Prediction 2011 – Growth

2011 will be an amazing year for General Aviation. The following is the first in a series of absurd (unless they come to fruition) predictions. The quotes are manufactured (by me) and the only thing standing in the way of making these a reality is the cajones to make it so.

Growth is coming

In February, FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt, citing wholesale statistics from the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, will decide to make the requirements for obtaining a pilot’s certificate dramatically easier. Babbitt, connecting the dots, sees a direct correlation between the 8,800 Class A motor-homes and the 634 single-engine piston aircraft delivered between January and September 2010.

“Class A motor-homes are expensive. A new unit might start at $100,000 and, like airplanes, the sky is the limit,” said Babbitt during a made-up telephone interview just before the end of 2010. “This is proof there is discretionary money in the economy. We just have to make learning to fly easier and faster so we can tap into this market.” Expect to hear an FAA initiative to reduce the number of regulations pertaining to recreational flying by 65%-75%.

“After all, an informal survey in a December 1, 2010 AOPA eBrief newsletter showed 78% of all respondents fly for recreation,” Babbitt continued. “If these people are interested in flying on clear and calm days, for fun, then the FAA, and the industry, must chop down the many impediments that get in the way of learning to fly. As long as a motor-home built on a Peterbuilt semi-truck chassis is marked ‘Not for Hire’ anyone with a checkbook and a drivers license can operate one.”

While we won’t be able to make it that easy to own and operate an aircraft, we should strive to make learning to fly on severe clear days as easy as possible.

Not long after the FAA announces its initiative, expect to see an industry-wide branding effort, similar to Go RVing.

Agree? Disagree? Have your own absurd predication? Post your comments below.


  1. says

    “Mike” makes a lot of sense! The problem is a simple one; the “economy’s of scale” will NEVER apply to airplanes considering only about 1 in 1,400 folks have a need for “GA” compared to the automobile which is more like 1,399 in 1,400! If some of the readers check some history after WW II when certain “non-buiness idealist” believed that the same held true from a political phase made popular during the 30’s,”a chicken in every pot,a car in every garage”, became “an airplane in every garage/hangar”! The bottom line,ladies and gentlemen is this; accept the FACT that “recreational aviation” isn’t INEXPENSIVE and does anyone really think that if a BRAND NEW airplane would sell for a retail of around $50K that would really increase the demand? Guess again; IF a consumer doesn’t have a NEED or WANT,PRICE is not a determinate for demand. Like Mike said, just like good values on off-lease 2-3 year old cars, try a 30-40 year old 150,172,Cherokee or Cheetah!

  2. says

    Very interesting post, regarding the cost of flying. I have to agree with Hal Hoodwin on the inflation index tool, as I have used that to compare the cost of flying to the past. I do however, believe that the cost of ownership is adjusted correctly, i.e. the price of insurance, hanger, annual inspection, IFR cert. is close to what the inflation index would predict.

    However, the price of a new airplane doesn’t really make sense, considering the improvements of a new airplane. I think that the manufacturing in what we call the economy of scale is what makes the price point appear sky high! When Cessna built 500 Skyhawks per year, they could sell a new Skyhawk for a price and still produce a profit. When you only build 40 new Skyhawks per year, you can only make a profit by offering a product at this price point.

    As a free market believer, if this wasn’t true, you would have Piper/Diamond/Cirrus offering a product that would be priced at what the inflation index. However, due to the limited demand, they price to what demand is, and still make something of a profit. Unfortunately, that price point isn’t as low as we would like it to be.

    Until someone can figure out how to build an airplane without all the labor hours, we aren’t going to see prices go down anytime soon. I have tried to think about this as Henry Ford did to the automobile, as he made the car affordable by these methods. Perhaps with technologies of friction stir welding, and other methods of tooling, we will come to the point where it is a feasible method of construction, with material costs the largest expense to the process. Until then, there are some awesome values in the used airplane market!

  3. says

    Way is this “GA AVIATION” industry the only one I know of that the present and want-a-be consumers are constantly complaining why: 1. It’s “expensive”! 2. Why doesn’t the private enterprise sector build an airplane the “Average Joe” can afford? ENOUGH of the this immature non-sense!Do these same “children” demand that Lexus,BMW,or Mercedes build a highline car JUST to satisfy them that retails for $20K? The consumer who purchases/leases these fine automobles is WILLING to pay for the BENEFIT thats derived! So MAYBE,if learning to fly, renting,or owning an airplane is NOT giving you either a utility OR emotional benefit,then try something that does! ps I have been a “noble” contributor as an ARP (Aviation Retail Provider) in the past and then I decided it was time to take care of me! Oh,in response to MR. Hoodwin; perhaps you should try “bird” watching at your local airport; they don’t have an admission charge to watch do they?

  4. Dennis Reiley says

    Comparing licensing a driver of a 8,800 Class A motor-home to licensing a pilot of a 634 single-engine piston aircraft is absolutely ludicrous.

    There are far too many people driving motor homes who do not have sufficient skills for the task. Unlike commercial vehicles an RV does not require a special license but absolutely should.

    The requirements for a standard motor vehicle are grossly inadequate for the skill required. When you consider that a motor vehicle operates in two dimensions and an aircraft operates in three dimensions any attempt to compare the two is an exercise in futility.

    The issuing of a pilot license should be based upon demonstrated skill. Flying an aircraft should require two things, a pilot license showing the classes of aircraft they are qualified to fly and a certification from an authorized CFI that the pilot is competent to fly the aircraft he is piloting. Both should be presented when filing a flight plan or renting/purchasing an aircraft. The amount of time at the controls is immaterial, what is needed is a demonstrated ability to handle that aircraft safely. Some pilots can acquire a type certification easily while others will require various hours of instruction.

  5. Chet Hartley says

    I agree 100% with this statement. What the FAA has not worked out in there head is, as the numbers keep going down as in new pilots. There jobs and retirement packages are on the line.

    You have to plant new seeds to have a cop that will hold you over the winter months if you wish to eat.

  6. Tom Chandler says

    I’ll take a stab at this one. I think it is a safe bet to say that most of those high-end RVs are purchased by folks near or past retirement age who have the disposable wealth/income to buy them. Many of these people may have harbored dreams of flying but most talk themselves out of it now for reasons other than financial (health, other interests, etc). That being said, there are some who would get into flying. Currently about 20% of our flight students fit the above demographic so it is not a market to be ignored.

    However, if Babbitt really wants to, he can boost the attractiveness and affordability of flying with one reg change… bump the LSA weight up to 1650 pounds. This would open up the LSA market to the legacy Cessna 150/152s and other similarly sized aircraft. This is the only way the stated goals of the LSA concept will ever be accomplished (reducing cost and simplifying flying). Naturally, Cessna and the other LSA manufacturers are against it as they have new products aimed at this market. I think they are misguided as the size of their target market would actually grow in the long run. The market this would equate to would be boat owners. I don’t know how many $20,000+ boats are purchased each year, but I’ll bet it is significantly more than the number of Class A motorhomes. For most folks, flying is a hobby (like boating). Big motorhomes are chosen over cabins at the lake or mountains, not over a hobby.

    Just my $.02. Happy Holidays! Get out and fly!

  7. Hal Hoodwin says

    The bottom line: Flying has just gotten too damn expensive.

    It used to be one or a couple middle class Americans could get together, buy an airplane, and truly enjoy it. Not today and here’s why.

    To really appreciate this let’s look at a bit of history:

    A brand new 1981 Nav/Pac (IFR) equipped Skyhawk P II, Average Priced Delivered was $47,730. I’m using that as a reference for no other reason other than that’s the year I earned my Private Pilot’s License.

    1981 – 172P
    Serial Numbers 17274010 thru 17275034
    Base Price – $37,810 Average Price as Delivered – $47,730
    1. Engine changed to 160 HP O-320-D2J
    2. Gross Weight increased to 2400 lbs
    3. Avionics Fan standard
    4. Flap travel limited to 30 degrees
    5. Optional integral bay wings with 68 gallons of fuel
    6. Elevator trim tab travel reduced
    7. Interior vent system design changed at 17274656

    * We just came out of one of the worst inflation eras in US History via the Carter Administration. So… I’m not going to compare aviation costs to a 1960 172.
    * Tort / Frivolous law suits had long been main stream with an ever increasing Entitlement Mentality society; which is one of “the main reasons” I constantly hear used as to why aviation costs are so high.
    * We had just gone through the “gas crisis” where you were only able to buy gas based on where or not your license plate ended in an odd or even number.

    A NEW 172 SP TODAY IS $301,500!!!

    To be fair, we have to address a couple of things:

    1. Inflation: GoTo The Inflation Calculator from the Bureau of Labor Statistics

    2. And of course Aircraft Improvements:

    I’ve been flying a wide varieties of 172s for almost 30 years. Okay, so today’s model has:

    * Engine Improvements include:
    o 40 more cubic inches and another 20 horsepower. Today’s derated IO 360 should also have a longer engine life since it’s not working as hard.
    o “Fuel Injected” engine – Barely… it’s not tune port injected or FADEC here folks; it’s basically a spider fed glorified carburetor. Your car has a vastly more sophisticated fuel management system than any modern 172.
    * A few more knots of airspeed
    * Nicer interior
    * Modern (Glass Panel) Avionics – Having said that, we must remember that though modern avionics vastly improves situational awareness, the 1981 172 was still an IFR airplane.
    * And various cosmetic changes… but basically it’s the same what we affectionately refer to as our reliable “Box with wings” that’s been around for decades.

    You don’t have to have a PhD in Economics for this. When you adjust for inflation, a $47,730 172 in 1981 would be $114,889.63 today. Okay, okay… let’s add some money for all the improvements so let’s add say:

    * Avionics – $30,000
    * Engine $ 8,000 and a whole bunch of IAs will tell you that’s overstated
    * Interior and Exterior Improvements: Leather seats, new panel, etc. $3,000

    Oh, hell… let’s just add another $60 Grand (which is absurd) in value over the 1981 172.

    Round Numbers, adjusted for inflation, today’s NEW 172 SP should be worth about $175,000.

    But somehow or other, a new 172 is $301,500???

    Let me ask you something. How many middle or upper middle class Americans are going to go out and spend that kind of money on an airplane that’s MORE EXPENSIVE THAN THEIR HOUSE?

    Compound that with out of reach rental rates to learn how to fly one to begin with and we have the perfect formula for GA completely losing any relevance in modern society.

  8. Kent Misegades says

    Given all that has come out of D.C. the past two years, Ben, this actually sounds like something the federal government would indeed do. If the FAA wanted to really do something to help G.A. grow they would (a) beat back TSA and tell them hands off G.A., and (b) they’d sit on the EPA administrator until she agreed to ban ethanol in Mogas so we can get cheap fuel on our airports. Neither of these actions would take much effort, which is probably why they won’t happen.

    As far as G.A. growth in 2011 goes, I’d give this as much chance as the predictions of the just-passed “summer of recovery”. More dark days are ahead for G.A. until our governments get out of our lives.

  9. Glenn C. Darr says

    First, you need to get rid of the 3rd class medical. I can drive an RV the size of a Greyhound Bus, and I don’t need to pass a medical exam. The 3rd Class medical keeps a lot of normally healthy people from flying, especially as they age.

  10. says

    Learning to “Fly an Airplane” now is to easy by the FAA way and standards. Operating and airplane on the other hand is much harder with a lot of the rules the FAA has in place, Simplify the process: Do away with the LSA certificate. No medical requirement for Private and CFI. Just a State isssued Drivers Licence with full unaided body mobility. (apply for exemption if handi-capped)
    Make the written tests required for certificates direct questions from FAA published text without the word games, tricks and cutey grammer holes so applicants will learn the knowlege instead of how to pass a test by “Pick the best answer”
    Make the Private Pilot Certificate the only licence with endorsements for Pilot’s ability, night class B airspace,2 or 4 place ect.
    Stress basic Stick & Rudder skills for Private and CFI. Too many licensed CFI’s can’t fly nor teach because their skills are deficient or non existant.
    Leave 100LL alone and allow varibile ignition timing type ignition systems so auto fuel without ethinol can be used. FAA is in the dark ages when it comes to technology. There is not enough lead emission from 100ll to even measure or matter yet.

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