Going after Joe Six-Pack


Re: Ben Sclair’s Touch & Go column, “Let’s attract the money,” in the April 3 issue: Though I find much of what you say accurate, I don’t think it entirely covers or tenders a plan to fix the problems.

As a longtime stakeholder, airport and flight school owner/operator, providing a number of related pilot, mentor, political alligator wrestler, commentator services, etc., I feel as though I’m reasonably qualified to weigh in on these ongoing blame games.

Our situation doesn’t just stem from attracting wealth, though that would be nice and perhaps make things easier. Our problem is more deeply rooted in not attracting anyone at all.

Our industry doesn’t advertise or present ourselves as a viable sport, recreation, or business alternative to the general public. Nowhere today, except in our own “church hymnals,” do we go out and solicit “Joe Six Pack,” the starving reality type, or the unhappy office worker searching for something to do with his sacred weekend or vacation.

No ads in USA Today, none on reality TV, no billboards on major highways, no exposure about becoming a career pilot by the school guidance counselor, no aviation infomercials, no significant web presence, no nothing! We don’t compete for people’s attention, let alone their time and money.

Either our industry is extremely arrogant, stupid, ill informed or can’t be bothered or there’s something I haven’t figured out from more than 35 years in business.

Attract the money, but first let’s attract the masses.

ROBERT POWELL, Owner, Cecil County Airport (58M), Maryland


  1. Roger Bailey says

    If we are serious about the future of GA, lets get the private pilot license under the SLA rules for medical…a drivers license as the only requirement. To project that folks of average income will pay 120K+ for a two place plane is absurd. If it is good enough for SLA, why not for all aircraft under 3500 Lbs…. (if we need a weight limit at all).
    Do this and we will have a real resurgence in the flying public.

  2. says

    As far as I can tell the future of GA is bleak. What other discretionary activity requires that you learn an ever increasing number of arcane rules and regulations each year, some that have very serious legal repercussions if you inadvertently bust them (F-16s chasing you down) and once having achieved journeyman status, you will forever be a suspected terrorist.

  3. Mike Arman says

    Robert is correct, we have done an absolutely ****-poor job of encouraging people to fly, to buy airplanes, to get into aviation at all.

    This isn’t a new problem, either. In 1982, I had a pocket full of cash and walked into a local FBO which had three Tomahawks for sale on their flight line. The treatment I got was unbelievable – no one here to talk to you, come back in a week, come back in another week, he’s on vacation.

    Can you imagine walking into a car dealer and announcing you have a pocket full of cash and want to buy a car today? You’d NEVER get out of there without a car, maybe two or even three!

    I bought something else, somewhere else, for cash.

    I notice that most of the larger FBOs are only interested in the BizJet crowd, and often price avgas so high that those of us who drive lowly bugsmashers go elsewhere – there’s a $3.00 a gallon difference right where I am, at two airports just ten miles apart.

    Where do they think the BizJet crowd comes from? It grows from small business owners and pilots who started our training in lowly 150s, Tomahawks and similar aircraft, and WE REMEMBER how the high-roller FBOs treated us! Why should we go back? While we don’t have a LOT of money like the customers they prefer, if you have enough ants you can eat an elephant. Remember that their big-buck customers can instantly disappear with the mere flick of a bean counter’s pen.

    We must pay attention to the roots of general aviation. If there is no new crop of aviators, before too much longer the only people who will fly at all will be the very rich and the airlines – GA will atrophy and die off.

    We aren’t even sure who our market is – is it small business owners? Is it recreational flyers? Is it kids who are currently sitting in front of a computer playing flight sim games? We need to find out, and we need to encourage them to get active, get started, and join the best club in the world, the club of aviators and aviation.

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