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.