Let’s attract the money

At last weekend’s Northwest Aviation Conference a young man asked AOPA President Craig Fuller how to attract more young people to aviation (click here to watch Craig’s full speech).

Craig responded by tipping a hat to many of the nations flight training colleges and many of the new lower priced aircraft now available as but two ways to attract our younger neighbors.

As a graduate of the University of North Dakota Department of Aviation, I feel those programs are more configured for the aspiring professional pilot, as opposed to a general aviation pilot. Mind you, that’s not a bad thing, but we need people who want to pay to fly not be paid to fly.

But, the question, and Craig’s response reminded me of a line of thought I’ve been pondering.

First: I think it more important to attract people who can afford to fly, ahead of any other available demographic. Face it, aviation is not a cheap hobby. Can it be done for relatively little money? Sure, but compared to golfing, boating or skiing, it is a rather pricey endeavor. Taken a step further, it’s not the J-3 and Aeronca crowd that will keep the aviation industry afloat. We need people to buy, rent, fuel and fly the new aircraft being manufactured. Sure, some LSA models can be had for the price of a nice mini-van (hey, I have three kids), but many are 2-3 times that. More affordable than a new Cessna Citation Mustang, but not cheap.

Second: many in the healthcare and fitness industries would have us believe that young people (especially young children) learn from modeled behavior.

If that’s the case, attracting a financially successful person (regardless of age) that can model their aviation habits to their children, or grandchildren, might just pay off more in the long run.

Of the nearly 600,000 pilots in the United States, I’d be willing to bet more than half are from multi-generational aviation families. The kids learned to fly from mom or dad. What a tremendous legacy to pass along.

I most likely would not have been interested in learning to fly had it not been for the lifestyle my parents modeled as I grew up. Sitting in the back (and sometimes front) seat of our Piper Comanche as we flew from fly-in to fly-in up and down the west coast made a significant impression on me. Also, having two parents that knew, understood and supported my interest in becoming a pilot was invaluable. Beyond that, living on a residential airpark, with ready access to a J-3 and Cessna 172XP made learning to fly downright easy.

When I think about all the blessings in my aviation life, I truly marvel at the people who strike out on their own, without the support structure I enjoyed, to pursue flying.

It is for these two reasons I think we, as an industry, might be asking the wrong question. The questions shouldn’t be, “How do we attract more young people to aviation?”, it should be, “How do we attract more monied people to aviation?”

What do you think? Am I on- or off-course? Have a related story to share? Post your comments below.


  1. Jack says

    The wealthy are not going to fly because of liability concerns. They are “deep pockets” and can be ruined if they make a mistake and hurt someone. That’s even if they have insurance. The not-wealthy are not going to fly because they can’t afford it. GA is dead. Corporate aviation, airlines and the almighty government employees will continue to fly. That’s because ordinary folk pay for those groups.

  2. Rob Hom says

    My apologies for being late to the table.

    Some comments are right on, GA is contextually affordable.

    The competition for GA dollars are the same for all. It is the competition for disposable dollars spent on all forms of recreation. GA competes against snowmobiling, ATV’s, auto racing, boating etc etc. All these “hobbies” take significant financial investment. The average “blue” collar family of four can’t afford to snowmobile and fly, or have a boat in a marina and go 4-wheeling. Now a days you pick one hobby that the family can do, and that is pretty much it. Add to that the increasing number of recreational opportunities, the competition is fierce for relatively sparse disposable income.

    One thing that sets flying apart from the rest of the usual hobbies – is that flying takes an intellectual investment that most other hobbies do not require. Just about anyone can hope on a snowmobile or ATV and go have fun – it is a relatively short learning curve when you are affixed to Terra Firma.

    Rob Hom

  3. Stephen Hargis says

    GA should not be reserved only for the “monied”. Regulations are the core reason for excessive expense. Lawyers and the legal system have done much to drive up the cost of flying. Just look to Europe to see where we are headed. Our friends at FAA are all too willing to impose more and more restrictions in the name of “safety”. Wake up before it is too late.

  4. says

    I’d like to add my thoughts if that’s ok.

    I think the logic is there. Appealing to people with money is going to be the easiest way to get more people flying now. That doesn’t mean we should ignore everyone else, this is just the easiest way. I also agree that if we found inspiration to fly when perhaps we didn’t really have the money, then why can’t they?

    However, to me one thing is far more pressing that will stop any of this working. No one is going to take up flying, however much money they have until we make it “worth the money”. Let me explain.

    In my experience the problem is unless you were brought up with flying, you have a poor view of pilots and aviation. “It’s something I’ll never do”, “it’s for boring old men who like spending hours in a hanger tinkering”, “why would I want to waste money on that”. Whether we like it or not, that’s the reality that potential pilots are thinking these days. We may think flying is fun but they perceive it to be an expensive waste of time for `others`.

    We can bang on about how amazing it is to fly and the trips we did until we blue in the face. Everyone in aviation is doing this everyday. The problem is it’s just not working.

    We need people to feel so excited about flying, that spending the money is a given? So how do we do that?

    When you look at what potential pilots are doing now, they are on You tube, they are playing computer games, they like showing off their new supercharger on their car. They want immediate excitement and immediate thrills. Aviation offers all of them! So why aren’t they flocking into aviation?

    In my view it’s all about the way we are presenting/selling it. We are trying to sell aviation in the way “we” like, not the way “they” like.

    We need to give them a dream that they understand. Forget rules or how it was much better in the old days, it might have been, but they don’t want to hear that. They want to know why they should go flying now, today and why it will be so good, that they just have to find a way to afford it.

    If we look at the things they like, the internet, tv, magazines, then we can see how they like things delivered.

    As I say aviation offers everything a modern potential pilot could want, so it’s not flying that is the problem here.

    In my view, we CAN inspire people into flying, back to flying and to fly more, whatever their backgrounds. Flying has the most incredible message to sell. It is worth the money! It’s just not being delivered in the right way and until it is, it doesn’t matter who you target.

    We may not like changing the way we do things. We may think our way is the correct way. But, in my view unless we suck it up and start talking to potential pilots on their level and not ours, flying has a bleak future when it could be a truly magnificent one.

    One final thought, then I’ll shut up. I know some people will say (and it is a sad view) that we don’t want people like that in flying. Well put it this way. If the pilot community shrinks and the power of GA declines, stupid government will take over in a way undreamed of. It’s time to embrace everyone with flying and share the dream that we have already discovered.

    Note: I do apologise for my grammar, etc. I am a broadcaster, not a writer but I just had to try and compose something here.

    Richard Midson

  5. Dave Koch says

    As my old grandfather used to tell me, “Dave, life is not an ‘Either-Or’. It’s an ‘And’.”

    In my humble opinion based on over 40 years as an aviation professional and businessman, I believe we need to find ways to do both–make flying more affordable for those who are on tight budgets and attract more “monied” people.

    This was what we did back in the pre-1980s heyday of general aviation.

    • says


      Great point, and one I should have advocated form the start. I’m sorry so many took my use of the word “monied” as privileged or exclusive rather than simply, those who can afford to fly. Finances are relative, so what is affordable to some, such as shared ownership of an LSA, is not to others. Reducing the cost of flying is a must, but also something we’ve not seen much of in the few decades.

      Thanks for weighing in.

  6. Francis Shea says

    Attracting more monied people over the restof us is only going to further kill GA, particularly with the current administration in the White House. We already have proposals to “tax the rich,” and a budget proposal that includes userfees. If GA is viewed as an activity stricktly for the rich, then it follows that the rich can pay for their recreational and luxury activities through user fees.

    This is ultimately going to kill GA entirely as it will be out of the reach of most of us. Even those young airline wannabes will not be able to afford to fly then. It would seem, especially at this time in our economy, one would want to present GA as a sector that is open to the public and ordinary folk as opposed to being focused on the monied.

  7. Sandra Sellers says

    I have been a CFI for several years, and I am absolutely appalled that the attitude displayed by Ben Sclair still exists. In other words, that aviation should be made more attractive to “the people with money”. It is this attitude that has turned a great number of potential pilots off. Most people, monied or not, will find a way to do something that they really want to do. Some of my students worked three jobs in order to take lessons. To present aviation as some elite, rich person’s hobby sickens me, and I have watched this attitude cause many people to walk right back out the door they came in at some FBO.

    Quite frankly, I find the Aeronca and Cub pilots an absolute joy to be around, and have in fact, enjoyed teaching people to fly those types of aircraft to a greater degree than the typical certified airplane. The joy they exhibit when flying these types of airplanes is extremely satisfying. To me, this is “real” flying, and quite affordable. Sorry Ben, but this IS the type of crowd that will help keep aviation alive.

    The other fairly affordable type of flying is in building and flying one of the many beautiful experimental aircraft that are now available. When I had a hankering to own a fast airplane again, we discussed purchasing another Mooney or perhaps a Bonanza. Instead my husband and I built a gorgeous experimental, with a glass panel of his own design, that would rival any mega bucks certified plane out there. The costs of maintaining and flying this airplane will be affordable to us well into our retirement age. We have sold our last certified plane, and I will most likely never choose to own one again.

    Regulation and lawsuits have driven the costs of renting, owning, operation, and maintainance of the new aircraft being manufactured to a ridiculous amount. When there are lower cost alternatives to flying, why would anyone in their right mind spend that kind of money on them? I’d rather fly, AND do some other things with that money.

    Aviation has to be presented as the fun and extremely satisfying hobby that it truly is. That is what will keep aviation alive and well. It doesn’t matter whether you live in a residential airpark or not. I now live in one, and found I had just as much fun, no, actually more fun, driving to the local airport to meet up with all my flying buddies.

  8. Mike Woods says


    Beyond money, two major factors limit the approachability of General Aviation: (1) outdated, aged technology; (2) onerous bureaucracy;

    As part of the internet generation, I was incredulous when my CFI pulled out a slide rule (E6B) to teach calculations. The training aircraft are aged and worn – and look likely to crumble to bits just sitting there – no wonder a rigorous pre-flight check must be performed! Training with VOR, DME, and NDB equipment made me cringe. Even ATC and the control systems are radically out of date.

    Then, to perform every step of training and flying you must deal with mountains of ‘process’, ‘certification’, and paper work. The regulation is mind-numbing.

    What modern young person wants to deal with this mess? I have better navigation on my iPhone, why would I trust my life to a rickety tin can with ‘avionics’ that look like my great-grandpa’s clunker of a radio? Then, on top of it all, have to put up with endless bureaucracy?

    Until this changes, the average young person will be disillusioned rapidly and simply not bother with it. A $69 ticket on Southwest will do just fine.

  9. Alma Pawlak says

    You’re absolutely right about this issue. I learned to fly because my dad was a GA pilot. I became a private pilot while in college but couldn’t keep up with it after graduation. I have tried to come back to flying twice (I’m currently grounded as of three months ago, too expensive), but took both my sons flying and they loved it. My husband is not an enthusiast so it’s hard to argue with him about spending the money. I feel I’ve been lucky to have had the opportunity to learn to fly.

  10. says

    Ben Sclair’s editorial ‘Let’s attract the money’ stops short of identifying Right Wing Conservatives or well heeled Republicans. But didn’t they end up with all the money (and help to create our current economic mess)? Not mentioned is the group of pilots I am more familiar with who skimped and saved, took part time jobs, fueled and washed airplanes and turned to instructing as a way to finance their passion for flying and the purchase of their first airplane. Fortunately, aviation’s country club was open to them too.

  11. Robin Browne says

    Years ago in UK I worked for Lotus Cars. They had a similar problem; the people who were Lotus fanatics couldn’t afford (and actually didn’t like or want) the new products, thus were seen by Lotus marketing as a drag on new sales, because they lowered the tone of the marque, as it were.

    This seems like a similar situation. I like to fly my scruffy old ’62 182E to get far away from the clowns and poseurs as featured in the recent Mooney adverts – we have nothing in common and frankly, I despise them. I know I contribute nothing to the manufacturers’ bottom line, so they don’t care squat about me. They want to sell airframes at $300k+ and the only people who can afford them are wealthy. Therefore they sensibly market the ships as cool, sexy business tools like laptops and cellphones to people who only see them as limos with wings.

    Maybe it’s time we acknowledge that the blonde bimbo with her Chihuahua in goggles isn’t part of GA, and that 95% of new build aircraft are in the business aviation class? Although I will never have the skill or patience to create a homebuilt, I am certainly thinking I am more in line with EAA’s philosophy than AOPA’s right now, as I suspect that not only are the needs and concerns of the “elite” GA people not aligned to mine, they are in some ways counterproductive. NBAA are trying to attract these high-end owners/drivers, but AOPA needs their money more than they need my pittance.

    I guess my argument is that what we call GA is already two disparate and dysfunctional – possibly soon to be antagonistic – groups. Perhaps saving “popular flying” requires separating it in public consciousness from the “mini-biz” segment? Because apart from the longterm trickle down of airframes (and I won’t live that long) the new aircraft market just adds to my expenses; legislation, fuel, parts, maintenance are priced to maximize returns from across the market.

    I don’t have the answer; if I did, I’d be the new boss of AOPA by now. Probably some expansion of the LSA mindset up to cover what is now PPL VFR would help. What I do know is that the US is the one place in the world where someone like me can still own and fly a 230hp 4 seater without breaking the bank, and I would hate that to go away.

  12. Mike says


    I am very sorry to hear you had a bad experience. Each squadron is different. We have senior (adult only) squadrons, Cadet squadrons, and Composite Squadrons (Combination Senior and Cadet). When prospective members come to my squadron, I always tell them they should visit at least (3) different squadrons to see which one they feel is a good fit.
    What you described is most likely, what we in CAP call a “Flying Club” Usually it is a Senior only squadron and are only interested in the flying aspect of CAP and all the members don’t need your skills.

    My squadron is a composite squadron, and something we are in dire need of is a CFI, like you, willing to get CAP qualified and to instruct low time pilots like myself to enhance our mission readiness. On the Cadet side, we need safe qualified pilots to take our young men and women up on orientation flights. We have a C-182 and many willing PP and Cadets, just no CFI who has been committed enough to get CAP qualified. It is a challenge to become a CAP qualified CFI, and as a volunteer organization instructors are volunteers and receive no pay. CAP does not hold your hand in my experience. Opportunity is there but it is very much self directed. The resources are there but it is up to the individual to pursue them and get qualified.

    I would encourage you to see what composite or Cadet squadron in your area would welcome you with open arms, I know we would.


  13. Mark Parsons says

    This article is 100% correct. I am proof of this and I believe that the GA industry needs to look at growth in two ways.
    First: Commercial. My opinion pretty much mirrors what the industry already knows so it takes care of itself.
    Second: Hobby. I’m 44, always wanted to fly but always flew with others. Finally two things came together – extra income and passion. I made the decision that I was still young, this could be a great hobby over golf, skiing, etc and I could now afford it. I went the LSA route, bought a brand new Legend Cub (aircraft loan), found a great retired instructor with tail dragger experience and learned. Right now “low and slow” is a great stress reliever. I just became a LS pilot last month and plan to get my pilot’s license this year since I have the plane and hours to do it. Now as I talk to my friends and co-workers they are interested in seeing what it takes to being a pilot. My daughter can’t wait to go up with me and I hope she gets this passion as well.
    Based on our President’s speech middle class income is up to $250,000 now. My wife and I have an average house well below what we can afford, I’m buying a used car when my lease is up in a couple months, and we have savings. If I total a quick number it is $25,000 per year plus fuel for my new hobby.
    GA needs to market to people that have extra income, not high income. They need to advertise like the Japanese auto makers do: the feelings of driving their car, vs US car makers – low price and sale.

  14. says

    Sensible regulation, commonsense litigation limitations, and reasonable beauracracies are all things to be hoped for and worked toward. However, success in even one of these arenas, much less all three, is highly unlikely—aircraft cost is not going to come down anytime soon no matter how hard we work at it and/or how much we wish it to.

    The only, emphasis ONLY, currently available practical means of reducing the cost of aircraft ownership is co-ownership. The average pilot flying for recreation flies considerably less than 70 hours per year. There are 8,766 hours in a year. Do the math.

    Fortunately, web technology readily enables en masse successful co-ownership—and provides aircraft ownership costs and hourly operating costs that are the same or less than buying and operating the average new boat motor and trailer. If you find that hard to believe, see the research at http://theapa.com/apaweb/APA_Whitepaper.pdf. Run the numbers yourself: http://theapa.com/apaweb/index.html?action=get_help_image&id=ApaCal1232622308776

    Getting the costs down is eminently doable.

    What remains to be done is a paradigm shift within GA. We need to move from perceiving co-ownership as a sort of happy accident that happens to some lucky people to co-ownership being a logical step-by-step process that current pilots and prospective pilots can understand and embrace.

  15. Peter McFarland says

    Mr. Sclair,

    Interesting discussion. Without repeating what has been said, I entered Aviation from another industry at the age of 42. I have a commercial license with instrument rating rotorcraft, helicopter. As a newcomer to aviation I am sure that the costs absorbed by manufacturers, airports, and aviators are heavily influenced by government, FAA regulations and apathy.
    Those aviators that don’t believe regulations affect them don’t participate in protecting others aviators that are affected. For example, Government wants private aircraft over 12,500 lbs. to be subject to the same security procedures as commercial aircraft. Right or wrong, when this is enacted, many owners will bow out of GA, all who stay in GA will operate under the new cost structure and everything will inflate to a new high. I could sit here as a helicopter operator and say that won’t affect me because I am not over 12,500lbs. My charter customers will not take a helicopter from there more expensive jet charter because they paid the cost of security.
    My point is, we should look at the cost of government intervention. Weed out the unnecessary, redundant, wasteful regulations and operation limits and lobby congress to make changes. Getting costs down is the only way to protect GA. I have contributed to AOPA financially and voiced my objections to Congress. We all should be doing that regularly.

  16. Old School says

    GA as we know it is for the most part a thing of the past. A NASCAR ticket…… affordable, a set of golf clubs…….affordable. A PPL ………..out of reach for most these days. Any one that has a PPL is in a very small (and getting smaller each day) group sad to say.

  17. says

    Money does not make a good pilot. Boatloads of money certainly didn’t make good bankers.

    The best pilots and contributors to aviation have a burning desire to fly and build. They come from all backgrounds, not some tiny subset.

    The Wright Brothers were not the wealthy of their day, but they bettered their more well-funded competitors because they were driven, thoughtful and passionate about flight.

    Let’s stick to our roots.

  18. says

    I live in a town that looks down on moneyed people, that is, unless they are a campaign contributor. It has done all it can to drive money out and bring in the poor. They build low income housing and ask other cities for their share. This housing is not for their citizens, but to bring in more poor. The City Council has voted to bus in mentally ill homeless people. It is a bad thing to say at the City Council meetings that we need to attract people with money. The politicians always seem to want to talk about their “poor” lives growing up and so on. There are a lot of reasons to bring in the moneyed. Just as long as they are not elitist, why not? Poverty is not the way to go. Just go to Long Beach,Ca.to see first hand what over a 50% poverty rate does.

    There is no reason to slam people with money. The planes will end up on the used market and we will all benefit.

  19. Dan Trachsel says

    I can’t believe what I just read. I truly hope this article was just to get people talking and truly not the direction that GA promoters are seriously considering.

    I happen to barely be able to afford the rental fees at my FBO but when I do, I AM the one renting, buying fuel and helping to pay the wages of the people that work for that FBO and I don’t care if I’m renting a new plane or an old plane. I’m aviating.

    Don’t put me in a cagegory of “J-3 and Aeronca crowd” because you intended to make that sound like a slur. I resent that. Not only do I resent that, I would be honored to own either aircraft. If you think the only way GA will survive is by the support of your “monied people” purchasing these over-priced two-seater trainers and such, you may be putting your hopes on a very flimsy demographic.

    I kept telling myself the entire time I earned my PPL that I had no business being here, this is for the rich, and there is no way I could afford this. Guess what? I was right but I did it anyway. There were no rich people beating down the door to take lessons while I was out there each weekend taking my lessons. I was supporting GA, and I still do. And they still don’t…at least not to the degree necessary so that we would not be writing these articles.

    Please get the manufacturers on the side of scale-of-economy in production. If several of the LSA manufacturers could pool their resources, perhaps a generic plane could be built that would satisfy the desire of folks that just want to fly.

    In the meantime, I will save my pennies for the next trip to the FBO…

  20. RL says

    Sorry Mike from SQ 308, I joined a Civil Air Patrol squadron on the west coast several years back to do what you said exactly. Already a CFI, I thought it would be some great experience, the ability to help my fellow man, if needed, and also build time toward my future aspirations…but the CAP was chock full of crusty, clicky guys, whom wouldn’t share a donut, if they had to. Needless to say, that’s no organization for someone struggling to get a “leg up” in their career or to fly on the “cheap” for that matter.

  21. dan says

    Furthermore, the ‘monieds’ will cut and run as soon as GA appears to them as a poor investment. The future of general aviation will then be in the hands of those of us who truly believed in general aviation regardless of our fathers’ bottom line.

  22. Karl Sutterfield says

    We need to “compromise and do both”. Some general aviation businesses are sustained by wealthy people flying in professionally-crewed airplanes, others by larger numbers of necessarily thriftier owner-pilots. Both segments of the GA ecosystem are vital, but the upper tiers of the pyramid will eventually shrink, or be sacked by hostile interests and opportunistic bureaucrats, unless they’re supported by that broad base of middle-class pilots flying affordable airplanes.

    What’s urgently needed is a sustained public relations campaign aimed at introducing young middle- and working class people to flight in light aircraft. The various industry-sponsored mentoring programs are valuable, but I suspect they’re reaching only a fraction of the potential audience. Many pilots (myself included) come to aviation not as young children in “air-minded” families, but as the result of some serendipitous event later in life that makes them aware for the first time that flying isn’t just something that other people do. Whatever the trigger, it’s the aviation equivalent of the Eureka! moment. And after it happens, it doesn’t take us long to sense that flying offers both practical and intangible rewards. This is what people mean when they say, “That’s the moment when the bug bit.” To advance aviation – all of it, not just general aviation – we need to expose more people to the bug.

    Finally, in his original essay Ben Sclair writes that “compared to golfing, boating or skiing, [aviation] is a rather pricey endeavor.” I wouldn’t concede that point: I’ve known a lot of people who’ve blown as much on their hobbies as my wife and I have spent in three decades of flying. We’re both commercial-instrument pilots, single-engine only, with about 1500 and 2000 hours of PIC time respectively. Our airplanes – the usual rentals, then a partnership in a Cessna 205, then a wholly-owned Maule, 182RG, and Mooney Ovation – have collectively taken us to nearly every state in the Union, on business, pleasure, and family business (which the IRS should recognize as a category unto itself ;). It would’ve been challenging to do those trips in a golf cart or a boat, or on skis.


    You need money to fly, but you don’t have to be “rich”. That’s fortunate, because saving general aviation is like most things: if the middle class doesn’t do it, it won’t get done.

  23. dan says

    I feel slighted by this article; are those of us who are investing our “blood, sweat and tears” into the world of aviation less important than those who are investing their father’s money and J3 cub?
    Let’s concentrate on aviation for aviation’s sake; pure enthusiasm will pave the way for profitability; it always has.

  24. Dave Schuman says

    I learned to fly in the 1950’s—one of the J-3/Aeronca group. Graduated to a 172 and 182 and Navion, Cherokee Six, and some others.
    My job then took me to the point of 12 hours a day, family, house, PLUS
    not enough money to stay in the aviation game. I missed it terribly.
    So, having an intense interest in aviation I kept my AOPA membership, joined an EAA chapter, attended flyins when I had the time, quit renewing by medical or taking a BFR, etc etc. Now it’s been so long I just no longer have access to any way to resume flying. And with the new TSA regulations such as requiring a background check and badge just to get on the airport, I literally have given up. I can still read magazines and attend EAA meetings and I find most of my friends are in the exact same boat as I am, and sinking fast. I had hoped LSA would solve my problem but now that I am 74 and retired, FORGET it. Not enough money or time, taking care of elderly parents, etc. So there it is, fellows. If you can get a job flying TAKE CARE OF THAT JOB. Don’t drink, don’t run around with strange women, pay your bills, etc. That job is worth its weight in gold.

  25. says

    I disagree with the premise. The Depression is going to teach us that the number of people who can afford a $600,000 single are limited. The manufacturers need to do two things: Figure out how to sell or lease shares of their planes on a “pay one number and everything’s included” basis, and MARKET it.

    I got interested in flying back in the 70s when I was in middle school because of the double-page spread ads Beech ran in the front of each issue of National Geographic. They promoted the planes, and most importantly, the Beech Aero Club. Beech understood it could sell planes first to the clubs, who would rent them out.

    What happened with that?

  26. Dan H says

    39 year-old, pilot, AOPA member, mfg engineer, with working spouse, no children, rent the aircraft I fly – frustrated and discouraged at the message of this article. If this is the new direction of GA, good luck; I guess I feel I’m not technically in the monied bracket.

  27. Adam Rising says

    Off course? With all due respect, I think you may have flown completely off the sectional… While I have only just begun my flying “career” as a GA Student Pilot, I see a VERY large hole in your theory that attracting “monied” people is a solution to the GA financial woes. The “industry” is not only the fat-cat manufactures of overpriced airframes and technology, but it is the A&P licensed mechanic at the local municipal performing 100hrs, repairing bird-strikes, stuck-gear, installing new avionics into old rigs… Not to mention the dedicated CFI’s who work too hard and are paid too little for the risks they take just for the love of flying. No one in my family has ever flown, but as many boys do, I grew up dreaming of flying some day. Yes, money is a factor; but, financial responsibility and prioritization provided the opportunity to pursue my dream. Instead of living like a rock-star, I’ve stayed within my means. My dream is now to pass on my love for flying to my three children, and teach them how to responsibly manage their lives so they can afford to follow whatever their hearts may desire. Who knows? Maybe they’ll grow up and buy a fleet of aircraft and form a new airline? Everyone’s gotta start somewhere. I suggest we work to make flying affordable, but not “cheap”. This shouldn’t be some elitist club that flies around looking down at all the “little people” below either. Try popping in the movie “Robots,” you may understand how some of us “out-modes” feel about the subject… Thanks for listening!

  28. Ken H. says

    Monied people? The last time I bounced a check was when I was paying for this !**********! pilots license! I’ve flown with alot of people, rich and poor. And one thing I can say, is it’s alot more enjoyable to fly with a poor person who is thrilled with the opportunity to fly, than a “monied people” who doesn’t appreciate it. If general aviation can’t be available to everybody who is interested, then we should scrap it right now. I gave it up once and got back into it. If I give it up again, it will be for good. It definitely needs to be more affordable for everybody, not just a rich mans privilege. Numbers will make the difference, not numerals.

  29. John Glenn says

    Ten years ago, when I received my PPL, I was 41 y.o. and able to afford to learn to fly. It had been a life long dream come true. Then came Sept 11th and the price of rentals went through the roof, along the additional cost of insurance, fuel, and further instruction for becoming more proficient. My family and I used to love to take day trips to visit family and friends and take vacations. This is no longer an option since I’m not “monied.” If I had been 31 (a time when I couldn’t afford to learn to fly) when I got into aviation, I’d have changed vocations and made it my new career. With the costs associated with aviation today, I can’t afford to stay current, let alone proficient. Unless things change dramatically (and I’m not holding my breath) I probably will never fly again.

  30. J. Howard Bolt says

    This is why a “common” citizen no longer has reason to support the local airport or GA in general. Who really wrote this article, Nancy Pelosi?

  31. Jerry says

    I’d like to offer a contrary opinion to the concept of focusing on attracting people with money to increase the new pilot population. Granted it does take a commitment of funds to learn to fly. However, if the perception is promoted that it is only for people with money, it will automatically reduce the population pool of potential pilots by a huge percentage. If anything, we need to have the pool of potential pilots as large as possible to start with. Becoming a successful private pilot is a complex and challenging endeavor for anyone, whether they have money or not. As it is clearly beyond the capabilities and desires of many people, we need to open the doors for everyone who can meet and enjoy the challenge.

    Similarly, we should not consider this based on the cost of new aircraft, whatever the type. There are much less costly ways to enjoy the thrill of being a pilot. The used aircraft market and the homebuilt aircraft offer much more reasonable entries into aircraft ownership than the cost of new aircraft. And, these markets are very important to the aircraft manufacturers. Why would anyone consider buying a new aircraft if there was not a market for used aircraft to sell their airplane at some future time?

    I don’t have a good idea of why some people are attracted to flying more than others. I do agree that there may be something in the heritage. I am a third generation pilot. My great uncle was killed barnstorming in the 1930’s in a Curtis Wright Jenny, my dad was a P51 fighter pilot in WWII, and I started flying in 1976. I do know that in my case, I would never have considered learning to fly if I thought it required purchasing a new airplane, or if it required a lot of money. I’m certainly not someone anyone would consider as having lots of money; I just found ways to make it happen. And that may be a better clue than money; identify who has the innate desire.

  32. AJ says

    Let’s face it, GA is dead! Its just taking a litte longer to die is all…. This industry has priced its self out of the markert, even for the “monied” people.

    Though I’m not one of these “monied” people, I’m about ready to hang it up. My C172 is paid for, but the fuel, annual, and parts etc are taking its toll.

    Cost is everything! Cost needs to go down, for GA to survive. No if, and or buts about it!

  33. brian says

    Let’s bring this down to a level all can understand. Whether we are talking about cars, boats or airplanes, every person aspires to move ahead to the next biggest, fastest, fanciest, etc. In aviation, we live in a trade-up world where every student can’t wait until they can get a private certificate, then commercial, then ATP. Same goes for aircraft. It’s great to start out in a 2 seat Cessna 150 .. but the 172 is sure in that pilot’s sights as is the first “retractable” then twin, etc.

    Let’s get people involved in the utility and value that aviation can deliver and watch them move through the “trade-up” market as their jobs change and their income increases and the realization that an airplane simply allows one to spend more time on the ground doing whatever they do to support their family sinks in.

  34. Frank Smith says

    Hoo boy, this is rich! (pardon the pun). Your suggestion to target the rich people to save general aviation is way off base. Let me guess, your under 40 years old aren’t you? Money is not the solution to everything as your generation has been lead to beleive.
    First the rich can already afford the sport and they are not flocking to it. In fact Eclipse (the single jet for rich folks) is going chapter 7. Cirrus and others are struggling. Besides the top level jet providers like Gulfstream and Cessna who target large businesses look at who has flourished in general aviation? Homebuilts, with Vangruvsen being one of the top producers with over 6000 planes flying. In fact EAA is arguably one of the largest if not the largest aviation industry that promotes general aviation. They try to make aviation affordable and enjoyable by all.

    There are several items killing general aviation that were already mentioned above. High purchase and operating costs. High liability (i.e GA lawsuits). Over regulation not only making it a hassle to fly but taking the fun out of flying.

    The only solution to saving general aviation is to reverse the trend of the declining number of pilots. To do that you need tort reform, deregulation (good luck with that one in this big government rules all Era), high volume airplane production (a plane should not cost as much as a car if the volumes produced were high enough). Finally you have to make flying fun again. LSA was a good attempt at addressing some of these concerns but didn’t go far enough. I’ve flown these aircraft and they are fun to fly but still unaffordable. If you only target a narrow demograhic such as the rich folk then you will keep the volumes in GA low and never be able to get the price down to affordable levels. It’s not a sustainable model for growth in the GA industry.

  35. says

    I had the privilege of attending a rather expensive aviation university. It was hard. Not the classes — the prices. I understand that it is much worse now. At the time I was there in the late 1980’s, over 60% of the people at that school were sent there by Mommy and Daddy because “That was where I went to school.” Several of those (including one of my roommates) ended up in jail. Roughly 20% were there as employees of an airline located in a large oil producing nation. With tuition, housing, and stipend, it seemed like a pretty easy gig. About 7 – 10% were ROTC or there on some sort of military scholarship. The rest of us were working our butts off at 2 jobs just trying to pay for food and rent. Can you guess which students were really motivated?

    Flying is expensive. It took me nearly seven years to earn my Private Pilot Certificate. And you better believe that I earned it. It took me another ten years to earn my Instrument Rating. Another two years for my Commercial Pilot Certificate. When you have the money, you don’t have the time. When you have the time, you just don’t have the money.

    Now maybe I didn’t make all the right decisions. Maybe I should have gone to a less expensive school. But today I am a very skilled pilot with just as much right to my little Corner of the Sky as the next guy…even if I wasn’t born with a silver spoon. I don’t fly for hire, but I do use General Aviation within my small business. Contrary to what Congress may think, General Aviation allows us to be more efficient and to provide services across the nation to other small businesses so that they can be more efficient. Together we are the ones turning the economic engine. Together we are the ones who are going to dig this country out of the mess that the government and big corporations so eagerly walked right into.

  36. Larry Stencel says


    You’ve hit ONE of the nails in the aviation conundrum right on the head. Finally, someone realizes that aviation isn’t for the faint of heart … OR wallet. SO – in reverse – going after those who can afford aviation IS one way to go. AOPA realized that the target subset of the population they needed to go after was exactly that…the successful late 40ish guy with kids who are grown and can now follow his dreams. Problem is, that’s only ONE part of the problem.

    As an owner of two fine ‘older’ entry level four place GA airplanes, a beautiful hangar and possessing advanced piloting certificates and an A&P license, I made the formal commitment to aviation many years ago in my early 20’s. It was MY dream and I made it happen. So every time I start thinking about adding up the actual dollars and cents cost of my hobby, I realize that I cannot possibly justify it so I better not ask a question I don’t want an answer to. I CAN afford, I CHOOSE to afford it but – as aptly pointed out – like folks aren’t doing it today. So the key question is … why. What’s different now then 40 years ago.

    MY input would be that the Governmental entities, et al, have overregulated aviation to the point of insanity. The basic relationship between the FAA and it’s constituencies is adversarial at every level. THEY say it’s safety based but I do not agree. Any first year physics student knows that no system is 100% efficient yet the FAA seeks to make aviation 100% safe and regulated at any cost. If the FAA finds a mistake made by an A&P, they go into the automatic “kill” mode. Same thing with pilot deviations. And, despite inventing the LSA “rule,” aviation is SO darn complicated for the person of average interest that they take up other hobbies with far less regulation. If they aren’t possessed by aviation, they choose other avenues for their discretionary bucks. It’s a heckuva lot easier and cheaper to buy a Corvette or a boat than learning how to fly.

    Now add in fuel costs that went up like a rocket but haven’t come down commensurate with auto fuel along with an economy in the tank. Add in a society fixated on ridiculous levels of litigation and a Security Administration which thinks there‘s a bogeyman in every GA cockpit and a Congress that thinks pilots are “fatcats.” Finally, mix in the cost of a new GA airplane at about $300K+ and you have an environment which just plain isn‘t inviting to the exact target population that COULD afford it. Just because a person has the money does NOT mean they have the interest given the above.

    Unless and until the Government realizes that aviation is a crucial part of our economy and a critical skill which breeds economic growth, aviation as we knew it is finished. Unless and until a long term aviation plan is established by all, aviation will continue it’s slow death as each of us gets older and gives it up. The GA fleet’s average age is getting older for a good reason … no one wants or CAN afford a new airplane. In a nutshell … too much BS for most folks.

    LSA was supposed to be a panacea which would reinvigorate aviation…yeah, right. LSA’s were supposed to cost $40 to $50K but decent machines cost two to three times that. And these are for machines with limited use. A new Cessna or Piper entry level certificated airplane is priced too high … even for the heavy hitters given the additional levels of bureaucratic poo poo one has to endure.

    For me … I’ll keep my airplanes and fly no matter what. A few others will do that, as well. That said, even I am considering hanging up my headset. There is no real incentive for new blood NOT seeking professions in aviation to pursue the hobby. I know plenty of folks who could afford to learn to fly and maybe buy a good used airplane but the view it as just too much to deal with.

    Money is a necessary ingredient but isn’t the critical ingredient. We’ve got to remake aviation into the romantic hobby it once was and simplify the BS.

  37. Roger Bailey says

    Bruce is qite correct. With the abundance of c-150/152s, gumman lynx, and piper/ tomahawks, it is a shame not to have them qualified as LSA. In actuality, we should advance the proposal that ALL 4 place aircraft with fixed gear and 180 hp engines should be qualified. Using a driver’s license should be all that would be required…and so many new and not weathy pilots to be, could use such aircraft, of which there are aplenty. {according to trade-a-plane}.

    It is amply demonstrated in the flying literature that less then 2% of accidents are the result of medical conditions! Lets save the medicals for the professional flying pilots. I know so many folks that have stopped flying due to some minor medical condition…yet they continue driving. Remember, you have two vehicles weighing several tons moving toward each other at 60mph speeds with just a small yellow line separating them…yet they don’t need a medical exam to operate…and we are evaluated biannually for our skills…that (with our annual a\c inspections) should be more then sufficient.

    You want to encourage flying that is “cost reasonable” lets make these changes and watch the “skys the limit” develop in people of ALL ages.

    Time for AOPA and EAA to present those proposals to encourage the excitement of flying we all know is out there.

  38. Tiana Bishop says

    The “monied” class has never had a problem finding GA. I dislike using the term “monied” class as though we were talking about using a caste system in GA.

    GA should be just that, General Aviation, everyone is welcome. Just think how lonely it would be at Oshkosh if you had to be declared “rich enough” to attend. If anyone with a love of flying drives an old car, or decides to forgo the bigger home just to fuel his desire to fly, he should be welcomed. An enthusiast will pass along his love of any sport to his family.

    Besides, GA is all about brotherhood (and sisterhood) of people with one thing in common, a love of flying. When pilots are standing around in a hanger, it doesn’t matter if you are a surgeon, a meter reader, a hair dresser, or a lawyer. We are all bound by a love of the sky, and we are all eager to share our knowledge and stories. (Especially the stories!)

  39. says

    While your logic is correct, i.e. flying is expensive: therefore money is required, I think you have a chicken and egg dilemma.

    I fell in love with flying sitting on a box, looking thru the fence at Pensacola Naval Air Station when I was 4. (Thundering yellow SNJ’s) Had NO money at the time, but thru the years my passion for flying taught me a lot about myself, other people around me … the skills required in business. I attribute a portion of my success in life to what I learned from “flying” (including Stinson, Lindbergh, Doolittle and Armstrong) – it gave some relevance to education – math and science, navigation, aerodynamics, economics, etal. Taught me patience, planning, attention to detail, and perseverance. It made me more curious about things as diverse as “crew interaction” and the effects ice on an airfoil!

    If people who are “MONIED” have not found the value of “FLYING” along the road to becoming “MONIED” I suspect you will have a very hard time attracting them – after the fact!

    I fly for three reasons: 1) the technical challenge of it all – very satisfying to touch down exactly on schedule, having burned exactly xx gallons, having flown several ATC diversion, after having properly interpreted the weather or not as the case my be. 2) At cruise, when the radio chatter is lessened, I get a few minutes to put the world out my windscreen into perspective. I always return to terra firma a little more humble, more appreciative of the roles we play and the achievements of those who came before – we have conquered the sky – we can conquer cancer, bigotry – whatever! The engineers who designed and built my Bonanza did it with a slide rule and a T-square – surely with the tools we have today we can achieve so much more. 3) Time … we are given only so many heartbeats on this earth and wasting any of them cannot be measured in dollars. A dependable airship is the closest thing to a time machine we have right now – I use it just to squeeze more life into those heartbeats!

    So which comes first – Money – or a passion for flight (and the good things that come with it)? Go figure. You may get a few “Monied” converts – but imho it will never sustain an industry.

    We have an education problem in this country – our young people can see no relevance to what we are asking them to learn. We’ve even given it a name – call it A.D.D. and fill them full of drugs.

    Alternatively, give them the opportunity to develop a passion for flight, and they might just become the “MONIED” ones – engineers, doctors, and entrepreneurs who recognize and appreciate the true value of “flight” … and your industry will survive. You will need cubs (lsa) and sailplanes, A36’s TBM800’s, King Aires, and Mustangs.

    But more than that you need kids with a passion for something besides video games!



  40. Lennie B. says

    Watch that “monied” class talk. If it weren’t for the mechanics and technicians working on their aircraft, the “monied” class would have to spend their time chasing a fuzzy yellow ball on a tennis court for entertainment.

    GA should be for everyone who enjoys flying.

  41. george says

    Great article and I enjoy reading anything I can learn from, however…I have to disagree with your thoughts about encouraging more of the monies people. This will isolate and cause a barrier at events when the two get together. We need not devide anyone, we need to address the big picture so anyone with the want can work and save to enjoy this passion. Too much in life is already separaterd by those that are wealthy and those that have to work a little extra to enjoy the same thing.

  42. Tiana Bishop says

    The “monied” class has never had a problem finding GA (I dislike even mentioning a “monied” class as though we are talking about using a caste system).

    GA should be just that, General Aviation. Everyone is welcome. If they are willing to make the sacrifices to afford the lessons, rent, ownership, ect., we should welcome them. How lonely it would be at Oshkosh if you had to be “rich enough” to be considered for admission. If a person is willing to drive an older model car, or forgo the bigger home just to fuel his burning desire to fly, then we should support that person, and welcome him young or old.

    Being a pilot is all about brotherhood (and sisterhood); camaraderie is a most important benefit of GA. I don’t care if you’re a surgeon or a truck driver; we all share a love of flying.

  43. Dan Zimmermann says

    I am in the process of passing on my love for flying to my sons. However, after paying the $2500 bill for the flight time necessary to attain a PPL after retiring as an Army Aviator, I’m having to let the sting of that wear off a bit before I can bear to spend the money for another hour of flight time. It took me over 25 years to get my PPL. My first flight was in a Piper Arrow before I joined the Army and began a military aviation career. I couldn’t afford to continue my PPL training until I retired. Only then did the overall cost of the training become affordable as I only needed half the time or less to get my rating.

    I could use a GA aircraft for business trips, and would love to do so, but the company I work for doesn’t support me renting an aircraft and flying it myself due to liability issues.

  44. Corey says

    I agree with the premise of this article. The people who can afford to buy new airplanes are the ones keeping the aircraft manufacturers afloat. And if Cirrus, Columbia (now Cessna), Diamond, etc. can attract more monied people to buy their products, they will grow their companies and eventually may be able to increase their production rates and drive the cost down. But it is a crying shame that airplanes now cost so much. The root cause of this is of course excessive regulation. The regulations make it nearly impossible to start a new aviation company or for an existing aviation company to innovate. I have seen this painful road block first hand. I personally was involved with a start-up company in New Orleans a couple of years ago. We hoped to offer a much needed charter service there with a couple of modern airplanes. At the time the FAA had a nationwide freeze on issueing new charter certificates. It is not enough to follow the rules clearly outlined in the Federal Aviation Regulations, each business or each design must be individually approved by an FAA official. The FAA does not have the manpower or the incentive to keep up with demand.

    As another illustration, compare a 200 HP automotive engine with a 200 HP airplane engine. It’s about $3,000 vs $30,000, and the automotive engine is machined to tighter tolerances, stricter quality control standards, and is completely computer controlled. To try to start an engine manufacturing company and upgrade this antiquated design is incredibly time consuming and expensive. It pretty much takes a billionaire who loves aviation. Austro Engine, the new engine company (and hope for general aviation) is a perfect case in point. Christian Dries (the billionaire and owner of Diamond Aircraft)is trying to enter this market. They are using off-the-shelf components and it still took 4 years and $68,000,000 to bring this engine to the market! And that is just for European (EASA) certification! He will now have to spend countless millions to convince the FAA it is worthy.

    Here is a link about this exciting new engine and the painful process it has been to bring it to a “free” market:

  45. Chris R says

    Great article to stir a debate — I’m going to side with LP Morton here. The culprit is cost, plain & simple.

    As for the cost of our “hobby”, I’m a one-time aerospace guy now, so I’m well-aware of the dynamics involved in making airplanes. We in GA need to seriously examine how long the industry can hold up when Chevy-like C172s cost more than most houses in Kansas where they’re made.

    No offense to Chevy or Cessna, but let’s face it — the 50-year+ 172 design should cost less to make than that new Chevy Malibu. What is wrong with the processes involved here that this is not the case? Why have we never achieved economies of scale to bring auto-like price-points to this industry? Even the boating industry has this worked out for the most part, with as much liability & similar regulatory hurdles to surmount. Think about that.

    If we don’t address this, the industry will continue to shrink as the generations of legacy pilots & their offspring become a smaller & smaller portion of a growing US population that just doesn’t care about GA at all, or worse, finds us a threat to their well-being as witnessed in Las Vegas this winter.

    Let’s all work together to be sure this does not, by necessity, become a hobby of only the “rich”.

  46. Patrick says

    I couldn’t disagree more with your article and I certainly hope that none of the general aviation advocacy groups adopt your idea. If they do, people like me are done flying forever. I fly for the enjoyment of it, not because I can afford to. It is a serious burden on my finances, but I continue to let it be the one “extravagance” that I allow myself. If only rich people are targeted, costs will balloon like never before because costs won’t matter.

    If any action should be taken, it should be to reduce the ridiculous costs involved with insurance, fuel and unnecessary glass cockpit bells and whistles.

    Frankly, your article is somewhat offensive. Your idea would take away the opportunity to learn to fly from thousands like me simply because they don’t have rich relatives. Too much of aviation has already been lost to out of control costs.

  47. says

    The survival of GA depends on maintaining its usefulness for business. $100 hamburger flying is not going to keep urban GA airports open, like Santa Monica. And if that closes, then the downward cycle accelerates because GA will cease to have utility for business. No business flying, no one to pay thousands of dollars per month on a new Cirrus lease.

  48. says

    Only as a student pilot, and just started this adventure at 59, I am stuggling to expand my business with a pilot’s certificate. I am not considered weathy, but we have a big family and lots of grandchildren. I might not be the contribution to the GA community you are looking for, but my example might add several to the future of the industry, and other voices to be heard.

    You might be smarter invested in attracting those of us that are less fortunate because we are very passonate about joing your ranks, and it shows. Put a kid in a car, he has transportation, put him in a sports car and he has bragging rights and will show it off. I am an old man in pilot years, but I have a lot of people watching me try this on.

  49. Wes McKechnie says

    The fact is the aviation culture is gradually being driven down a road that removes options, and with that goes the middle class and soon even the upper middle class pilot. Elitism is not necessarily a dirty word and does have its place, but it is not the solution we need and will simply exacerbate the problem of shrinking GA numbers. Along with the middle and upper middle class pilots will go the votes, goodwill and community activism that keep airports & airspace, and political support and infrastructure available to us. This is part of what maintains resonable affordability of GA. There is a reason why so many forign people come to the U.S. to learn to fly. If you are not of a certain station in life or from that countries military, flight training in the U.S. is the only option left open. Copying or even promoting that model will kill GA, as it did in those countries. Focusing on bringing wealthy kids in to solve the problems of getting people into aviation I doubt will serve to keep it avaiable to the average man, which is precisly what’s needed to preserve it anywhere near its present form. We already suffer an unfair image as a a priveledged sport or career for the well off. Let’s not acquiesce to their image, it will not serve either the wealthy or the middle class goals in GA.

  50. Jay Gerdes says

    I think Craig is right. You can attract those who can afford it, or you can make it affordable(much harder, thanks to our legal friends, but ultimately the better way).

    Think about this- if you rent an aircraft, particularly a new hi tech aircraft-between the rental and gas, you have spent enough to buy yourself a new state of the art driver.Fly for a couple of hours and you can play Pebble Beach. Most golfers hesitate, at least a little, to indulge in that. And how many hours do you need in a particular high tech aircraft to really be competent- and how often do you need to do that?
    Unless you have a business use for your flying,and fly for fun only, it is a much more expensive hobby than it used to be.

    Also, and our own AOPA is not helpful here- Non-owner pilot liability insurance affords little protection to one with assets.You can get a maximum of 1,000,000 coverage total for an accident- the full one million can be used for property damage, but the policy only allows 100,000 per person damages. Your assets are on the line if someone is injured and their attorney can argue for more than 100,000.Not hard to do.

    I love flying, but particularly in these economic times, find it hard to justify to myself.

    What can be done?- realistic level of insurance, with ubmrella coverage like you can get for your driving liability( mandates for continued training very acceptable).

    New planes that are not astronomically priced. Will that take consolidation, only one or two models available, so they can be built on a real assembly line? maybe.

    The current process does not look sustainable to me.

  51. Camille deJorna says

    Well, I appreciate the marketing concept however, we all remember the moment when we looked up in the sky, saw an airplane overhead and thought, “I wonder how I can do that?”

    What’s important for the future of GA is to expose as many young people as possible to its joys. I think the Young Eagles program does a terrific job of that. Kids can experience aviation first hand and at least start thinking about whether they’d like to get their A&P or get involved in other ways with aviation, including line jobs (not just as a pilot). What happened to the idea that washing planes and going up with aircraft owners can lead to broader horizons?

    I didn’t grow up in a family or neighborhood where others flew but my dad took me over to Idlewyld Airport (now JFK) to watch the planes take off and land. It wasn’t until many years later that I had the resources to take lessons and earn my private license. I have a pretty good professional life and yet its still difficult to create a budget to fly regularly. If the Young Eagles program had been around when I was a little girl then maybe today I’d be involved in aviation professionally.

    The point is there’s room in aviation for so many more than simply those who can easily afford it. For the future of GA, the more people who appreciate the joys of aviation and the beauty of flight, means fewer people complaining about those noisy GA airports and contributing to their demise….

  52. Jeff D says

    I agree that GA doesn’t need to be limited to just the “monied”. If you want to punch holes in the sky in a J3, have a blast. But most places can’t survive with that way. They need people who use GA for transportation.

    My issue is with the customer service that people who DO have money receive. I’m trying to finish my PPL after moving across the country, and it has been a most painful experience. My first choice FBO is more interested in cranking out 747 wanna-be-drivers than servicing the guy who wants to rent a plane for the weekend. Heaven forbid they do maintenance during the week or at night and have aircraft available during the weekend. My second choice never called me back. My third choice has me paired up with a kid half my age who wants to drive King Airs, and all they have are SR22s at $200+/hr or Warriors that I’ve never flown.


  53. Bruce says

    It bothers me to single out the “haves” of flying and leaving the “have nots” out of the loop. While flying is not with out cost as other hobbies it does seem to be one of the highest(and doesn’t have to be). I do agree with the other comments that the price is not in line with other activities and how do we correct this? I guess what is next, advertise “Young Eagle Flights” (parents income statement required ) to see if you qualify??? There is no reason that a C-150 does not qualify for LSA other than a $ figure. Six figures for a LSA is not in line with reality in my opinion.I will continue to support GA and try and help it grow and I can assure you I am not one of the “haves”.

  54. Scott M says

    Ever wonder why doctors and lawyers get into so many aircraft accidents? It’s not because there bad pilots, it’s because they are the only one’s who can afford to fly. Let’s be honest folks, GA hasn’t been affordable for quite some time if ever. When was it affordable, the 60’s I think. The only reason I got my pilot ratings was so I could start my flying career. How many young people can truely afford to fly for the pleasure of flying alone?

  55. Gene B says

    Many of the other comments seem preoccupied with what “class” of people we need to attract to the world of general aviation. Instead, I think we should focus on attracting folks who are spending their “disposable income” on anything else. Fundamentally, I agree with Ben’s argument that kids who grow up in aviation-oriented families tend to follow. However, this same principle applies to boating people, motocross enthusiasts, RVers, and, yes, even NASCAR nuts! What we need to do is promote aviation where all these folks hang out: their magazines, expos, boat shows, rallies, tracks, etc. The slickest ad campaigns placed in aviation publications, on FBO bulletin boards, etc., do little good in attracting new families. Most of what we do today is like a bunch of Amway representatives hanging out with each other trying to sell soap to each other! We must “get out there amongst ’em.”

    We need to have booths at boat shows, NASCAR events, motocross races, and any other place where people congregate to enjoy their hobbies — regardless of their income level. Anyone who spends any amount of disposable income on a passion is fair game! After all, general aviation has a place for anybody with an interest and a couple of dollars to spend. Let’s find them where they live and bring them in!

  56. Mike says


    I must say part of what you say is true. It took me 16 years to get my PPL, it wasn’t because of lack of desire, I asure you, it was money.
    I believe if you want to generate more interest in GA you need to attract all sorts of people especially when they are young. I believe more scholarships and involvement from the industry is needed. Airlines should have programs that adopt promising students similar to the way the military obtains new pilots. They pay to train them, and in return those pilots serve. These pilots do not pay out of pocket to become pilots. They get paid to become and then to serve as pilots. These pilots then can purchase thier own aircraft because they are making a good living and are able to afford thier own planes.

    As far as cost of flying I have a great way to reduce costs, serve. The Civil Air Patrol (Official Aux. of The USAF) offers pilots the opportunity to fly thier corporate aircraft at drastically reduced prices. A C-182 for 50.00 hr. instead of 140.00 hr. Instead of boring holes in the sky, a PP can conduct search and rescue for downed airplanes and help introduce young people (12-21) to aviation by flying orientation flights. So go to gocivilairpatrol.com find out the information and join. Serve your nation and fly cheap, we need you all.

    Mike Coulter, CAPT CAP
    Sq. 308 Glendale AZ.

  57. says

    I totally agree with Mr. Fuller when he says it helps to have pilot parents. Pilots can generate pilots if they want.Pilot parents should have the attitude not to ask a child if they want to fly: get them in a plane flying and after ask the question. If well instructed and consistent, they will never say they dont like it. Do parents ask children if they want to ride a bicycle ? NO. So what is wrong with not giving kids the choice ?
    Besides there is nothing wrong in giving a kid a advantage in life ! I desagree, it is not a question of money, it is a question of priority. If parents and kids make a commitment! like : No Hawaiian trip this year, no car… The reward is awesome ! WE have done it, for one and will do it for the other all the way to PRO. Sorry, they cant drive a car,they rather be flying!. Last year my daughter 17, son 15 and co-pilot 19 flew onboard a Cessna 172 all the way from Manitoba to the Arctic Circle (toktuyaktuk, NWT)over the 70th parallell and back VFR ! Pete McCleod, Red Bull Air Race competitor came from a generation of pilots Pete learned from flying fishermen to their camps ! not a millionaire’s job or environment I’d say.
    If GA is loosing pilots today it is partly because of pilot parent’s lack of supervision and also too lttle is done to bring aviation forward by media (TV shows, sports, etc…)
    I guess with the amount of Chinese pilots presently being trained across North America and in China we will have to recruit our commercial pilots from there. THEY (Chinese) better be motivated…

  58. Steve Reeves says

    I agree with Fraser. I have had an experimental now for about 9 years. This is my second experimental, and second plane total. I started with a Pulsar and moved up to a Glasair 1FT. It is a great IFR capable aircraft, fast, affordable, and cheap to maintain. I know this route is not for everyone. I let experienced builders inspect and help me with my purchases. Like many here, I am a flyer and not a builder. It has made aviation very affordable for me, not to mention that the experimental community consists of many interesting people.

  59. Dietrich Fecht, Austria says

    Hi Steve,

    are you one of the monied people who can afford the new high priced airplanes for private use? You had access to a J-3 and Cessna 172XP. Are that the new aircraft being manufactured?
    I own a 45`trawler. And I can tell you that it costs much more to buy, rent, fuel and sail this boat than buy, rent, fuel and fly most SE airplanes. The difference is that boating is much easyer than flying today with all the restrictions and growing regulations.
    Why should “monied people” fly? It is so dangerous that a manufacturer of modern SE airplanes believes that their planes need a parachute for safety. It is so difficult that many month are needed to get a permit to fly (pilot licence). Later private pilots are the dangerous part in the air because they are not so perfect as the “pro`s” are? And when perhaps you have no luck and make a small mistake you get intercepted with a good chance to experience a time in jail.
    What we need are the enthusiasts. But very often the greatest enthusiasts are not “monied people”. In times like today when the annual salariey of a well paid engineer is much less than the the price of a new or good used SE airplane, some things are wrong.
    It is no wonder that private flying is going down.
    What we need are new cheaper SE airplanes and less regulations and restrictions. That only can survive private flying.

  60. Terry Miles says

    I disagree with the notion that flying should be for the rich. The author didn’t say that in so many words, but why not attract working class kids? I made it. My Dad was meter reader for the city electric company. Let’s not limit our sense of who we are. The government does not need to certify everything from door knobs to flap handles, and Jeppesen and Garmin properly take that to the bank with an understandable belief that their markets and so their prices are insulated from normal price pressures.

  61. Mark says

    I don’t see too many poor people flying around. So if lower income folks typically don’t go on to become GA pilots (except with maybe grants from schools like your alma mater), doesn’t GA by default advertise to ‘monied’ people? I guess I am not getting your point – you want even wealthier people to become pilots?

    I sort of understand your point how we need to bring more dinero into the GA mix, however, this is a short-sighted solution for a long-term issue. We need volume, not small #’s of rich families. I think attracting anybody who is interested is key. This will automatically include the rich, poor, middle class, etc. I would like to hear your criteria for what ‘monied’ is. I think your target audience is much smaller than you think.

  62. Rob Martin says

    I would like to see the industry striving to make flying MORE affordable…NOT trying to attract richer people to flying. The plain fact is, aircraft and their associated systems are FAR too expensive. I am a master auto tecnician by trade, and the technology in a modern minivan is leaps and bounds ahead of even the best equipped light aircraft. An airframe is a remarkably simple structure. The piston engines are the simplest design, not unlike the engines of the old Volkswagen Beetle’s of the 60’s and 70’s….only larger. And I truly can’t believe the cost of modern avionics. There is NO possible way that these units, most with less computing power than the old laptop I’m posting with has, are that expensive to manufacture. It is appearent that, although I understand the reliablity factor has to be top notch, and that contributes to higher cost, it certainly doesn’t justify that an aviation GPS/com unit is worth $12,000 as opposed to the factory installed motor vehicle units. The aviation community, appearently boosts costs because they know that mostly higher income persons fly….so they exploit that to make a whopping profit. A Piper “Cherokee” bodied aircraft is basically STILL the same airframe as it was when first built….but the cost of the new version is nearly a QUARTER OF A MILLION DOLLARS!! How totally ridiculous!!.
    There are MANY good aviators, such as myself, that have a complete and total passion and gift for flying but simply cannot afford to do so. I certainly cannot justfy my continued training into Commercial and ATP flying when I cannot pay my utilities. My dream of professional aviation is all but dead…and that’s a pain that I cannot stop. I know several pilots that suffer the same reality…and nobody is doing anything to help us get back in the air…on the contrary, the prices keeps going up!!
    How about concentrating on getting our already licensed pilots back in the air before we worry about getting more “rich” people flying!!

  63. Aaron M. says

    If we are trying to attract more “monied” individuals to GA, aren’t we confirming the very idea that GA is a “luxury” item (and therefore, taxable as one). I’d think, as Randy mentioned, making the hobby more accessible to the masses would do more to protect GA than pigeon-holing in an upper-income niche market.

  64. Paul R says

    While attracting people who can afford GA expenses is a goal, doesn’t it set up GA as an elitist group? I would much rather see implementation of technology to lower the costs. The newer LSA and non-LSA aircraft burn far less fuel than the majority of the GA fleet which is probably 20 to 30 years old. The introduction of composites and FADEC are an example of technology lowering the overall cost.

  65. L P Morton says

    General Aviation does not have to be “pricey”.

    Look around at all the legislation that has caused the price of GA to go out of site.

    This is the real culprit of GA costs.

    Fuel does not need to be 2 times auto fuel,
    Annual inspections need not be excessively abused,
    I can go and on.


  66. Bob Lockmiller says

    I seldom take issue with things I read on the web but I must strongly disagree with any arguement that suggests that an economic class of people should have the potential for greater impact on the future of aviation. I am assuming here that we’re talking about General Aviation which by definition should include and support all classes of people and as such, any growth in the industry must be the result of the needs and inputs from all classes of the (voting) public. I would say much more to support this point but I’m short on time for the moment. Hopefully, someone else will also take issue with this position.

  67. Fraser MacPhee says

    Well, some of you make not like this, but after 20 years of getting into and out of GA, mainly because of cost to rent/own a “safe” and well maintained aircraft, I made a choice to purchase an experimental plans built aircraft, which has served me very well over the past 3 years and given me the freedom to fly when I chose. With a LSA still sporting a 6 figure price, for but only reasonable performance, and the only other alternative being shared ownership, or “flight clubs”, etc., I suspect you may find that any growth in GA is going to come from people with incomes such as myself finding new “types” of aircraft to safley fly, that are less encumbered by burdensome regulations put forth by our esteemed government representatives. Just because it’s certified, don’t mean it’s safe.

  68. David says

    I agree with the your opinion for sure. People who are able to spend money are a benefit to general aviation. Not only to aicraft manufacturers and those who work there, but to all GA pilots. I am by no means able to purchase a new GA aircraft, but because those with more money are it creates a larger used fleet of aircraft which I have a better chance at aquiring. It also increases the rental fleet of aircraft. I am worried about the new govt. administration’s policy of taxing the rich for this type of reason.

  69. Brenton Green says

    While I understand the logic that produced your proposal, I disagree completely wih the underlying premise. That being, flying is expensive, so we need to attract more people who can afford it.
    Rather, I would put forth that flying need not be out of reach for the “non-monied”. It would be far more profitable in the long run to reduce the cost of flying than to reinforce the concept that airplanes are the toys of the rich.

  70. says

    Smart, reasoned article. Kudos, Mr. Sclair. Ought to prompt additional thinking and tactics for outreach.

    Mr. Berg, I’m not an expert on NASCAR, but I believe they hold the claim of greatest spectator sport attendance.

  71. Old School says

    Aviation is quickly becoming a hobby of the “monied” and out of reach of the normal working Middle Class. I learned to fly in a 1936 Fairchild, and for very little cost I might add. In all hobbies it seems that money enters into the picture at some point. The “haves” will be flying and the “have nots” will not be in the very near future.

  72. Randy S. Bolinger says

    The Aircraft Partnership Association is doing wonderful things to help attract new people to GA by doing the single most important thing – lowering the barrier to entry by reducing the acquisition and operating costs of flying. By using web-based technology (rather than a poster in an FBO) to help partners find each other, the free “match-making service” allows members to search a secure database for people with the same aircraft interests, experience, budgets, location, etc. The system even sends members an e-mail alert when a new potential partner joins in your area. By making it cheap, easy (and fun to fly by leveraging the social aspect of being an aviator), we may finally have a viable chance at attracting new people from outside of GA who may otherwise spend the same amount of money on a power boat, sports car, etc. CHeck it out at http://www.theAPA.com.

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