New Blood from Where?

September 30, 2009 by Bruce Landsberg

PilotPopFollowing up last week’s discussion on CFI pay, let’s broaden it out a bit more to where the new pilots are coming from or not coming from.

If we continue on the present course, the number of pilots in the U.S. with current medical certificates will dip below 600,000. This is down from 800,000 in the early ’80’s. Not so good!

The question is why? AOPA has done some research on why people don’t become pilots or stay active. Some of the answers were:

1. Time and money – not enough of either or both.

2. Didn’t like the flight school or CFI.

3. It wasn’t as much fun and/or a lot more work than I thought it would be.

4. There are a lot of other cool things to do that give me greater satisfaction.

5. It scares me – all I read about is crashes.

Seems to boil down to the value equation – I’ll pay a lot for something that is perceived of great value and not much for something that isn’t. Is aviation not the value it used to be? Is it becoming so commonplace that the “cool factor” isn’t there? Are the economics totally out of whack? Has it become too complex?

There are no simple answers and this is an unscientific survey but we’d like to hear from all of you – don’t just lurk. AOPA, the Air Safety Foundation, the industry and you, as pilots, all have skin in this game. Collectively, we need to understand the problems and then come up with some ideas.

It’s your turn now……

Bruce Landsberg
Senior Safety Advisor, Air Safety Institute

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  • Steve Brown

    Reading all the comments above has convinced me that I should quit flying. The underlying reason I might want to quit is an updated fear of flying. I suffer a constant fear of violating a regulation. There are an abundance of them, and I just want to fly to my place three hours away in North Carolina without bothering any one. I fly VFR, no flight plan, and circumnavigate any and all dedicated airspace (MOA, etc.) I talk to no one. If they don’t know who I am, they can’t violate me. Now it is inevitable that we will be required to have transponders that report our aircraft N number and will put a stop to that particular freedom.

    The next “fear of Flight” I suffer is that I will fail a medical, and my airplane will become a white elephant into which I have invested all my money. I am one of those sixtyfive year old pilots who has been out of commission for months because of having to control blood pressure, and could have a prostate problem in the future. Do I want to continue to invest in flying?

    All the comments above seem valid, and as far as getting younger people to fly, I have found that there is a very disconcerting trend in flight instructors. I learned from an old barn stormer who made it fun to fly with the accent on “fun” Now when I have to suffer the biannual flight review I encounter what I call the grumpy wannabe airline pilots who are instructing because they can’t get in on a hundred thousand dollar a year piloting job, and they act like that is my fault! I am boring him and he wishes I would just leave my check on the desk and go away. By the book. This is how it’s done. I don’t care what your instructor told you thirty years ago.

    I don’t think there is any solution to the problems of people who want to fly. Soon enough we will be extinct in favor of professionals, which, I agree, is who the AOPA wants in our skys in the first place.

  • John

    Great comments by everyone so far! I finally realized my childhood dream in late 2002. Family and work commitments were priorities before flying could even be considered. Then there was the money issue. Never enough! When we finally became empty nesters there was time and finally enough money. Our EAA chapter has a club plane for members to use to get their license and I took full advantage. Because of work issues (excessive overtime during good weather) it took me about three years to get my PPL. The next problem was availabilty of aircraft when I wanted to fly. I found a one owner. 1966 Piper Cherokee 140 with just under 900 hours total time, but needed windows, tires, paint, and avionics. Working under the direction of my home fields IA I did all the upgrades over a four year period, a little at every annual. Owner assisted annuals is one way to lower the cost of ownership and flying. My wife and I purchased this plane to travel with. So far we’ve been to Sun-N-Fun in Florida, Cherokee Fly-In in Missouri, to North Carolina to visit our son and grandkids. This is a 12 hour drive at best, sometimes up to 14 hours depending on traffic and road repairs. If we fly commercial we have to go to Charlotte, then drive the rental car 45-60 minutes to our sons house. Flying ourselves in the Cherokee it’s about a 5 hour flight. No construction, detours, and gourgeous scenery along the route. I absolutely love flying! My goal was to get my instrument ticket with this plane, it’s certified IFR. Now for the downside of my experience to date. I was planning to fly to Oshkosh for a weekend workparty before the convention when a Presidental TFR popped up around Chicago. I called Flight Service the night before for an outlook briefing. Was a flight possible by a VFR only pilot? The briefer said sure and walked me through all the steps. Out to the airport early morning to pull the plane out of the hanger and preflight and load up. Then into the FBO for another call to Flight Service. The briefers last words were “did I want to open my flight plan now?” “Affirmitive” I was told I had a five minute window to launch. Fired up the plane, made all preflight checks and called Chicago Center for a squak code. Numerous calls failed to get a response so off came the headset and I called on my cell phone. I was given a descreet code and launched. After landing at Oshkosh when I was on the taxi-way the controller asked if I was ready to copy a phone number. NO pilot ever wants to here those words! It seems the briefer at Flight Service never opened my flight plan. The FAA at the local FISDO launched an investigation. Luckily, when I got home I filled out a NASA form. At the hearing at FAA Headquarters the lawyer claimed I launched without cotacting anyone. After I produced all my phone records, to include the time and number of Chicago Center, the lawyer wanted to know who I talked to. When I said Chicago Center and Kankakee Flight Service he said “yes, but who did you talk to?’ From my first day of training, no proper names are used. Communication is by facility name and N number. My lawyer called for a time out and in the hallway he asked me if I was willing to fight the 800lb gorilla? Final outcome was suspension of revocation and 5 year probation. From the first day of training I prided myself on never violating any rules or airspace. My Instructor was very firm on procedures. No less than three FAA employes lied during this incident. During the preliminary investigation the guy from the FISDO said that “because it’s a Presidential TFR, someone is going to pay.” This event has had a great impact on my flying. I was averaging 80-100 hours a year, but since this occurance it’s probably down by half. Oh! And that IFR ticket I was going to pursue, nuts! Why should I spend all that time and money to upgrade when some government mope can take it all away in an instant, because he can. We’ve lost too many freedoms in the last couple of years and as our old AOPA president Phil Boyer was want to say “the camel is poking his nose under the tent”. Well I’ll amend that, “the camels up to the second hump”. MY Cherokee is currently for sale, too many tire kikers though. I’ll purchase a light sport kit and fly simple. I just don’t need the hassle of the medical anymore. I hope GA survives, but the handwritig is on the wall. One only has to look at the example of the rest of the worlds GA.

  • Greg Anderson

    I was in flight training just before 9/11/01. Then my company decided to lay people off and I decided I needed to save money. Then came a move, which meant my mortgage went up (of course). Even with a good job, I can’t afford any toys. Maybe next year, I’ll be able to afford flight training again. But even then, it will be years before I could even afford a used plane. Costs, all costs of flying, have gone up from what we read about in the fairy-tail stories of kids who got jobs washing airplanes to pay for training and bought their first Cub within a couple of years after getting their license.

  • Alan Swearingen

    I have read it a couple of times, but the romance just isn’t there. I am younger than the average pilot (42 yrs. old) and love to fly. But the truth is that my grandfather was a pilot and I was drawn to it because of my childhood. It’s a wanderlust that I associate with aviation. My kids (3 and 7) see the airplane as another car. They don’t get that it is cool.

    You want to get more people involved, stop catering to the over 50 crowd that is flying now and start enticing the younger crowd. If we face facts, it isn’t more convenient, cheaper, or practical if faced with a value equation.

    Flying is cool. We didn’t learn to fly to save time. We learned because it was cool and we wanted to be cool. It just isn’t as cool as it used to be. I fly quite a bit and completely love it. I’m not jaded, but I honestly did it because it was cool. I’m a married guy with kids and was married when I learned, so it wasn’t to pick up the opposite sex, but how proud were we to show off our pilot’s license when we got it. It made us special and a little dangerous to other people. With the amount of money I spend on maintenance, it better not be dangerous but people see it that way.

    You want more people flying, focus on making it cool in the public eye. Not by romanitciziing it with a bunch of pilots as old as me or older, but by talking to the youger pilots and marketing the coolness of taking top the skies and enjoying the view that I imagine every time I look into the sky on a nice day.

  • Reg Barnsdale

    Excellent comments by all, and yes,gov t regs and lawyers can ruin the best we have and enjoy. Even the folks wi AOPA issues, Necessity can make strange bedfelows,and in these times solidarity is so imp.And Deborah,. your welcome to the FBO could not have been any colder than mine. BUT WE PILOTS ARE A HEARTY BUNCH. If I ever do buy a RV, every time a plane flies over I will longingly look to the sky and wish it were me up there. I really don t see looking at serial # of RV s @ the park giving (to those who have been to the skys)that same satisfaction. And finally, Alan said it best with bringing the cool factor back to flying. Yep, Out of the Western Skys, we need SKY KING !! Fly Safe

  • Sam Billings

    I have been involved in aviation for over 30 years. I am a private pilot and an A&P with IA. I have seen nothing but decline in GA from the beginning of my involvement. The question is why.

    Let’s talk about cost. In 1978, a brand new Cessna 152 cost $14,000.

    http://flighttraining.aopa.org/learntofly/articles/0108.cfm

    If adjusted for inflation that aircraft should cost $46,000 new today!

    http://www.halfhill.com/inflation.html

    These days, if one rents an aircraft, renters insurance should be considered a necessity. To cover liability, hull loss, and loss of use, most people will probably be looking at a $1000 per year premium. Hangar expenses near large cities can be very expensive if they are even available. As everyone knows ,the cost of all fuel is high but the lack of progress in development of suitable replacement avgas closer in makeup to auto fuel aggravates the cost. When implemented, GARA (General Aviation Revitalization Act) relieved some product liability but increased liability for maintenance operations. Maintenance shops have had to increase rates to cover increased insurance premiums. Some small shops have closed rather than deal with the liability, thereby decreasing competition.

    Now for restriction. I have a neuromuscular condition that is keeping me from getting a medical. I can still work and still drive but I can’t get a medical. The fact is as someone becomes older if they are honest about the medical and not the picture of health, they will be dealing with a special issuance. I could fly LSA, but that area is still very expensive and very limited. The light sport regulations didn’t make sense or work very well. We already had the recreation pilot license why not just make the medical requirements for it a driver’s license? I know this is the idea AOPA supported but the FAA wouldn’t hear of it. The FAA can’t get something right even when they try.

    The Administrative Procedure Act of 1946 has insulated the FAA (along with many other agencies) from the normal legislative process. My members of congress have little interest or reason to be concerned with these issues. The only hope we have is through large political groups or coalitions. I am not saying that self-certified medical for recreational pilot is a cure all and would solve everything, but it could be implemented with the stroke of a pen at almost no cost. This would help keep older pilots flying and they could help start and keep younger pilots flying.

    I am glad someone is asking this question. Bruce, I want to thank you for doing so. It seems that there is a lot of common ground in the posts. I think now the question can be asked. Is anybody listening?

  • Jerry Brooks

    Flying has become very expensive! Thre are a few airports in my area (4) but the governmental structure and or ownership of two of them shun flight training and small aircraft. They do manage to hold their hand out for the government dollars however! The lack of paved airports (we have only one in the county that I live in) adds to the problem if you can’t train there and aren’t welcome in a small aircraft.

  • gregg

    Cost is likely the major factor in discouraging would be pilots (and their spouses who have zero interest in aviating). Given that, the GI Bill and flight training may be a seminal opportunity to grow new pilots. I’m not certain the GI Bill still covers it, but three decades ago it provided me with the ability to earn my commercial and instrument ratings. And, of course, young people who have the GI Bill are likely targets for the fun and excitement of flying themselves.

  • george

    Your commentary does not take into account the fact that no medical certificate is needed to fly light sport aircraft and the number of individuals doing this is substantilal.
    Personally speaking the FAA’s ruling on medical certificates has caused me to start to fly motorgliders which I love. Because a disqualifying medical condition discovered by an AME is disqualifying for both the light sport aircraft and the standard private pilot’s license it has caused many to not renew and go the LSA route. So the bottom line is that medical certificates issued is not a good way to measure interest in general aviation.

  • Thomas Boyle

    – Yes, we really need to eliminate the medical hassling. LS Pilot has been a great move in that direction, for those of us who don’t fly much and for whom the idea of spending as much time & money on medically unnecessary testing as we do on flying, was rather offputting. If FAA can’t drop the Class 3 medical altogether, how about going back to actually using that limited list of reasons for special issuance, instead of expanding the list of reasons to include practically any checked box on that very extensive form?
    – Extending the driver license medical to bigger, faster aircraft would be a big improvement. For private pilots, even under IFR, or at night, do we really need medicals? Why? Seriously? But AOPA, happily, knows this. (When will we at least see renewed efforts to get driver license Recreational, if not Private privileges?)
    – The LSA regulation (for certification of new aircraft) was a great move too. People are grumbling about how much the new LSAs cost, but there’s a forest of new aircraft designs out there, some of them no more expensive than a midsize luxury car, albeit with modest capability. Sure, some of them cost $150,000 but those are kitted out like small airliners – people are overequipping simple aircraft to use them for serious XC because (very importantly) you can put modern electronics in an LSA without paying $80,000 for the STCs. Which brings me to…
    – LSAs are really limited. 120kt was useful when cars averaged 30mph, but not now. Maybe it’s still useful on the east coast, but in the west the cities are farther apart. 1320 lbs is a nice round number (600kg) but it’s too light. These little planes have good useful load for 2-seaters (500-600 lbs) but they’re built like Coke cans – they just don’t seem that sturdy. 10,000 ft may seem really high when you make regulations in DC, but when you fly in Colorado it’s less than 4,000 AGL – on the flatland. And the wing loading required to meet the no-flap (why no-flap?) stall speeds mean a very rough ride at cruising speed – wing loadings are 40% too low on these little planes, and we have actual turbulence out west.
    – Light aircraft need to be marketed for the FUN and the JOY of it! Lots more photos of people in exotic places enjoying their aircraft. My girlfriend LOVES the idea that we FLY TO LUNCH! We don’t have to go far, it’s just very COOL!
    – AOPA publications put WAY too much focus on accidents. Seriously. Leave it out – you’re scaring the bejeepers out of our potential passengers, new pilots and their significant others. Leave it to the instructors, maybe have a safety reference section on the web site, maybe have emails that go out, but PLEASE stop marketing DANGER and market FUN instead! Whose side is AOPA on, anyway?
    – Much, much less government regulation in general. We should regulate light aircraft like private cars, not like business jets. AOPA tends to focus on trying to increase the amount of government subsidy we get (free ATC, free weather briefings, etc.) but what flying really needs is a lot less hassle. We do need some sensible rules, but could we pleeease reduce the hassle factor? And remember – what the government pays for, it may want us to do less of! We’d be happier getting less from them, if they’d leave us alone more.
    – Why isn’t flight instruction fun? Every flight instructor I’ve ever met, excepting only 2, has reminded me of my first piano teacher, complete with me flinching in expectation of the rap across the knuckles. I’m doing this for fun – could more instructors please communicate the joy of flight, instead of the fear of messing up?

  • David Minderman

    I originally got my PP certificate in 1975 when I was 21. Then I did nothing with it until 3 years ago. I took ground school again and logged another 40 hours of dual and successfuly passed my BFR. I realized that flying got a lot more complicated in the 32 years between flying. Then there was the fear of busting airspace, ramp checks, regualtions, etc. I still had my FAR from 1975, the current FAR is three times thicker. We didn’t have to purchase a AFD every 54 days in 1975 (I don’t think). There are so many more regulations than there were before that flying isn’t as much fun as I remember.

    When I was in third grade, our entire class went across the road to the airport and flew on a Ford Tri-Motor. I was hooked. My friend got his PP certificate and encouraged me to get mine. Now there are no class trips to the airport, and fewer people to to encourage new pilots to start and complete their training. I agree with some of the bloggers that there are too many negative and not enough positive stories in many of the industry rags.

    We, as pilots, must encourage youngsters to embrace general aviation. Where are the toys, the dreams, the stories? 40 years ago, the airport was accessable to all; now it is all locked up. Most people haven’t even SEEN a small plane up close. More open houses and less mystery will go a long way to opening up the industry and hopefully regenerating the interest that once drew me in!

  • Thomas Boyle

    – I should add that I don’t mean to be negative about the new LSA designs. I really think the LSA rule was a great move. It has resulted in a proliferation of new designs, a wave of innovation – both in new aircraft designs and in new instrumentation – that was obviously being held back in the past by certification costs. It has clearly demonstrated the damage being done to aviation by Part 23 certification requirements.
    – The LSAs are also MUCH more appealing to my passengers than the 1970s-era spam cans I can otherwise rent. Granted, a Cirrus or DA-40 would also fill the bill for passenger appeal, but many of us can’t afford to rent those.
    – I only mean to say that the rule is overly-constrictive. It would be nice to see a similar wave of modern designs for larger, faster, more capable aircraft. Instead, we have aircraft that are hobbled (speed-limited versions of) European microlights.
    – One other comment on the medical front – I think the “catch 22″ rule is almost custom-designed to get people to drop their medicals. After all, now there’s a big downside to applying for a medical (you can lose your sport pilot privileges), and that wasn’t the case before (there was nothing to lose). Combine that with the letter-of-the-law enforcement that John Yodice constantly warns us about and it’s almost as if the FAA had deliberately set out to reduce the number of medicals it has to sign off on. If so, the sensible thing would be to expand the privileges of the driver license medical…

  • Boogie

    I got my PP in 1987. Since then I have added the instrument ticket, commercial, and multi. I love to fly, but the above comments summarize my frustrations. Thank God for the AOPA. Although I believe our wannabee socialist government will eventually regulate us out of existence (like Europe), the AOPA is delaying it as long as possible. I hate to be a pessimist, but the class-envy of the general public and the media like USSA Today (extra S intended) acts like we “little weekend warriors” have no business flying. That right is only reserved for law enforcement, military, and airlines. They don’t realize most pilots drive beater cars and live in slum houses to afford a plane that typically costs less than a new ‘Vette.

    Add to that the “guilty until proven innocent” IRS-like mentality of the FAA and the post-911 treatment of us like terrorists, it has almost become more trouble than it’s worth. Did the trucking industry get regulated after the Oklahoma City bombing? To be fair, they should have. You should, by rights, have to fill out a bushel-basket full of paperwork to rent a Ryder truck (transponder-equipped, of course). I hate to be so grouchy and hope you guys can provide some encouragement, but the dollar-to-fun ratio is getting better with the Harley than the airplane. I thank God for my health, but if it ever goes, I will not jump through the hoops. I just wish we would regulate the screwballs on the road half as much, since many of them endanger society. Imagine if we had the “have pulse, get medical” mentality. USSA Today would be cover-to-cover outrage.

    Another thing I have noticed in the last ten years is that if you don’t burn kerosene, you are not important. This applies from fueling-up to getting an annual. The annual means it happens once a year, not that it takes a year. I know, I can go elsewhere, but anywhere you compete with the kerosene-burners, it seems to be the same story. “We gotta get that Citation done. Sorry we’re two weeks late on your bug-smasher.”

    Since this has been so negative, I would like to end on a positive note. The LSA movement was a wonderful idea, and I hope it takes off (sorry). Despite all of the complaints about flight instructors, I have not seen much of that. Yes, most are doing it to build hours, but I have found nearly all of them to be professional, courteous, and enthusiastic. Anyone that endures rough landings in a hot, sweaty, noisy environment for 5-10 years deserves the big bucks . Of course, after paying their dues, they usually start at $15K in a CRJ.

    This is why GA is dying, I believe. I hope we can solve it. I appreciate AOPA working with gov’t, but I think this is all by design by our gov’t. A neighbor bitches about the noise (at the airport that was there 50 years before he was) to a politician, and here’s their chance. Sen Ben Nighthorse-Campell was once quoted as saying that politicians sit around in a dark room and dream up ways to ruin people’s lives. Too much freedom, you know, for a peasant.

  • Keith B.

    I went to an airshow today, and unfortunately, most people were over 50! Granted there were some kids and their parents, but I saw almost no teenagers or twenties demographics. I feel like airshows are becoming a thing of the past… and to be honest, I got bored. Look at how much action and special effects the movies these days have to have to keep our attention! Airshows as we know them just don’t instill much excitement in the younger generation.

    Check out the Red Bull Air Races and it’s a high-octane, action-packed, short 2 hour event. Look at the spectators and you’ll see a lot of young, single people in their teens, twenties, and thirties! These are the people with some disposable income we need to inspire!

    I don’t have the answers, but I feel the image of GA needs to change from “good ol boys club” to something more exciting if we want to attract new pilots.

    Just watch a waverunner or speed-boat commercial. If that’s the competition, then we need to study their marketing.

  • Bart Robinett

    I never gave much thought to it actually, I always wanted to fly. I got my private license in 1971 and have kept it active since then upgraded to to Commercial multiengine instrument. I made it happen, made the time and made the money. I couldn’t have everything I wanted, so I made a choice, I chose to fly, I still do. I put two kids through college, without loans, grants or scholarships, and cut back my flying when I needed to and when money was tight. I learned to do most of my own maintenance, because it’s the only way I could afford to keep the airplane in the shape I want it in.

    I use my airplane a little for business, but own it personally, and almost exclusively for travel. I don’t count the cost, I fly because I love to fly, not because it’s cheaper than buying ticket or driving. If I have to I wait for weather, or leave early, happens sometimes, but not all that often and I make about 10 round trips a year over 800 NM.

    Whining about how much it costs, or how difficult it is to get or keep the rating just means they really don’t want to do it anyway, unless it doesn’t cost too much or doesn’t take too much time. Whiners and tightwads never get what they want out of life.

  • Luis R. Urbina

    I am a student pilot, and for pleasure or business, fly commercially quite often. When I was 12 years old, I was allowed in the cockpit for takeoff, in a commercial flight out of Lima, Peru. The experience left in me an intense desire to fly.

    Grown up now, I am a physician, and a few years ago, en route to London from JFK, I had to assist in the care of a sick passenger, and was allowed in the cockpit over the Atlantic, in order to communicate with the medical team awaiting the patient. It was an awesome experience. I often wish I would be allowed in the cockpit for the duration of the flight, as an observer, with headset and everything.

    In this post-911 world, access to the cockpit is understandably restricted, but I was wondering if AOPA could coordinate some mechanism with the FAA, the Dept of Homeland Security or whatever the appropriate federal agency might be, so that children and student pilots could, on occasion and with special clearence, fly in the cockpit.

    Such experience would result, I believe, in many aviation enthusiasts in the future.

  • Sean Walsh

    I’m 29 years old and never finished flight school. I started in 2006 and in 2007 my flight bag including my logbook was stolen out of my car. Since I had gone through 4 flight instructors at that point, it was a terrible ordeal to get my logbook recreated. That put a huge dampener on my enthusiasm for the whole thing.

    I flew about 6 more times with a new instructor but then life got in the way of finishing. By the way, one of the more frustrating things was having to redo everything with a new instructor at the same flight school. I’d have to spend basically $600 to show them the basics again instead of continuing where I left off. I ran out of money on my line of credit and I started making excuses, the flight school was an hour away, I should spend time with my girlfriend, etc.

    My father and uncle are a pilots and brought our family’s Cherokee to Frederick (its usually up north) and offered to pay for gas if I’d finish my PP, I only had to pay for the instructor’s time but I live in Arlington, VA and that meant I’d have to drive an hour and a half to get up there, which basically ruled out flying except for the weekends.

    I still want to finish but I feel to do so and maximum my $$$, I’d have to take a week off from work to cram it all in. Then I feel like a PP isn’t that useful for travelling unless an instrument rating is attached, which means another 40 hours. There should be an easier way to go for PP with instrument rating.

    To add insult to injury, for instance if I wanted to fly to the east coast, it would take forever because of the time it takes to travel around the ADIZ/SFRA. I’m terrified of busting the ADIZ/SFRA because of all the stories about being intercepted, arrested and questioned.

    One other thing, the prices of new aircraft are ridiculous. A Piper Cub knock off can cost over $100k? I can buy a finely engineered sports car, that pushes 400 hp, and still have money left over for a downpayment on a house for that price. I’m paying $100k for an ancient aircraft design, that has minimal instruments driven by aircooled inline 4 cylinder engine? Aircraft piston engines are basically 50 year old designs, why do they still cost the price of a new compact car?

    Saying folks just aren’t passionate enough because they say they can’t afford it or it takes too much time doesn’t solve anything. If a large number of folks are complaining about those things, its indicative of systemic problems.

  • Dan Casper

    I agree with most of what’s been said above, and I do hope that, one way or another, GA will be able to thrive well into the future. That said, I have a few poorly-organized thoughts on the matter…

    1) I think we should stop making comparisons with the pilot population of the 1970s-80s. Those years coincided with the coming-of-age of the baby boom generation…so is it really that surprising that there’s a big bulge in the curve? Seems to me that benchmarking off the bubble is a little like judging future real estate price increases in comparison with the years 2000 – 2006.

    2) Flying can be great, but let’s be honest: It can also get kinda boring unless you’re really making an effort to get out and do something other than “bore holes.” (see other posts above). There’s a reason, apart from cost, why a lot of people get excited about it for a year or two, then drop out…and then maybe come back…and then eventually drop out for good. If it’s semi-boring, and expensive, and a little dangerous to boot, well…

    3) Unlike someone in 1975, I can–for minimal outlay–buy a very impressive PC flight simulator that may not give me all the physical sensations of flight, but WILL give me a fair percentage of the excitement, with none of the risk. Given what it costs to pay for an hour of flying these days, that starts to look like a pretty attractive alternative.

    4) I agree with some of the folks above that we don’t emphasize the “fun” aspect enough. Read a motorcycle magazine sometime, then turn around and read AOPA Pilot…and I think you’ll see what I mean.

    5) Going along the above: Is the latest Garmin G5000 super black box for your panel all that exciting? I love technology, but I just don’t understand the fascination. Say what you will, but I think this seeming obsession with panel gadgetry is leading us away from what aviation should be about–flying–and probably breeding a generation of less-safe pilots in the process. But I digress…

    6) Why, exactly, should I care about the wonderful new Citation MCCXVII (5% more useful load!) from Cessna?

    7) The point’s been made already, but for the average person, the supposed utility of flying (you know: loading up the family for an impromptu weekend in the mountains) is essentially a myth. I don’t think we do ourselves any favors by peddling it.

    8) Finally, AOPA…are you sure you’re on the right path? In addition to the points other have made, is it really the best use of resources to put together a huge “summit” for the relatively few members who either happen to live in Florida or who can afford to (and actually care enough to) make the trek? Is it really doing anything meaningful for the cause? How many more employees could you have dealing with member issues (and I mean really working them–not just going with the FAA/TSA/DHS flow) if you didn’t have to “feed” that beast? For that matter, can you look at me with a straight face and tell me that purchasing a Caravan was a wise use of member dues? At a time when you’re asking for donations? Maybe I’m missing the big picture, but it’s not really working for me…

    I don’t mean to be entirely doom-and-gloom. I think that things can change for the better, and I think it’d be a mistake to give up trying. But I think we’re fighting bigger trends, here. I think that improvement is likely to be incremental at best, and I suspect that even our best efforts will probably do little more than ease the long-term decline. And I know that sounds negative, but I don’t think we do ourselves any favors by sitting around blowing sunshine up one another’s…you know. Because the “good ol’ days” probably ain’t coming back. And frankly–unless something really dramatic and unexpected happens (a possibility that shouldn’t be discounted)–we should probably start to take seriously the idea that lower-end private aviation will continue its decline, and start thinking about ways to make the the best it can be, at a sustainable level.

  • Marc

    Cost. Cost. Cost. Nothing else as big as cost.

    I’m a young (23) pilot who just wants to fly for pleasure. I’m happy to jump through hoops and regulation, there’s just as much in medical bills. But the costs of a new plane or of rentals is just astronomical.

  • Dave

    Although they are all valid points, I’m going to focus on just two, cost and the perception of danger. Let me emphasize up front that I’m only talking about personal, not professional, aviation.

    First, it’s the cost, not the “value”. Speaking of “value” is delusional, implying that high costs can be overcome by high benefits. That works for businesses but not for personal use. Beyond a certain price, “value” is meaningless. Consider that computer you’re sitting in front of right now. How much faster would it have to be to make it a good value to you at a price of $100,000? For most people the answer is self-evident, no computer could be fast enough to be worth that much. At that price, personal computers would be a very small market, just as personal aviation is at the current price, no matter how great the value.

    And it’s not just the purchase price; the running costs are too high as well. Between hangar rent, insurance, annuals, currency and navigation subscriptions, the fixed costs of owning a plane are prohibitive. That’s OK for a business that can spread those fixed costs over many hours per year but for personal aviation it’s a deal killer.

    Second, it’s scary. That’s your fault, Bruce, you in the media. As someone pointed out, you can read months worth of magazines about cars, boats, motorcycles etc. and never see mention of anyone dying in an accident, but AOPA Pilot and other aviation magazines bring it up in every single issue. All we hear about is risk; risk to our lives, risk of getting sued, risk of FAA enforcement, and on and on. If the good guys ever win enforcement actions, John Yodice never mentions it. The magazines that should be our best recruitment tool instead need to be kept out of the hands of non-pilots, especially spouses. Just yesterday I read advice that to buttress our inadequate liability insurance we should have passengers sign a disclaimer of risk before every flight (AND it should be a different form for every state we fly over, custom-written by a lawyer because standard forms aren’t adequate). My car doesn’t have nearly the insurance coverage of my plane, but nobody would dream of suggesting something like that for every passenger in privately owned cars, motor homes or boats. Of course people think flying is more dangerous than anything else, because we talk about how dangerous it is more than anyone else.

    This constant focus on risk management is inherited from the military and airlines and for them it works well, for the simple reason that THEIR PILOTS GET PAID, in money, pride, status, esprit, etc so they are motivated to keep going in spite of a constant, depressing drumbeat of negativity. Personal aviation doesn’t have that external motivation so if you take the fun out of it, people stop doing it.

    Moreover, it’s not clear that this harping on risk, that scares everyone away, does any good. Yes, flying is safer than it used to be, but so is driving, and there’s no monthly accident analysis column in Car & Driver. If constantly scaring ourselves to death only gets us the same improvement in safety as in other hobbies, hobbies where they’re allowed and even encouraged to focus on fun rather than danger, why don’t we stop doing this to ourselves? Or rather, why don’t you stop doing it to us, Bruce?

    The root cause of all these issues is the FAA. Their thicket of paperwork keeps airplanes expensive, slows innovation (so maintenance-intensive designs don’t get replaced) and encourages training that discourages pilots. It’s all in the name of safety, which is of course a noble cause. But ask yourself, how far down would personal aviation – not including professional aviation and the training pipeline that feeds it but personal aviation alone – how far down would personal aviation have to shrink before some office of the federal government saw it as their problem, and what office would that be? What office has preserving or growing personal aviation as part of its mission statement? To my knowledge, there is no such office. Unless that changes, we are fated to be squeezed to death.

  • Brian

    I think that flying for real transportation takes a combination of skill/dedication and money that realistically very few people have. Many (in comparison to the number of pilots) have the money. Some have the need (an actual travel mission that justifies an airplane). And professional pilots and dedicated amateurs have the skills. Unfortunately, the number of people that actually fall in all 3 groups is tiny.

    On the other hand a lot of people (like me) enjoy, or would like to, flying just for fun with no mission at all and the occasional impractical transportation. Just like motorcycles, boats, etc. And realistically, the stick and rudder skills required for this type of flying are just not that hard to learn. Of course like those other hobbies if you chose you can spend a life time honing your skills.

    However the whole industry seems biased away from fun flying. Renting a plane for fun is an enormous hassle (book too far ahead, can’t take it for a day etc). Ownership is possible, but the biggest fear that keeps me out of it is the cost. And not really the cost to buy, it’s the fact that the costs are there, and significant, every month whether you fly at all. The motorcycle, skis, boat etc can sit around for essentially free if you get too busy, short on cash, etc. Airplane, not so much.

    The ‘system’, as well is very biased toward the professional pilots. Everything from rules to the weather, to tfrs, notams. Like a poster above mentioned, I worry far more about fake problems (being busted for some regulation on a technicality) than on real problems. When I was training for my instrument rating we planned a x-country to an airport. There was a notam, abbrieviated. I didn’t know what it was (what the abbrieviation meant). So I asked the instructor (retired airline). He didn’t know. So we asked every instructor at the flight school. No one knew. So we called the airport manager. He didn’t know, didn’t really care, and couldn’t find anyone who did. I’ve gotten duats for a local flight (50 mile radius) that spit out pages of warnings for thunderstorms 2000 miles away, airspace changes 500 miles away, etc.

    On the cover of my 2010 FAR/AIM it says it contains “Rules and Procedures for General Aviation, Sport Pilots, and Instructors” and inside it boldly states that it “contains the fundamentals required in order to fly in the United States NAS”. But, then I come across helpful information like this “LORAN transmitter stations…have tower heights ranging from 700 to 1350 feet tall and transmit from 400 to 1,600 kilowatts of peak signal power.” Exactly how is that fundamental to flying? And it’s full of helpful “information” like that. So much so that it’s unreadable. The information that really is fundamental to flying is buried under a deluge of useless trivia. Just like the written tests. The pilot information manual for an integrated glass system is 1000 pages. That’s not a typo. How many people do you think have actually read that, cover to cover?

    The regulations/liability need to be overhauled somehow because really as other posters have pointed out if you can’t own an airplane, the fun of flying diminishes pretty quickly. In some ways I think the popularity of homebuilts has been a double edged sword, because it keeps away from that sector any manufacturer, who can’t possibly compete (due to certification + liability). On the other hand the idea of a homebuilt airplane is just never going to be popular for the masses and probably rightfully so, because the safety record is pretty bad. I’m not categorically against homebuilts but that is the reality. The LSA addresses this in a way but the category is pretty limited as other posters have already mentioned. As many have said, the weight needs to be raised but it’s not just for the useful load, the reality of airplanes is that weight and cost are very closely related. Virtually every weight saving technique adds cost.

    I think if AOPA wants to revitalize GA, the number one thing is to carve out a space for recreational flying. Think about the guy that wants to fly an lsa off a grass strip somewhere in middle america on a warm summer afternoon. Assume he’s going to do everything by the book, exactly the official FAA way. Anything about the current ‘system’ that would be difficult, confusing, or impossible to that guy, needs to be fixed.

    One last thought is that I have met and know a lot of people that like airplanes. I would say for every actively flying pilot there are minimum 5 people that have licenses and don’t fly and another 5 that took some lessons and then ran out of time/money/desire etc. These are people under 40 for the most part, they gave up I assume for pain vs reward reasons. It wasn’t for medical or age reasons.

  • Brian

    Dave posted above while I was typing and I think we’re headed to the same point from different directions so I’ll add one more thing, going back to the certification requirements.

    Why do (private, recreational) airplanes have to meet the safety standards they do? Show me a motorcycle, boat or even a car that could pass a part 23 FMEA / SSA (failure modes and effects / system safety analysis). And yet they are safer!

    As Dave mentions this culture is designed for and inherited from the airlines and military. And while it mostly makes sense there, it makes no sense for private flying. Because they can (almost) take the human element out through culture, training, standardization, and processes. Private flying can’t do that.

    It’s a different reality that calls for a different approach. Instead we’re saddled with a regulatory environment that doesn’t even remotely fit. For fun flying to thrive, that has to change.

  • http://ffgret@aol.com Fred Goldman

    Everyone talks about the high cost of flying. A partner cuts the cost in half. That makes it acceptable. Everything is half price. I like that. Since we do less flying because of the expense, there is room for three partners or even four. Lots of guys that have gotten out of individual ownership are looking for a partnership situation. I am happy with mine. It would not be practical for me to own my airplane outright. I falso found a total lack of cooperation from airplane dealers and manufacturers with regard to helping me find a partner. I think that is where they should be spending all their time, putting together groups of guys to buy and fly.
    Another things comes to mind. A few years ago when money was plentiful, lots of young guys were buying motor boats and racing around without the understanding and consideration of the older boating community. Would you really want those guys up in the air with you? Maybe many of the young people today shouldn’t be flying.

  • Diana

    Money. And maybe that is intentional to keep it a more elite group. But that could be working against the industry now.
    I’m a new sport pilot and former skydiver. I love being in the air.
    I wish I could be in the air 50 hours a week. I’m retired with a gov pension and no bills, it should be easy. But renting at $125 and hour or going into debt to the tune of $100,000 plus for a LSA is insane.
    The liability is also a big concern. I carry renters insurance, but if a friend wants to go up…will it ever be enough?
    There have to be less expensive planes, less restrictions for sport pilots.
    But continue the education requirements. Safe is smart and good for everybody.
    GA needs to attract more women pilots and more flying clubs…start a nation wide flying club….something please.

  • Jim McSherry

    Among the 74 preceding comments I have seen a few common themes:
    1) the high cost of flying
    2) some version of medical obstacle
    3) various government complaints
    4) a need for the “pizazz” ingredient

    There are a few ways to deal with the cost. For some, it is not a major consideration – good for you, but now for those of us without a trust fund:
    A) Flying clubs are wonderful, and most sizable airports have at least one
    B) partnerships are (in my mind) even better. I bought a share in a C-182 for about $5K, and spend around $750 a year for my share of the costs. That’s a lot less than what many friends spend on golf. And I spent more on each of three motorcycles over the years.
    C) inexpensive older planes are less prestigious, but less costly. One friend has a 60’s vintage Cherokee that he used to earn his instrument rating. Cost less than a recent-model BMW, and gets him all around the northeast US
    C) Get your glider rating! My glider club trains about five new pilots a year, in newer, composite, high-performance sailplanes. A $20 tow can get you aloft for an hour of soaring – – or five hours, if you are good.

    Medical requirements are a good thing, in my view. But Sport pilots, balloons and glider pilots fly without them, so if that’s your obstacle, work around it. Kwitcher-bitchin and do something to make it better.

    The hoary old FAA is not the best friend G.A. has in the world. But the regs are not that onerous. Yes, the FAR/AIM looks imposing; but so would the DMV code. No one tries to *read* either one; we learn what rules apply to us, and follow them. Some good manners and common sense will keep you from needing that NASA form that we all carry around. I feel for the guy who got stung going to OSH, but I wish he’d had the AOPA Legal Service at his side. I am sure I have accidentally transgressed one or two FARs in fifteen years of flying; but no harm has come of it,and I don’t see that changing. I have only filed one NASA form, but keep one handy in case.

    What I want to see is an aviation version of NCIS or CSI – – a snazzy TV show that uses aircraft in some manner that teenagers or college age kids can appreciate. It would do for G. A. what those shows have done for the glamour of science learning over the past five years. I have seen much more interest in science among youngsters since those shows came on (I teach those courses). And let’s have a show of hands: how many (over age 55) were inspired by Sky King shows as a kid?
    Who can pitch a (ahem) pilot program to a studio about this agency who can get to the scene and do the job, because they use Cessnas instead of Chevys? Or should it be that the office manager finds herself in a different branch each episode as she flies around the country for her business?

    It also would not hurt if AOPA dedicated some budget to getting out press releases for every Angel Flight or Corporate Angel mission in the country for a month. A little awareness can go along way.

  • Larry Bierwirth

    Privately, I have told some friends that if they really wanted to fly, there was a way to do it pretty cheaply. I suggested that they begin flying lessons with the goal of solo flight as a student. That way, they could experience the thrill of walking out onto the tarmac, firing up an airplane, taxiing out onto the runway, taking off on their own, and flying over to the practice area for some maneuvering work. I’m not sure if encouraging this approach would be viable for an organization like AOPA. But, one could certainly reason that it might create some pilots that would otherwise not commit to the full flight training program.

  • Becky Ikehara

    I always wanted to fly, so almost 15 years ago, when I was in my forties, I started taking lessons at a small non-towered airport near my home. To make a long story short, it took me 6 instructors, hundreds of hours, and probably thousands of dollars, but I finally got my PPL in 2002. If I hadn’t been really motivated, I know I would have given up. I now own a 1970 Cessna 150, which I bought for $14,000, but over the years, I’ve spent tens of thousands of dollars on maintenance. Since I don’t fly many hours per year, my costs per hour are extremely high, with tie-down, insurance, annuals, and avgas. I wanted to fly because I wanted to go places, but I’ve found it difficult to do that. There’s always the weather (I live in the Northeast); the airport is an hour’s drive away; and as soon as I arrive somewhere, I have to rent a car to get anywhere at all. I am also a rabid environmentalist (and vegetarian) now, and the $100 hamburger is not something I feel comfortable doing anymore. So I’m now in a downward spiral: since I don’t fly much, I don’t trust that my skills are sharp enough, so I become afraid to fly, and then I fly even fewer hours. At the moment, I am considering giving up flying, and I still can’t believe I even said that. What to do? I’m not sure. It’s become a perfect storm for me: high cost, little time, aging aircraft, personal health issues, limited utility.

  • Jay

    I have to put in my 2 cents. I’m seeing a lot of bitching and moaning about the state of regulatory agencies and public perceptions of GA, and blaming those for the state of pilot training today. I have to disagree with that conclusion.

    We engage in a high-profile activity. Elderly driver crashing and killing a whole family might make the back page in the New York Times. A bus crash killing 20 people might make the second page. Mid-air collision between two GA aircraft? That makes the frontpage and CNN Headline News to boot.

    Society is this way not because of he FAA, TSA or any other government organization. The person to blame is the one looking at you in the mirror–WE are the ones who demand that people in high-profile positions be held to a higher standard. It’s human nature, of course. The FAA and TSA exist because WE as a society demanded they exist.

    Lest anyone attempt to deny this, consider what kind of standard you would hold your doctor to? Or your priest? Or your children’s teachers? The architect who designed the building you work in? The director of FEMA?

    Consider your doctor. Most states require disclosure of any settled malpractice cases that did not go to trial, e.g. it doesn’t matter if they were not found guilty, it is still discoverable. Is this fair? of course not. Why does it happen? Because WE want our doctors to be under more scrutiny and to be more accountable.

    Think we’re under the microscope having a pilot certificate? Of course we are, and that is probably the way it should be.

  • http://shepilot.com Andrew Hartley

    I know that I would be more likely to fly regularly if I could do so in many different locations – i.e. I go to visit my father-in-law with my family, but if we want to fly while we are there (assuming we didn’t fly there in the first place), I have to go get checked out with a local flight instructor for an hour or two, then we can go tool around for awhile or actually go somewhere.

    The cost/benefit there is WAY out of whack… if there was a nationally-certifying check out by aircraft type or something that insurances and FBOs would recognize and accept, then I could go and flash that card, they could confirm my identity, and we could go flying without the local checkout – MUCH more likely that I would do so in this scenario… two hours of checkout for one hour of flying with who I really want to fly with (i.e. not an instructor) is just out of balance, in my opinion.

    Money will always be an issue, and the reason is that wages haven’t increased as quickly as inflation… but also because people make choices. People SAY that they would love to learn to fly, but they buy a widescreen TV and get spinners on their car’s wheels instead of saving the money to go learn to fly. People SAY they want to be in shape, but they still eat fast food for lunch every day and watch TV instead of going to the gym. It’s the same old story, different backdrop.

    Solutions? GET IN FRONT OF PEOPLE! Where do people go to have fun? How about amusement parks? I would think that many roller-coaster riders would relish the idea of loops and rolls not connected to a track… perhaps ads and videos of aerobatics and air races while these people wait two hours at a time for less than 5 minutes of thrill? How about flight lessons excursions on cruise ships? Here’s where people spend money to have fun, because they’re on vacation! I drove my rented scooter past the Nassau airport – right past the GA buildings – and thought how much I would rather see the bahamas from the air instead of on the scooter. It was fun, but it was NOT flying.

  • Kevin

    Hello Bruce. The median household income in the city where I live is $39,589.00, which is about $500.00 above the national median household income. Median annual gross rent here is $7,776.00, annual food expenses are $5542.00, annual transportation expenses are $7918.00, utilities and household supplies are $6334.00, health care costs average $2373.00, and annual clothing and educational expenses consume an additional $2375.00 each year.

    Flight training in this area is $157.00/hr and ground training is $48.00/hr. Assuming a resident in this area pursues a Class 3 certificate and requires 60 flight hours + 40 ground hours to pass the check ride, the cost for the certificate will be at least $11,340.00, which is attainable within two years. Granted, flight training is not cheap, but it is attainable if the desire is there and if other discretionary expenses are controlled and/or eliminated.

    Still, given the median income above, what does a Class 3 certificate buy you? While the license to fly may be affordable, the opportunity to fly is not. The major issue in GA today is still cost. Airplane rentals are prohibitively expensive for anything except quick jaunts to maintain your rating. Private ownership is extremely expensive with even LSA purchase costs exceeding $100,000.00, hangar rents approaching $5,000.00 (if you can find one), thousands of dollars in state property taxes, thousands more for insurance, $$$ for annual inspections, maintenance, etc., etc. This is a quantum shift from the heydays in the 1960’s when airplane rentals could be had for the average hourly wage and new four seat airplanes could be purchased for about twice the price of the average new car. The point is a person with average median income today cannot afford to pursue GA as a lifestyle.

    LSA’s are definitely a step in the right direction, but their scope is still too limited and a significant portion of their costs (like larger 4 passenger GA aircraft) are tied to certification/liability issues. I agree with Don Olandese and Roger Bailey that the driver’s license medical for private pilots should be extended to include larger (and slightly faster) aircraft like the Cessna 140, 150, 152, 172, 177, older Grummans, as well as many Pipers, for example. Relaxation of certification and maintenance requirements for non-commercial-use aircraft up to 4-place (non-complex) would open doors for a multitude of individuals that love GA but are unable to pursue their dreams because of monetary constraints.

    The bottom line is if we make aircraft more affordable and lower entry barriers to GA, we’ll see a larger number of young people interested in becoming pilots, and older pilots will maintain their ratings and keep flying. The future of general aviation depends on it.

  • Bill Fusselman

    Why are we losing pilots and not getting new ones? I have read most of the comments posted to date and the comments are right on target: Expense, over-regulation, not appealing to today’s young people, impractical for serious transportation given the aging and less reliable used airplanes most people can afford to buy. That is if they still have a job in this economy!

    But most significant, I believe, is that the FAA is a cancer preying on it’s host until it kills it. Then, the cancer (FAA) will die also (or be significantly budget cut).

    I am 68 years old, retired, and have put almost $70,000 into my 36-year old airplane which I have owned for less than three years. If I have to sell it because the FAA revokes my Medical Certificate, I will lose about $35,000 trying to sell my airplane in today’s market. So, every two years, I live in fear that the great, powerful FAA will end my flying with either a denial of my Medical Certificate or an enforcement action of some type. And this is supposed to be fun??

    Buy an LSA you say? Did you ever try to get into one? At 68 years old, I’m still very agile, but my wife and my other prospective passengers aren’t. They can barely get into and out of my Grumman Traveler. And besides, after I lose $35,000 trying to sell my 150 HP Grumman, which flies at about 120KTS but can’t qualify for the LSA rules, I simply don’t have enough money left to purchase an LSA which are priced over 80,000 for a basic airframe. So, at that time, I’ll be another AOPA Dropout! Just what are those idiots in the FAA and in Washington doing to this industry? Their rules are insane, their enforcements heavy-handed, and they are biting the hand that feeds them!

    Here’s another tip for you at AOPA. The Airport Authority in Bay County/Panama City, Florida is building a new $330Million airport ten miles to the Northwest of the present airport. General aviation is being almost totally ignored. My FBO still hasn’t received any tangible information from the airport authority as to whether he will be in business at the new airport. I have my airplane in a rented hangar with this FBO. The airport is supposed to open next May for “Airline Service.” AOPA needs to look into why general aviation is being ignored here. We are truly second-class citizens in the aviation world of today, but they like our tax money!

    Insofar as today’s young people go, future pilots most of them are not! They aren’t interested is spending $80,000 to $100,000 to get qualified for a $25,000 commuter airline job which they might have for a year or two until the company lays them off or goes into bankruptcy. Furthermore, at least where I live, the training airplanes are old, tired Cessna 172’s with minimal equipment and no cockpit standardization, right down to the old, tired avionics. Yes, I see the dream machines shown in AOPA, but they aren’t for the average new pilot. Around here, the local flight school lives month-to-month, pushing the tired old Cessna 172 toward the end of it’s useful life. I’ll bet that’s the reality of a lot of airports. It’s a depressing picture to show young prospective pilots.

  • Thomas Jefferson

    Personal flight is the final, dying gasp of freedom in America.

  • http://jrlong@americanoak.net Jim Long

    Hold ATP with seaplane rating. Started flying in 60’s. 18years on County Airport Authority Board in northern Indiana
    Was fortunate to have father as flyer and a grass strip behind my house with the busness locals from small town keeping planes at our farm stip.
    Attained ratings from a uncle who flew for major airline.
    Have had Aeronica Champ, Cessna 172, Cessna 210 and now a Citabria.
    COST, COST, COST. Today the cost of owning and maintaining an aircraft is totally out of wack. Annuals, insurance, storage, fuel and keeping up with the AD’s. Cost of training is considerable to say the least. Keeping your medical is a challenge. Probably a third of the aircraft based at our county airport our out of annual or have AD issues the owners are unable to afford. Our fuel sales have been on a steady decline for three years and we have had the lowest prices in Northern Indiana.
    Have used aircraft for business and must justify the cost of flying self vs airline. Used aircraft for sales trip to major retailer in Bentonville, AR and the cost of flying vs airlines is double for flying myself. Hard to justify to company and accountants.
    Thought the LSA might be answer but the initial cost is much higher than many can afford. Only redeeming factor is can do much more maintainence yourself.
    Somehow the cost of owing and or renting an airplane must come down. Even the new Cessna “Made in China” (Wichita is dying) is way overpriced.
    Don’t have answers but it’s a hard sell to get the youth envolved. Tried to get the local school to bring students interested in flying to my grass strip but due to insurance and possible suits could not happen.
    Questionable future for GA but hopeful cost will level and or decline a bit.

  • http://www.goodonlinemarriagecounselling.blogspot.com Pierre Stendeback

    You should know that this is one of my fav articles.

  • http://leadingedgeaerial.com Kevin Berger

    I am nuts about airplanes and love to introduce people to general aviation. My goal is to work with flight schools to improve their marketing and business processes in order to attract more students.

    I am not flush with extra cash, nor do I have a surplus of time. I was bitten by the aviation bug at a young age, though, and nothing was to stand between me and my license. My monthly budget for flight is meager ($160), but it keeps me in the air and it usually gets me to a greasy breakfast.

    In the comments following this article, there are a lot of “causes” addressed. What are the solutions? What can we do to address the problem? If over-regulation causes inordinate security restrictions, high gas prices, and expensive maintenance, what is left for us to do?

    We can:

    * Take friends and their children for flights
    * Build friendly flight schools
    * Talk to everyone about flying and its benefits
    * Refer interested friends to quality flight schools

    The more people we hook with the flying bug, the more pilots there will be. The more pilots there are, the louder the GA voice. The louder the GA voice, the greater power we have in regulation. The larger the demand for affordable aircraft, the more motivation and ability for manufacturers to build lower cost aircraft.

    I will not wait for the government to solve our problems. Let’s be proactive! Let’s turn the tide!

  • Curtis P Heimberg

    Hi,
    All these posts, cite expenses, difficulties in passing the requirements, the government and medicals as the reasons for declining general aviation medicals. One or more cited the LSA ruling of not needing a medical, except the state government issued drivers license as a reason.

    These are all accurate, it seems. Yes a plane that should cost 30,000 american dollars like a pick-up truck does, is just government abuse. Yes, the use of medical licensing, to predict ahead of time when a person is going to have a medical issue causing an accident is absurd even in the non aviation world.

    The real issue here seems to be ‘Opinion’ has a higher value than ‘Fact’. For instance the last time I looked into the medical certificate reasoning, I could find none that was based on fact. Neither the EAA, nor an opinion by the AOPA could find any valid factual reasoning behind the medical, yet it persists till today. Nor could I find any real factual needs, justifying the cost for a Cessna 172, new, of 200,000 dollars. A Chevy pickup truck, it’s automobile equivalent to me, costs much less.

    Please, this is an easy issue, it just requires the government to leave data found from experiments, to rule over opinions of theirs or others.

    Is the point of government is to promote government unless there is a large enough public outcry? Is the plight of Aviation, just a civil rights issue disguised by the government as promoting aviation? Does anyone have any provable facts to support the general political restrictions in aviation? Why does getting a pilots license seem like working for the Federal Government? Why is every law that is egregious to aviation allowed the force of law, merely by opinion? Why was Bob Hoover and others attacked by opinion?

    The solution is also legal. Stop the rediculous law suits. Make it impossible, to sue over opinion such as found in this illustrative dialogue.:

    “Well if a phoshphorous alloy aluminum were used on the wing supports or stainless steel, then my aluminum wing support would not have corroded. My plane was in a high humidity environment. They should have anticipated my needs. Give me one hundred million dollars. That will make it all better. You are negligent. I don’t care that your plane was designed and constructed in the middle of the desert. I don’t care that you never saw this in your planes. I don’t care that none of your planes ever showed this corrosion even till today in your location. I was scared. My wing fell off. It’s your fault. Pay up. This will make everything better for everyone in aviation because I have your money.”

    Turn this into: No one ever can or will be ever, able to anticipate all the possible ways for things to go wrong in anything. Flying has certain risks not associated with boating, driving, or even swimming. When the unknown even is consistent with the risks of the even there is no harm. It is an merely and accident. When the the result of your actions contributes to the incident, the incident is mitigated or relieved in total, except in notifications to others. Wear, aging, and unforseen uses are typical reasons to free a manufacturer and the designer of a ‘supposed flaw’ in their design or construction, resulting in a charge of negligence or liability.

    Well, the general issue for me is regulators, politicians, lawyers and opinion mongers are presently hurting the industry. This is happening whether they are Hooverizing the industry, the planes, or the individuals in the industry.

    That is roughly all for today.

    Curtis P…. Heimberg

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