The best and worst of 2010

With 2011 just about two weeks out, I started mulling flight training’s best and worst for 2010. Call it a retrospective or an easy blog post, whichever you prefer. This is an entirely unscientific exercise in which I perused news items from an entire year’s worth of ePilot Flight Training Edition newsletters. If I’ve missed anything, don’t hesitate to plug in your own best and worst in the Comments section.–Jill W. Tallman


1. Flight training familiar faces John and Martha King are erroneously detained and handcuffed at Santa Barbara after the Cessna 172 they’re flying is incorrectly tagged as a stolen airplane.

2. Colleges start chopping their aviation programs as a means of saving money. Notable example: Daniel Webster College in New Hampshire.

3. Online testing companies boost their knowledge test fees in March by $50 to cover increased FAA regulatory requirements. Because learning to fly just isn’t expensive enough.

4. The state of California enacts a law in June that would require flight schools to pay $5,000 in initial fees and $1,000 yearly thereafter. The law’s intent is to protect students’ financial well-being in the event a school goes out of business. However, given that state’s economy, we can’t help but question the ulterior motives. On a minor up note, the law’s implementation has been delayed until July 2011.

5. Flight training washout rates now trending at about 80 percent. What can the industry do to reverse this unsettling trend?*


1. The House and Senate send a bill containing new financial aid for veterans’ flight training to the president for his signature.

2. *First-ever major flight training summit convened at AOPA Summit in November. Market research findings reveal some root causes for the high dropout rate: lack of educational quality, customer focus, community, and information sharing. These give AOPA and other industry partners tools to come up with solutions.

3. FAA approves certain anti-depression prescription drugs for special issuance medicals.

4. EAA’s Young Eagles program just keeps getting better and better: After Sporty’s adds free online ground school in 2009, EAA sweetens the deal by throwing in a free flight lesson and logbook for eligible Young Eagles participants.

5. Cessna’s 162 Skycatcher begins to trickle into the training fleet, and Piper introduces the PiperSport, a Czech-built LSA formerly known as the Sport Cruiser. Meanwhile, the light sport arena continues to grow at a modest pace with flight schools offering a variety of LSAs including Evektor, Tecnam, Remos, and others.


  • Michael Sheridan

    My local area, with several large flight schools in Dulles/Leesburg/Manasas, Virginia have a remarkably hostile and arrogant attitude toward LSAs, including Cessna’s 162, PiperSport, and Tecnam. Attitude is: not “real” airplanes (at same time their entry models are decades old 152s), and a hostile what’s wrong with your health, buddy. Well, nothing, but like idea of a NEW airplane, and Cessna’s and Pipers include great avionics and ergonomics. Arrogance and high cost structure permeates these schools. They don’t get it.

    In the metropolitan DC area there is *not a single* school offering LSA training. I have a two hour+ drive to get to one. Not exactly encouraging, and can see why 80% dropout is the norm, with training planes going at $140 and up plus instructor per hour.

  • Tim Patrick

    I agree (to a point) with the quality of instruction. I had one instructor who was great – he got canned because he asked for a raise. So I went to the LSA place down the taxiway and on my first lesson my instructor accidentally let me fly into a cloud in an Allegro without any artificial horizon.

    There seems to be a minimizing of just how much the cost kills the fun. That and that alone is the only reason I’m not flying at the moment.

  • Flygirl62

    The California law which so heavily impacts flight schools should be #1 on the list.


    Mr. Sheridans comments above are echoed accross the land. The LSA aircraft movement is and will be for some time a great thing. I have no doubt that it will continue to grow and offer the opportunity of flight to many. In Central Ohio, we flight train in Aeronca’s and a Cessna 172. These Aeronca’s and Cub’s were around a long time before the trend in learning to fly became a GLASS COCKPIT! If we taught every pilot in Conventional Landing Gear aircraft first, followed by the Tri-cycle machines we would produce better pilots. I also believe that all new pilots should be taught on Steam Guage type equipped aircraft first. Then train on glass if necessary or desired. In this manner we are teaching tomorrows pilots, very thoroughly and with a broad diversity in the training experience.

    Well the constant lawsuits and the fear of these lawsuits in Aviation has driven the costs of Flight training through the roof! Therefore, to enhance AVIATION in the US, we all need to be as responsible for our own actions as possible. If you are choosing to participate in ANY EVENT, where jepordy of your life and limb exists, then YOU need to take responsibility for your participation. In other words, every time You SCREW UP, is not necessarily someone elses fault! In addition, Legal Action should be a last resort, not a first step. I know there are many Legal Professionals that would not agree these thoughts. I call those folks the Ambulance Chasers. However, there are many Really Good Legal Professionals out there that will agree, and would advise you to do the Right and reasonable thing. Remember, an old antage my dad used to quote: ” A teaspoon full of Sugar will always go further than a Truckload of Salt!” Be responsible in your life and aviation, and treat your fellow man well.
    Finally on costs, proximity to the major metro areas increases costs of flying, right along with the cost of the land and everything else. We charge $60 an hour wet for the Aeroncas and an additional $15 per hour for instructor. The C172 is $85 solo plus $15 for instructor. We are located 30 miles North of downtown Columbus Ohio. The closer you get to the center of any metro area, the more expensive everything becomes. In our area the costs of flight trainng nearly double the closer into Columbus. Unfortunately, thats just the resultant costs for the competition over the natural resources.
    Bottom Line, Stay involved and encourage others to become involved in aviation by learning to fly. If you become succesful enough, buy a young person 5 or 10 hours of dual in an airplane. I have been doing it for years. It is clear that once we have become Free from the Earth, we always look up and seek that wonderful experience again. Stay involved and lets keep the Freedom of Aviation in this Country an active part of our Lives. BILL SEE

  • Stuart C. Ashley

    I have a 1-1/2 hour drive, one way, to my flight school [Out of the Blue Aviation] in Arlington, WA. The Tecnam behaves in every way like a “real aircraft”. At this point I have soloed and done a few cross countries. This, by no means, makes me an expert. But I would recommend Out of the Blue. They have three Light Sport aircraft [Tecnam Sierra, Remos, and an Aeronca tail dragger].
    That said, one of the things I have never heard stated as a negative for learning to fly and completing a license is as follows: Have you ever been at a party, for instance, talking to an international mix of people, maybe a Swiss, a German, and a Dutchman. All of a sudden the conversation switches to German. They totally loose the American from the conversation. This is the way it is with old pilots. They switch the comversation to another language and leave the outsiders and short timers right out. If they made a concious effort to stick with plain English, not “pilot jargon”, they might not loose quite as many newbies.
    Cheers! Stu.

  • Ric Lee

    I jumped into GA from a long involvement with flying Hang Gliders. When I looked at the aging GA fleet I decided right then and there I wanted to fly a new airplane, not a 40+ year old beat up trainer. Looking around my area there was one flight school using brand new state of the art trainers so that’s where I invested my hard earned cash. Having a new aircraft to train in gave me increased confidence and I progressed rapidly through the private course. I have since gone back and earned my Instrument and Commercial ratings from the same school all the time flying new aircraft.

    It is high time to sell off the old worn out designs and move into the 21st Century. Believe me, your students will
    know and appreciate the upgrade.

  • Radar

    alot of fliers dont even know bout LSA stuff..cant find instructors with planes to instruct why try..not messin with atlanta traffic jus to fly LSA planes either..LSA stuff doesnt impress me that much…3 local airports,dont instruct LSA so why try…..

  • Brett Trimbath

    I concur with Michael Sheridan. They don’t get it. The high cost of technology and new aircraft are making it completely unaffordable for common person to learn to fly. Gotta start wtih the basics (C-152) and keep that hourly under $100. Otherwise, only the wealthy will learn to fly.

  • Curtis Moore

    I will not comment as an accomplished pilot, but as a student pilot trying to get my privot certificate. I beleive strongly in the LSA aviation program because it does offer a chance to those individuals having medical issues to obtain a licsences and enjoy flying, as well as new technology and cool aircraft, however I beleive it will be some time before GA accepts LSA and who knows maybe it will become affordable to the common individual. I started flying about 28 years ago and then life happened, marriage, kids, and just about everything eles, I had logged 25 duel and 10 solo getting ready to finish up, figured I could finish later on no problem, I didnt realize how much later. There is not much in my area so a couple of months ago I traveled about 60 miles one way to a well known FBO/school but the cost was amazingly high with all kinds of stipulations, insurance, WOW!, So I looked at LSA, the expences were even higher with no local instruction avalible, and no way could I purchase an LSA class airplane, and not many of the older aircraft qualified for LSA, what to do? I joined my local EAA chapter and I already knew many of the people who were members there, I began to ask questions and quickly figued out that GA was having a lot of difficulty staying affordable for everybody who loved to fly. One of the members (my freind) had a 1962 cessna 172c for sale, an excelent low time plane for $26.000, it was affordable and the insurance was very reasonable even as a student pilot. I bought the plane and looked at finding a privot instructor, a young fella who had just become a member of the chapter was a fixed wing pilot and a veteran helicopter pilot who had flown in Iraq, he was a CFI and looking to biuld more fixed wing time, he would trade instruction time for the use of my plane, for every hour of instruction he could use my airplane for an hour, it was a good arrangement and has worked well.
    For those individuals out there who feel overwhelmed by all the expence and difficulty with GA and LSA, and can’t see how they can afford to fly, I am just an average Joe and I am here to tell you it can be done. Find and join a local EAA chapter, you will find that most pilots are more than happy to help a person with just about anything they need to get flying, their wealth of experience and knowledge is absolutly priceless, know what you can aford and explore all possibilities. Certified aircraft are in abundance and very affordable, most chapters have or know of good mechanics who can advise you on a purchase, or biulding a home biult is a good option as well. if you love to fly you will find a way to make it happen.

    Student pilot, Curtis

  • Steve Reed

    If those schools were to purchase and offer new Cessna Skycatchers or PiperSports you probably would have to pay $200 or more per hour for flight training. Now what would that do to the 80% dropout rate?

  • Douglas E. Drummond

    The overall arrogance has always been a problem. Many years ago Gorden Baxter of FLYING magazine took “undercover” intro lessons as “Mr. Smee” (Captain Hook’s first officer) posing as a business man who was thinking about using a GA airplane for business travel.

    On the other hand, I found a discount program at PWK–one of my co-workers instructed there. Then I joined a club at DPA just before I got my private–I’m still a member and our 172 is about $80/hour TODAY.

    On the grippping hand, I’m not flying due to the recession, but my (non-rated) second wife flies with me and has been co-pilot for three emergencies. Obviously she likes to travel and doesn’t mind a GA airplane. I do have my Instrument Rating.

  • Douglas E. Drummond

    They are all real airplanes and railroad trains whether a jumbo, a Cessna, or a remote piloted RC model, or HO model train. All the physics applies, with different numbers of course. I’d certainly rather fly a C-162 rather than the old beat up 150’s at PWK in the mid-1970s.

  • Champdriver

    I have to parrelell the comment of Michael Sheridan. The cost is be coming PROHBITIVE. Insurance alone for a Cessna 172 on the rental fleet in 2000 was hovering around $1000 a year, and fuel prices were around the $2.00 per Gallon. With an airplane renting 250 to 300 hours a year, This allowed the owner/operator to rent the airplane for about $50.00 an hour, wet. Still making a profit (barring any major damages) an owner could make $1500 to $2000 profit annually…
    2010 rates have insurance rates in the neighborhood of $6,000-$6,500 a year and fuel prices around the $4.50 a Gallon. Increasing the hourly fixed rate to more than $130 an hour, usage has gone down proprtionally, to 100-150 hours a year. Owners have reached the point of diminishing returns, it cost more to keep the aircraft on line, than you can make keeping it on the rental fleet.
    In the Aircapital of the World, there is no LSA aircraft Available for Rental… I don’t know of anybody willing to take the gamble on trying to make the Payments/Hangar Rent/Maintenance Cost/Insurance/Fuel and try to make a Profit. It just isn’t there at this time…

  • Calvin Lynch

    After deciding to become current again after almost 10 years of sitting on the ground, I went to the aopa site to find a instructor. I found Bruce Lynn of Taylor Texas who deserves to be recognized. Bruce is 80+ years old and still loves to fly and teach the right way. With my son 16, and my 17 year old daughter also wanting to learn to fly it was a great to find someone who only cost $100 per hour for plane and instructor. Not only is the price great, Bruce will spend all the time in the world with you on ground school, and other important aircraft conversation and will not accept payment for his extra time. His years of experience and general good manor make flying the kind of fun it was meant to be. God Bless Bruce and all the instructors like him.

  • Steve Sullivan

    Flight Training Summit
    Why did nothing I read about the results of the Summit include references to the lack of funding available for students? Every school I have talked to quotes funding as the number one reason for their students quitting or never starting at all. Its my opinion that in order to make flying and becoming a pilot more appealing, something should be done to make it accessible. Sallie Mae was the only avenue for so many students and they have all but quit making loans for flight training, especially helicopter. Students and future students need an advocate to speak for them and get the funding train rolling again. Otherwise, in the next years we will be reading about the “Why Is There No Training Summit”.

  • Mike Dewey

    For Mike Sheridan: Not sure where in DC area you are, but Chesapeake Sport Pilot at Bay Bridge Airport (W29) offers sport pilot training and has LSA available. I’ve just started (1 hour logged – Woo hoo!), but I’m impressed by the number of instructors and their depth of experience. Check them out. They have a site on the Internet

  • http://FlightDreamReality Bo Mills

    I find valid statements in all the notices posted. I started flying in the 70’s before the oil embargo skyrocketed fuel costs. Checked off to solo Cessna 152, 172 and the Beechcraft Skipper at RIC where I took my training. Never took my checkride due to the ever increasing costs of the rentals. Also, never lost my love of flying.

    Thirty years later I viewed the Sport Pilot as a stepping stone towards my Private. Quickly discovered there were no planes available for training locally. Both my son and daughter wanted to earn their licence as well. We had all lost everything in a house fire in 2005 which shattered the family. Self employed, I viewed the opportunity to bring us back together with a worthwhile business promoting aviation. Completed the reseach on operating cost of the new Sport Planes. On paper, the plane could cover it’s cost and allow students to earn their Sport Pilot certificate for less than half the cost of the private. Training needed to be performed by a CFI. The proven Rotax 912 preferred non leaded auto fuel as opposed to Avgas. Average fuel burn was 5 GPH at cruise and 3.5 GPH working the pattern. There are limits with the Sport Pilot Licence. The biggest reward is the ability to share the flying experience with others. Offer them an obtainable goal and dispel the myths associated with small aircraft flight. Joined EAA and attended meetings for feedback. Met some great people. Everyone agreed but no one seemed to take any action. I seemed to hit brick walls everywhere. The biggest complaint was the cost of the planes. In response, I had Mike Z (Breezer USA) fly an X-Air across the United States to land at the Festivale of Flight Air Show in Suffolk, Va. in 2009. The new plane with radios cost $59,995. My daughter and I received a great deal of interest at our booth after the arrival. The plane could have been an excellent, economical trainer. We worked booths in Oshkosh, Sun and Fun and Sebring. With no financing available for any of the planes, the results stayed the same.

    The economy collapse effected myself, like most everyone else. I learned a great deal about GA the last three years. Promoting the growth, turned out to be the worst decision of my life. I now work 7-7 to keep my primary business afloat to pay off the debts from promoting aviation. No bailouts or loans for honest people who pay their bills, all their life. Trying to sell my Bush Caddy ordered specifially for training and picked up at Oshkosh in 2008. Hope to keep the Breezer my wife loves. Both are “real planes”.

    The problem comes from ego’s and good ole American Greed. Politics and trying to receive self gratification to justify actions. I grew up by the “Golden Rule”‘. Want to promote our love for flight? We all need to communicate the options offered by our freedoms available today.