Why Pilots and Planes Will Become Obsolete In The Near Future . . . And What We Can Do About It (Part 2)

April 2nd, 2014 by John Petersen

Within the context of rapidly accelerating breakthroughs (and the erosion of the legacy systems) a number of trends have established themselves that will have direct impact on the future of GA. In addition to technological changes, which we covered last month here, the following weak signals or early indicators are harbingers of what are sure to become larger, converging forces that will usher in a new era in aviation.

Economics
The economics of GA are rapidly shifting – toward China. Many well-known brands (Cirrus, Glastar, Continental et. al.) are already owned by Chinese companies and almost every jet manufacturer is doing some kind of joint venture with Chinese manufacturers and sales organizations. Many of these companies are owned by the government of China and as they gather the knowledge and intellectual property associated with building and selling GA aircraft the manufacturing will move away from the more expensive U.S. base and the ability of American companies to compete will rapidly decrease. The present industry is moving offshore.

Government
The unprecedented initiatives by the U.S. government to counter “terrorism” in the last decade are cutting off the natural ways in which young people historically became interested in and familiar with aviation. The fences around almost all airports guarantee that no youngsters can sit on the grass watching touch-and-goes or wander or into a hangar and strike up a relationship with an airplane owner. This is effectively cutting off one of the largest historical sources of pilots and eliminating the possible budding interest in aviation that the present community has been based upon.

Social
At the same time, social culture is changing and flying an airplane is not as interesting and exciting as it was to earlier generations. Time magazine, for example, has claimed that social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter have replaced the car culture of the past, allowing teens to connect with each other without needing a car. The same could be said for the perceived value of an aircraft.

There are a number of other contributing forces, but you get the idea. Big change is in the works that is going to reconfigure how airplanes work and the relationship of pilots to them. It is inevitable.

What to do
We’re essentially behind the power curve. Increased efforts to revive the familiar past will necessarily fail as the embedded driving forces inexorably reconfigure both the rules and playing field. What we must do is innovate our way into a new era that allows American companies to invent the next variant of personal air transportation. We must redefine what airplanes and pilots are. This is the only solution – invent a new future.

As it happens, the pieces are available to begin to do that. Predictably the solution revolves around some of the key aspects of the present system: image of flying, cost of entry (expense and effort associated with training), cost of aircraft, interface with the government, etc.

If GA is not to become a bunch of old guys flying old airplanes then we must reposition general aviation in such a way that it appeals to younger generations. Here is a plan.

  • Begin by building a coherent vision for the next era. Take a systematic look at the trends in place, both positive and negative, and then build an integrated and plausible picture of what we would prefer a new future to look like. The vision would particularly include a considered notion of how general aviation could augment the lives of young people in a new way that was consistent with the current trends that inform their lives. This will take time and concerted effort.
  • Identify what needs to happen to enable the new vision to emerge. Include issues related to: appeal and perceived value, barriers to entry, cost of operation, new technologies, interface with the US government, ability to change, etc.
  • Develop a new positioning for U.S. general aviation. Work with appropriate professionals to discover the best, next image for GA – something that particularly appeals to the market of prospective pilots/owners.
  • Generate buy-in by the present U.S. aviation community. Sell the new approach to the major stakeholders within the GA community. Develop high level buy-in.
  • Cluster resources around required key capabilities or issues that must be addressed. Constitute interest groups around necessary areas of effort. Work with funding sources like NASA to funnel development resources to high impact and leverage areas.
  • Find and encourage incentives. Work with government agencies to develop incentives focused on solutions for key capabilities or issues.
  • Generate early successes. Emphasize areas of effort that will produce rapid, positive results.
  • Undertake a campaign to reposition GA in the minds of new prospects. Develop a major communications campaign aimed at changing the minds of target Americans about the value, accessibility and benefit of GA.

Make no mistake about it, this is a big deal. It is nothing less than an industry/ community-wide effort to remake general aviation, both internally and in the minds of Americans. It would cost a lot of time and money but it would be worth it.

This is about redirecting the future into a direction that is different from where it is now headed. It’s possible to do, in fact, many large corporations and industries have reinvented themselves in the past. So, now is the time for GA to invent its next life. The longer we wait, the harder, more expensive and less likely it will become.

John Petersen

John L. Petersen is a futurist, strategist, and pilot. He is a former aircraft carrier based naval aviator, aircraft builder, and author of three books. He founded The Arlington Institute, edits and publishes the free e-newsletter FUTUREdition, and is the chairman of the Lindbergh Foundation.

The opinions expressed by the bloggers do not reflect AOPA’s position on any topic.

  • Duane

    Very good points, John. I’d like to add a few others:

    1) Today’s young people are highly tech-savvy, so for aircraft and flying to attract their interest, we must rapidly convert our current GA fleet to technically-advanced aircraft. That includes old legacy spam cans that need to be upgraded to glass panels and other tech features as rapidly as possible.

    Development of new innovative aircraft, like the Icon A5 (which has tremendous “sex appeal” for young flyers) must be part of the new GA fleet too. The FAA Part 23 rewrite may help in regard to updating the legacy fleet, but it’s highly likely that Congress will need to enact laws that will force FAA to deregulate most of the panel avionics, engines, and even airframes. As long as our aircraft are still mostly powered by 1930s technology under the cowling, we’re not going to get young people excited about their “ride”.

    If not, GA aircraft will continue to woefully lag the “real world” and that will depress youth interest in aviation. Maybe a few young ones will dig ancient steam gages, but if the goal is to grow aviation and make it healthy and attractive, it’s got to pass the “smell test” of being reasonably compliant with today’s standards of electronic data processing and controls. Keeping costs down, also through FAA deregulation and greater technological innovation, is also a key to making aviation affordable for a greater swath of our population.

    2) Aviation must seek to ingrain itself into the mainstream American culture. As silly as it may seem to some, the Disney “Planes” series of flicks is a key example of cultural mainstreaming. Aviation must be seen as exciting and relevant and “cool”, or it will die away and devolve into the equivalent of a bunch of old guys that populate other “antique” associations for motor cars and old classic boats and such.

    The suggestions you and I both have made will attract a lot of naysaying and catcalls from the usual hangar rats who are more concerned with protecting the “ancient ways” of what we know of today as “general aviation”. We must not let the old timers dissuade us from making aviation relevant again. In fact, superficial though this may sound, we need to ban the term “general aviation” and use something that is more relevant to what we do, and sounds more attactive. Perhaps “personal aviation” is the better term. “General aviation” sounds like a term invented by the grandfathers of today’s old farts … which it was.

    • larryav8r

      I was not attracted to aviation by technological wizardry. The draw was flight itself. Sure, the technology I flew with wasn’t as amazing as what is available today, but it was for the time. And I could’ve cared less. I was in it to fly. Until we can understand why today’s youth aren’t excited about the simple wonder of flight itself, focusing on turning aircraft into gaming platforms will only make GA, PA or whatever new brand name you want to slap on it more expensive.

      If there is any gadget that we need to attract more people to flying, it’s another J-3 Cub. A plane so simple and affordable to operate that someone curious about flying can afford more than just the $50 introductory ride. An FAA-certified, factory-built airplane for under 50 grand. THAT will be the monumental technological achievement that will grow aviation.

      • Duane

        larryav8r – let me guess … you’re not under 20 years old are you? Under 30? Under 50 even? I’m 60, and I learned to fly 38 years ago. I wanted to fly because, well, I wanted to fly and aviators were considered highly cool and accomplished people in those days … sadly, that is no longer true. I truly love a 75-year old low tech J-3, an airplane that was developed to operate in a completely unregulated airspace system, unlike today’s airspace. Unfortunately, the inherent joys of flying a J-3 are not going to draw in large numbers of today’s young people who have an entirely different set of expectations from the young people of 75 or 50 or even 25 years ago … in order to replace the large numbers of old timers who are dying off or losing our medicals.

        The proof is in the pudding – the steadily dwindling numbers of pilots, and airports, and airplanes …. and the fact that every GA airport outside of primary flight training centers is completely dominated by the old gray hairs like me.

        I’m not a typical young person of today. So making flying appeal to old folks like me (us?) is not the way to preserve, protect, and grow personal aviation for generations to come.

        There’s nothing that says we can’t also preserve the simple hardware … except that none of it will be preserved if personal aviation goes extinct due to low pilot numbers.

        We’re in a demographic spiral descent to the hard cold ground. It’s time to recover before it’s too late.

        • larryav8r

          Not that it matters, but I’m 45. I grew up with video games, PCs, handheld electronic games, MTV, etc. Were they as advanced as what we have today? No. Were they more advanced than the average avionics suite in a GA plane? Light years.

          You mention proof. Here’s mine. I’ve given dozens of people their first taste of flight in everything from an early 70′s 152 with empty avionics bays to a 2006 SR20 with glass panels. In every instance the thing they fell in love with was flight itself. Every young person I put in the right seat of my SR20 all but ignored the fancy lights. The only thing they wanted to do was fly the plane.

          When we’d get on the ground the conversation almost always went the same.

          Them: That was fantastic!
          Me: You could do it you know.
          Them: Nah, it’s too expensive.

          The conversation usually ended there because, for most of them, it was. Frankly, all the ideas I hear of trying to rebrand GA or make it more relevant to youth through social media, technological upgrades etc. is, to borrow a marketing term, polishing a turd. Turds aren’t always poor quality or passe products. Often they’re great products that have a cost that is perceived to be too great for the benefit they offer. So people don’t even try them unless you lower the price.

          All the evidence I’ve seen indicates people would love to fly if it wasn’t so expensive. Until we can make the cost of flying cheap enough that people can afford to get hooked on it, we’ll never grow the pilot population. That’s why, as much as I love the guy, I think using Harrison Ford or any other celebrity to make flying more popular with the general public is a terrible PR move. If anything, it only makes flying look more exclusive. Our ambassadors need to be people like the shop teacher at the local high school (the guy who gave me my first small plane flight). People who make flying look accessible.

          Pinning the problem on brand positioning or technology is, in my opinion, ignoring the brontosaurus in the room.

          • Duane

            Larry – sure, cost is a huge issue, but you’re missing the forest for the trees. TECHNOLOGY – ABSENT FAA OVER-REGULATION – MAKES THINGS MUCH CHEAPER, NOT MORE EXPENSIVE.
            The steady rise in business productivity for the last 50 years has not been driven by people working harder or working longer hours – it’s been driven almost entirely by technological advancement.
            When I graduated from college with an engineering degree 32 years ago, the personal computer was just then coming into business use (and only came into existence a handful of years before). “Back in the day”, it took a whole lot more engineers to design a machine or a building or a road than it does today … back then we were still using programmable electronic calculators (old-timers back then still used sliderules!), and the design drawings were all done by hand .. meaning any change in a drawing meant that the drawing had to be “red-lined” or simply thrown out and redrawn. Changing a design meant performing a huge series of manual calculations, all of which had to be documented. A PC today can perform dozens or even thousands of such calculations in the time it takes to hit the “enter” button, meaning design optimization today requires vastly fewer resources than in the recent past.
            Engineering reports (as well as virtually all business writing) had to be typed on a typewriter, and again, any revision or correction and it either got ugly on paper, or it had to be typed manually all over again. It took rooms full of “typists” and file clerks to manage business records and design files. Today, all of that has been replaced by technology, and computer savvy engineers, CADD techs, and business staff, while the “secretarial pools” of old have completely disappeared.
            THAT is what drives productivity, and thereby drives down cost. THAT is why you can go out today and by a 60 inch LCD or plasma high definition TV that will last indefinitely without any repairs whatsoever, when 20 years ago all you could buy was a much smaller, but much heavier, vacuum tube low definition color TV that required repeated replacement of picture tubes, at a purchase price at least four times higher than today’s 60-in widescreen in 2014 dollars. But then, we don’t have the FCC regulating television hardware or software as we have the FAA regulating anything to do with “certified” aviation.
            And that is why today you can buy a smart phone for a couple hundred bucks, using software that’s either free or costs a couple bucks per “app”, that can do far more than most PCs used to do five years ago that cost thousands of dollars! And now we see “handheld” cockpit avionics in the form of IPads that cost a few hundred bucks and are far more capable than the Garmin 530, that cost nearly 20 grand installed in your panel.
            The only reason we can’t legally navigate IFR with an IPad on our lap, or installed in our panel, is because the FAA won’t allow it. Not because the technology isn’t available, or at least as, or likely far more reliable than the technological dinasaurs in our panels is that should have been replaced years ago. The FAA and the FAR, and their strangulation of aviation technological advancement, are the single biggest reason why flying costs so much.
            A simple IPad with an aviation app is far more reliable, and costs a tiny fraction of the purchase price and necessary repeated rebuilding of old tech steam gages, of which you and so many other tech-resistors are so fond of. You can buy a whole armful of IPads for what it costs to overhaul a HSI a single time (only to have to do it again a few years later).
            IF we could get the FAA out of the stone age, and allow new technology – not just in avionics, but also in airframes and engines – there is no reason that a relatively simple airframe/engine combo, equipped with the latest and greatest electronic instrumentation and controls, could not be produced and sold for far less than $100K … which was the old “dream” for the LSA model, which was never realized, because the FAA continues to strangle innovation and competition in its crib.
            Nope – the only hope for cutting the cost of aviation is to force the FAA to deregulate personal aviation, and thereby allow technology to revolutionize flight … making it both exciting for young people who demand technology in all aspects of their daily lives, and to finally cut the cost of personal flying to affordable levels.

        • YJ77

          Unfortunately, the real issue is $$$$. A new 2 + 2 halves aircraft for under 200k won’t happen unless we eliminate all tort liability; and then the cost will still be north of 120k. The actual cost to get even a light sport ticket is out of reach of almost everyone under age 50, and the people we need are the 18-30 year old folks. Way too many of our 25 – 30s are now saddled with debt service of: 50k or more in student loan debt, 200k mortgage [or equal rent payment], and a couple of 500/mo car payments. Their decisions, true, but it still keeps them from enjoying personal aviation when it costs $120/hr for a rental.

          • Duane

            The tort liability issue was mostly fixed 20 years ago. The issue that has been strangling personal aviation ever since, driving the costs far higher than justified, is FAA over-regulation of aircraft. Essentially non-commercial aircraft should be fully exempted from any and all FAA regulation and certification, with ASTM standards to become the driving mechanism for safety testing, as has been the case in virtually every other industry, from electronics to construction, for many decades.

            The FAA is killing personal aviation … and they have been doing it for a very long time … and the results are plain as day.

          • YJ77

            It wasn’t “fixed” 20 years ago. The “statue of repose” just clarified the time a corporation would [not just could] be liable and GUARRANTEED the plaintiff’s attorneys an 18 year corporate responsibility for any and all certified aircraft plus any changes and/or modifications made to them. This means that not only the airframe manufacturer, but the engine manufacturer, the avionics manufacturer, even the interior finishes manufacturer must include in their cost calculation the costs of corporate liability insurance to cover the expected costs of legal defense and probable judgments. This results in a large portion of their operating costs.

            I agree the FAA is far too overreaching and causes much financial harm to personal aviation, but if we imposed by Federal Law an 18 year liability on auto manufacturers, auto parts suppliers, and auto repair companies; we would quickly get M&R bills exceeding the value of the vehicle and the new vehicle price would be several times the $25,000 spent today. This economic upset would destroy the US market for cars, as it has already destroyed the US market for personal aircraft. Stopping this should mean an immediate rollback of liability time limits to the following: OEM 36 mos. from in-service date; M&R 12 mos. from in-service date. After the specified in-service times the only reason for the OEM to be involved would be as a parts & service supplier if they desired, with the consummate extensions of liability regarding the parts or services they provided. Even individual owners who chose to use the OEM as a parts and services provider could effectively keep the OEM on the hook for as many years as desired through the M&R portion of the process.

            I agree also, that if we adopted ASTM standards for personal aviation and used the above listed liability time limits as warranty requirements for OEM and M&R, the cost curve would come down. The reduction in expected [claims] and real [insurance premiums] liability coverage costs would drop and smaller innovative, and thus lower cost, manufacturers would be able to enter the market.

          • Duane

            But if personal aircraft are exempted from being certified, then that issue goes away under current law. And that is exactly what I propose – eliminate all FAA certification of personal (i.e., non-commercial) aircraft.

            The experimental market is not burdened with excessive liability, and their prices reflect it (except for the fact that most aircraft engines, even in experimentals, are still certified engines – that needs to change too). In experimental aircraft, the liability rests almost entirely on the owner who also happens to be the chief mechanic.

            I think there should be a middle ground, between experimental and certified aircraft, that is represented by the ASTM standards process, as is currently the process in the LSA market. But even in the LSA market, where the aircraft are much lower priced than certified aircraft, the heavy hand of FAA still reigns when it comes to engines and avionics. Kick the FAA completely out of that loop, and the cost of product development (engines, airframes, and avionics) will dramatically drop, and therefore competition will dramatically increase, resulting in even lower prices (as initially promised ten years ago)

            You can’t completely eliminate product liability for any product … Apple can still be sued if someone suffers damage from using one of their pad computers or smartphones. But I would also agree that a realistic cap on punitive damages (say a million dollars per accident) certainly makes tremendous sense, in combination with de-regulation.

      • Rich

        > I was not attracted to aviation by technological wizardry.

        There is an element of selection bias here. If you’ve stuck with general aviation, then it is very unlikely that technological wizardry is important to you, unless you have a lot of money to burn.

        Personally that was a potential attraction to me, which is probably part of the reason why I stopped about 40 hours in. That and the costs. The mindset issue goes beyond steam gauges – just studying for the exam seemed like a pointless exercise in learning about weather products designed for the age when you got your charts off of a FAX, and using navigation techniques that are rapidly being phased out. Little of the tested material seemed relevant to actual flying.

        The cropduster mindset seems to be built into the DNA of General Aviation. We have a video in the AOPA newsletter about the dangers of overshooting the base-to-final turn, which is necessary only because decades ago aircraft couldn’t do RNAV to line up for final without a visual reference, and didn’t have radios and TCAS to be aware of other traffic. The fact that most GA aircraft still don’t just reflects the stuck-in-the-past mindset.

        If I get back into aviation it seems more likely that I’d get into drones. The irony of this is that it is the exact opposite of what you advocate – you get all the benefits of aviation, except the ability to actually fly. In terms of automation and technology the average $500 fixed-wing drone is way ahead of the typical $40k 172.

        • Duane

          Rich – you bring up some very good additional points. It’s just one example of so many anachronisms in personal aviation, but I’ve been thinking some on the traffic pattern, which is supposed to improve flight safety at airports, but in reality, does just the opposite because of the prevalance of stall-spin accidents on the base to final turn.

          The irony here is that the traffic pattern itself, and pilots failing to fly it correctly, is the proximate cause of more than 10 percent of all fatal aviation accidents according to the data. Not to mention that aircraft enter the traffic pattern at busy non-towered airports from all over the compass … disregarding what is considered a standard 45 degree downwind entry as we’re all taught in primary training. If half or more pilots disregard the standard (usually by making straight in entries), then where is the real benefit of sticking with a maneuver that results in so many fatal accidents?

          Sure, pilots should have better stick and rudder skills, and then this wouldn’t be a problem. But the reality is, many don’t. And so they kill themselves and their passengers and give personal aviation a bad rep in the process.

          There are just so many ways that personal aviation is stuck in a 1930s-1940s mindset that tackling each issue individually, especially given the glacial pace at which the FAA does “reform” (if at all!), we’re going to run out of pilots and airports long before most the key issues can be addressed.

          I think it’s long past time to do a complete top to bottom review of the entire regulatory system and flight rules pertaining to light aircraft and personal aviation. Personal aviation is really in a downard spiral that may become unrecoverable without major, even drastic changes to the way we do it today, which is to say, “the way we’ve always done it” for going on 70 years.

          “It” is broken – and we better fix it … now.

  • FrostedCW3

    Thanks John, for addressing this problem so succinctly. I see other major “game changers” as part of the problem: the political mindset of the “old boys and girls club” in Washington, D.C., and local communities. They all seem to lack the foresight to address the simplest problem, without all kinds of strings and red tape attached. As they control the purse strings to actually bring about the necessary changes needed, it is going to be a long, uphill battle.
    We need to instill a renewed interest in sciences and technology in our youth, and I’m not talking about television, video games, and MTV. We need the young people of today to escape the rut of “couch potato” lifestyles, which the fore mentioned things fit into. I’m talking about the thrill of getting out and actually seeing things like the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels doing all kinds of things. At the same time, they also need to hear, and see, success stories about youth and aviation, to create a new “strive to excel” mindset in that field, to make attainable “peer heroes” status.
    They seem to be more interested in watching the nearest pro or semi pro athletic team, dreaming of being paid millions of dollars for working a few hours a week, versus the exorbitant amount of energy and effort necessary to become a great aviator, not to mention risk to life and limb, should they become military pilots.
    Sorry, but this is a sore subject for me. Our local airport doesn’t have enough GA interest to actually force the issue with our local officials. They want nothing to do with general aviation, (none of them are pilots, much less even interested in aviation,) as they seem to think it will interfere with the expansion for their commercial aviation operations. Unless we can get enough community interest and support for the entire GA world, from our youth, to push their adult sponsors, we are going to be relegated to the back pages in history, as Icarus and Daedalus have been.

    • Duane

      Well, Frosted … you can either be the old man in the neighborhood, yelling “Get off my lawn!” at all those bratty young people who spend all their time dreaming of stardom in professional sports and don’t appreciate the finer points of old fashioned aviation (an avocation that since World War Two has never been practiced by more than 1 percent of our generational fellow travellers)

      … or, you can support actual changes to personal aviation that might actually appeal to millenials and such, given where the world, the culture, and technology are standing, and heading.

      I mean, the former approach only results in personal aviation inevitably losing its critical mass, and dying off altogether, due to a continued loss of pilots. At least antique cars can still drive on existing streets … and antique boats can still float on existing waters … but if we lose the pilots, and as a result of that, we thus lose the airports, then personal aviation simply disappears altogether.

      Like the author of the post above, I prefer change to extinction.

      • FrostedCW3

        Actually Duane, I’m the youngest, (not quite 70,) of the “old men” in my neighborhood, and one of our favorite things to do, is to go outside, weather permitting, and watch the I.S.S. go over. We keep track of it on our P.C.’s, and make sure to share information when one of us has a problem with our “new fangled techy gadget.”
        I agree with your suggestion we need to modernize our G.A. fleets, but change for changes sake, is not always the best answer.
        We finally got our local Board Of Cooperative Education to start an A&P school, on the grounds of the closed public airport and the local community college has signed on to work with the program, but they are the only ones doing anything positive for aviation. (The driving force was the closure of the local USAF base, loss of hundreds of civilian jobs, the taxes the military paid, and a need to attract commercial activity to that facility, with its two long runway.)
        The main problem though, the majority of the local schools are only interested in one field of study, Liberal Arts. Local state university is a liberal arts school, as is the local community college, (that has branched out into the sciences, as mentioned previously.)
        We still can’t get onto the new local airport though, without some “official” escort, and the “officials” have no interest in attracting attention of the young people to aviation, other than to get on one of the large commercial jets occasionally coming and going. This does nothing to help the cause.

  • Tim Conrad

    Great ideas above and also helpful comments below. This has gotten me thinking (!). Yes, we need to do something because it’s only going to get worse doing what we’re doing now.

    Costs: unfortunately, any new aircraft today is going to be too expensive for the people we need to attract. I really like the idea of bring the affordable older planes up to speed. Geesh, an Ipad probably could do most of the work, but getting affordable access to the technology is just not in the plans for how the FAA works. Leave the steam gauges, but accelerate cheap technology to aid in the cockpit. I agree with the other sentiments. I remember looking at the gauges in my trainer and thinking “what !?!?!?”. They’re old and beat up, but at least put a little gee whiz technology in there – it would be safer and you can keep the old stuff for backup (and insist people learn the backups!).

    Accessibility: I think we need to open up airports. Short of taking down the fences (which can’t happen), develop global plans that encourage and allow public access. For example, bring back the observation bench we used to have at our local airport (!!). I we traded too much when we blocked everyone out.

    I laughed at renaming General Aviation, but yeah, that’s really an awful name for dealing with the public. Why didn’t that come up before?

    I believe the lack of interest by the airport authorities must be pervasive. We really need to get ideas like this together and drive them ourselves. A lot of these require FAA buy-in, so it would be good to start there. Maybe we need a branch of FAA tasked with developing GA (not just stonewalling airport closures).

  • Bob

    Upgrade Part 103, more weight, fuel, speed. Rejuvenate ultralight flying where so many of us today began at a price and complexity we could deal with. Yes, I know there is no money in it for the big organizations.

    • Don Arnold

      This was tried 20 years ago, that committee mestastasized into the ARAC which came up with something completely different, $150k Light Sports. I’m with you, Bob. With 10 gal and 85mph cruise we’d be close to the postwar lightplanes original affordability and utility.

  • aceabbott

    I did not read any info relating to the use of fossil fuels and the obvious steadily increasing cost of fuel. Will there soon be conscientious anti-global warming protesters at airports? Allen Morris/aka Ace Abbott (www.therougeaviator.com)

  • http://www.260sepilots.org Kevin Moore

    While I cannot disagree with the author’s thesis, this article is all about tactics and process and contains virtually no discussion of real substance or strategy to deal with the problem(s) facing general/private/personal aviation. His first point, “Begin by building a coherent vision for the next era,” is where the real challenge lies, but he doesn’t go there–the remainder of his plan is just “Management & Leadership 101″ from the first week or two of Business School.

    No one, the author included, seems able to articulate any vision that is compelling to both current stakeholders and potential new pilots. Outside of business flying, personal aviation’s value proposition has simply dropped off a cliff, especially during the past decade, in the context of other ongoing economic and demographic trends. Those who have the drive and passion to fly are still finding a way to participate, but this has always been a tiny fraction of the population.

    The value proposition “enjoyment/utility received for resources expended” can be enhanced by either increasing enjoyment/utility (availability of more appealing, safer, fun and useful-for-traveling airplanes) or reducing resources expended (lower costs and/or less effort, time and hassle that are barriers to entry into aviation). Any new “coherent vision” must focus on some or all of these things.

    My own anecdote to add to others here: my son and I flew together quite a bit when he was young; he enjoys flight and is familiar with the benefits of private aviation. At age 31 he and his wife are tech entrepreneurs in the SF Bay Area enjoying some success and he could afford to learn to fly if he wanted to do so. However when I discuss with him the costs and time commitment required to obtain the PPL, IR and maintain skills/currency, he shakes his head and replies, “Not worth the money, time and effort,” with emphasis on “time and effort.” I suspect that if he has any future in general aviation, it will be riding in the back of a business aircraft flown by someone else.

  • Richard Speer

    I believe:
    GA (and the American economy) depends on a middle class to thrive. GA thrives where the jobs are. Job growth is now in China. GA will thrive again here only if the jobs come home or we create new ones (that are not at McDonald’s) and rebuild a substantial middle class with disposable income(something we’ve lost slowly since the 60′s.

    China may be a great place to save on building airplanes and parts…but what good will it do if there’s no disposable income here to take advantage of only slightly reduced costs.

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