faster than all the rest. Now all the pilots with enough income to travel frequently have an airplane that will get them there quickly, efficiently separating those who fly around their home airport from those who want to see all the interesting airports and cities the US has to offer.

  11. Kristin Winter Says:

    This has been going on for the 30 years I have been involved in aviation. This was most evident with the business we did in the maintenance shop when I ran an FBO, 20 years ago. Those that needed to fly, would spend money on their aircraft. Those that did not need to fly, would not. This has not changed.

    The advent of the LSA hass the potential to further accentuate this trend. Though we have had a de facto LSA crowd for a long time, in the owners that maintain their own aircraft. They do it without an A&P, and little of the work ends up in the logs. Some of the work is of excellent quality, others down right scary. Go to any active GA airport and you will find people tinkering with their own aircraft, regardless of type. For some, the tinkering is a greater joy than actually flying the aircraft.

    So while the GA world is polarizing, there is some blurring between the two poles.


  12. Heinrich Gerhardt Says:

    I like to have it both ways but only have the budget for one– that’s why I built an RV-6. It makes a reasonably good X-country machine, with a cruise speed of 170 kts TAS at 9.5 gph and 700+ mile range and room for 100 lbs of stuff. I wouldn’t use it for hard IFR in icing conditions, but for anything less than that, it’s great. RV’s are also fun toys that can be tossed around the sky– they’re stressed for +6/-4 g’s and will do a decent job of “gentlemen’s” acro. I fly mine at least 3-4 times per week and often just go play for 20 minutes at a time. There’s a good reason that over 6000 RV’s have been completed and flown so far.

  13. Randy F. Says:

    To Henrich,
    Building sounds great but I think it would take me too long.

  14. Howard Winters Says:

    While I agree in principle with most of Robert Koeblitz’s comments, I would point out that as a 250+ hour per year Mooney Acclaim flyer, I chose this plane over the Cirrus for its safety, speed and economy. I prefer metal, airbags, a 60 year track record and a steel roll cage to a parachute. I prefer to cruise at 200+ kts at 12,000 – 18,000 (impossible in a Cirrus), and I prefer to do this at 17.5 gph – also impossible in the Cirrus. I admire the marketing prowess of Cirrus. They have hooked a whole generation on a concept plane that in its own right is amazing. Anyone serious flyer who chooses to do a hard benefit/cost/value analysis will select the Mooney Acclaim every time.

  15. Jesse K Says:

    Count me in as “both”! And the airplane I bought is, I feel, a good mix to suit that.

    I fly an older Mooney – capable of cruising at 150knots at around 10gph, carrying my wife, dog, camping gear and I to faraway lands, or of simply enjoying the local area flying along at its most efficient speed (about 100-110mph) sipping fuel at < 6gph. This past weekend we did a little trip to a national park, about 330nm straight-line distance away. We returned Monday morning in time for work, no vacation day required!

    However, I certainly do miss the additional freedom of flying a high wing taildragger from time to time. Riding around with a friend in his Super Cub a couple of weeks ago really showed me what a compromise my airplane is (and that’s okay!)…. if only I could afford two airplanes..

  16. Chris R Says:

    I would argue this divide may not be by choice — it’s driven by an economic reality that keeps getting wider & wider.

    I’m a “traveler”. I live in the SF Bay Area and I like to go to Tahoe & Southern California, so I keep IFR-current to make that an option. But just barely! Here in the Bay Area, I can barely afford to fly on a montly basis with an instructor to keep up the currency, on top of the costs of life. My wife & I both work, and at very good jobs. But yet I can barely afford to remain a “traveler” & do so safely. That is, in a Cirrus SR-22, which here flies wet for $250/hour rented (no way I can afford to buy at this point), to fly the way others describe above — fast & safe (in a Cirrus).

    So the rub — I’m not sure that divide is by choice. I think something AOPA could address is that there is a limited # of folks in the world who can affor $500K+ aircraft. That I could buy an LSA — think about the upcoming ICON A-5 — for less than a 1/4 share of that Cirrus, and it changes your perspective on just how important it is to be a “traveler”.

    I would like to see an honest dialogue of the decline of the total GA population with respect to the relative cost of the equipment we’re flying — yes, it’s better & safter than 30 years ago, but at what price? How many of us can realistically justify a $500K+ airplane, when the pull for “around the patch” flying starts making much more hard economic sense, when the cost of the “traveler” approach is so much more as a %-age of income than it has ever been.

    Wouldn’t this make a great study for the industry as a whole? It would make a great article & start a positive, healthy dialogue if nothing else.

  17. Simon S Says:

    Consider the cost of a basic new aircraft.

    The Cessna 172, for decades considered the standard starter plane, costs just shy of $300,000. This is a huge sum for any passion unless you have a substantial income. So the passionate crowd who doesn’t have the income is left flying around in 25 year old 172’s for around $50,000. They look almost identical, do pretty much the same thing, just 15kts slower and they don’t have a glass cockpit. If you want looks, you have to pay for it to the order of 6 times as much.

    But more interesting is that the 172, even at a whopping $300k, is no longer the most popular aircraft. That title goes to the Cirrus SR22. At 588 units shipped in 2007, Cirrus’s most popular plane outsold Cessna’s by more than 2.5 times. And the base price? Between $380k and $530k (Depending on model). So more new buyers bought a half million dollar plane than any other type.

    There is your indicator of the socioeconomic demographic of tomorrow’s pilot.

    And the runner’s up position goes to Cessna with it’s 400 model, which may well surpass sales of the SR22 next year and costs even more.

  18. Jim D Says:

    My personal experience in the past 18-24 months is that although I would like to return to the travelling pilot, monetary constraints prevent the $100.00 hamburgers and more. Necessity has placed me in the position of flying around playing sightseer and flying to maintain my proficiency. In the future, when the economy returns, so will I.
    I long for the weekenders in New Orleans, the north Georgia mountains and the balmy breezes of Key West.
    Numerous GA pilots at my south Florida airport are in the same- or worse- financial constraints and are mirroring my flight experiences. BUT, time will tell—

  19. Terry Onder Says:

    Aviation is indeed splitting in two. If it were not for the potential that Light Sport holds, I think that the around the patch types like myself would soon be out of aviation. Increasing cost and over-regulation are the prime reasons. When rental on a C-172 hit $100/hr, that got me thinking that although flying has been great fun for the past 35 years, it may not be $100/hr fun. One of the best things that could happen is for the FAA to allow driver’s lic medical for recreational pilots. Many folks who fly for fun do not want to continue to go thru the hassle of the medical. The Light Sport idea is a good start, but needs to be expanded so that more aircraft can qualify. I am afraid if the current trend continues, aviation will not be split, because all that will be left will be the traveling folks.

  20. Ray B Says:

    I am fortunate to be of both camps in that I fly a tail dragger for fun and faster more expensive machines for work. The “divide” I see more than the go-fast/go-slow split is that of pilots who fly for the sensations and pleasure of flying and those that “fly” for the sensations and pleasure of staring at their latest glass addition to the panel. More than once I have listened to Cirrus/Columbia/G1000 drivers exult all the so called virtues of parachutes, air bags, and multi-function displays while seemingly caring little about actually flying the machine. On a recent Cessna 350 ride I noted the two front seat “pilots” were happily immersed in their little panel screens giving only an occasional safety glance outside at the real moving map. I also have heard these folks say that without all the do-dads of their $500K machine they would not likely be flying at all. Given that for these folks the thrill exists on the panel and can be simulated very effectively on the ground I wonder why they bother buying the airplane. The “split” in GA is the result of ad nauseum marketing to a demographic that would not be flying if it were not for groups like AOPA force feeding a steady Garmin diet. I certainly would not consider an aircraft lacking a glass panel to be a “have not” and in fact the real have nots seem to be the pilots sitting behind such new age equipment lacking both basic airman skills and the burning desire to fly that has sustained the industry.

  21. brian Says:

    This is a cost issue, as everybody has already pointed out. What I haven’t seen pointed out is where these costs come from — some huge fraction of every $1 (I suppose that’s $100) goes into insurance. It costs a lot to insure the plane, the pilot, and the guy who makes the $200 part that you can buy at Napa Auto Parts for $3.50. Fix our litigous society and the insurance issue, and I think you will find flying isn’t as expensive as you would expect.

  22. Leo LeBoeuf Says:

    Here is a solution to the dilemma. It is a flying club with a trainer, a go fast airplane and a fun airplane. Perhaps, more pilots need to think the club way. I was a member in a large club that offered everything from a Citabria to light twins to C172, C182 etc. This was an economical way to have your fun and go fast airplane. It was not as nice as having one of each but as a man of modest means, it sure beat renting a wreck from the local FBO. Now, the area in which I am living does not offer such a great aviation asset.

    Perhaps AOPA could work more to show the membership the benefits of a well managed club. The club does not have to own the airplanes, they can be on lease back. That way the guy with Baron can use the Citabria to go out and get himself dizzy while the girl with the Citabria can head off to that nice warm spot on a cold winter day.

    Think outside of the box. It is not easy to start a club but dire times can make some strange bedfellows.

  23. Eric Glass Says:

    It seems this split is nothing new. Perhaps the LSA designation has made it more official. Richard Bach wrote about this difference in 1967 in Aviation or flying? Take your pick. This was published in A Gift of Wings, a collection of his articles and short stories. In the piece, Bach identifies aviators as those who use airplanes as tools and flyers as those who use them for fun. He didn’t imply that one group was more affluent than the other, but their choices seemed to be based more on personality than income. True, this is a cost issue today, particularly for those who’d like to be in the travel camp. But I think there are also a lot of pilots who are into flying for its own sake. They may be happy with the “around the pattern” airplane even if they could afford the $500k model.

  24. John Says:

    It certainly is true that the cost of aviation is rapidly increasing relative to the average Joe’s ability to pay. But let’s face it; with the excessive cost of new airplanes, there will be a gradual determination and reduction of the fleet of smaller airplanes. While I enjoy the capability of our 182P Skylane (1975 vintage), which I have owned for 30 years, I could no more than dream of acquiring a new one. So as long as the maintenance is reasonable and the plane is safe to fly I can participate. It is a going places airplane, originally purchased for that mission. However, with the ridiculous cost of avgas the cost of operation is a very expensive way to travel long distances when compared to the airlines -for two people, which is our usual load. If you plot the average price of avgas vs. the price of oil you will see that the sensitivity on the upside is high but on the downslide of oil prices there seems to be a lot of hysteresis in the price of avgas. Unfortunately there is not much competition out there due to the vast reduction in flying hours. No wonder long distance flying is now a limited practice. Like anything else, it is an economic issue.

  25. Laura Says:

    As an active CFI I was saddened to have two retirees quit training upon entering the cross country phase. These gentlemen finally have the financial means to fulfill a dream in their hearts, but when it took them more hours than expected to solo they were overwhelmed at the idea and cost of training for the solo cross country. Both expressed they just wanted to be daytime, fair weather, local area flagpole types. Changing them to a recreational pilot course wouldn’t have helped and we don’t offer LSAs. Personally, I would love to own an aircraft designed for cross country purposes and a glider for the “fun stuff”, but for now I live vicariously through my students…

  26. John T. Says:

    It’s true that these two groups exist. I myself have been a member of each, having used my ol’ Mooney for travel during my business career, and now for pleasure during my retirement. I will admit that the cost per hour has skyrocketed, and will eventually cause me to seek a more affordable aircraft. I’m fortunate to have airports catering to both groups within a 20 mile radius of my home, and although I have always favored the small fields, if I need the facilities found at larger airports, they are only minutes away. My biggest lament is that now that I am retired, I really have nowhere to go.

    I believe the two groups will continue to coexist, just like the bugsmashers and the kerosine burners exist. The main reason for this is the respect we pilots have for each other and our individual attainment of the privelege to fly and the recognition that each group has a common goal of safety and respect for the rules that keep us safe.

  27. Darrick Mcgill Says:

    This is an interesting subject as I am looking at purchasing a plane and considering how I will use it. Today, my typical use would be going places. I can put over 120 hours per year on a plane replacing regular work trips I take by car. Travel and other business could easily tally another 50-75+ hours per year. What I am finding amortizing the fixed costs (not counting plane acquisition) over this level of hours makes the endeavor worthwhile. However, the weekend pattern warrior expends so much in fixed costs that the economics make it a fun and expensive hobby. Access to a lower cost airframe can help, but the fixed costs are the real driver.
    An emphasis on best practices to reduce the fixed costs will make GA more accessible. Tools for expanding and operating clubs or multi-owner scenarios would support accessibility.

  28. Larry McVay Says:

    Your point is very much on the spot. I have been flying for a major airline for the past 18 years and pilots who are not involved in general aviation, which is the vast majority once hired, and management personell, ceo’s, have no desire for general aviation to be anything at all unless it is business. I am also saddened in that our new AOPA president is Executive Director for the Chamber of Commerce according to his bio and so Aopa has chosen to go down the path of business and leave the non busuness pilot with even less representation.

    Larry McVay

  29. Ian Twombly Says:

    Great comments all. I didn’t mean to imply that this was a brand new phenomenon, but it does seem to be getting worse. It seems even in our discussion there is a split between those who feel it’s always been this way and those that see the gap widening.

    Chris Burns – Excellent comments. I love all five ideas. Let’s do it!

    Brian – Most are finding that insurance rates are going down. Whether it’s due to our reduced flying or reduced accidents, there seems to be some relief here.

    Chris R – I think you have an interesting thought here. So instead of trying to sell everyone on a 172 or a Cirrus, we call a spade a spade and say one is for fun and one is for work? After all, you’re not going to sell a minivan to a guy that owns a Ferrari. I’ve tried to do that in some of my stories, but it could be more obvious.

    Larry – Don’t assume too much about Craig. I took him flying in the sweepstakes Archer a few months ago and all he could talk about was what a beautiful day it was to fly and how happy he was to be up in the air. He even talked about flying to lunch. He’s a guy who was really loved aviation in many different ways.

    Keep those great comments coming everyone.

  30. Joseph Okon Says:

    When I started lessons towards my Private Pilot Certificate back in 1993, it became very clear to me at that time what options were open to me. I decided to acheive a state of proficiency and skill level that would enable me to rent a single engine aircraft and go just about anywhere I wanted to go under VFR conditions. My focus since, has been on all techniques in landing, takeoffs, appoaches, radio communication,pilotage,an sectional awareness and of course safety so that when I travel around the world on vacations: I am current and qualified to rent, fly locally within 200miles,or island hop down in the caribbean… It has been about age and money or the lack there of, which detered me from advancing up the aviation career ladder, or maybe my lack of total commitment towards buying a 172 or 182 when I could afford it. As my interest in flying to be flying solidified, I became a 1000 hr pilot without an instrument rating, or a CFI, or ATP… Yet I love to fly and make it a point to rent where ever I’ve gone. Be it vacation or relocation. Flying is on top my list of things to do when I get there. Then I feel free and relaxed about the place.
    Six months ago I decided to join the Palm Springs Civil Air Patrol and commenced learning how to put a 182R to work in the business of search and rescue. My training has been steady between ground and flying instruction, however I say that this is one way that I have found to continue my ongoing love of flying while training for the inevitable:a real rescue scenario. “Pleasure flying or being about business”. The money issue is a key factor, yet as far as the two may seemingly be apart. For some pilots they will get the opportunity to enjoy both. For others using creativity and compromise will just have to suffice when the money just is not there…

  31. David Hanes Says:

    The government has made a dying mess of GA. Take my example. 53 years old, and wanted to fly ever since I spent some time flying with my highschool bud in his dad’s 172 Skyhawk — 35 years ago. Took the groundschool for college credit at OU in the 70’s, loved it; (98% on OU’s practice written tests). Alas, no money for flying then; so I waited til family raised and career established. I’m still in pretty good shape, (hiking, backpacking, etc.). However, NOW I find there is a medical issue which will either disqualify me, or cost thousands$ for med testing and Doc reports (that was some of my AIRPLANE money);with no guarantee that I’ll get the medical even then.
    OH YEAH– Sport Pilot. Called around and NO-ONE in the OKC area that I found teaches for the sp pilot cert. YES, I know any instructor can do it, but to solo, I MUST use a LSA, and I’ve yet to meet anyone who even has one except one guy w/ an Aeronica. With no electrics, how could we ever learn ATC communication, or navigate to anywhere? If all I wanted to do was see OK City from 300 feet, I’d just go downtown and take an elevator to the 30th floor of the Chase tower. After getting my Sport Pilot rating, I would get to shop for a $150K+ micro plane that really won’t take me and the Mrs. + a few bags; OR, there’s always the aforementioned vintage airplane option. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE vintage planes, but the ones that qualify as LSA just don’t fit the use I envisioned. The LSA ticket would be great if the aircraft definition was broadened to at least include Cherokee 140’s, etc.
    What REALLY needs to happen is a “sea change” in the whole Regulatory Philosophy. The Drivers License Medical needs to be extended AT LEAST to the recreational pilot rating, if not done away with ENTIRELY for non commercial tickets. I don’t look for either of these to happen, because I don’t think the bureaucrats and comm’l pilots really Want individuals to be able to fly their own planes. We’re just one more random variable that they’d just as soon not worry about.
    People who can afford to fly at all are usually not 20 year old track stars. On the other hand, we’re not asking to fly the bleeping Space Shuttle either. A daytime VFR family trip in an older 4 place plane would be nice. Given the obstacles I’ve encountered, The mystery to me is how non commercial GA has survived at all. I am disappointed; I doubt I’ll be flying. Thanks for letting me vent.

  32. David Hanes Says:

    Correction to my previous post: I meant to suggest that the “3d class Medical” be done away with entirely for non commercial tickets; NOT that the Drivers License Medical be done away with.


  33. DWB Says:

    AOPA should sponsor, build, manage and maintain the finest flying club available. They already have the bodys. They just need to come up with the iron. If anyone could, they should be able to pull it off. They’ve got the resources and connections. By the way I’m on the fun flier/rec side. Being a A+P/IA helps keep my cost down.

  34. louis n. wagner Says:

    Aopa management should carefully consider many of these comments.I think AOPA has, as one correspondent noted, gone with Garmin et al and abandoned us guys who began flying back in the 70’s in Cubs, 7-AC’s and C-150’S and hyping all this new stuff they claim is “affordable”. Affordable? for whom. Maybe for Bill Gates and Harrison Ford, it is, but not for me. or many others on the AOPA membership rolls.who made AOPA what it is.
    AOPA should iniate a survey to find out who we are, and what we can afford to keep flying..
    The new LSA movement must deal realisticly with the costs, otherwise It will not survive.
    Lou Wagner , Bethune SC . AOPA 109415

  35. Steve Fagan Says:

    Light Sport has an identity crisis. Is it a less expesive way to draw new pilots to flying? Or is it just a clearing house for aging pilots who possibly might not pass a physical? I was was drawn in by the former reason but I’m discouraged by 100k+ airplanes and pilots who frown at the prospect of fabric covered non-RV kit planes. I would like to “travel” but mostly fly for fun. The FAA needs to decide what the reason is for Light Sport and plan for the future, hopfully to draw more interest from the general public to Sport Flying.

  36. Steve Conroy Says:

    There were some coments made above that I totally agree with. GA is becoming less and less affordable and practical for the average Joe. I do think that AOPA needs to take a reality check into this issue. All the glass cockpit stuff is great, but I travel many hours a year to many different airports in my state, and I can count on one hand the number of pilots I meet that actually own a “new” late model STCed aircraft that is equipped to the max. Heck, three years ago, I bought a ten-year old airplane, and I still have the newest airplane on the field at my home airport.

    Also, it’s hard to overcome the attitude of many communities toward GA. Where I actually have an economic need for my plane and use it for travel, many non-pilots look at GA airports as just playgrounds for rich boys to play with their toys. And, many people in my small town are unaware that the county even has an airport. Some communities are waking up to the benefit of a local airport, and some are getting smart enough to make it work to the benefit of the community. But, that enlightenment process seems to be a hard task to undertake.

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