The Lost Generation

By JON BOYD

Having spent many decades in the general aviation business, it seems to me that I should be smarter about this industry, but some things continue to confound me. One of those is the reason for what I call the lost generation of aviation.

First, let’s define a generation. Most consider it somewhere between 20 and 30 years. If that is the case, then we are looking at either a lost generation or a lost generation and a half.

JonBoydAt fly-ins, safety seminars, shows like SUN ’n FUN, Oshkosh and the like, talk amongst the old timers (gosh, I’m one of those now!) gravitates to the golden days of flying when airplanes were cheap and plentiful and flying for business or pleasure was taken up by the thousands.

The statistics seem to confirm these facts. Between 1976 and the end of 1979, 67,217 general aviation aircraft were manufactured and sold. Thirty years later, from 2006 to the end of 2009, there were only 11,090 aircraft manufactured and sold, a staggering 83.5% drop. During those years in the ‘70s, student starts averaged approximately 202,000 a year compared to approximately 80,000 a year between 2006 and 2009, a 60% downturn.

If you argue that there are fewer airports because of all the residential and commercial building and development, you would be wrong. In 1980, there were 4,814 public use airports in the U.S. compared to 5,175 in 2010 (it should be noted that the highest number of documented public airports was in 1993 when we reached 5,538. We have since declined from that pinnacle in the last 17 years.) Compare this with a 40% population increase, 220 million in 1977 compared to 308 million in 2010, and the aviation downturn is even more enigmatic and shocking.

So what happened? Where did our people go? Is aviation becoming obsolete, going the way of the blacksmith, ice delivery man or typewriter repairman? Will learning to fly for the sheer fun of it languish on the sidelines like an old 8-track tape that collects dust on your shelf, having no use other than being a conversation piece?

Lots of questions and not a lot of answers, but here are some things that may point in a direction of what our industry has been through and where it may end up.

The advent of deregulation in the late 1970s changed the way people traveled and changed the perception of the airlines as a business.

Prior to deregulation, flying commercially was still somewhat of an unknown commodity. Tickets were expensive, routes were limited and airline pilots were compared in prestige to doctors and lawyers. Deregulation changed all that. In 1981, airlines like People Express debuted, offering low-cost, no-frills flying and attracted the masses.

We could argue that making flight available to more people should have made it more inviting for individuals to want to learn to fly, but clearly it didn’t. Perhaps some of the thrill of flying was eliminated by making it so available. The numbers clearly indicate that many, many more people were exposed to air travel in the current generation then in the past — 310 million passengers flew in 1980 compared to 713 million in 2010.

How about the prestigious vocation of an airline pilot? Deregulation took away the prestige — and the income. Airline pilots, along with doctors and lawyers, were in the highest percentiles of income earners in the 1970s.

Today, CFIs in their 20s take pay cuts to go to work for the regionals in hopes that they are experiencing a temporary financial inconvenience for a permanent improvement. In many cases, that is not the rule. The airlines, in today’s iteration, have no loyalty or business staying power and giants like Pan Am, Eastern and TWA, are long-gone memories. For the thousands and thousands of workers who toiled year after year for these grand old flying companies, their benefits, stock options and retirement plans disappeared and became worthless.

At the airshows, the old timers often mention cost as the reason that aviation doesn’t attract as many new customers. Comments are often heard like, “Why in 19 and 76 my first brand new Skyhawk straight from the factory only cost $28,000.” Today, a new Skyhawk is $307,000. They say flight instruction was only $30 to $40 an hour, including the flight instructor; today it can be $225 to $275 an hour depending on location and age of the airplane.

Obviously, aviation is not the only industry affected by inflation. In 1976 a Chevrolet Malibu cost about $3,600. Today, a Malibu is around $21,000. So, when comparing apples to apples based on airplane acquisition inflation versus new automobile inflation, aviation outpaced auto inflation by a factor of about five. A car today costs six times as much as it did in 1976 and an airplane about 11 times as much. Flight training is around eight times as much.

While we can argue that this higher rate of inflation in aviation is a factor in the lost generation, I am hard pressed to believe that is the sole reason. With a 40% increase in population and the availability of pre-owned airplanes that come at a lower cost, I doubt this is the only factor.

Statistics also show that the number of new aircraft registrations, which indicate transfer of ownership of pre-owned aircraft, is also extraordinarily low. This means that individuals are not only not buying new airplanes, but passing on used ones as well.

What other factors are we facing that is eroding our base and draining the life blood from our veins?

Perhaps there has been a paradigm shift in the way we think and act as Americans and in the way our young people progress in society. I am a baby boomer, someone who was in high school on Nov. 22, 1963, when JFK was assassinated. In addition to taking college preparatory classes in high school, I was required to take gym and shop, including car mechanics and even home economics (which meant learning to cook). At 15 and still a year away from my learner’s permit, I drooled over my first car, a 1952 Plymouth with a blown engine handed down to me from my older sister. I took that engine apart, bolt by bolt and put it back together and, while never getting it to the point of running well, did get it running. We played sports in the streets and in playgrounds, worked with our hands and were transfixed by live reports on TV and radio when in July 1969 man first set foot on the moon. I am old enough now to have seen two generations and clearly during my first generation, young people were more mechanically inclined.

Our leaders often bemoan the fact that we no longer produce anything in this country. That means we no longer use our hands to make things and maybe that also means we have lost interest in how things work. If our mothers and fathers don’t come home from the factory describing how they helped build this or that, then we may never have the values instilled in us about thinking about how things work.

If I suggest that kids today are less mechanically inclined, should it follow that they have less interest in flying? I would hypothesize that, yes, that is the case. You sometimes need to get your hands dirty when you are a pilot. You have to perform a preflight, understand what makes the airplane tick and be aware of your place in the overall system of a successful flight.

From what I can tell, young people are no longer required to take shop in high school. Gym is an elective and home economics went the way of Beaver Cleaver’s mother. We are in a virtual world where teenagers stay tuned to their smartphones and iPads and don’t have the time or the interest to look up to the sky. You do not have to preflight your Microsoft Flight Simulator and while these virtual worlds should bring more young people to the reality side of the equation it, in fact, seems to do the opposite. Since our young people can fly to any airport in the world in their virtual airplane, why bother with the real thing?

This is a very scary thought for me. I love aviation. I want to see it flourish. How do we bring back a vibrant industry? How do we maintain a mystique about flying? In the 1950s and ‘60s there was still the talk of fighter pilots and aces from World War II and Korea. Flying brought images to mind of adventure and glory and there was no media frenzy every time an airplane slipped off a runway. Airports were open spaces without fences and we didn’t worry about terrorists or shoe bombers.

The answer is with our young people and with those of us who do this for a living or who do it because they find life less fulfilling without it. We must get young people engaged in the world of flying and each of us should take a personal responsibility to mentor a young person — or two or three or more — with that goal in mind. We hear stories about children with no free time because of their structured lives chock full of activities that are pressed upon them, with parents stressed due to multiple driving responsibilities taking their son to baseball practice and the daughter to dance class. A trip to the general aviation side of our local airports must somehow become a stop in their busy world. We must get them from the virtual to the real and engage them with the miracle of flight.

For my part, I am asking local middle schools to consider a day trip to our FBO to see what this side of aviation is all about. It should be noted that when I discussed this idea with the NBAA, FAA and the Westchester Aviation Association (WAA), and mentioned I wanted to gear this to 7th graders and up, I was told I had the wrong age group. It surprised me a little but impressions on young people need to be made when they are in the 4th, 5th and 6th grades. I’m sure bringing in older kids is not a problem, but the psychologists tell us younger is better.

The event we are planning will include a brief discussion of what makes airplanes fly, together with career opportunities in the industry. There’ll be a walk through an active maintenance hangar, a trip to the FAA Tower, taking a seat in the front or back of a corporate jet or smaller private aircraft or whatever is available.

This will not be a one time “do my duty” and then forget about it deal. I will offer these tours on an ongoing basis, including during the school year and throughout the summer. At most, it will take two or three hours of my day two or three times a month — a small price to pay to give back to an industry that has made me rich in ways that only those who fly can understand.

 

Jon Boyd, director of sales and marketing for Panorama Flight Service, a FBO located at Westchester County Airport in White Plains, N.Y., has more than 14,000 hours of flight time. He can be reached at jboyd@flypfs.com

Comments

  1. I thought I would comment on this since I am part of the age group that you are talking about. I am 27 years old and just got my license this past november. I am an aerospace engineer and make an above average salary. That being said I will never be able to afford a new C-172 the $300,000 price tag is simply undoable that is more than I will likely spend on a house. I took my flight lessons in a 1975 piper warrior with an interior that was falling apart and breaks that had problems and fairings that had more stop drilled cracks than I can count. I also drive an old beat up 2001 jeep cherokee so I don’t have to make car payments. I did this because this was the only way I could afford to fly and I have been in love with flying since my parents took me to the bartlesville OK biplane expo when I was about four years old. Most of my generation however is not interested in spending a large percentage of their income on flying an aircraft that is more than twice as old as they are and has equipment that is so antiquated that the cars their parents drove when they were kids were more advanced.

    Here is an example of the problems with the cost of flying.
    I am single and pay about $700 a month for a decent apartment (when married most of my peers will not consider a house under about $250,000 which is about $1200 a month).
    Add about a $400 a month car payment and a $100 a month cell phone bill and another $100+ a month for TV/internet also add in the fact that most of my peers do not cook their own food and you can add an additional $400 a month paying for food out to eat all the time. add in the electric bill, the gas bill (both car gas and natural gas) and any other incedentals and you get to well over $2000 a month. and that dosen’t include any other entertainment/dating/other activities costs.

    I do not own a new car (or close to new car), I cook my own food, I don’t have cable TV, I buy the minimum cell phone plan and don’t have a land line. I don’t take regular vacations and don’t buy expensive new electronics or other nice things. I do this because I love flying and I want to afford to to be able to fly. I am looking at building a homebuilt aircraft so I can keep the costs reasonable and still be able to put some modern technology into it however most of my generation aren’t willing to put in the hours required to build a homebuild.

    There are lots of reasons that the modern generation dosne’t fly but the bigest one is that my generation simply not interested enough in flying to be willing to give up the other things in their life that would be required to afford flying. There are more and more things to spend money on that are considered to be needs by my generation not wants and they will simply not give them up to fly a beat up old 1975 piper warrior or C-172.

    If you want to get my generation flying you will need to get modern aircraft that do not look like they are falling apart with technology on the level of the Ipads and Iphone (I know the old timers will hate this but if you want the younger generation that is the way it will have to be) and you will have to get the hourly cost at or under $100 dollars an hour preferrable under. If you want to look at how much cost changes things look at Redbird avations $1 av-gas experiment and how much the flying in texas was boosted. This may be an un-doable goal but if you want the modern generation to take up flying it is the way it will have to be.

    • Wow talking about hitting the nail on head, you did it on this one. I like to own a 172
      also. The one’s in the sixties are still in the 30 grand level, a 150 is in the teens to low
      twenty’s. So there are still ones we can still afford. Finding one of these you have to
      your home work on. To me this is still out of reach, but I am working on it.

      • Kimberly Bush says:

        It might interest you younger guys to know that our friend Joe has an iPad mini that has Foreflight loaded and he uses that when we are flying.
        Of course, this is not considered ‘official equipment’, since it leaves the plane when Joe does.
        However, it costs a whole lot less, too.
        Flying is about igniting a passion for the pastime in another person. The ‘I’ve got mine and I don’t care if you ever get yours’ attitude is simply NOT helpful.

  2. Kimberly Bush says:

    “Those answers will make the subculture uncomfortable, compel them to confront the disquieting fact that the lives of relative ease they enjoy are the result of unearned entitlement, of long-discredited supply-side economic policies, of legislated theft and predation of the middle class by the affluent and powerful. Aviation executives may have to (get ready to gasp in horror) earn less money, may have to put aviation ahead of personal net worth, may have to drive around in Ford Fusions rather than be chauffeured around in limousines, may have to take a page out of the Pope Francis playbook.”
    It is nice to see that I am not the only one who had these misconceptions about aviators.

    You should be made aware, however, that the ‘limo’s’ that most in aviation refer to in their travels are more likely nine-passenger vans provided as a part of their hotel room rate.
    Since, TECHNICALLY, any pilot on the payroll may be called at 2 hours notice or less to actually (gasp!) fly an airplane full of non-relatives, they don’t do nearly as much drinkin’ as advertised in the movies.
    If those non-executive employees are making tons of money, most of their spouses would like to know where it is being kept.
    When is the last time YOU, my friend, worked at a job where you can be fired at a moment’s notice because someone LITERALLY didn’t like your tone or attitude?
    Just curious.

  3. Maynard McKillen says:

    Jon:

    I, too, love aviation.

    I can’t help but call attention to a level of tunnel vision that seems almost endemic to aviation executives, professionals and to some enthusiasts. Put it down to the type of education they pursue to succeed in technical and professional fields. Many show business acumen, and/or can wield professional/technical expertise, but it’s often married to notable economic naivete, and to marginal, even infantile, political ideology. In short, their ability to evaluate problems outside of their areas of expertise is limited, and the biases they bring to an attempt to understand and explain socioeconomic trends causes them to draw woefully shortsighted, sometimes dangerous conclusions.

    I suggest that asking pilots why enthusiasm for private aviation is declining, indeed, why the private pilot population itself is declining, and why private aircraft sales and manufacturing are so sharply down, is akin to asking the uncle of the mother of a newborn son why she didn’t have a daughter. A host of untenable premises are built into the question, including who was asked to comment/explain, so a coherent answer is prevented. Asking a meteorologist, rather than a climate scientist who actually travels to Antarctica to collect and analyze core samples, to defend or refute the legitimacy of man-made causes for global warming, is a similar interrogatory abuse, one that is bound, or even calculated, to misinform and mislead the public.

    I get that a pooling of ideas and thoughts can be constructive, informative, and can even provide direction if a solution is sought, but that solution may require aviation executives, professionals and enthusiasts to take a good hard look at their beliefs and their actions. They may have to change, to give up some of the comfortable ideas, delusions even, that they mistake for part of their identity. Answers lie beyond the cozy talk-circles of the aviation subculture.

    Those answers will make the subculture uncomfortable, compel them to confront the disquieting fact that the lives of relative ease they enjoy are the result of unearned entitlement, of long-discredited supply-side economic policies, of legislated theft and predation of the middle class by the affluent and powerful. Aviation executives may have to (get ready to gasp in horror) earn less money, may have to put aviation ahead of personal net worth, may have to drive around in Ford Fusions rather than be chauffeured around in limousines, may have to take a page out of the Pope Francis playbook.

    Jon, the 4th, 5th and 6th graders in the school located one half block from my home are so far removed from any awareness of private aviation that it is fair to say its existence is not even on their radar. For some seventy percent of them, their very lives are sustained with help from a school breakfast program. The arc of their career lives, their income lives, their family lives is already circumscribed by economic and political forces of which they have little comprehension, and over which their parents have little control or say. The American Dream is closed to most of them. They will live lives no better or marginally better than those of their parents. If current trends of incarceration for African American males continue, some forty percent of the boys will later spend time in prison.

    You won’t find statistical data about their lives quoted in Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, or issuing from the mouths of the current crop of Republicans, unless it’s followed by ideology and a mindset that blames the poor for their poverty. Those who know where their next meal is coming from don’t want to know about this other America, can’t be bothered, won’t lift a finger to confront the consequences of crony capitalism and supply-side economic policies.

    The world this next generation of inner city students inhabits has precious few lines of intersection with the world of private aviation. How could that change? Jon, if you want to grow the private pilot population, and see the sales of private, single-engine aircraft rise, then work to restore a vital, powerful middle class. And I’m sorry to offend, but the Tea Party doesn’t have any solutions. Nor do the current crop of Republican obstructionists, who never saw a tax break or entitlement for corporations and the undeserving wealthy that they didn’t want to preserve and increase. The crazy, crazy level of income inequality now prevalent has to be reduced to levels we saw in the 1950s. The government has to work for the middle class, not the one-percenters and those few scavengers who grow fat on the crumbs they brush off the table.

    If any of you dare to wonder why private aviation is dying, then you must also summon the honesty to acknowledge the causes and to correct them, at the cost of your unexamined beliefs and your comfort. You may have to admit, too, that you are, or were, part of the problem.

    • Kimberly Bush says:

      Maynard-
      You are asking for a paradigm shift from profitability to sustainability in an industry that still quietly agrees that girls are pretty enough to serve coffee, but not smart enough to fly an airplane. If you cite Amelia as an example, they remind you she got lost.
      Good luck with your mission. Keep us posted on how it works out for you.

    • Mr. McKillen; Just read this today and a little late in my reply – very articulate thesis – working on your Ph.d or already have several?
      When you come out of your “dream” of (I assume? ) liberal ideology and start living in the REAL WORLD, (albeit -politically un-bias) please let us know! Yes, I agree, they’re many inequities in life (I should KNOW!) including those who may be more fortunate $$ than most; that said, and frankly, if you so disenchanted with living in a capitalistic free market economy like ours, I suggest you relocate where you can “soapbox” your wares!

    • Maynard,

      Wow! I thought I was long winded…holly smokes you truly are full of yourself. I’m not easily inflamed as many on here will assure you, but you literally take my breath away. Not so much for your ignorance of aviation, but for your ignorance of the world at large. First of all, I guess you haven’t gotten the memo, but manufacturing is making a very strong come back in the USA. Please, don’t count us out just yet. As for the poor African Americans you have tossed the towel in, I guess you are not familiar with the large number or programs that are there for not just African Americans, but for all economically disadvantaged Americans. Some of those programs include “magnet schools” that focus on the performing arts, or Science-Technology-Engineering and Math (STEM Schools), and yes, Aviation. Part of the purpose of “magnet schools” is to alleviate the racial or cultural clustering created by traditional “community schools”. Apparently you are not familiar with any of these programs?

      As for the cost of aviation being associated with those who have Phd’s and ride around in Limo’s…not sure what planet you are on, but here on earth there are more folks driving around in cars that are border line “jalopies” so they can afford to keep a roof over their head, food on the table and their twenty five to thirty year old plane in the air, or at least in a hanger somewhere.

      You are correct however that out of conversation comes consensus and perhaps an action plan. You are also correct that the aviation community has to look outside of itself to regain awareness, relevance and the answer to its issues.

      What you are not correct about is your claims of elitism, single purpose or lack of openness. I suspect those more correctly stated are your own issues.

      Disruption is the new root of innovation. Your clear headed evidence backed facts are welcomed. Noise and attitude are not.

      Good day.

      • Hi Matt; Thanks for “seconding the motion”! Maybe Maynard here was at 20K to long without oxygen?

        • John Barsness says:

          I also second the motion, Rod. I started to write back to Maynard in anger; re-thought and did not reply. I don’t want to bash another pilot, but when you start bringing bad politics into the discussion, it’s hard to keep quiet.

          After reading Maynard’s eloquent epiphany, I can only think of what my Grandpa would have said… ” You are educated beyond your intelligence!”.

          “nuf said”……….jb

  4. Instant gratification in young people is a big part of the problem. When we were growing up we learned to water and snow ski, play chess, fly fish, become pilots etc. and it took considerable time, energy, and effort to become proficient. Now young people snow and wake board or ride on inflated tubes because it simply does not take much time to be proficient. Flying is the same, kids simply don’t want to invest the time, energy, mental effort etc. to become proficient, not to mention today’s risk avoidance obsession, and we all know that flying can hurt or kill you, especially if you are not properly proficient, practiced, and with the right attitude.
    I have two grown daughters who liked to fly and even take the controls when they were young, but neither expressed any interest in learning to fly even at no cost to them, and the likelihood of eventually inheriting a nice airplane. They were/are intelligent and ambitious and academically successful, and they snow board, ride tubes, and never had an interest in doing more that trying water skiing… once even though they had plenty of opportunities, just as they did for learning to fly. It seems too many things come too easy these days, and those that are harder are simply ignored.

    • Its interesting to read Dales response and a lot of others here. With due respect to some of the more mature in the audience here, perhaps, some of the issue is your attitudes. I don’t want to get into a hassle, but really, I’m tired of reading your condemnations of the younger generations. Each generation differs from the one before it in some way, as the one after it. If you think its easier to wake board, snow board or what ever, its probably because you’ve never had the stones to get off your backside and try it. Your thinking you were to old or to responsible or to smart to try these “dumb” new dangerous activities. I am totally into all things air I assure you as previously stated, but I am also very involved in the fitness industry, and a serious avid bicyclist and was a skier (there are only so many hours in a day). I know people and have clients that are as old as any of you, (including a couple that are 91 and 93 respectively) and they do a (serious) self guided bike trip of 8 to 12 weeks each year. Others still ski and snowboard.

      As for the chess playing, keep in mind these younger folks are the one responsible for the computer programming the takes on the world’s greatest chess champions and beaat them. Likewise this generation that doesn’t want to take the time to become proficient at anything, are the ones that created the capability to play chess from the comfort of your recliner with others all over the world in multiple dimensions.

      These kids hold cell phones in their hands that have more computing power than the pentagon had at its disposal just five years ago. These kids are the ones who while you worked so they could go to college, created the navigational systems that allow our defense systems to maintain our freedoms, and the aircraft that you marvel at in magazines to become realities in your life time.

      Stop slamming them, and ask them for their support in resolving the downfall of GA, and actively listen to their answers…you might not like what you hear, but you will be amazed at what an old dog can learn from tomorrows masters if you give them a chance.

    • Kimberly Bush says:

      Dale-
      I am going to disagree with your assessment, but it could be that I just hang around with different young people. Most of the ones I know expect EVERYTHING to take ‘forever’ to earn proficiency.
      Regarding your daughters (or this is what I find with my kids), if they learn how to fly, they are admitting that someday you won’t be around to do it FOR them. Mine aren’t interested in how to make their favorite recipes because “you do it with love”. Same concept, Ima thinkin’.

  5. John Barsness says:

    Great article and comments.

    While there are no doubt many factors to the GA downturn, “times have changed” and airline travel is much more affordable than when I was licensed in 1979.

    In my own scenario, if I want to take a trip, I calculate my fuel burn and enroute fuel costs for a trip. I can leave with full tanks of mogas and come home somewhat “empty” (with an ample reserve) to refuel with mogas, and still, in almost all scenarios, I end up buying an airline ticket.

    –No worries about getting stuck due to weather I can’t fly safely through VFR.
    – In a word, safer
    – less time consuming to fly most trips via the airlines ( I have an old, slow airplane).

    My son who is now 21 grew up flying with me, just as I grew up flying with my Dad. I couldn’t wait to get my license. My son could care less, even though I have a nice plane he could learn to fly in relatively inexpensively.

    Times used to be simpler; flying made a lot of sense and I did a lot of it. Now, my plane collects dust in the hangar. Fuel costs and government intrusion into flying has priced it out of the market for most folks, and I guess, times have changed. It’s sad.

    • John, since this article speaks specifically about young people’s thought process, I would be interested if you would ask your son “Why don’t you want to learn to fly?” If you could get more than an “I don’t know …” I’d love to hear his response.

  6. Pete Fleischhacker says:

    Methinks you left out the biggest factor. Having spent almost 50 years in military, air carrier, and general aviation, I loved every airborne minute of it. It’s the stuff on the ground, both before and after, that makes me hesitate to encourage any young person to. I hear the same from friends in all those branches of aviation: “Be glad you are no longer doing this; it is not fun any more. Can’t wait to retire.”
    Much of the blame lies with an over zealous FAA, busy trying to replace the laws of physics and common sense with regulatory fiat, enforced with an IRS-like attitude. Other agencies, and we know which ones, also have a hand in this. And the military has been so successful in spoiling the fun of flying that they now have to offer their fighter pilots a princely sum of money just to reenlist after their initial obligation. Imagine having to bribe young men to fly fighters?! Never thought I’d see the day.
    Would I encourage youngsters to seek a flying career? I would not. It has changed much to the worse since that last millennium when I did most of my flying. I will encourage any youngster to pursue his/her dream. Mine was flying, theirs may be something different.

  7. The cost of aviation has killed its future. Plain and simple. Lawsuits, government regulations, insurance, cost of fuel, etc. I own an amazing old vintage airplane that was the love of my life. The hours I fly it now have dwindled to almost nothing. I no longer feel that I can afford it. Its been for sale at ever decreasing prices with almost no interest. Combine that with the economy, job losses, fences around airports, TSA, and all the taxes. Who can afford it? If my income went up or the cost came down I would be back in the cockpit in a heartbeat.

  8. YAA has been offering a half day program, twice a year, at KOSU (Ohio State University Airport in Columbus, Ohio) for kids (12 to 18 years old) for over 10 yeas. For the last 5 years, we’ve coordinated with EAA’s Young Eagle Program for the “icing” on the cake, a plane ride, after the program, in the afternoon. Check us out at: Youthaviationadventure.org. We have partnership programs all over the US.

    • Jeff: Care to expound on your observations and experience with KOSU’s YAA half day program outcomes? What is the level of interest in participation when offered? What pre/post activities are offered at each age level? Given the spectrum of students this is offered to, is there any “repeat” students that follow, or follow through in terms of either recreational or career aspirations? How is the effort funded? Is there any attempt to tie it into curriculum at schools? I could on, but hope you see where I am going. These sorts of programs are important and influential but at the end of the day, we need to be aware and able to both support and articulate their outcomes. Thoughts?

      • Participant numbers vary from 250-400 kids per session, usually heavier in the Spring (cabin fever?). OSU College of Education wrote the curriculum. Most of your other questions can be answered at the web site referenced above.

        jb

  9. As I was saying, 2. Get past talking cost to new comers. If someone wants to truly participate they will find the money like in any other activity…be it boating, tennis, hunting, car clubs., 3. Start getting involved in local organizations so you can begin making connections with those of influence to help create change. The ideas offered in the comments are great, but we are preaching to the choir. Get out there and involve others as much as you can. Talking is good, but action is what makes things go.

  10. A lot of good discussion here. Getting kids excited about airplanes is a key piece, butthe fact remains that the overall perception about GA and aviation has to change. Case in point, the airport I manage and fly from is in grave danger of being closed. The owner bought the land for other purposes which did not work out and now would like to sell the property. He offered it to the county and they were even shown how to expand it with federal funding and the study showing the potential economic impact expansion would bring. They said no. They are not progressive in their thinking and they really have never been educated in aviation benefits by anyone outside the area with a bigger view. Four businesses will close,including the only flight training in the county and any reasonable distance from a very large metro area. Fifteen, full and/or parttime jobs will be lost. People come from many surrounding counties an from out of state to the airport for flying, skydiving, and maintenance. The airport is 72 years old. People come to watch airplanes and such without all of the rediculous security…occassionally we show kids airplanes up close including letting them sit in them. Bottom line, you have to take a three pronged approach (with the reality that the past is the past): 1. Educated the general public about the benefits and real story of aviation, 2.

    • Hi Steve; would you mind “revealing” the airports location or would that compromise your autonomy? Or drop me the info directly, I’ll do a quick demand study (Boy Scout)_ act for today – FREE – might be possible to turn the political heads on a 180 degree heading change- we can try! I did this nearly 40 years ago here in (NJ) – a well rehearsed strategically (economic FIRST benefit) planned and “convincing” presentation gets results! contact me @ rod beck@optimum.net

  11. Sorry….their own decisions

  12. Blah, blah, and blah! You can hear the same hand wringing about the US textile industry disappearing, electronics manufacturing disappearing, mom and pop stores being replaced with big box stores and on and on we go.

    The world marches forward. Needs change. Desires change. What people deem important change. Let it go and enjoy your flying. Quit worrying about why others don’t embrace what we do. They’re adults and will make they’re own decisions.

    Fly safe. At least the sky’s not crowded like the roads below us.

    • Jay; Sensible mature comment – of course we’ll ALWAY have those “attempting” or determined in solving Rubics Cube. Why try to sell ice in Alaska (Nov-May?) when more “saleable” prospects reside in Florida or Arizona and a 300+ days (VFR?) a year market – but that’s not challenging enough!

  13. The government around 1988 mandated that general aviation be warranted for 30 years
    & that stopped all new aircraft. They started up a few years later when congress realized
    they destroyed general aviation. So the repealed that law & made it 15 years. So how many people could afford a ford if they were made to warrantee it for 15 years. The car would be about a hundred grand. That is part of the problem. There is a lot room to fix this, but I do not have the answer.

  14. Very interesting topic…I have waited for someone to make the connection with the increase in population, and if aviation were on a percentage of pilots basis, we should see an overall increase of pilots. So, it is even worse than before.

    http://www.get-aviation.com in the October 24th 2012 regarding the myth of aviation being too expensive. It follows the GDP, inflation calculator, and an explanation of real income and the cost of aviation in the last 30 years.

    The topic of the expense of flying will never go away, because flying always has been expensive, and there has been mechanism to lower its cost, I.E. tax benefits, auto fuel, light sport, etc. Although anything helps, the problem right now with aviation, is that we have not built in the value proposition of aviation. Although the cost is fully in line with the CPI and inflation calculator regarding learning to fly costs and buying a used airplane based on disposable income, the fact is people would rather spend their money on something else.

    Other recreational equipment sectors are knocking it out of the park, this includes new boats, and motorcycles. In fact, 2013 looks like the best sales years EVER for these industries, while a used Cessna 172 costs less to purchase. My question would also center around what is the value of money. According to Forbes, the average family has seen a 147% increase in disposable income since 1982, while college tuition costs have risen 2 1/2 times the inflation rate. in fact, since 1985, the CPI has gone up 115%, while college tuition has gone up 500% while enrollment has not dropped off at all.

    My point is that when people find value in the product, they tend to find ways of affording it. I think aviation for a while, had the romance of adventure and the danger aspects. As people flew on commercial airlines and were exposed to flying, they realized that anyone can fly and it isn’t a big deal to get on an airplane anymore. So that sensory input has left the individual to pursue other objectives. I do agree that the liability issues have definitely hurt this industry extremely hard, as when someone plows into a mountain while in the clouds, we find the fault of the manufacturer as the reason for the crash.

    As Sean L. explains, it just isn’t the emotional part of aviation that gets the younger generation excited. With virtual reality and the thrill that you can achieve at a much lower cost, and not any real work involved, just start the program and decide what your skill level is and go for it…can you say immediate gratification?

    My point is selling the value of aviation. Personally, once you discover the freedom of flying your own airplane to wherever you want to go, vacation destinations or a weekend get away, you never want to go back. I go to a web site called Beechtalk, and a lot of times these owners talk about the love of their airplane at any cost, and many of the trips and experience they get for the money, and are quite happy with the value of airplane ownership. I think that is something we need to get back to.

    • Mike the marine business is still in the dumps, no where close to even a good year.
      If you look at disposable income since 2008 you will see a different picture.

    • Mike,
      I took my first flight lessons in the early 70′s and could afford it on a slightly higher than
      minimum wage job. With all the “McJobs” out there today, it’s no wonder younger folks choose other hobbies besides flying. Wages have been stagnant for the majority of workers for the past 30 years. Couple that with the teaching in old legacy aircraft you
      really do not have much appeal to this younger, tech savvy generation.
      Imagine trying to sell them a car where you have to manually choke the engine to start it and adjust the mixture. No wonder to me why it’s an uphill battle.

  15. I can’t get my kid (13) interested in aviation and I have a hangar full of airplanes he could be learning to fly now. He is one of the computer generation, never learned to write because he was typing when he was 4 to play his games. Doesn’t want to learn to fix anything or how things work because he might actually have to do something. In 7th grade he gets 2-3 hours of homework, when I had an hour of homework and 2-3 hours of yardwork, a job or TV. I was a Sky King, Jet Jackson, Sea Hunt, Whirlybirds kid who wanted to do everything. He plays his computer and watches youtube for run through’s so he can play his game better. The computer has made all the difference, my kid will never want to get his hands dirty, so I’ll be working on his car until I die.

    I work on airplanes for a hobby and fly them some and have an airline job that gives me a lot of time off. I figure my kid will be like a lot of airline pilot kids and wise up after he get out of college and can’t find a good paying job like dad had where you get a lot of time off and enough money to live well. He will probably want to take flying leasons after he graduates so he can try to get the job I will be retired from. Timing is everything, I have offered him the chance now while he is young and I have the money to pay for his leasons they won’t be available from me when he is out of college. I just hope there are some kids out there interested in Aviation, and there seems to be in Seattle they started an Avaition high school that is affiliated with the Boeing field Museum of flight. In California at Flybob airport near Riverside they have a program where troubled kids work on rebuilding airplanes and then they learn to fly in them. So maybe there is a future for some kids in aviation. I have mentored a couple kids (in there 20′s) who are now both starting airline jobs and recently started flying with a fellow pilots son who is just out of college trying to keep his proficiency and build some time while he is trying to get a National Guard pilot slot. I hope to renew my CFI after over 40 years and 25,000 hours in the air in the next two years before I retire. Flying was never cheap, but it can still be fun in a Cub or a Champ on a grass strip maybe I can get some kid who will get out of the house and have fun to come fly with me.

    • Many kids get addicted to computer games. Unfortunately, its very hard to make a living playing games, it can be done but the likely hood is slim just like professional sports. If you build off the computer games and learn how to program then you can make a living, but you will probably not be writing games. There is a reason many of the top software executives send their kids to schools that don’t allow technology as a learning aid. Unfortunately the income potential you had in your career as a pilot will not be seen by someone your son’s age. I would have a hard time convincing someone to choose aviation as a career, but I love it as a hobby.

      • Joseph, The best way to kill a young persons interest in aviation is explain how much they will have to pay to get the required licenses and ratings and then how many years they will spend at meger pay and awful work conditions before they will have a chance at getting a job with a major airline. Now that they are facing the mandated 1500 hours to copilot a regional airliner it will mean even more years of low pay and bad conditions, not that the regionals are much better. I read the stories of those who have actually gone this route and I say they are certinly motivated beyond all reason. The military used to be the short cut to the airline cockpit but they do not have as many aircraft these days and even with poor retention their need for new pilots is limited. A lot of foreign airlines create their pilots from scratch paying all the way, a much better proposal then what our own youth are faced with.

        • Hi Jeff; Agree – nothing like “low and slow” – now THATS real flying; Cub, Champ, Taylorcraft, etc. And yes, pure piloting’ WAS a great career up until the early 70′s – had a shot with United in 1964-65; that said however, “just” flying really wasn’t my “passion” – and if I ever had a passion it was in “making deals” and doing business – airplanes, real estate projects, cars, etc. I feel my timing was a little off – left after to many “aborted take-offs in the “recreational (no-profit?) segment” of GA – should have stayed when the corporate jet movement arrived – probably would have done quite well in the “higher end” FBO service industry. Oh well, perhaps in the “next life”?

        • The airline business is changing too, the 50 and 70 seat jets aren’t cost effective at $100 a barrel oil. The 50 seat CJ are dead or will be shortly and the 70 seat is next. Locally the Horizon airline has dumped there jets for the Dash 8-Q400 that carries 76 pax at 350knots on about 2/3 the fuel the CJ’s burn flying 50-70 knots faster. At the same time the 100-110 seat jet is back at the majors (we just leased 88 Boeing 717′s from Southwest to replace flying done by antique DC-9′s).

          Retirements in the next 10 years are going to take all the regional pilots they can get and then some, the year I retire (two years from now) there will be 300 pilots retiring and it will go up each year until about 7 years from now it will top out at 800 pilots retiring each year for 3-4 years then tapper off, more than half of the pilots will retire in the next 10 years.

          Your right Sarah that the new regulation will make it difficult to get the 1500 hours to get their ATP but not impossible if you really have a desire to do it. Granted the jobs we had 30-40 years ago flying in Alaska (I had a friend who would just fill a D18 with sodas and beer one level high and then fill the rest of the space with chips and fly from village to village until it was all sold), check stubs, and photomat are gone but maybe with a lot of hungry CFI’s we will get some more students.

          I still figure I can fly my Cub a hundred hours a year for less than $30 and hour, but I live on an airstrip, own my hangar and do all my own work, have a auto gas STC, and the hull insurance is nothing much even on a tail dragger if you don’t have a lot of money in your airplane. If you have one of those new $300,000 C172′s you have a lot of hull insurance cost and it still flys the same as my 1961 172 that is valued at $26,000. Even the FAA is saying round dials are better training for proficiency than Glass displays. EFIS really does a number on you instruments scan (I went from a Airbus to a DC-9 once and had to really work to get my scan back). Flying off grass with a tailwheel airplane with no radio or for that matter an electric system, cuts the cost and allows the student time to learn how to really fly an airplane (all the way to the tiedown). I think everyone should learn how to fly in a old tailwheel airplane where you have to use the rudders to make the airplane do what you need it to do. I sure gives you a better perspective when or if you go on to a bigger airplane.

        • Hi Sahah; I guess a young person today has the same “choices” about a career in any aspect of aviation they had decades ago: 1. “loving” what you like to do with little or no concern of financial security 2. “liking” what you do a little less, and having a greater potential for financial peace of mind and future security. Factor the later into the equation today and …….? Just simply a case of ones priorities in life, wouldn’t you say?

          • Rod that about sums it up. Taking up Flying as a career has never been all that appealing when one considers the cost and the time one must spend “Putting in Your Dues” if you want to make it to an airline career. The stopping points along the way to the majors have always come with low wages, long hours and terrible working conditions. Be it flying night freight, cancelled checks or even instructing those were not the jobs anyone dreamed of at the start. For those that stuck it out for the shear love of flying they stood a good chance of landing a good job with the majors and a comfortable retirement or at least that was the way it used to be. Unfortunatly things have not changed for the better in recent years so the love of flying was even more important if one was going to keep going and come out on top. I am not sure if a lot of the todays crop of youngsters are up to it in this worled of instant gratification. The lucky ones will get a pilot slot with the military and the taxpayers will foot the bill for an excellent flying education and a fair amount of quality flying time before their commitment runs out. If the airlines are facing as serious a pilot shortage as others predicted then they can turn civilian and fly happily ever after. Those that pursue the civilian track will need all the motivation and shear love of flying they can muster.

            I considered that in my younger days but elected to become and engineer and now I help create the flight simulators that train all of these pilots. On the plus side I can say I have flown almost everything in the civilian and military fleets or at least their simulators. For me flying is something to do on the weekends, or it was till I lost my 3rd class, and now I have a nice Light Sport homebuilt aircraft project in my garage that I tinker with on those weekends.

        • Sarah; – last hello! Makes both sense and cent$! I guess then I had the vision and good $fortune$ to see the “writing on the banner” nearly 36 years ago?

  16. I can tell you from personal experience that one recreational aviation killer is hull insurance. Lots of FBO’s don’t carry hull insurance, so the renter has to. One little wing scrape, or a hard nosegear landing can cost a huge amount of money. I see lots of ads for pilot life insurance, but there is no partial-year hull insurance available. If you live in the East, or Midwest, you’re paying for insurance 6 months out of the year that you don’t use. Why not offer a May-Oct 6 month policy at half the cost? Also, wherever one goes to rent, you have to go thru the same expensive checkout for every FBO. How about easing this process thru some sort of central certification? Lastly, insurance like a lot of aviation costs have lawsuits built into the price. Let’s pass TORT reform and lower the cost to everyone. This would do wonders for aviation participation.

  17. A lot of interesting points. I started taking flying lessons in 1987. The reason: It was something different to do. I did have a friend who was learning to fly and got me interested. I was 41 years old when I got into a “small” airplane for the first time. After 109 hours, I got my PPL. I did get a part time job to pay for lessons, and that worked out good enough to get a 1966 172 at Christmas, 1988.
    I now live in Arizona and put about 120 hours a year on my plane, a 1969K 172. I enjoy going to the Saturday breakfast at an airport somewhere in the area. I enjoy just going out and burning avgas for an hour or so. It is not cheap, but I also know that the Brinks truck is not going to follow me to the cemetery! So, there is how I got started. I hope to fly til I can’t walk!

  18. Chuck Bowser says:

    I believe that the jet A fueled AVGAS Diesel engines which are about to be produced, will be the beginning of serious general aviation aircraft sales. Since jet A is sold everywhere, GA aircraft will be used everywhere. Expect Cessna, Piper, etc. will takeoff. Subsequently, prices will fall. As for how low the prices will fall, the greedy 1% will determine the decrease. Since they use biz jets and don’t care if the non 1% die of lack of $$, your guess is as good as mine. Remember the rich did not invent airplanes, they use jets or whatever makes them rich. They don’t care.
    As for exposing kids to flying and aircraft can be minimized by making moviesand TV shows for kids and families, i.e., Sky King reruns, new shows about good aviation, shows about aviation and other good careers. Our school don’t teach such. The movie and TV producers concentrate on crime and destructive sports. We need to reintroduce common sense living.

  19. Jon is right about most all of what he said. Of course the big gorilla in the room is cost. And this isn’t as easy as it sounds. You do have increased legal liability costs brought on by our seemingly ever increasing litigious society. I live in Atlanta and here you can’t watch TV for more than an hour or so without having to endure a commercial for helping you to sue someone. Another thing of course is the cost of labor. In the so-called old days most employers did not have much of a healthcare or pension program. If you don’t think that today’s health care is really expensive then delve into how much you pay for it and how much your employer does. In most programs the employer pays two to three times and even more per month than you do.

    So, higher labor and legal costs probably make up for the greater amount of price increases.

    And here comes another thing that I almost never hear mentioned about the good old days of the 1970s. There were a great deal of people coming out of the military with vet benefits that included flight training. I learned to fly while on active duty in the Army in 1977. When I got out in 1982 the GI benefits for more or less full student status was around $450 per month. I used this and my wife’s teacher salary to lead a pretty decent lifestyle while attending college full time and having two young children. I got my Master’s degree on this money but I could have used it for extra flight credentials. I can remember that Ft. Rucker had a weekly bingo game in the Officer’s Club. They had weekly prizes and also the prize of the year. While I was there there in 1977 the annual bingo’s game prize was a spanking new C-172. I later served with the guy who won it in
    Germany. He promptly sold it because of the sky-high costs of flying in Germany.

    The same scenario played out after WWII and Korea. Relatively cheap flying and people who were used to working with or on machinery and enjoying it.

    We still have tons of airports. In my neck of the woods that includes up to 300 miles in my RV-8 I have seen several really nice and sometimes over the top airport FBO facilities newly built. One, in Tennessee is just outside of Chattanooga has a new concrete runway of around 5,000 feet and an elaborate FBO with oak finishes everywhere. The elevator on this two story building has a solid oak façade around it. The lobby is finished in solid oak and sports a fireplace with surrounding Oak.

    I have flown all over the country and with exception of the land between the Mississippi and California to the West there are airports everywhere. Airport availability is certainly not the problem/

    And of course we can debate the reasons why private airplane flying is at such lows. But, once again the cost gorilla I still in the room. We have more congressional support now that we ever had. Hopefully the Congress can actually pass the medical proposal. However I bet you my next year’s paycheck that legislation that drastically limits legal liability from unfounded lawsuits in GA would have the most positive impact on aircraft costs. Where the alphabets on this? I am proud to be a member of EAA and AOPA but they seem to be shooting low on all of this.

    The alphabets need to start putting the coming shortage of American Pilots on their agenda and articulating what this means and what can be done to mitigate it.

  20. And yet the driver’s license requirements (in Illinois at least) keep getting tightened down and tightened down, while costs increase (and 16-yr-old drivers ain’t cheap in a State that has a mandatory minimum liability law), while kids actually PAY to take summer driving lessons so they don’t have to wait one day past their 16th birthday to get ‘legal’.
    Jon, you are right on in talking about letting the kids GET IN the private planes.
    My daughter (now age 30) and the rest of my GS troop made a ‘big trip’ to St. Louis where she sat at the controls of a DC-10 owned by TWA. She makes more income with that Master’s Degree working for the government than she would working for an airline.
    HOWEVER, she will not walk if she can be in a car, and she will not drive if she can be flown. She first experienced ‘little planes’ while working for the KS State Legislators. Her job is as a Fiscal Analyst in MT now. Since cost/benefit is her job, when she says flying is the cheapest route (because time has a money value), I take her word for it.
    The fact that I agree with her anyway has nothing to do with it.

  21. Jon,

    I heartily agree with most of your observations and conclusions. And thanks for putting your expertise behind making more young people aware of aviation. I’ve been a personal flyer, professional pilot and aviation entrepreneur for over 50 years. So, I know whereof you speak.

    For the past five years, I’ve been researching the causes of, and the solutions to, the alarming decline in the personal-flying community. I’ve come to the conclusion that the absolute best solution is to effect a culture change in the personal-flying community. I know of at least two organizations that are now working on that: the Center For Airmanship Excellence and the FAA Wings-Industry Advisory Committee.

    I believe that they, and other organizations and individuals, will be successful in dramatically enhancing the personal-flying experience by changing the current personal-flying culture. In my opinion, this culture change will result in a more vital personal-flying community. One that enjoys lower costs, dramatically enhanced safety, a significantly more attractive value proposition and a rapidly growing population.

  22. I am not sure of the Cause and Effect relationship but at the end of the 70′s general aviation production took a node dive and has never been the same. Look atthe manufacturers that are no longer around from that time period and the meger product lines currently available for those who survived. While Cessna came back with three basic models there was a time that they dropped everything but the Citation. Piper as well had a large and varied product line and dropped all but five variations on two basic airframes. With that sort of devistation to what had been a thriving industry it is no wonder that general aviation is barely alive these days. All those people who built the aircraft were becoming pilots through company aero clubs, the need for more mechanics inspired many to become pilots so they would have a closer bond with the machines they worked on, persons buting aircraft required flight instruction so more CFI’s were needed. We essentially lost an entire generation at that moment and I doubt that we will ever get that momentum back. The rise of the EAB aircraft and the Sport Pilot catagory has helped keep aviation alive but to some extent but when one considers that the persons using the SP route would otherwise be grounded by the lack of a 3rd class medical then we see that GA is on life support at this point. The video game generation does not show much interest in experiencing the thrill of flying first hand (or anything for that matter) and prefers to sit in front of their Flight Sim game and dog fight rather then really learn to fly. Learning to fly is expensive and usually involves a rather old and tired airframe from the 70′s so it has little interest to the new generations.

    Just my personal opinion…

    • “Cause and Effect”? In the boom period in the 19070′s there was a 10% Investment Tax Credit and 5 year depreciation. I wrote a tax shelter program back then where I could show you that of the 10% down on a Piper Arrow (which was a $100k cost then) that of the $20,000 down you’d get $18,200 back in the first year if the plane was placed in commercial operation.
      The flight schools got planes on leaseback which were paid for by the flight hour. Then the VA paid for a veteran to get a pilot’s certificate. Airline pilots had a great job. Travel was fun with no TSA hassles and the intimidation of flying commercially. Fuel was cheap for private pilots.
      In the meantime, the ITC was eliminated, depreciation was spread longer, the IRS screwed owners over the private use of aircraft, all adding to extra cost. Sales volume fell, so manufacturers didn’t make as a many spare parts, thus they cost more. Airlines reduced salaries to pilots. It all led to a prefect storm of lower demand, higher costs, less income to cover the costs, no VA payments leading to fewer pilots over which the cost base could be covered, and the result is what you now see.
      The aberrations in demand and supply can be directly attributed to government policy. Regardless, there is no stimulus coming and there is no relief in sight. Cessna is the only aircraft manufacturer (of size) that is American owned. China is the only region where growth is projected, yet the American industry shrinks. It’s sad.
      To show a comparison, early this year the Australian Minister for Transportation made a speech congratulating the government there for not having put money into aviation infrastructure (new airports) since demand had declined therefore the government were heroes for saving taxpayers all that money. Of course, the country is under-airported (Sydney is 4.5 million people yet has one GA airport) so with insufficient airport capacity people won’t buy planes.

  23. It seems to me, also, that kids are less “mechanically inclined” because they can afford to be. Cars and other “things” are more reliable now. And many of the systems we repaired in high school have electronic interfaces now that make working on them more difficult to truly repair properly. However, in my opinion, kids today are just as technically smart as we were but they are focusing their efforts on other things. When they can download the Android and Java programming software and tutorial at no charge and learn to write their own programs, perhaps for profit, they are electing to aim their skills in that direction. In the USA, we are lucky that they continue to do so to gain the benefits to our economy. Computers have their interest today more than airplanes and cars, in many cases.

  24. Henry Kelly says:

    Jon ,great layout of the problem. And at least one approach to try to turn it around. Unfortunately, and worryingly, very few concrete proposals to fix the problem show up in this forum.
    Absolutely we need to get kids and parents to their airport.
    Lot of other things too, like getting the greed out of aviation before it saps the last dollar out of the GA sport. Skyhawks at 300K is ridiculous in the post crash world. Incredibly, I hear people say they are very afraid to fly in small planes. Further, the idea that they could actually be responsible for flying themselves and others is something they are unwilling to even attempt. The kids feel the thrill, the parents read the weekly crash article where some poor guy, who should have known better, in some cases with his family aboard, augers in when the ceiling is 200 feet. Trusting an airline pilot versus your friend down the street are two different things..Every single accident of any aircraft, military, commercial or GA, hurts GA. The perception is that flying is risky. Meanwhile, it seems, not everyone in GA wants to face and accept that there is some danger to flying, and train to limit it or accept their limitations. Hank

    • And yet statistically speaking there are more deaths per 100,000 hrs of boating than there are in Aviation. The fact the local news last week spent 30 min conjecturing on a single person, single airplane crash boggles my mind. If they did that for every fatality in a car we would never leave our houses.

      • Hi Henry, ( and others) again; YES; does/have/had ANYONE a “solution”? So, I’ll try to offer my analytical abilities for a sugggested “fix”! The general concensus here’s is expense/cost; simply, arriving at a point WHERE the benefit is equal to or greater than the $$$, right? Therefore: 1. cost is substancially decreased and an increase in demand will result.2. increase demand, (economy’s of scale) and cost will be lowered – further?
        Frankly. most all would agree, that ANY higher increase in demand is improbable or unlikely and on’t result in a C-172 renting for $90/hr wet! But, what we do have , at present, is a “zillon” used birds on the market whch aren’t selling – fact? Now, for a moment, WHY did the fractional jet concept, pun intended, “takeoff”? SHARED cost; “plane” and simple! Since, “recreational aviation” is more about the social aspects and fellowship of many of like interest, but LESS of a”need” for the uliliy value of the airplane, naturlly, the COST would be a factor – or, “why pay for someting I don’t really NEED” – again, cost/benefit.
        Just not enough time or space on this forum for futher or more complete solutions – but I thought I could get a few “headed” to the WRIGHT destination!

  25. Aviation, particularly GA, is not alone in this downward spiral. If one looks at other motorized sports, car racing and powerboat racing one can see a loss of venues and participants far greater than GA.
    When one looks at organizational memberships they too are losing members. Service clubs, boating organizations, car clubs etc.
    Society as a whole has changed.
    Add the steady decline in disposable income of the middle class and as the writer pointed out the out of control rate of inflation, then it is no wonder GA is hurting.
    Learning to fly takes work, and money and time. Why should one invest all three when there are many other pursuits available that require less? And are less dangerous?
    Add to this factor the extremely high operating costs, and it is no wonder many never get beyond the introductory ride stage.
    When was the last time you went to the local airport to watch the planes take off? Whether a GA airport or commercial, they are now restricted areas. The parking areas for people to sit and watch are gone.
    I went to CHS a few years ago, parked along a little used public street to watch the planes take off and land. Within a few minutes the local police arrived and I was threatened with a ticket and told to move, now! How inviting is that? How do we get the elementary school aged kids excited when the only time they see a plane is overhead at 20,000 feet?
    The manufacturers need to wake up and support GA. Why doesn’t the small plane manufacturers give a free scholarship to each person that buys a plane. If that person is already a pilot, let him transfer that scholarship!
    Get Congress to limit liability, particularly for older airplanes, and limit the liability for parts, more than what is already law.
    Get the FAA off the backs of the manufacturers, parts and planes. Put out easy to understand standards and then just let them meet the standards. Why do we have to pay 3x the going cost for a light bulb, just because it is aviation?
    Allow uncertified electronics in VFR planes. The same electronics as used in experimental. As long as they meet certain standards.
    I can go on and on but we have heard all this before.
    Reduce costs and provide accessibility and GA may stabilize or even grow. Keep cost out of sight and restrict access and GA will cease to exist.

    • To Jeff, Matt, and ALL responders here;
      What’s really needed?; an objective, un-bias, SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis of the “problem(s)”, one by one, addressing many of those who “believe” they’ve INDENTIFIED one or more of the reasons/causes for GA’s decline. And, like many, I do agree, not ONE single contributing factor is the primary culprit, but rather, several.
      Now, if I were heading a GA business, and your (the readers), were my “stockholders, my first responsibility to you, since you’ve put YOUR $$ in my company, is for you to have complete and un-biddled faith, that MY financial decisions would return to you (ROI), a “reasonable” PROFIT with minimal risk.
      That said, ALL of my previous AND future commits here (GA News) will be
      from a strictly rational business investment (risk/reward) perspective. Again, I want to thank Ben for allowing me, what may same “harsh”, bold, or outspoken to many, my feedback/input and point of view!

  26. If this is too long read the last paragraph –

    I think you hit on a few related issues with a great divide in between. I’m in my early 30′s I grew up in a low income household. Because of not always having the money to buy the things I wanted I taught myself how to fix just about anything (I taught myself how to solder when I was 10, started fixing and rebuilding small engines when I was 11-13, laid my first foundation wall when I was 15, was repairing amps and radios in high school for side money). I was the kid that would say hey are you trowing that TV away — and then have it working over the weekend. It helped that I had a natural ability, and a mom that didn’t stress when I took something apart.

    I bought two cars in high school paid for myself, I still have the second one, though it lives in my workshop but is drivable.

    I’ve always had a desire to fly, however after busting my but in school, half way through high school I knew I wouldn’t make the income I wanted as a professional pilot. So I started college with a focus in Aerospace Engineering but after realizing how unstable the career path was I switched to computer science.

    Fast forward to my early 30′s, I am now a Sr. Software Engineer with a real good income, but now with family responsibilities its hard to justify the cost and time to pursue my hobby of flying. The dream of buying my own plane and finishing my license is ever closer, I plan on starting back with lessons in January.

    I say all of this for one reason, to get someone into flying you have to figure out how someone like me could of gotten my license in college while pursuing a non aviation degree. We do a good job of creating a passion for airplanes in middle school age kids, but we do not do a good job of providing the means to pursue the passion for those that grew up in a world where mechanical skills was needed.

  27. Dennis Reiley says:

    Aircraft haven’t been cheap and plentiful since the end of WWII when thousands of US surplus aircraft were sold off. New aircraft became somewhat affordable in the fifties and sixties when wages climbed but since the nineties decent wages for the middle class have been attacked and constantly reduced. GA cannot survive if limited to those making well over 100 Grand. GA’s lifeblood is determined by what the middle class does and right now that is shrinking and has been for over twenty years.

  28. It is actually fabulous to read and participate in so much banter and debate about this topic. It also shows the lack of knowledge behind it. Jon, in some ways your article is spot on. In others, you aren’t too far off, but you do miss the point. On a related editorial by another columnist here, we have been having an excellent and insightful debate. Rod Beck, another commenter here was also a participant.

    Which came first, the horse or the cart, that is my thought each and every time the question of cost comes into play. I’m a tad younger than Mr. Boyd, but not by a whole lot I suspect. Reality is, even in my “generation” conscious thought of “I’m going to learn to fly” was rare, and it was no less costly in relation to other things of the day. Continuing on a few generations Jon makes many of the same valid points that I believe play a role in this matter:

    “The advent of deregulation in the late 1970s changed the way people traveled and changed the perception of the airlines as a business.”

    I’m not so sure I’d put as much emphasis on the deregulation act, but I will agree that there are many contributing factors, including the deregulation act that changed the perception of aviation and general aviation in particular.

    We can not ignore the reality that cost is a significant matter. Enough said about that. At the same time though, learning to fly, participating in aircraft ownership, and flying are not entirely all that more expensive than owning or operating a second vacation home, fielding a family vehicular racing effort, or for that matter training, outfitting and growing a family members talent be it as a soccer player or piano player. Likewise to outfit and enable a family effort of snowmobiles or “quads” isn’t a whole lot less financially burdensome. Certainly sending a child to any of the private schools that are proliferating in todays world is financially on par with aircraft ownership.

    Therein may lay the rub. Return to first comments: All of the things mentioned above are more visible, more apparent, more available to people, be it the baby boomer themselves or their offspring.

    If anything, today’s young people are getting a far more cohesive, supported even encouraged array of course work put before them. They may not have home economics courses, but they do have cooking teams, magnet [culinary] schools, and they are surrounded with the cooking channel and make no mistake they watch it.

    On the same line of thought, they may not have “shop” classes, but they have entire vocational programs at their disposal for the increasingly large number of males that are not choosing to pursue college right out of high school. Today’s young people don’t want to fix cars, they want to create tomorrow’s people movers.

    There might be less of what we knew, but there is no less of an effort, in fact there is again far more of an effort for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) learning opportunities. Today’s young people have so much more and so much more related opportunities than we ever imagined, I’d love to be a kid again! Now granted not all young people have all of these options, but considering the number that do, some of Jon’s comments miss the mark.

    I’ve already gone on to long and the days work awaits, but let me share some thoughts that I think would help.

    FBO tours are great. I am fortunate that I live near an airport (BDL) and a fabulous museum that hosts “open cockpit” events all the time. The issue remains the same here as everywhere. GA is dying a horrible death.

    To that end, why don’t we convene a national conference on this very subject matter. But lets do it with outreach beyond the AOPA, EAA, even FAA community. There are plenty of teachers/educators who are also pilot’s, demographers, marketers, internets guru’s and the like. They are themselves pilots and parents. They also know others who might not be, but no how to build community, attract the “eyeballs” and interest of those we want to attract, that we need to attract. Lets get all of these resources in a conference and learn not how to create more pilots, but how to build a community of those who want to be a part of an exciting world: general aviation.

    Lets also realize the demographic shifts that have effected the industry, because while I read a lot about the speculative causes and faults and failures, I don’t see much about the reality of factual reduction in general population that there is simply nothing we can do about other than to weather the storm.

    Lets also realize that while the number of airports might be growing, the number of general aviation airports are shrinking. That Southwest Airlines was able to cause a new airport to be christened in Texas doesn’t mitigate the realty that we may loose an airport for GA in Carmel, CA or that we’ve lost three in Connecticut in recent years.

    We do need to differentiate between general aviation and commercial aviation. One of the biggest mistakes we can make is thinking that every person that gets into aviation needs to dream of being a commercial pilot. That is thinking like a commercial pilot. I never had, and I know loads of people that never had any thoughts of flying an A-380 or 787 for a living. I dreamed of flying, and got lucky and fell into it, but never had any thoughts of working for a legacy carrier or the like.

    We need to create a knowledge and acceptance of recreational flying. I think hamburger hopping is fabulous! Airplane camping has got to be an extreme sport in its own right. You don’t have to be a part of lifestyles of the rich and famous to fly.

    We do also need to make people aware that there is opportunity for a livelihood in aviation. The airlines and commercial aviation are facing a diminished pool of talent…which might be a good thing. It might renew the respect and prestige of aviation careers. Drones to need pilots too, just not on board!

    Bottom line is we have to create awareness. We have to offer knowledge. We have to alter and better the image of aviation in all forms. We have to build, open and expand community in all forms of aviation. The interest is out there. Amazingly, and to a lesser degree granted, the wealth is out there. We have to make it attractive enough to make people want to invest themselves in this sector or activity. Aviation as we all say is not just something to do, its a lifestyle.

    • Hi Matt, Very articulate, “politically polite” (as usual) and your commit(s) well stated.
      I would only “debate” your final sentence here; does it (aviation) need to be one’s ONLY life style or a portion of several? ps still waiting to hear from you or do you feel “we” have nothing in common regarding GA’s plight?

  29. Jon makes some good observations, but the best part is his plan to expose young kids to aviation. I got the “bug” in 7th grade. I think that Bret S is on track in his last paragraph list of 3. Most of the young ones starting to fly, that I am seeing, are looking for military careers with a few toward the airlines. Another thing to think about is to get large organizations like AOPA out educating the general public about GA to help put GA in properspective verses the media crap. We have to elevate GA in all its areas to the level of people understanding its benefits and appreciating them. Most of our large organizations need to give this stuff as much effort as they are using for damage control/fighting off legislation and the FAA. Jon is on the right track with exposing young kids, and we should all do the same.

  30. Jim; Very nice article! That said, however, I believe the most basic of economic rules can be traced to ALL the issues you raised; the law of supply and demand. Are social/economic changes the culprit – or simply, a greater need and lesser want?
    Oh, my first car, in 1960, was a 1954 Mercury, “3 on the tree” with overdrive, and the first year for the overhead V-8 for only $600 – American Graffiti!

  31. I’m a GenX’er, I may be able to contribute to why GA does not appeal to the young generations.

    Certainly, the cost of flying factors into the barrier to entry, but a larger problem is that flying is not sufficiently interesting to overcome this barrier.

    The younger generations have different expectations of technology from the older generations, largely influenced by their experience with information/communication technologies: its pace of innovation and relentless focus on user experience pursued by the industry and everyone involved.

    I am an engineer working in the information technology so I’m quite familiar with the attitude and the culture pervading it. Almost everyone involved – designers, manufacturers, programmers, and end users – accept that the only way an IT business can survive is to improve user experience, and they do not tolerate anyone or organization that thinks otherwise.

    Now it wasn’t always so. I am old enough to have seen DEC VAX minicomputers. Back then, computing was a terribly difficult task that required lots of specialized training. Being able to do your bidding on these machines was a privilege and made you exclusive. For example, opening an FTP (File Transfer Protocol) link to a remote machine and to download binary executables took knowing communication protocols and line commands that did not forgive any mistakes.

    A lot of things have changed since then. We’ve had DOS PCs, Macintoshes, Windows, broadband connection, world-wide-web, MacOS, WiFi, iOS, Android, etc. Nowadays, even my mom can establish a wireless link to a server on internet to update the operating system and binary executables on her 32-bit handheld computer (Android smartphone).

    This transition was not easy. Many old time experts lamented that the art of computing was being dumbed down. Fortunes were lost and made during changes. But as a result, improvement made to accessibility of computing to average users is nothing short of an epic. No one in the days of VAX VMS would have believed that it would have been remotely possible.

    Now, I understand the complexity and difficulties involved in aviation is orders of magnitude higher than computing due to hazard to human life. But what bugs me as I am training to become a private pilot is this all-pervasive mindset that I run into in the aviation community, that users must respect the environment and the established methods, and not question anything. This is very much reminiscent of the time I was trying to become one of the ‘exclusives’ of computing during VAX days.

    I would very much like to see ‘Steve Jobs’ and ‘Larry Page’ equivalents of aviation, ones who would challenge status quo, turn things upside down, and take down incumbents whose attention to the end user experience is below the awareness threshold. Then I’m sure the younger generations will be camping out for a chance to experience the GA.

    • We’re starting to see a Steve Jobs-like disruption in the aviation status quo coming from Redbird. The things Redbird is doing are some of the most exciting developments in aviation in a very long time. They’ve got some decent technology, but the big difference is instead of taking the old, tired route of just making yet another flight simulation device and waiting for flight schools to come to them where it will then sit in a room gathering dust, they’ve combined that technology with flight training to create an entire flight learning environment that makes it useful to the general public. Their ball has just started rolling, and I’m pretty interested to see what they’ll look like given a few more years to really get good at it.

    • A “hardware” Guy that did was Burt Rutan, now retired and with probably “too much to loose”. He is a Caltech engineer former head of flight test at Edwards AFB. He developed many new designs and popularized mold-less composite construction as a time saving method. Despite being a trained engineer he held on to the mechanic/inventor mindset of “why can’t it be done like this” rather than “we have always done it this way, so that’s how it must be done”. His companies, while he owned them, fought the threat of lawsuits by publicly stating often that they would not EVER settle out of court. If a liability suit were filed the company would be bankrupted fighting the suit, it would not be “settled” out of court. That attitude is needed by many more in aviation but the companies all have “too much to loose” and settle out of court to support the bottom line. The industry suffers as a result.

  32. John Wesley says:

    There may be more airports, but unless you are located in a large metropolitan area, try to find one with flight training. Only those people with the time and the inclination can attend one of the big certificate mills. The rest must go to a local (mostly non-existent) FBO to learn, until we find a way to make it easier for people to partake of an aviation experience, GA will continue the serious graveyard spiral that it is currently in.

  33. I’m not sure this article is quite on point. Whenever someone starts talking about “lost generations” or “Gen Y mindsets” or “those darn kids” I get a bit skeptical. Most of the research I’ve read about generational differences (mostly related to workforce management strategies) show some variation, but not as much as most people assume.

    More specifically, there are two points that don’t fit my experience. One is that children are less mechanically inclined these days, and therefore are less interested in getting their hands dirty. They may not have taken a shop class, but I don’t know any adolescents who would shrink from the horror of touching an airplane during a pre-flight. Additionally, while they might not know how to tune a carburetor (I don’t!), navigating a G1000 probably comes pretty easy.

    Secondly, the statement “… while these virtual worlds should bring more young people to the reality side of the equation it, in fact, seems to do the opposite” is patently false. I take part in some MS Flight Simulator communities online, and I assure you that the teens who I share the virtual skies with are very interested in the real thing. Their love of aviation is enhanced, and if anything, the virtual environment is a great outreach and training tool.

    Just like everyone else, I can’t say for sure why young people aren’t as attracted to flying. Forced to guess, I would say it is mostly 3 things. First and most important, it doesn’t cross their mind that learning to fly a plane is an option, because they probably don’t know any GA pilots. That was certainly the case for me in my teens. Second, their parents are afraid of small planes and would discourage the activity. Every pilot knows lots of people who have said “Oh, you fly in those little tiny planes, I would never do that.” Finally, flight training is very expensive compared to just about any other activity. Musical instruments, football pads, hockey skates, or any youth activity of your choice can run into the thousands. I don’t know of any that would hit the $10k for a PPL. It’s not honest for us to pretend that is no big deal if only teens had a better work ethic.

  34. Chris Hodges says:

    Jon, great article. I think law suits are the single biggest impact on GA. 60% of the cost of the aircraft is for protection of the manufacturer from law suits. Combine this with a job market for young people that is dismal at best; where the 40 hour work week doesn’t exist and young people have to work 2 or 3 jobs just to make ends meet and you have a fading dream. 1978 was the year of GA for me. Everybody wanted to learn how to fly and by the 1980′s the lawsuits killed the dream. Aircraft costs and training costs went through the roof. Until you get lawyers out of the equation, they will still be the King of the Hill. Obamacare will get rid of the doctors next.

    • Chris,
      You hit the nail on the head, liability. Plain and simple, liability has eroded the very fabric of aviation.
      Will

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