Coming of age

General Aviation is dead. If it’s not dead, it’s dying. If it’s not dying, it’s paralyzed with a sickness that manifests itself in the form of high prices, lousy service, ancient participants, and a generalized sense of ennui among the spectators at the fence line. You’ve read these charges, and I’m here to tell you they’re bunk.

This twisted logic is a prime example of pure, unadulterated, down-in-the-dumps nonsense. It’s the sort of thing that sounds good and can get a crowd to believe the hype. But it’s not true.

GA isn’t dead, it’s in transition. In human terms it’s going through a period of change, not all that different from the change that occurs when an optimistic, energetic, action-oriented 10 year old transitions into a slightly more serious and somewhat less energetic 19 year old with a job, a full course load at college, and a significant other he or she would like to spend more time with. Simply put, GA is growing up.

After nearly 100 years of boundless enthusiasm, relentless growth, massive technological leaps into the future, and an explosion of popularity that is only surpassed by humanity’s adaptation to electricity and the automobile – GA is going through a period of transition. And that’s a good thing.

You can’t be young forever. Even Peter Pan had a tough time with the idea of perpetual youth. That’s true for GA, too. It’s grown a bit, is learning to accept some limitations, and is finding a way to set its sights on more attainable, if slightly less ambitious goals.

Perhaps private ownership of an airplane isn’t as practical for most people as we might like. That’s not the end of the world. The club model still exists to fill the need for some. Partnerships work for others. Fractional ownership is an option that was a true oddity not long ago, but is becoming more mainstream every day. And there’s nothing wrong with renting for those who fly less frequently but would still like to have access to an aircraft they’re proud to get some altitude in.

Many of us have a tendency to see GA as a binary business. It’s either thriving or dying. There is no in-between for this crowd. Unfortunately, they’ve been seeing the dark gloomy base layer of a very dark cloud deck for a long time. Their focus has been so laser-like, they’ve failed to notice the bright silver lining higher up, where the sun glints off the puffy, cheerful upper reaches of those same clouds.

For those who haven’t noticed, kids are beginning to get involved in aviation again. What’s more, there are educational programs being launched from coast to coast. Many are born and run from the offices of highly respected learning institutions and aviation bases of operation. There is hope for a new tomorrow, with a new population of pilots who have a fresh, vibrant appreciation for GA’s role in the US economy, and the world at large.

What makes all these good things happen, of course, is the active involvement of GA participants. Let me give you a good example.

I invited a young man out to the airport the other day for a chat. Our first appointment came and went, the victim of last minute scheduling conflicts that couldn’t be avoided. But on the second visit he arrived with a smile, a firm handshake, and settled in for a conversation about the opportunities available in aviation. That chat lasted for more than two hours. He met with retired airline pilots, mechanics, business owners, and flight instructors. With each new face came new information and new contacts. He took notes.

By the time he left the airport he had met more than half-a-dozen airport regulars. He’d spent some time in the pilot’s seat of an airplane too. That was a first for him.

He came out the next day with his son, and asked if the two of them could replicate the cockpit experience to get a photo or two. By the time they left, the son was enamored of aviation, and the father was noticeably pleased. He even talked about bringing his own father out to see the sites at the local airport.

By the next day this young man had a Facebook post up with photos of his visits. His post raved about the great time he’d had and his new-found interest in GA. He had successfully transitioned from being moderately interested in aviation to being a full-blown aviation enthusiast in a single weekend. That’s progress.

My young friend may never own an airplane. He may never even take the substantial step of learning to fly. Then again, he might. Either way he’s out there today talking to people he works with about what an inviting, exciting, inspirational place the local airport is. And that’s beneficial to all of us.

GA isn’t dead. It’s not sick either. It’s growing up, stretching its legs, and getting ready to launch off in a whole new direction. This time, the trip will be planned out with a better understanding of the challenges ahead, and will be driven by people who have the experience and the tools to make a more viable and long-lasting GA model work.

I have hope. You should have hope, too. Better yet, you should seriously consider becoming a participant. Because if I can have an impact, so can you. And if both of us have a positive impact, we might just inspire a third person to get into the game. Just think of the possibilities if we get that ball rolling in the right direction.


  1. says

    “… He met with retired airline pilots, mechanics, business owners, and flight instructors. With each new face came new information and new contacts. He took notes.”

    You’re lucky – sounds like you have an airport where people are still active. My father and grandfather were both flight instructors for decades. The airport where they worked at is pretty much dead (Oxford – Henderson, NC). They see maybe three planes a day – tops. The airport in South Boston, VA is completely dead – no planes, no-one at home, nothing. Just an empty landing strip. My father took me to airports all around VA over the weekend, and there’s hardly a soul around. Certainly no-one to talk to or fly with. We did manage to catch one flight, but there wasn’t exactly a lot of enthusiasm or anything. Mostly just an air of depression and a sense that the good old days are long gone. It was a little depressing to my dad and me, and I’m just a young guy that wants to fly! We went out to Raleigh, NC and couldn’t find much activity there, apart from airlines. There was ONE flight instructor, and he was busy and couldn’t help us.

  2. EK says

    Big government is to blame. Feds get paid above-average salaries whether we fly or not. They are also bribed by interest groups like insurance companies, trial lawyers, ethanol producers, etc. I immigrated legally from Mexico in 1981 to get away from Big government there. Now that the US is another Mexico, with a tremendous deficit and a failed government-smothered economy, where can I go?

  3. Kenneth says

    General aviation is dying, regardless of what we may want to believe. The most active flying is still being done mostly by males 65+. There simply isn’t a generation waiting to follow them. I’ve done Young Eagles flights, so I know fully the gap between “interest” in flying and having the resources or desire to make the investment. Talk to flight school owners that haven’t closed up shop – nearly all of their students are strictly on a commercial track, and many, if not most, are international. I myself hung up my wings and sold my 172 a couple of years ago – at some point it just got too cost prohibitive, and that’s with my wife and I both making professional salaries with few other expenses.

  4. says

    General aviation is definately experiencing a downturn that cannot be denied. GA deliveries, whether it is corporate jets, King Air’s, or single engine airplanes is not rebounding. With the current president wanting to punish the corporate owners, this problem isn’t going to be fixed anytime soon. Because of the expense of operating an airplane, if there aren’t some incentives to own one, people just aren’t interested in purchasing this type of equipment.

    Understand to get some type of tax incentive, you have to be profitable which means the company probably offers a great product for the price. If the company has a product that benefits more people and can compete with other companies offering the same product or service, then the company obviously wants to expand their market. Greed? Not really, it is a matter of the individuals that operate business have a competetive nature and want to win, that is why they sacrificed many things in life to get where they want to.

    That being said, pilot shortage? How about a stability and pay shortage? That is what is really going to affect GA in the long term. As I read another comment regarding pilots learning to fly and making it a career…only to realize the pay isn’t consumate with the sacrifice and responsibility, why sacrifice your life to end up with nothing other than to say you had “fun” at your job? This includes technicians and maintenance people who find the pay less than a tractor mechanic and without the on-demand 24 hours a day call out that may occur?

    Yes, 83% failure rate for the student pilot to become a private pilot? We have a management problem at the ground level that needs to be fixed. If the money isn’t there, the talent that knows how to produce the results says “not so fast my friend, I am OUT OF HERE!”

  5. B.M. DeVandry says


    Mr. Rod Beck responded/posted in the same referenced Article (“Back to basics with the 3Rs?” ) in response to mine;

    Rod Beck says:

    Response to B.M Devandry:

    “Really? The REASON most (average Joe’s) don’t own/lease a Lexus, Mercedes or BMW is:
    No NEED 2. Not willing/can’t afford it. Same holds true for GA ! The continued banter and “excuse” that high COST is the principal justification the “masses” aren’t flying is a convenient cop-out!”


    “Capt/Mr. DeVandry: From your articulate and lenghty response, sadly, you still DON’T get it and most likely never will. As I said in my previous reply to your original comment; GA, or should I say the “recreational; segment, is for those who have a NEED and can AFFORD it. It seems to me the majority of readers here are hell-bent on the notion that some fool hardy non-business (non-profit?) minded private enterprise firm should be OBLIGATED to producing a $50K airplane, (LSA) or whatever, so the LESS $$ financially $$ under privledged public can have access to the world of flight.

    Lets revisit the facts; ONLY about one in 1,400 of the popoulation have an interest in GA, yet there continues to be this “idealize” mentality that” 1. “We” ned to reduce the COSTS of lessons, airplanes, etc, suddenly then DEMAND would double or triple – get REAL! 2. By “spreading the gospel”, Billy Graham, where are you now, that once every person on the planet is informed that flying is the greatest thing since Medicare (or sex?), will run to the nearest flight school to take lessons – HELLO!

    Many of YOU, no offense, still are either very ignorant or in denial and just CAN’T bring yourselves to accept the FACT, although flying is AVAILBLE to everyone, it ISN’T for everyone – never has and never wil be!

    The recreational flyer or as I like to lable them, the “social aviator” , who has “O” need and SPENDS “O” $$ for aviation products and services, goes the way of the Bald Eagle”, the recreational segment will then be dominated by THOSE, regardless of social class or demographics, who have a NEED, thus the ” recreational utility aviator” who SPENDS $$ flying his/her airplane for a “practical” purpose and not just going 50-75 miles from home base for a “$100 hamburger” or shooting touch n go’s in the pattern!

    BOTTOM LNIE: The QUANITY of pilots will continue to DECREASE – the QUALITY will INCREASE – and THATS whats been happening for decades – and you can bet on it!”

    …And again a “re-post” of my response…

    Mr.Beck …Respectfully, please take a moment to review the comment section in Flying (magazine) Blogs; “Vocal Minority Wins, Aviators Lose”, Mar.5th, Robert Goyer …specifically the post(s) by “garnaut” on Mach 6th. ….then take a long somber look into a mirror.

    For I suspect, and “no offense to you either Sir” …that you are of that myopic “mindset” of those who have caused and /or are still actively involved in the death of “General” Aviation, as those of us who numbered among what was generally perceived to make up its largest segment during the 60′s, 70′s and into the early 90′s have been so fortunate to have been a part of.

    Flying has NEVER been “for everyone”. Flying has ALWAYS been a more expensive endeavor than most and has certainly been “available to everyone” (who wished to/could afford to/ was willing to do what it took to pursue)

    BUT …for much of the period quoted above (a sort of “Golden Age” of “General” Aviation, if you will) its pursuit, whether for personal use/enjoyment, or (and perhaps even most importantly, for sake of an “Industries” growth and prosperity) as a profession has been ATTAINABLE for the masses who wished and chose to do so. Even we mere mortals, financially un-endowed and/or blessed by prosperity at birth, who make up the (sorry) 99% of the population in this country who were willing to sacrifice/do what it took to achieve it, could in fact succeed on our own (without Uncle Sams help via the military) in doing so without (financial) ruin. THAT is increasingly, exponentially so, no longer the case and is the SOLE reason for the death of “GENERAL” Aviation as we have known her.

    If that’s to be her fate, so be it. But the loss (especially one so unnecessary and preventable) of a loved one is a tragedy for us all, and I won’t be cheering for it, or anyone fostering/promoting it.

    But there may be worse repercussions;

    As to your final assertion; “BOTTOM LNIE: The QUANITY of pilots will continue to DECREASE – the QUALITY will INCREASE – and THATS what’s been happening for decades”…

    ….that HAD been happening, until the last decade or so. But what we’re (unfortunately) experiencing now is a 180 degree course reversal of the trend, and again, you’ve got it horribly wrong Sir, for the (dangerous, in my humble opinion) side effects of this, we’re only now beginning to realize. (and the perverted irony of it? …it’s genesis is “The Bottom Line”!)

    Despite having worn many (pilot) caps over the years, I’ve continued to try and stay involved in the Flight Training segment of Aviation since attaining my certifications in the 70′s. I feel it of the utmost importance to do so in any way possible, and to give something back …pass the torch. But I fear we are soon to produce (and most likely are already producing) a generation of “Aviators” who won’t be able to (as the old axiom goes) “push a rudder to save their lives” (or the lives of the hundreds of passengers strapped to their backs) who will of course (finally) be in high demand …solely by virtue of being in short supply.

    This is the way it is in the rest of the world

    In Japan (an economic powerhouse that once rivaled the US) and many other (free, economic) countries in Asia and Europe for instance …their Airline/Professional Pilot positions have been filled with raw (no experience or training whatsoever) recruits who are plucked from the (civilian) masses, provided with (as in they …their governments, Airlines & Companies pay for it!) an academic degree and all required flight training, most often acquired in …you guessed it, the US of A (the ONLY place on earth where true “General” Aviation exist, er …used to exist) because why? (you guessed it again!)
    …there is and never has been any such thing as GA in those countries that could provide a constant pool of seasoned “EXPERIENCED” Aviators from which to draw and their small to non-existent military (pilot) pools provide nay a trickle.

    After this “Training”, (and a whopping 250-300 hours of accumulated flight time) back they go into the First & Second Officer positions for their long (and hopefully “EXPERIENCE” intensive) “training” period, before upgrading into that coveted Command Seat. (positions often filled by retired and furloughed SEASONED US Airline/Corporate and yes even “GA” Captains!) But most of their entire range of experience (not that it makes them unsafe or any less qualified) is only within a single and narrowly focused environment …Air Carrier.

    There are ways to compensate for this (and Japan would be a fair example of such) but the measures and costs are extraordinary.

    I and most of my piers from the aforementioned members of the “Golden” age would have killed for such a gold plated, rose petal lined opportunity and route to our careers (but suspect since, have come to realize the wisdom and ultimate benefits (to the industry itself) of having been forced to go it on our own)

    In the US, our military once provided a large share of seasoned “EXPERIENCED” Aviators to fill the demand following the rapid post WWII explosion of the Airline Industry (as well as a similar growth in “Business Aviation”) This was true also, to a lesser but still significant degree after Vietnam …but the (vast) bulk of recruits then and since were ( and are) of the “home grown” variety. Each with thousands of flight hours in a broad and diverse range of aircraft and more importantly, “type” of flight operations acquired, while they pursued their goals through PERSONAL as well as professional venues ….in an environment that allowed, fostered, even promoted such pursuits.

    That was the “Real Training” …the dues paying, “seasoning”, weeding out process …whatever your favorite metaphor, that has assured (up until now anyway) the overall “QUALIY” as you put it, of the Aviators and indeed the Piloting Profession we’ve enjoyed in this country over the last several decades.

    But, we’re on a new “Heading” now, and there’s some serious weather ahead. Unfortunately the data are irrefutable. Adding another “only Elites may apply” “Sport” in the form of personal Aviation, to America’s increasingly long list of such is fine, I guess.

    Yea …I know “that’s just “Business” …. but it’s not good business.

    If you are indeed one of those with a hand in this debacle, I can only hope you’ll find the wisdom to reconsider your course

    …for ALL our sakes.

    • says

      Nice, and well intended!

      However, can you explain why WISE business investments are NOT made in the recreational segment of general aviation?
      Here’s a “News Flash” for you !
      I spend and devoted 12 years to (try) to earn a living in the BUSINESS of aviation – my personal goal was NEVER being a “pilot only” gig – nor befitting of my background or personality. I promoted airports, had aircraft in shopping malls, voluntered instructing a 7-8th grade after school aviation club, operated a flight school at (TEB) and (CDW) FBO in Ohio, and more. I found that after all this “globe hopping”; NJ, FL, MI, and OH, and “ZIP” financial security – I had enough “glamour” of aviation to last ME a life time. So PLEASE, spare me all this noble crap – problem is I’M ONE of the few who isn’t in denial – I would have love nothing more to made a career in aviation – in the BUSINESS side – unfortunately, left about the time time the “corporate jet” movement began – bad timing – perhaps. For me, however, being of parents of the “depression era” – financial security and the meaning of it was a big priorty which rubbed off on me.

      So, my freind, I like living in a nice home, driving a Lexus, going into NY to a show or jazz club, and eating out 4-5 times a month. Flying – “been there, (first lesson in a J-3 in 19), done that” not EVERYONE in aviation “flys or fixes”!
      Now , in my “70th year”, have offered “advice” without the “passion” (reality) for those who are INVESTMENT minded AND also want to be successful in the business of GA – in that order – something WRONG with making money in aviation – guess so!

      My commentary was from an INVESTMENT, not social, perspective, obviously not very appropiate for this fine publication where many readers, I believe, don’t have a clue of how a “free market” works or the fundamentals capitalism.

      My contribution to GA now is this; to protect the many well meaning, but business naive
      folks who are “passionate” about aviation from losing their life saving and more BEFORE irrationally entering into an FBO, flight school, etc enterprise and later regretting it!

      AND want REAL answers to GA’s woes – have a few university profs in business and economics perform an extensive study on aviation – airlines and GA – and lets see what they conclude. -Oh, and lastly, are you employed or still being paid by the “private sector” or some government enity – curious?

      No offense intended and nothing personal – happy landing!

  6. B.M. DeVandry says

    It would seem as circumstances (fate?) would have it, most of my previous response-posts in GA News, “Back to basics with the 3Rs?” March 3, 2013 by Drew Steketee …and those of another (concerned enthusiast?) are (much) more appropriately suited for this “article” by Mr. Beckett.

    So once again …please accept my apologies (I know, he sure seems to be doing a lot of apologizing here/there …sorry!) for the redundancy and “re-posting” here. But this issue is I feel far too important a subject, although I fear already futile cause, to address. I’ve also included a couple of (applicable) previous response-posts in another Aviation-related forum by a “garnaut” …with permission, who I believe enlightens us all to the REALITY of what has actually happened to General Aviation, and makes the point with much more succinctness and poignancy than I’d ever be than I’d ever be capable of.

    1st, the relevant posts by “garnaut”;

    …first of all GA is doing just fine…never better in fact…that is if…when you say GA…you mean the 98 percent of GA which is executive aircraft…98 percent of the GA industry’s annual revenue coming from bizjets and turbine aircraft…according to industry group GAMA…

    So business aviation IS General Aviation …I just want to stress that for those who still have the mistaken idea that the acronym GA means little guys flying around in their piston airplanes…sorry…but that is not what GA is anymore…

    And the little guy flying around in piston airplanes is all but extinct already…that is why we hear the message all the time that what is good for business aviation is good for the little guy…this has been a mantra here at Flying for quite some time…even as the little guy aviator continues to wither away…while bizav continues to grow and prosper…and lately even the EAA has gotten into promoting this meme…

    And as for all those “outside” industries…well…there is a huge right-wing conspiracy to stop ordinary people from flying their own planes I suppose…?

    In Reality…all those industries are a factor in every other facet of our lives…one that you did not mention is the financial industry…every product we buy has over 30 percent of its price built in for finance overhead that it took to bring that product to market…on average…in some cases it is much higher…interest charges… brokerage fees …etc. Yet even with all that financial overhead…a lot of consumer products still deliver more for your inflation adjusted buck than they did 10 or 20 years ago…that is a fact…the car you buy today is better value for the dollar…same with the lawn tractor…the big screen TV…the washing machine…etc…

    The only thing that costs five times as much as it did 30 years ago is a new airplane…
    Now you can talk all you want about the cost of gas…insurance etc… and those things are a fact of life everywhere…but it is new products that drive an industry…and unfortunately the personal airplane industry is finished because the average price of a new airplane is half a million dollars…which no one can afford…

    That is strictly an industry issue…full stop…if the car industry wanted to build an airplane for $50,000 do you think they couldn’t…?…sure they could…and they would sell who knows how many thousand at that price…

    The aircraft industry looks at things differently…the GA industry makes $20 billion a year in revenue by selling 2,000 executive aircraft at an average price of $10 million each…in order to make $20 billion in sales selling airplanes even at $100,000 apiece…they would have to sell 200,000 small airplanes a year…

    That is never going to happen…there simply are not 200,000 people who are interested in buying their own airplane each and every year…or have the $100,000 to do so…
    So the numbers are against us…that is the reality…if you do not want to see that…and you want to invent some kind of bogeyman from the “outside” then that is your prerogative…

    The aircraft industry sure knows this…and that is why they made the rational choice that it is not worth it…how can it be…?…

    Well…so that is the problem …and guess what? …now at least we know what the problem is and so maybe we can start looking for solutions…but the solution is not to just “root” for business aviation…and bankroll their lobbying fights in rotten DC…
    And yes WDCorruption is true…unfortunately it is exactly the kind of lobbying of special interest groups that is the problem…

    One such special interest group is business aviation …which is supported by AOPA…Flying mag (since that’s where their ad bucks come from) and even EAA…
    but let’s just clear through the fog folks…business aviation has nothing to do with the family guy who flies his own plane on family “business…”

    The real business aviation is going to do just fine …they have $20 billion a year in selling bizjets…they can throw a lot of money around for lobbying and advertising…and they would even like to hit you up for some of your dough too…hey it’s all for the cause right …? …we’re all in this together right…? …except I don’t see anyone doing anything for us…

    So yeah…we can continue to cheer and support bizav…as this magazine and Craig Fuller would encourage us to do…and in a generation’s time our kids and grandkids will be able to participate in GA by booking a charter seat on a bizjet or turboprop…


    …”flyinb” said:

    “And while I’m not so naive (or young and foolish) or unappreciative to not understand that is was (is?) the engine of capitalism that made “GENERAL” Aviation attainable to most of the masses in the first place, and “Business Aviation” was indeed a (if not “The”) very large and essential part of “General Aviation” which fueled that engine …unfortunately, it has been becoming ( painfully) obvious to me (and I suspect more than just a “vocal minority” of our “community”) that AOPA, Flying (magazine) and dare I postulate, EAA, all who’ve been a welcomed part of my life during my almost 40 year love affair with Aviation, have morphed into what indeed it seems “Corporate America” has equally mutated into …”Business” entities whose SOLE purpose appears to be the pursuit of profit …SOLELY for it’s own sake, and the unlimited enrichment of its upper echelons.

    “But I digress…”

    Actually you are not digressing at all …in fact you hit the nail right on the head…
    For those interested in seeing the real numbers just go to the GAMA website and download their 2012 statistical book…inside you will find statistics of aircraft produced…their total value and type…going all the way back to 1978…

    Well in 1978 there were over 14,000 piston singles produced and just over 2,600 twins…for a total dollar value of just over $1 billion in 1979 dollars…which is about $3.5 billion in today’s dollars…

    Total turbine GA aircraft produced were 779 with a total value of $772 million in 1978 dollars…which is about $2.7 billion in today’s money…

    So the little guy was THE major source of revenue for the GA industry as late as 1978…not the business bigwigs…that says a lot about where we where and where we have come to…of course back then the head of the company made maybe 10 times as much as the Joe on the shop floor…what is it today…?

    Let’s look at those numbers a little more closely…the average cost of that executive airplane (the turbine variety) was just under $1 million…about 3 million in today’s dollars…today the average sticker price is $10 million…

    The average cost of a piston plane was $58,000 in 1978 (including twins and all the high end singles) which is about $180,000 in today’s money …If we could separate the twins from the singles we would find the average single price would be closer to $100,000 …in today’s dollars…

    Now what really bears notice is the fact that those 30 some years ago…there were far less than 1,000 big spenders who could spend the equivalent of $3 million in today’s money for a bizjet or turboprop… but there were 17,000 little guys who could afford to buy a piston single or even a twin… over 2,600 twins.

    Now let’s just ask a very simple question…who has gained and who has lost…?
    Well the GA industry has done nicely…it has increased sales from $3 billion a year in today’s dollars to over $20 billion…

    The big spenders also don’t seem to be doing too bad …there are now 2,000 of them buying a new executive airplane every year (almost three times as many)…and paying more than three times as much on average for the airplane…so a nearly tenfold increase in spending power by the big spenders…


    At the same time piston airplanes…which made up more than 60 percent of GA even as late as 1978…today make up just TWO lousy percent of sales by dollar…
    You want to buy a new airplane Joe? …Can you write a check for $500,000…?

    What it all adds up to is that the rich have gotten much richer …while the middle class dream of airplane ownership is toast. …It is not surprising that this magazine which is funded almost entirely by the big spending business aviation…wants to confuse things by lumping us little aviators on life support in with the rest of “GA”…

    Please…it is time for some honesty…

    …Now my feeble attempt(s);

    Again, here we go …more of the same (and tired) ongoing “discussions” within our “Industry” on “what to do?” …about the graveyard spiral General Aviation finds herself in. And again, for whatever reason, the overwhelming impression continues to be that “they” …the “Industry” …our “Associations”, groups, clubs, memberships etc. …the “Feds”, you, me, us …”we” …just don’t seem to get it !

    I rarely comment once, let alone twice in (any) forums and please forgive the following this re-cap and redundancy of a couple previous rants, in this and previous “comment sections” …but I (still) just can’t seem to put this in any other way;

    The original purpose …the “concept” of if you will, for the birth and growth of the Experimental Aircraft community for instance, over the last several decades, which later evolved into the “Light Sport” genera and “Industry” of the present, was to allow for the “Average Joe” with a wife and kids to be able to, over a period of about a year or so, build himself a nice, simple (with at least 2 seats as flight is a thing that’s got to be shared!) airplane at a reasonably (read: sane!) monetary expense that would allow said “Joe” and family & friends to both proliferate (breathe new life into GA) and enjoy the wonderful world of Flight!

    But! …let’s take a hard look at what “we” (US General Aviation) have allowed to happen…

    Let’s see …the “new & improved” C-172-SP, recently reviewed in Flying magazine:
    a basic, single engine, 4 place, fixed gear, fixed prop, simple low HP “Light Airplane”. One whose basic airframe has been around for over half a century and whose R & D, tooling and most all other initial development costs have long since been paid for many times over, decades ago (essentially a (very) old airframe design with a few tweaks, and upgraded to some modern avionics (which also SHOULD cost substantially less than their steam gauge, analog counterparts) …all this for ONLY $300,000+ ?!?!?

    Oh, but you can get the venerable old “new & improved” Piper Archer for about the same price! …But wait! …you can get the shiny new aforementioned Cub Crafters Carbon Cub; an even simpler TWO place, basic, fixed gear, fixed prop, low HP “LIGHT SPORT” airplane” with a basic avionics package for the bargain price of just under 200K!!

    Of course, Cessna has finally (sort of) thrown a bone to the fledgling new “Mom & Pop” Flight School in the form of a 21st. Century “Trainer”; the C-162 Skycatcher! …available for the much more REASONABLE? “base price” (just recently increased!) of 150K! …which means they should be able to afford at least 3 or 4 of em! The C-172 was available, in 1980, IFR equipped, for the low 30′s (aprox. 90K in today’s dollars) In 1979 the C-152 went for just under 20K (55K today).

    …As for the all of those available “Kits” out there today …Realistically, even a modest, two place, fixed gear/prop with a basic IFR panel (that by reg, one mostly can’t actually utilize for it’s designed purposes) 140+ kt airplane most often sports (pun intended) a finished price of close to 100K …many others almost twice that! But don’t forget …ya still have to build (and maintain) it yourself!

    Now, throw in the over inflated (and ever increasing) costs of hanger, fuel, insurance, maintenance and all those other “miscellaneous” operating expenses and ask yourself; How can even an “Upper” Middle Class, “Above” average Joe afford/justify such a purchase (especially after tacking on all those actual operating expenses) How can such a sums for such airplanes ever be (reasonably) justified?? And we (and APOPA & EAA ) wonder why new pilot certification is half what it was just two decades ago?? Why (aircraft) rental rates have gotten beyond the reach of most would be Sunday Flyers?

    What could possibly be causing this decline in our beloved activity?!?

    Please forgive me, as I really don’t wish to sound sarcastic, but it’s just mind-boggling to a (simple minded?) guy like myself how casually, and with such cavalier so many “Representatives” of the Aviation Industry quote prices for an average Light Sport, or any other 2-4 place “Light Airplane”. What a perfectly reasonable price ($150-200K) to pay for a (new) “Light Sport” airplane …or the $300+K for a “moderately tricked out Cessna 172″ …or the 1.2 mil!! for a SENECA, version 5 recently reviewed in AOPA Pilot, ( another 50+ year old, basically unchanged design) …I mean, what’s wrong with that …isn’t that just about right …why ain’t everybody buyin’ em?!?

    A previous Quote from a previous (publications) article; “is not that flying costs too much but that flying the kind of airplane that they really want to be flying costs too much” ???

    Most of Europe and all of present day Asia have no such thing as “General Aviation” …solely because of the PROHIBITABLY EXPENSIVE costs. Their citizens have long been coming here to pursue that dream we’ve all taken for granted! (but even that may change …read: practically grind to a halt, now that the new draconian EASA Flight Crew licensing regs have kicked in) Active participation in our wonderful world of “Flight” here in the USA has always been (relatively) on the expensive side, and up until now remained the best (and only) place on the planet to do so.

    But take another really honest look at the math. Even if we allowed for an additional 50% (a very conservative/generous estimate) to account for the uncontrolled explosion of all the greed laden “Product Liability” lawsuits many (airplane manufacturers) have had to endure these last couple of decades (the ONLY thing Cessna, Piper etc. can legitimately claim to have been “victimized” by) …we should, at most, be looking at somewhere around $130 – 140,000 for our present day fully equipped C-172. (a SIMPLE, 4 place 120+ kt. BRAND NEW airplane) AND approximately half that (at best) for an LSA .


    Are we REALLY reaching for …”wishing” for too much here?!? In the late 70′s I struggled to put myself through school (let’s not even get started on the costs of a college degree these days!) and pay for my flight training (mostly through loans) to pursue a dream of being a Professional Pilot. Now 37 years later, after having been fortunate to have flown everything from parachutes to 747′s, this subject has been a particular heartbreak for me …as I seriously doubt I could succeed in that endeavor today …and wonder how any of today’s young folks, or even us “older guys” (of even “above average” means) ever could as well.

    I’m afraid these greedy times we’re a livin’ and the EXPONENTIAL rate at which that expense is accelerating, will only serve to hasten the time when the final nails are driven. We’re rapidly destroying “General Aviation” in this country …making it solely a “Rich Mans sport”.

    “Why” …the rapidly decreasing pilot population? …the rapidly downward spiral of total logged hours? …a Pilot shortage?? …sluggish sales factors?? …very, very sad indeed.

    ….”General Aviation” (as we’ve known her until now) is all but dead in this country, just as it’s been in the rest of the world, where it never really existed to begin with …having been replaced with “Business Aviation” …Long Live the King!

    Please …PLEASE …Let’s ALL get real!

    And finally, to you, Mr. Beckett;

    Although I do not know your social-economic background, your Bio would seem to indicate that you and I are of roughly the same generation. So you’ve been around long enough to have witnessed the monumental shift in what is (used to be) “General Aviation” in this country. As to the reasons for its demise? …Surely Mr. Beckett, if you’re (intellectually) honest with yourself, you understand the point of (these) comment/responses. If not, then …and no offense …uplifting, hopeful enthusiasm notwithstanding, but with none of the cold, clear and logical pragmatism so necessary for a successful PIC …you either appear to be, (as, unfortunately, so many others who’ve commented here) ” rowing down that famous long river in Egypt …or are of that myopic “mindset” of those who have caused and /or are still actively involved in the death of General” Aviation, as those of us who numbered among what was generally perceived to make up its largest segment during the 60′s, 70′s and into the early 90′s have been so fortunate to have been a part of …and in fact one of the many, active and willing participants in and part of the problem …certainly NOT the solution.

    We (as in ALL of us) have just witnessed the greatest transfer of wealth in the history of mankind in this country (and no …this IS NOT “Class Warfare” talk here …just an honest, objective observation of the data & facts)

    …and our beloved “General Aviation” has simply been just one of its many and most obvious casualties.

    But there I go “digressing” again…

    Thanks all for ‘puttn’ up with me … and I promise I’ll stay out of this (shooting ones mouth off) comment/blog/response stuff for a little while hensforth!


  7. says

    Jamie, as a former owner of a Part 141 Flight Training Center, Cessna new plane dealer and Executive FBO, I opine that the health of GA is inversely proportionate to the cost of an hour of flight time.

    The more expensive GA gets, the fewer potential users access it.

    And I have no idea how to reduce the costs.

    • Timothy McDonough, PhD says

      One way to reduce the costs is to allow private pilots to share the costs with businesses and employers who would directly benefit from the use of the pilot’s airplane (rented or owned), i.e., treat an airplane as any other privately owned conveyance is now, with IRS allowance already in place for booking the costs as a legitimate business expense. My employer, do most universities, allows reimbursement for the use of my airplane in connection with university business but I can only receive such reimbursement if I fly alone per FAR 61.113(b). I can’t even take my own wife along on a business trip, not because the university cares, but because the bureaucrats at the FAA’s General Counsel’s office have dictated that I cannot be reimbursed for the use of my private property for private benefit if I take along any passengers or property. It would save a boatload of money for the university if on a regular basis I could take one or two of my colleagues to places for academic meetings, symposia, conferences, etc. Think about teams of scientific investigators (my daughter is a cancer research scientist), who scrape every penny for equipment, supplies and specialized lab services, and skimpy travel budgets from their research grants. Access to general aviation in the manner outlined in my legislative proposal would have a wonderfully positive impact on such efforts. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

    • says

      Robert: You should know that the future demand for all aspects of GA wil be QUALITATIVE rather than QUANITATIVE – the reality, from a business perspective, is currently the case and will continue to be so. Again, I have found most of those in the “business” side of GA are still determined to find a way of bringing “cost” down to attract a broader consumer market. What thay SHOULD be doing is IDENTFING those who CAN afford and have a NEED for aviation and promoting/selling to those markets.

      Does the real estate developer selling $1M condo’s try to “arrange” financing for a prospect who can barely afford a $300K two-family or the Mercedes, BMW, or Lexus dealer offer “fractional ownership” on a $90K car to make it available to the typical Chevy Cobalt owner – making any cent$ here?

      • says

        As the costs of GA continue to go up, the % of folks who can afford it go down.

        I’m not so sure there are more businesses that have the economic horsepower to utilize GA instead of regular commercial carriers. Why? The economy continues to be in the tank for all but the top wealthiest individuals and corporations.

        I used to fly my 182S to the Dominican Republic a lot (yeah, I know, single engine over water is not wise.) Total costs, including reserves, was about $1300 for a trip. I could fly commercially at the time for $235 r/t. That’s a big spread, even if I included a rental car for a couple of weeks. If I could split expenses with 3 others I could ~almost~ make an economic case. But beyond that I was very costly. Admittedly, it was a helluva lot more fun.

        It is very, very difficult to rationalize the costs of flying GA. Love of flying doesn’t count.

        Don’t get me wrong: I’m 100% all for greater GA. But the same problems-costs-when I was in the aviation biz haven’t gotten better. They’ve gotten worse, while fewer people have the $$$ to enjoy GA. And the very same arguments and “calls to arms” now are the ones from then.

        I’m not sure there are any real solutions.

        I recall when licensing change and “Sport Licenses” were freshly minted. It was sup[posed to be the Godsend and Savior. That didn’t pan out.

        The single biggest problem we had after teaching someone to earn their license was keeping them active. Those $100 hamburgers now cost about $300. That’s a LOT.

  8. Maynard McKillen says

    The tone of this blog posting suggests the author is financially insulated from negative effects of the recent economic contraction. I can’t help but point out that this pep talk rings a bit hollow.

    Do I revel in cynicism? No. But I will point out that over past three decades, since Reagan, the labor of middle class Americans has been devalued and individual workloads have ballooned, while corporate executive labor has been increasingly and grossly overvalued. Middle class incomes have not kept place with inflation, income inequality has reached obscene extremes for no good reason, and Republicans hold hostage any hopes for tax reform and tax equity.

    With a strong middle class comes the living standard that ensures discretionary income and purchasing power, prerequisites not merely to purchase an aircraft, but even to co-own one or to pay membership dues in a flying club.

    A responsible government that put the welfare of its citizens first would, with clear heads not clouded by any need to pander to the affluent freeloaders who currently pull the strings of their puppet-legislators, labor to create, regulate and protect an economy that restored the economic power of the middle class, knowing that this best serves the nation.

    What I have outlined is not a disposable pep talk. It is a promise that there is much hard work ahead if we want a nation we can once more be proud to call our own. We have to take it back from the creeping thieves who stole it bit by bit over the past three decades.

  9. Richard A. Smith, ATP, CFII, MEI says

    I read with interest the remakes above, very thoughtful. The professor, well give one of those fellows a place to write a treatise and he will, had a LOT to say and show. I am in my 43rd year as a flight instructor, was the kid on the fence, not a hurricane fence with barbed wire on top, started flying when I was 14 yrs old. Very, very few young people today see aviation as interesting much less a career. In fact, out of the four last students I finished, all who graduated from an aviation college program, left aviation for other careers, two to the railroad, better pay, better treatment, better conditions, better almost everything. The young people getting into this today do not have the passion for flying as pilots of the past have and have had. The FAA is no help either, young A&Ps dive out of this business, finding positions in maintenance else where, where the threat of lossing your license for one small infraction of a reg is not present. Young pilots after some stupid call from an ops inspector over a simple problem, if there was one at all, is enough to deter anyone from this business. Our government is killing GA with over regulation, causing to many issues to list here. Funny China has found the use of GA and is putting on the push as are many other countries emerging in the world. I see the whole thing truly sad because I LOVE with all my heart flying, can’t wait to get in the air every day I can, it’s been a total love affair. I wish I could be more positive about it’s future but sadly I am not. 14 July 2014 I’ll have been flying for 50 yrs and it’s been great.

  10. Tom says

    Optimism is great, and I’m all in favor of it – as long as it is grounded in reality.

    Unfortunately, GA in the US cannot be viewed as a microcosm. Look at the encompassing reality: an uncertain global economic picture, declining domestic incomes, employment opportunities and municipal budgets, a hostile Administration that views airplanes as “toys for the rich”, a gridlocked political system in Washington and a ten-year long erosion of Constitutional protections that has the US headed towards becoming a police state.

    Think that last statement is far-fetched? Wait until the FAA gives right-of-way to drones.

    Closer to the subject of GA, add to these issues the fact that, by pursuing “business as usual”, AOPA, who might have been able to make a difference, basically lost 5 years of leadership during an extremely critical period, years (and members) that can probably never be regained.

    So optimism is great, but from my foxhole, the writing for GA is “on the wall” for anyone with a realistic outlook to be able to “read”.

  11. Greg W says

    The big problem to me is cost. Eliminating the third class medical will not solve that,it is not that expensive to be a barrier, a couple hours of fuel, or half a months hangar rent if your can get one. Rentals are expensive and not easy to find in many areas. Used aircraft can be inexpensive but the storage cost is high(including availability). Perhaps the flying club concept is just not taking the answer far enough, recreational flyers may need to aquire the airport so as to make affordable storage,and fuel possible. Many airports do not want us around they want the corprate guys as a bridge to the Holy Grail of Air Carrier opps. The buissiness and social enviroment must be changed if light aircraft are to survive. Perhaps non-profit airfields across the county renting space at cost could be an answer. I know I am a dreamer as well,and it will be difficult, but remember as Henery Ford said “The airplane takes off into the wind not with it.”

    • Gary says

      This has been a fascinating exchange of ideas and thoughts. If I may be so bold, I would like to summarize the positions, as I have perceived them. I apologize, in advance, if I did not represent your position totally as you intended.

      First; there IS a problem with the future of GA. There is a decline in GA that could lead to it’s ultimate demise, if certain issues are not addressed. The major factor in the decrease in activity is cost. However, the reasons for the high cost are many and varied, but several significant areas were pointed out, all of which point the finger directly at the FAA and the government due to over regulation and bureaucratic policies.
      1) Restrictions on recovery of flying expenses for personal flying are at the root of the financial crisis. These restrictions are totally inconsistant with recovery of expenses for any other mode of transportation, such as your private automobile.
      2) Over regulation of FBOs have added significant costs for ops, A&Ps, and CFIs. This has made it cost prohibitive for many to continue.
      3) Over regulation of manufactuers and certification prosesses have led to extremely high price tags for aircraft, parts and mods. Even though one can still buy relatively inexpensive aircraft due to low demand, the high cost of parts, upgrades, and service for the care and feeding of that aircraft, it has put it out of reach for many.
      4) Over zealous airman medical certification. We have been talking about GA and the Third class medical only. Here, due to over regulation and aggresive paperpushers, barriers have been created to obtaining and maintaining a medical certificate. For example the list of prohibited medications and health issues is so extensive that fewer and fewer people in today’s world qualify to keep thier medical certificate. It is unreasonable that these same medications and health issues are deemed safe while driving a car and in the work environment. It appears that the FAA may actually be contributing to health problems by making it so that if an airman seeks treatment for a minor disorder, the very treatment may cause his medical to be revoked.

      The bottom line is ironic. It appears that the FAA, the very agency that was charged with protecting the safety of GA, has been strangling it with bureaucrasy, all of course. in the name of safety.

    • says

      Greg; You’re on to it! The “answer” for many recreational aviators and LSA/light aircraft owners IS the owner/shared small graas roots airfield that was created solely for THIER use. This could also include “non-flyer groupies” who just like to be around airplanes! That said, however, will require a VOLUME of shareholders who are WILLING and ABLE to pay at least the break-even cost!

  12. Scott Bradley says

    Wow. It’s over – it was hard to read your article. I’m over it. I’m sitting on a $100,000 Albatros. It’s fun and I love it; but I don’t delude myself thinking I’m getting my money back when I stop flying. Thanks for trying to make us feel better.

  13. David Redding says

    I spent 5 years or so building an RV9A (one the “cheap” – used engine, wood prop, used instruments, etc). Paid for it as I built – debt free.

    Insurance is ~1200/yr but should fall next yr to about $800.

    My hangar rental is $200/mo and we store tons of stuff in there besides the airplane.

    I can fly my RV9A for less than $25/hr in car gas and do my own maintenance and inspections (repairman cert.).

    I think THIS is the future of GA!

    • Chris Martin says

      If you are lucky enough to live in place where the hangar is only $200 a month. But you do make a good point. I did switch to experimental after having owned a Mooney for 13 years when I saw the writing in the wall. Significantly cut down on the cost of flying and I’m back in the air. I am a biomedical engineer and my salary has been flat or going down over the last 10 years so the issue of being able to afford an aircraft is not only related to cost increases in aviation. ADS-B will be a huge hit for those of us with inexpensive planes but I am just waiting to see what happens when time comes. I really think I will have to move to a rural area to continue flying since most of these issues are related to being near a major metropolitan area. As I mentioned in an earlier post, It’s an uphill battle but I will do whatever in my power to continue fulfilling my love for aviation.

    • says

      Leonard; are you SERIOUS?
      1. Are you suffering from some form of substance abuse?
      2. Are you a member of the SDAA (Socially Disadvantaged Aviators Association)?
      3. Still go on “Easter Egg Hunts”?
      4. Have a deposit on the “Flying Sandbox*”?
      * sand, bucket and pail not included; however, LSA qualified!

  14. Timothy McDonough, PhD says

    Timothy F. McDonough, Ph.D.
    Adjunct Professor
    SMU Dept of Economics
    3300 Dyer, Suite 301
    Dallas, TX 75205

    Restoring the Freedom to Fly for Private Benefit

    On December 17, 1903 on the windswept Bodie Island peninsula in the North Carolina Outer Banks, powered aviation was born. Over the next one hundred years the world’s most extensive air transportation infrastructure developed in accordance with the will of the people of the United States as expressed through the guidance of the United States Congress. It remains one of the crowning achievements of the most prosperous nation that has ever existed in human history.

    Freedom to fly protected by law

    From the earliest days of flight, federal laws have been enacted to ensure the freedom of every citizen to exercise the right to use the airspace of the United States for the pursuit of private benefit. This doctrine is enshrined in the codified federal statutes:

    49 USC § 40103 – Sovereignty and use of airspace
    (a) Sovereignty and Public Right of Transit.—
    (2) A citizen of the United States has a public right of transit through the navigable airspace.

    FAA mandate to promote civil aviation and safety

    In the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 (as amended) the Federal Aviation Administration was created and given the mandate to promote civil aeronautics and to ensure the safety of air commerce:

    49 USC § 40104 – Promotion of civil aeronautics and safety of air commerce
    (a) Developing Civil Aeronautics and Safety of Air Commerce.— The Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration shall encourage the development of civil aeronautics and safety of air commerce in and outside the United States.

    Federal Aviation Regulations (14 CFR) designed to ensure the safety of air commerce have been developed over many decades pursuant to the law that mandates their creation:

    49 USC § 44701 – General requirements
    (a) Promoting Safety.— The Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration shall promote safe flight of civil aircraft in air commerce by prescribing—
    (5) regulations and minimum standards for other practices, methods, and procedure the Administrator finds necessary for safety in air commerce and national security.

    Commercial or private aviation?

    Among these regulations are rules that govern the conduct of airmen in both commercial and private aviation operations. There is no statutory language that provides a clear demarcation between commercial and purely private operations and it has been left to the FAA to craft regulations to distinguish between the two and to prescribe privileges and limitations of airmen engaged in these operations. In doing so, a number of proxy characteristics have been defined in the regulations to provide a distinction between commercial and private operations because it is nearly universally agreed that such a distinction is in the public interest.

    Among the distinguishing characteristics that are used to test whether an operation is commercial or purely private is the question of “holding out” to the public to provide air transport in a quid pro quo economic transaction in the free market. Other tests are designed to determine if such operations are incidental to a business activity of the airmen or whether it is an aviation related business activity itself. It is clearly in the public interest to ensure that commercial operations are conducted within a strict regulatory framework that is designed to maximize the safety of all involved in them as the public has no other way to acquire the necessary information needed to adequately assess the risk of the operations to their person or property.

    Code of Federal Regulations
    Title 14: Aeronautics and Space
    § 1.1 General definitions.
    Commercial operator means a person who, for compensation or hire, engages in the carriage by aircraft in air commerce of persons or property, other than as an air carrier or foreign air carrier or under the authority of Part 375 of this title. Where it is doubtful that an operation is for “compensation or hire”, the test applied is whether the carriage by air is merely incidental to the person’s other business or is, in itself, a major enterprise for profit.

    Regulatory failure

    In the current regulations, attempts to develop bright line tests to distinguish between private and commercial operations have been devised by first defining commercial operations explicitly and prescribing rules to govern them, and secondly by constructing a perimeter of restrictive regulations around private pilot privileges to prevent excursions of private operations into the realm of commercial activity.
    It is the perimeter of restrictions on private pilot privileges that have missed the mark and the result is a Byzantine regulatory regime that unnecessarily infringes upon the citizens’ “public right of transit through the navigable airspace” as guaranteed by public law [49 USC 40103 (a)(2)]. Such regulations are also contrary to the mandate of Congress to the FAA to “encourage the development of civil aeronautics” in accordance with 49 USC § 40104 (a).

    In the nation that is the birthplace of aviation it is truly an outrage, and clearly not in the public interest, nor certainly not in accordance with the public will as expressed by the intent of Congress in the public laws, to proscribe by regulation the explicit right of citizens to “transit through the navigable airspace” in privately owned conveyance for private benefit. Yet, this is precisely the state that has evolved under the current regulations and the administrative doctrines that have emanated from them in the form of legal opinion from the office of the FAA General Counsel.

    If we could lift this proscription there is no doubt that employers and small business owners nationwide would dramatically and immediately use more general aviation. More GA flying would lead to more business for FBOs, maintenance shops, flight schools, aircraft and parts manufacturers, aircraft dealers, and of course the users directly. In short, more GA flying equals more economic prosperity for the nation. More fuel consumption also means more taxes collected for the government coffers.

    The fountainhead of these fetters is the proscription on private pilots enumerated in 14 CFR 61.113(b)(2):

    Code of Federal Regulations
    Title 14: Aeronautics and Space
    Subpart E: Private Pilots
    61.113 – Private pilot privileges and limitations: Pilot in command.
    (a) Except as provided in paragraphs (b) through (h) of this section, no person who holds a private pilot certificate may act as pilot in command of an aircraft that is carrying passengers or property for compensation or hire; nor may that person, for compensation or hire, act as pilot in command of an aircraft.
    (b) A private pilot may, for compensation or hire, act as pilot in command of an aircraft in connection with any business or employment if:
    (1) The flight is only incidental to that business or employment; and
    (2) The aircraft does not carry passengers or property for compensation or hire.

    A clue to how logically deficient is this regulation is the fact that it begins in paragraph (a) with an exception to a proscription that is again proscribed in (b)(2). The practical result is that private pilots who wish to use their private property for private benefit in operations that are incidental to their business or employment are denied the right of reimbursement for such use.

    Aside from the logical fallacy of this construction, there is a whole host of situations that can be easily conceived in which this restriction on the liberty of an airman is clearly arbitrary and capricious. A simple example is that a private pilot who uses their own airplane to travel on business cannot be reimbursed for use of their private property in an operation that is incidental to their business or employment if they are accompanied by a member of their own family!

    Another absurd and arbitrary aspect of this regulation is that the office of the FAA General Counsel has over the years developed a laundry list of items that constitute “compensation”, including the acquisition of “good will” and the mere act of recording pilot in command time in the airman’s log book. Any private pilot who the FAA determines has earned “compensation” while carrying passengers is subject to fines and loss of license. It is a real and tangible example of the enforcement of “thought” crimes.
    Imagine if the IRS announced that no reimbursement for the use of a private vehicle would be allowed if the driver carried a passenger or some property on a road trip in which the use of the personally owned vehicle was incidental to the business at hand. And yet we in the general aviation community have accepted this very same absurdity to be imposed on our liberty to use our own private property for private benefit.
    There are more than 200,000 private pilots in the United States who have no desire whatsoever to operate commercially so why should we arbitrarily deny them the freedom to use their private property for private benefit?

    In contrast, imagine a situation where private pilots who own or rent airplanes, would be allowed reimbursement for expenses related to incidental use of their airplanes for private benefit in connection to business, in the same manner as all citizens are allowed reimbursement for the use of their privately owned land vehicles. We are not talking about revenue generation here, just reimbursement of actual expenses. If such reimbursement was allowed, we know from the use of private vehicles that employers and small business owners across the nation would immediately and dramatically step up to the use of general aviation for private use and this vast aviation infrastructure that our forebears have built over a century will finally be given a chance to realize its full economic potential for the benefit of the entire nation.

    It is truly an outrage that the most developed aviation infrastructure in the world, in this, the nation that gave birth to aviation, should be so monumentally squandered on the whim of unelected bureaucrats who have neither sense of the history nor vision of the aviation pioneers who sacrificed so much to build it.

    Statutory relief is the only viable option now

    The Gordian knot of regulations, FAA legal opinions, and case law that has accumulated has become unwieldy, arbitrary and capricious. NPRM and judicial relief is no longer a feasible approach to untangling the logical dysfunction inherent in the present state of regulations. Only with a return to the source of the will of the people, the United States Congress, can we now hope for relief.

    In the case of a commercial conveyance the public is entitled to government assurance that any operators of that conveyance are scrutinized to a standard to which the public could not itself verify compliance. Whereas in the case of a private operation, the passengers and owners of property conveyed by a private pilot have the burden, and the means, to acquire whatever information they wish to gather to weigh the risks associated with the operation. The services of a private pilot are not, and would remain under the proposed legislation, inaccessible to the general public that is unknown to the private pilot and who do not share the common purpose of the pilot on the flight.
    The proposed legislation (draft bill at the end of this treatise) affirms the need for a clear distinction between commercial and private operations and strives to unambiguously bar private pilots from operating commercially, while simultaneously providing protection of private property rights that have been unnecessarily trampled by a bureaucracy that seems incapable of rulemaking that accomplishes both goals.

    The proposed draft bill has five provisions (SEC. 2) that incorporate all the elements of the firewall doctrines that the FAA has constructed between private and commercial operations.

    1. By restricting the compensation to reimbursement of expenses, paragraph (a) ensures that the flight is not the business, i.e., that it is not conducted by the private pilot for profit as an aviation business.

    2. Sub-paragraph (1) codifies the incidental doctrine that is well established in case law and there is no controversy surrounding its application:
    (1) The flight is only incidental to that business or employment; and

    3. Sub-paragraph (2) codifies in statute the common purpose doctrine that the FAA has developed on its own to plug the gap between the definition of operations that are quid pro quo transactions and flights in which the private pilot shares a bona fide common interest in the mission:
    (2) The private pilot shares a common purpose with passengers or property carried on the aircraft; and

    4. Sub-paragraph (3) ensures that the private pilot is not compelled to operate the flight as a condition of their employment or some other business compulsion. This is in stark contrast to a pilot employed in a commercial operation. It ultimately grants the private pilot the discretion to choose the mode of transportation, thus reinforcing the incidental doctrine.
    (3) The possession and exercise of the privileges of a private pilot license is not a condition of that business or employment for the private pilot; and

    5. Sub-paragraph (4) extends the same doctrine as (3) to the passengers and property carried by a private pilot:
    (4) Consent to be carried by an aircraft operated by a private pilot is not a condition of that business or employment for the passengers or owners of property.

    These five provisions incorporate all the doctrinal elements that are to be found in the regulations, legal opinions of the FAA General Counsel, and administrative law court decisions, that separate commercial operations from private, without all of the mental gymnastics and logical fallacies that have befuddled the entire community as a result of the poorly crafted regulations currently on the books.


    It would represent a win for both the commercial and private aviation communities and by extension to the economy at large. The commercial operators would be unambiguously protected from intrusion from private pilot operations and the private pilots would have their rights restored to receive just compensation for expenses related to the incidental use of their private property for private benefit.

    It is therefore proposed to Congress to enact the following bill to amend the FAA Act of 1958 to restore the right of all citizens to transit through the navigable airspace of the United States without unnecessary, arbitrary and capricious denial of private property rights:

    To amend the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 to restore the right of private pilots to use private property for private benefit, and for other purposes.
    JANUARY xx, 2013
    Mr. XXX introduces the following bill;

    A BILL
    To amend the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 to restore the right of private pilots to use private property for private benefit, and for other purposes.
    Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


    This Act may be cited as the ‘Freedom to Fly for Private Benefit Act of 2013’.

    (a) A private pilot may act as pilot in command of an aircraft in connection with any business or employment and be reimbursed for expenses directly related to the operation of an aircraft in connection with any business or employment, provided the expenses involve only fuel, oil, airport expenditures, or rental fees if:
    (1) The flight is only incidental to that business or employment; and
    (2) The private pilot shares a common purpose with any passengers or property carried on the aircraft; and
    (3) The possession and exercise of the privileges of a private pilot license is not a condition of business or employment for the private pilot; and
    (4) Consent of passengers or owners of property to be carried by an aircraft operated by a private pilot is not a condition of business or employment for the passengers or owners of property.

    For purposes of this Act—
    (1) the term ‘aircraft’ has the meaning given such term in section 101(5) of the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 (49 U.S.C. 1301(5));

    (a) EFFECTIVE DATE- This Act shall take effect on the date of the enactment of this Act.

    • Mack says

      Tim McDonough,

      Thanks for a thoroughly fine, thoughtful, dissertation! (Note to my hangar buddies: Proscribe means “forbid, by law” and fetters means “restraints”). However, I do not think that congress, as currently composed, represents us, they seem to represent “Globalists”.
      I point out, that it is congressional authority, that issues AD notes, in the congressional record. AD notes do not protect any one’s private property, but in actuality, they callously condemn free use of one’s property, in the interest of protecting some other entity, such as a manufacturer, limiting liability, if another accident might happen with their product.

      I like your “Freedom to Fly for Private Benefit Act”.

      My actual experience was that many corporate employers, (via an enthusiastic but aviation ignorant supervisor) would reimburse me, only automotive mileage expenses when I rented or used my own plane for travel. That way, any improprieties were not acknowledged or recorded on expense reports.

      • Timothy McDonough, PhD says

        FWIW, the GSA reimbursement rate for federal government employees who use a private airplane is $1.33 per statute mile (

    • says

      Great – if your a candidate for a JD (Juris Doctorate Degree) , however, given your present post/position as a Economics prof, I would have expected something more relative to Jamie’s noble article or at least how the “free market” works in a capitalistic society OR were you just trying to impress readers with your academic prowess?

      • Gary Fisher says

        Wow. I am surprised at the very personal attack directed toward Dr. McDonough. Especially when it starts out with a misspelling of “you’re!” However, more to the point, Dr. McDonough’s post was very informative. It may not have been totally germaine to Jamie’s article, but certianly showed a lot of research and hard work, all of which is ultimately aimed at helping GA. Isn’t that really the bottom line?

        • says

          Mr. Fisher; And I suspect you would (did I get that right) also be a supporter of socialize recreational aviation? Are YOU prepared to SPENT more $$ at the airport or FBO – the problem is that the airport owner/authority and FBO/flight school has been “subsidizing” many aviation consumers indirectly for decades – until the airport closes and the operator fails or is bankrupt. The “problem” will continue until which time THOSE who can afford and are willing to pay for the privilege of flying – when the QUALITY, not the QUANITY, of the aviation consumer increases and in volume! ps Altought I agree the response by the”Dr.” was well written and lengthy, it might have been more appropiate as a feature article onto itself in a later edition of GA News?

      • Timothy McDonough, PhD says

        General aviation is in decline because of the cost of personal flying. It wasn’t always this way. Before the FAA clamped down on reimbursement for flying expenses in connection with business or employment, general aviation economics made more sense for small businesses and even large employers. Lift those restrictions and we will see that more small businesses and employers will immediately step up to defraying those costs. That in turn will lead to a dramatic increase in general aviation flying, FBO business, fuel tax revenues, aviation maintenance employment, aircraft and parts manufacturing, flight school business, and the list goes on, not to mention all of the positive economic externalities that are attributed to general aviation. So, yes, my treatise is very germain to the core theme of Mr. Beckett’s article and it’s the only proposal out there that I am aware of that directly addresses the central cause of the decline of general aviation: the inability of private pilots to defray the cost of the use of their private property when used solely for private benefit.

        BTW, no personal offense is taken. I suspect that you are just another fellow aviator who is equally as frustrated as I am.

        • says

          “General Aviation is in decline do to cost of personal flying………..
          No – the recreationaL SEGMEMT is!
          Having been in the FBO/flightschool/aircraft sales business in the thriving years(1966-78) was for BOTH the busines/corporate and recreational segments great times.
          As a professional in the field of economics, I’m sure you’ll agree that aviation is no differient than any other business – simple a case of supply and demand.
          personal flying, or as a “hobby”

  15. John Wesley says

    I really do enjoy most of Jamie’s articles, but I really do wish that he would take off his rose colored glasses and ditch the Pollyana attitude. He looks at the world through the eyes of a child, protected in his thriving GA environment in sunny Florida. In my area I look at airports that thrived 47 years ago when I started to fly, airports that are today total dead zones, no FBO, no Aircraft rental, self-service high priced fuel and grass growing in the cracks in the runways. As long as we continue to say that everything is OK, then it will keep getting worse, As long as we allow the industry pols to continue to manage so called recovery programs that will never succeed, because they will not undertake the measures needed, then GA may not be dead, but it is seriously ill and seriously in need of massive help.

    • says

      Some of us continue, as adults, to live in “Disneyland”, while others mature emotionally – in the REAL world – Jamie, alhough well meaning, tends to be rather idealistic and naive; but then again, so do many of the readers of this fine publication; well stated, Mr. Westly!

  16. Mack says

    General Aviation is a microcosm of our country. We are stifled by socialism, bordering on communism, with an army of elite government employees, chanting “We’re not happy, until your not happy!”

    We lose all our God-given freedoms, to government’s overbearing regulations, and their over-leveraged axe, known as the AD note.

    That’s why the EAA was born, to not snuff us out, completely.

    However, legacy aircraft are plentiful and cheap, nowadays, but it’s the overpriced upkeep, and the overpriced fuel, that’s making GA languish.

    All of us in Aviation, need to take care of our own concerns, and not appoint the government to our safety, to our maintenance, or to our performance.

    We need to be the free people we are, with our penchant for unbridled innovation, and a positive attitude about our endeavors, and we need to de-authorize the fear-mongering and greedy government that throttles all of us back.

    We all need to defend ourselves from government, and not take the attitude they are here for our “safety”. They are here for your money, they are here for making themselves “the elite”.

    • Steve says

      Amen Mack,
      The price of maintenance, parts, and avgas is killing GA, along with government regulation.

      The failed european model of flying clubs wont save GA and will lead to extremely high fuel prices and fees for every landing. This is where we are headed. Dont give into the flying club BS. This is America, how about ownership instead. Older airplanes are a bargin right now. Avgas and maintenance costs are the problem.

      I can use non-ethanol mogas in my 182, but can no longer obtain it in Arizona because of insane government policy. I am forced to pay a $2.00 per gallon premium for 100LL.

      • Jim Swanton says

        Remember that our GA fight against user fees is that we already pay the $2 premium (tax) for avgas as our fair share to “the system”. The more we fly, the more we pay. To bypass it with mo-gas might truly constitute not paying our fair share. Does aviation mo-gas have the aviation tax applied? I ‘m not sure myself having never used it. I do own and operate my own 1970 C172K with avgas only.
        This year’s government “sequester” will actually keep me (and some fellow aviators) from flying GA as we planned to (not good). I am considering canceling or postponing this summer’s trip to Oshkosh due to the uncertainties of (KOSH) airspace control and actual airshow participants (Thunderbirds, etc.?).

  17. Gary Fisher says

    I am normally one of the most optimistic individuals you will encounter. However, over the past dozen years, I have tried valiantly to get many new pilots initiated and re energize former pilots, with very limited success. The cost of flying is a valid concern, however, I lay the blame for a lot of the cost and difficulty squarely at the feet of the FAA.
    The certification costs for new planes and engines are exorbitant. The requirements to run an FBO, with constant FAA scrutiny and endless paper shuffleing, cost a fortune. Those expenses are then passed along to the pilot users and drive good FBOs out of business. The FAA medical process is arcane. Expensive, intimidating, threatening, and appears to be designed solely to keep pilots out of recreational flying and desk jobs filled. I see validity to stringent medical requirements for ATP type flying, but for GA pilots or light business flyers, many potential pilots are either turned off or eliminated from consideration by over zealous, bureaucrats in the FAA. From my perspective, a complete overhaul of the FAA is going to be needed to save GA, as we know it.

    • Terry D Welander says

      Sometime back the FAA mandate was changed from promoting aviation and safety to just safety. The promoting aviation by the FAA needs to be brought back and made subservient to safety of course. The FAA appears to totally ignore aviation promotion;
      to most of our detriment; making the FAA substantially non or un or a less responsive government agency; making the FAA obstructionist to aviation for a convenient and erroneous one size fits all safety methodology. If enough people speak up, we can put a stop to this obstructionism. The question is easy. The FAA needs to ask the users what is in their interest before anything is done, and insure the users interests are accommodated and/or maintained to insure a growing small aircraft market and use; which over time could remove most of the obstructionism. Lets all demand the FAA consider and include user input before doing anything from here on in.

      With small aircraft being at least 3 times safer than autos, there is no excuse for one size fits all FAA safety rules with no aviation promotion; creating inconvenience and obstruction where there should be none, had user interest been considered and included.

  18. Ed Seaton says

    I believe that if the F.A.A passes the amendment to the Sport Pilot rules and doing away with the medical for recreational flying,it will put alot of airplanes and Pilots in the air,that is sitting on the ground now.And it will bring in new Pilots in General Aviation.

  19. Linda S. Berl says

    Thank you for writing an uplifting, encouraging article on General Aviation. Please write more, and often!

  20. Barry says

    I hope you are right, but I have a hard time seeing it. I am 60 and see many in aviation older, and not as many that are younger. I have a 1965 Cherokee 180 and love it. When that plane was new is sold for something like $12,000. If you take that forward with inflation, it is about $96000 in todays dollars, but a new Archer, which is essentually the same plane, costs over $300,000. I just got the bill for my annual, and there were a few out of the ordinary things, like a fuel tank leak and needing oil cooler hoses, but the bill is about $5,000. Fuel at my home airport is $6.00 and hangar rent, for a port-a-port with no power is pushing $400, and the airport is making noises about tearing them all down to make room for more jets.. I know many people that would be interested in flying, but are driven away by these costs. I will keep flying as long as I can afford it, but it gets harder every year.

  21. Mike says

    While I appreciate the effort Jamie describes in his article about the airport-visiting family, I suggest some scrutiny of the methods various flight schools provide “enthusiasm” for anyone interested in learning to fly. Remember, if a business can’t handle the inspection of its workings, it will ultimately implode.
    These examples first hand while visiting websites of potential flight schools, which is the method many first-timers will use: of the first 4 that I searched, one school was asked for fleet information a week ago-still no reply. One school was asked for course availability 3 months ago and still no reply after initial contact was confirmed. One school shows a “news and information” section on its site that has October of 2011 as the latest “news”.
    One school shows 2009 as the latest “newsletter”.
    Are you kidding me? The first 4 schools I visit or contact on their website (yes they are all still in business) cannot even either get back to me or display timely information. Folks, in business these are called “buying signals”. The younger potential buyers of services today are not going to wait for these businesses to get off of their lazy behinds and respond. It will just reinforce the notion that this is some sort of elitist club and they will not bother to either explore further or come out to the airport. We need more aggressive business-type responses to anyone interested in learning to fly.

    • says

      I agree flight schools do not use “new media” the way they should. And the few that have websites don’t keep them updated or respond promptly to questions submitted via email. Sadly it seems industry wide, so from personal experience give them a call and you will have all your answers then and there. Trust me I’m like you I seldom do business with a company that can’t efficiently communicate with me electronically. I am bias though I am a programmer and build websites and software for a living so don’t always point this out, but I’ve tried to sell sites to flight schools as a side job and have had answers of “I don’t have the time to keep the prices updated” or “I don’t have time to respond to emails”. I do understand the difficulties of running a business I even offered them a way to send a text message with the fuel price and it would auto update wet cost based off the fuel cost… no interest.

    • says

      Today, there’s this mis-gudied notion that social media or a web-site will produce sales results; this idea is further from the truth! Flight lessons, do to it”s unique nature, is BEST sold person to person; the “close” is done on site – not via electronice media -“personal selling”, face to face” – the old fashion way. What a web-site DOES provide is pre-sale information – enough to get the “prospect” to the airport/flight school where a personal interview/presentation can be made and the “close” by an experience sales person – not always the CFI who happens to be available at the moment. Real estate and cars are NOT sold on the Internet – at least not yet!

      • says

        Not quite so sure about that I’ve bought both over the internet. There are many in my generation and younger that if you can’t communicate electronically than you are not even on their radar as a potential business to spend their money with. I do understand I am bias however I will say this, if you offer a contact us form or other electronic communications via your website be prepared to communicate via email. It’s annoying to me if a website only offers a phone number and an address in the way of contact points, but a company is out of the running if they fail to respond or not answer my questions if they do offer it. Personally if I’ve taken the time to email someone I don’t want a response saying give us a call at. You don’t even need to spend a lot of money in the electronic marketing set up a face book page and doing something as simple as post the shirt tail pics after solo and accomplishments of the students (with their approval), this cost nothing and can be done in your spare time on rainy days, and it builds your brand and engages your customers, you may not get too many initial customers this way but you keep customers engaged with you and you will get repeat business. The only caveat is you need to review it once a day and interact with people that have posted questions, but you don’t need to like or comment on every post.

  22. Casey Hansen says

    Great article and comments.

    My wife and I are 28 and 29 years old. Last year, we purchased a 1950 Piper Pacer – a beautiful classic aircraft (and also a very simple aircraft). I’m work for an online marketing agency and my wife is a school teacher.

    We are having a blast. Expenses are there, sure, but we could blow close to $42 (an hour of fuel in our Pacer) eating out in a single evening, too. We simply decided we would rather pack our lunch and head to the hangar.

    It’s tough out there, but it’s not impossible. GA is alive and well in our house – we’ve chosen to make it a priority.

  23. Chris Martin says

    I wish I could share the optimism.

    I have been involved with GA for the last 30 years, I have built my own airplanes, owned and restored certified planes, gliders, ultra-lights and even foot launched powered paragliders. Even got my heli license too and hold CFI and A&P tickets. I even go with my son every weekend to our local RC flying field. So I guess you can say I REALLY love aviation.

    But the last 10 years have been an uphill battle to keep myself in the flying seat. Maybe it is the place where I live at but at my home airport (KTMB) it almost seems that the local authorities are doing whatever in their power to erase GA from the face of this planet (or at least this airport) and it shows. KTMB used to be one of the most active airports in the country and now you’d be hard pressed to see a couple of airplanes in the pattern at a given time (OK sometimes you do see more than two but it is rare). Every month something new comes up that makes it even harder to continue flying at this airport. BTW, our small GA reliever (X51) is equally as bad.

    I now own a beautiful LongEZ, which of course I need to keep in a hangar (unless I want to see it destroyed by the FL sun in a few years), and the last news we got is that we have to vacate the hangars we have been in for the last 10 years. The reason: they want to put airplanes that use more fuel in them. So yes, I will now start hearing how business is business, yadi, yadi yada but the end result is that I will have to disassemble the plane and take it home.

    So if GA growing up means that we will just see a jet or two takeoff once in a while and no more light planes then that’s fine but will not do me any good.

    BTW, back to KTMB or X51, there are people that have tried for years to get permission to build inexpensive hangars or facilities in an attempt to form sport aviation clubs but the answer has always been a resounding NO. And should I mention, the hangar in which I keep my EZ is a large hangar that a few of us share and stuff our planes on top of each other to try to offset the ridiculous cost of the hangar ($600 per airplane). We fly every weekend and buy fuel at the FBO but the operator claims they want even more fuel consumption than what we provide.

    On a positive note, our local RC flying club, of which my son and I are members of, is doing great and it is a really fun place to be at so it’s been a welcomed alternative. But full size flying is really becoming a loner activity.

    I just don’t feel the love anymore.

    • Greg W says

      Chris, Your airport is not alone in this, Mich. airports are much the same high cost low availability for hangar space. My local airport, county opperated, was complaining about lack of hanger rent and yet would not give me a price, a new private hangar was built for a citation jet and the county tore down a T hanger to give more taxiway space to the jet, two tennents ejected from the hangar and five spaces distroyed but it makes the tennent rate look better,and the jet buys more fuel.

  24. says

    Thanks. Finally I do not feel alone. Thre are others out there with “the cup is halve full” attitude.

    I have grandson who when asked by his mom what he wanted for his birthday, as if he was waiting for his opportunity, quickly said. “I want to go flying with Grandpa in Grandpa’s big plane.” His answer was resolute. No new toy, no new game, he simply wanted to go flying. By the way, this was his fourth birthday, and I will forever be indebted to my daughter-in-law and my son for letting Theoren and I have this special day.

    For those who may be interested in the full story, and pictures of us grinning ear to ear, you can read it, and see them, in my blog

  25. Jeff says

    I don’t see the problem as being the lack of those wanting to fly. The main obstacle for many is getting and keeping an airplane. While hanger expenses and insurance aren’t too bad, the cost of fuel and parts is out of sight.

  26. says

    Hi Jamie: Great message and thanks for writing it with some excellent language. It’s a message that needs to be told and then repeated ad infinitum. As a proponent of Light-Sport Aircraft I’ve also had to confront this “aviation is dead or dying” nonsense and you’ve given me some good words to use in retort. Keep up the great work!

  27. says

    I agree aviation will hold its own for the foreseeable time to come, and if low earth orbit operations get even cheaper than there will be a whole new segment. However there are drains on our hobby and industry and one of the biggest has been the lack of new technology over the last two decades. This is starting to change and kids get excited when the see the inside of a new 172, but you can see it in their eyes when you put them in an old 172 that “this isn’t as cool”. No one wants to learn Morse, METAR is antiquated etc. When we stop forcing people to learn to navigate using 1950’s methods in VFR (I get the need for a fall back method, but I doubt GPS is going to suddenly go down as a system and a simple backup battery powered GPS device (Ipad or dedicated) is enough to get you to an airport in VFR when the dash lights go out). As the antiquated instruments and navigation techniques go the way of the vacuum tube the manufacturers need to start looking at engine technology. Cars in the 60’s got 8mpg cars today get 30mpg and fuel prices have increased impart due to efficiency increases. Cars between 1960 and 1986 lost on average 472 lbs, but since 1990 the safety equipment and entertainment systems have added much of that back and we get still better fuel mileage than in the 80’s. Well planes still get the same fuel burn as they did in the 60’s, this is the leading cause as to why the hobby is so expensive.

  28. says

    Optimism is great! I personally have a lot of it when it comes to the future of personal flying. However, we can’t go into denial about GA’s future. The numbers have been trending downward at an alarming rate. I believe that we are only a few years from going over a “cliff” where the personal-flying customer base becomes too small to support the needed infrastructure for the pursuit of personal flying.

    After several years of research into how we can turn things around, I have come to the conclusion that it can be done. However, it is going to take a drastic change in how we recruit, train and support new personal flyers if we’re going to reverse the trend lines and ensure a secure and growing personal-flyer population. Business as usual is not working!

    The Center For Airmanship Excellence will release a new book (“In Pursuit Of Airmanship Excellence”) in the near future that will lay out one way to change things for the better.

  29. Keith Vasey says

    Thank you for your words Jamie. Just what I needed. I have spent the past year in a funk. My attitude has been that I expect “owner-flown” aviation to just barely hang on long enough for me to finish my career. But, you’re right. The fascination of flight was in our hearts long before Orville & Wilbur and it will continue long after we are gone.

  30. says

    Thanks Jamie. Relentless optimism gets things done, even when flying into the headwinds of the most negative and cynical industry I have been involved in. Let’s harness the passion, the energy, and the optimism and GET TO WORK. Growth in GA will come in many forms, some new, some tried and true. But either way, the hope for a brighter future is the light that leads the way.

  31. says

    Right-on Jamie! I am continually, pleasantly surprised at the number of young men and women who call and email us wanting more information about learning to fly. We are definitely going through a time of transition, but there is a new generation of pilots and aviation enthusiasts who are going to be taking the reins of this industry in short-order and take it in the direction it needs to go. No reason for pessimism here!

    • Jamie Beckett says

      Thanks for the comment, Mike. I know you are in touch with new potential pilots on a regular basis. Your insight is a great example of GAs strength…it’s just getting reorganized at the moment. Bright days are ahead.

      • Golf58 says

        I think you all are smoking crack! I just did my thesis on the economics of aviation, and I’m getting ready to defend it. I’ve been ripped by folks at AOPA for my data driven approach, and my lack of “inspiring others who have a passion for aviation”. Well, being one of those with a passion for aviation, I would hate to see it die, but I’m done spending money on poor services, insanely expensive aircraft that are maintained at minimum levels, and the whole thing. It’s just too expensive for normal people, and business aviation is the main supporter of AOPA. If you want an organization who is for the little guy, get involved with EAA. Sorry for the bad news, but do yourself a favor and sink 90% of the money you would in aviation and put it in the market. You will do much better. The other 10%? Pick up golf or fishing or something else you would enjoy.

        • Timothy McDonough, PhD says


          Congratulations on your thesis completion. I would love to read it if you wouldn’t mind sharing it please:

          I too am not very optimistic about GA as we knew it. I have often thought that aviation as a private form of transportation is perhaps just an artifact of the vast expenditures in the aviation infrastructure that occurred during WWII and that we have been living on the consumption of that capital ever since 1945 in the same way that we consumed the rest of the WWII military surplus.

        • Dan says

          Interesting comments. Part of what many posters are missing is that people are not upset about the base cost of flying, they are upset about the value delivered for that cost. $100/hour to sit in a 30 year old machine that is uncomfortable, more cramped than an econobox, minimally maintained and quirky to operate which is then used to fly to a deserted destination with not a single person around for miles only to find that the restaurant that was supposed to be there decided to change it’s published hours without notifying anyone (so it’s closed right now) is NOT a good value. Especially when it happens multiple times.
          As far as I can tell, there is no real interest in maintaining recreational flying – if you are not planning a career, you are simply wasting money (which is OK, it’s yours to waste). My entire experience with the process has been frustrating, expensive and, often, downright infuriating. Anyone who is surprised about the high dropout rate is simply not paying attention to socioeconomic changes that have occurred over the last few decades.
          Unless there is a massive adjustment throughout the entire industry, including reorganizing the current mess at the FAA, recreational GA is dead. Oh, you will find the occasional counterexample but the volume numbers are grim.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *