Sell the sizzle, not the steak

WASHINGTON, D.C. — There is not much talk openly about it here, but the steady decline in the number of general aviation pilots has some GA advocates concerned.

General aviation has had several boom and bust periods. From the time the Wright brothers’ first flight until the first commercial airline began flying from St. Petersburg to Tampa, Florida, in 1914, all aviation in the United States was general aviation. World War I brought a spike in interest. Another followed Lindbergh’s flight across the Atlantic in 1927. Interest peaked again after World War II. There were other more minor growth periods, but each was followed by a decline.

The number of pilots peaked in 1980 at 872,071. In the official 2011 figure, this dropped to 618,660, a loss of more than a quarter of a million. That included all pilots. Private pilot numbers peaked in 1980 with 357,479 and dropped to 195,650 in 2011. Where did these 161,827 pilots go?

Is it money causing many to leave? Yes, in some cases, but many used airplanes are cheaper than luxury automobiles. Boats fill marinas throughout the country. Money is an excuse, not a reason.

Perhaps a more productive question to ask is: Are we selling the wrong thing?

We are trying to sell people on flying, and only a few people actually like flying. Think about it: Only a few people who learn to drive actually love driving. Not everyone who buys a boat wants to be a captain. People buy these kinds of vehicles and learn to operate them for what they can do with them.

Arthur “Red” Motley, a former publisher of Parade Sunday magazine and later president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said: “Sell the sizzle, not the steak.”

We need to show the public what they can do with an airplane — learning to fly will be just incidental to that. This calls for changing public opinions.

Abraham Lincoln said it this way: “Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without public sentiment, nothing can succeed.”

In the 1930s when women began draping scarfs over their heads instead of wearing hats, the sale of women’s hats fell. A new profession — public relations — was getting started and the hat manufacturers called in Ivy Lee, a pioneer public relations practitioner. He did not write press releases about hats. Instead, he organized a benefit fashion show featuring the most prominent women of the day. Each fashion ensemble had a hat. Newspapers and newsreels featured these and women across the country in big cities and small began wearing hats again.

Playboy magazine executives needed to buy a jet aircraft and wanted to be sure their subscribers and newsstand buyers would not consider this a plush benefit for executives only. I wrote two articles for the magazine, each describing how companies involved in activities readers enjoyed used jet aircraft to better serve the interests of their customers. I was told management did not get criticized for making the purchase.

When Phil Boyer was president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association he saw the need for a jet-powered aircraft to better serve members in all parts of the country so association officials could deal with local issues, as well as national. Still, many pilots scraping to get enough money to rent an airplane for a couple of hours might get angry at their dues being spent for this. He asked me to prepare a public relations program. I did, and he later told me only four members complained after seeing how the jet could get the staff where they are needed more quickly and at one expense, rather than a series of individual airline tickets and delays that would reduce their time — and effectiveness — on local issues.

These are but a few of the public relations programs that show how PR can change attitudes. Unfortunately, many company offices are now “communications” departments. Too often, this approach means that the companies tell the public only what management wants them to know and what they believe will sell the product or service. People working in these communication departments are often too afraid to disagree top management.

For many years, when I worked on newspapers, my superior was Randolph Hearst, son of the legendary publisher William Randolph Hearst. One day Randy was talking to me in his office. He said “Charlie, you are the only person on this newspaper who will disagree with me because my name is Hearst. I like that. If you have two persons who agree all the time, you have one too many persons.”

William Piper, Sr. commented one time that it took the public 50 years before it realized that highways should not run through towns, but around them. This was changed in the 1950s by a decision by President Eisenhower to build a highway system and the efforts of the Hearst newspaper chain to change public opinions. Bill Lampe, a Hearst editor, was put in charge of coordinating the efforts of the publications. He told me it took 18 months. The first six months was used to scare the hell out of commuters and travelers; the second six months was used to say it must be fixed; and the third six months was spent getting national, state, and local officials to start acting.

Fifty years ago general aviation manufacturers determined there were more than 5,000 small companies in the Washington-Baltimore area who could profit from an airplane. Did they tell them that? No. They tried to get people to learn to fly.

Are we selling learning to fly or what an airplane will do? Are we selling the sizzle or the steak? I have had a pilot’s license since 1953 and did much in business and personal life. Flying was necessary to do those things.

I know there will be those who disagree with what I have written. However, to copy the title of a column I wrote over a period of time many years ago — “Them’s my Sentiments.”


  1. Kimberly A Bush says

    And back to the beginning:
    Aviation (not just GA) is under seige.
    We at GA need to prioritize our efforts, dependent on they number of people directly affected (?) by various legislation under consideration at the present time.
    The general taxpaying population considers aviation full of fat cats who can afford increases.
    Aviation is in fact full of caring, working people who actually VOTE.
    And write and call their Congress people.
    What priority is #1 TODAY, March 6, 2014?
    (Because I really AM involved in a few other projects and not everything is aviation-related.)
    Mutual respect. Bywords. Consistent communications.

    • Buzz Becker says

      Yes, indeed, Kimberly, the flying public is viewed as a group a “fat cats,” as you say, and the motivation to go after ‘the money’ in finding new tax dollars is ferocious!

  2. Kimberly says

    While bouncing back and forth checking all those ‘bloop’ noises on my phone today, I noted the latest edition of Aviation eBrief. There is a headline about “President puts user fees in budget proposal”
    Came right home and CALLED MY CONGRESSMAN.
    And I don’t even think he owns a plane.

  3. says

    Buzz, Let me be polite here .
    A young man walks in a Lexus, BMW or Mercedes showroom. He proceeds to tell the sales person that he thinks the NEW____ is the best car on the road. HOWEVER, he’s told that the LOWEST price for the__________ is $47K! Disappointed, he leaves with a fron on his face. I offer this: IS the “private sector” obligated to HELP finace someones flight lessons just because they WANT or have a (passion) for it?
    The REALITY here Buzz is this; in life, ALL of us would like “things”we just CANT afford to possibly buy – flight lessons are no exception – sorry – that IS the REALITY.
    Frankly, I think it would be cruel or unfair to have someone “taste” the candy – and then pull it away from him/her. Only creates future frustration – right? NOT the “ideal”, answer but NOT a perfect world either!

    • Buzz Becker says

      But then, Rod, after your business minded assessment of the student/renter prospect, would you tell them “I’m sorry, we can’t give you flight lessons; you’re not financially qualified,” or “I’m sorry, we can’t rent to you due to your current financial status”?

      • says

        Buzz, What would I tell them; the TRUTH! An WTAT is the truth – kindly sit down and have a Jack Daniels, or if your a non-drinker, a glass of lemon aid!

        ME: (to student/prospect who WANTS to fly, but lacks (may) adequate finances)
        Well , Tim the average in term of flight hours and total cost is around $10,000. This is based on an individual completing the private course in approximately 6 months – and at about 8-10 lessons per month. Simply, the MORE frequently you fly, the more “proficient” you’ll become, resulting in fewer flight hours and less total cost to obtain your license. Naturally, you can schedule only 1 2 lessons a month, however, expect to take at least 15-18 months to obtain your license. This can be done; the only drawback is the total flight hours could be 50% greater than the same program if completed in the shorter time frame of 6 months, for example. Do to this possible increase in flight hours, training cost ALSO would be about 50% greater as well. I would recommend you weight the pro’s and con’s – naturally, what ever you decide, we’d love to assist you in you quest.
        HIM: Mr. Beck, thank you for explaining this all to me – I’ll, hopefully be back for my first lesson soon!

        HIS option – and choice!

        • Kimberly says

          Rod, obviously pricing is a regional cost, like milk. And therein lies a part of our confusion.
          I have been told I can solo that Cessna for around $5000, if I can make the time to do lessons 3 days per week.
          Of course, I can only do the FLIGHT instruction 12 days per month if the weather is right.
          Then, I can decide to move on up exponentially, to spend as much as $75,000 if I want to get a commercial rating.
          You have most certainly had at least ONE child in your life whom you told “no’ repeatedly, only to watch them do the opposite of what you suggest, in simple defiance.
          Take the money away, my friend. I know people who invest (and they do consider their leisure time an investment in their longevity) thousands in GOLF.
          When I was still working in a restaurant, near a local racetrack, had two couples come in one night. “How’s it going?” “Well, he just wrecked his racecar, so we are looking at around $24,000 to get it back on track.” “Wow! If you have a racecar worth that much, you must have a really fancy home, huh?”
          “Well, once he wins big, we will buy an actual house, but right now, we only have two kids, so the trailer is big enough. It’s not like we are home that much.”

          (I spent most of the household income on my home. I LIKED it there, but got out frequently)

          • says

            like I said – the TRUTH is absolute; wouldn’t you agree?
            The “$10K+ figure is typical here in the NJ/NY metro area – as you said, will vary from region to region. But I think the presentation that should be explained to the prospective student/customer is in a way that allows for the many variables in flight instruction; ones innate motor skills, intelligence, ability to digest the “academics”, frequency of lessons, etc. The “40 hour” bull is, in my opinion, a big DECEPTION: you can cite this as a very dated “flight time” requirement that was established by the CAA (prior to becoming the FAA) right after WW II when light aircraft were very basic. But, do to advancement in technology and more sophisticated radio communications, the “average” time to complete license requirements could be…………………?
            Again – the TRUTH is the “bottom line” – your prospect will appreciate your honesty and probably won’t hear that from your competitors for that matter!

          • Buzz Becker says

            Although I generally allowed students to calculate the financial cost totals on their own, I did always try to give them some idea of the reality of the total flight and instruction time students have at the completion of certification because I knew that if I didn’t the question would arise later. When not anticipating 55 to sometimes more than 80 hours, on average, for the Private Pilot’s license, the truth could come as a bit disappointment. But it was often comforting to let them know also that the extra flight time applies to later certification, especially Commercial Pilot time requirements.

            The lowest flight time student I had at the completion of Private Pilot was 43 hours, I believe, after the flight test (and finished in about as many days, from beginning to certification). He was a very exceptional, highly motivated and capable ‘accelerated’ student with time limitations as he was scheduled to begin Marines Officer training and subsequent pilot training. Best student I ever had. …I was commended by his examiner on the way he was trained; it’s nice when a student’s diligence makes the teachers efforts shine a little. 😉

          • Buzz Becker says

            Rod, your words remind me of one of my very first flight instructors words. He was very up front about telling me the time and dollar figures, on average, that I could expect. But I admit, I was a bit miffed at the suggestion that Private Pilot training could be more than 80 hours, even before he had flown with me. We had a great first flight together. I had already completed the written and I was eager to demonstrate my newly acquired knowledge. After our flight, he said “you’re already a pilot, huh? You’re just here to prove it.” I laughed and said “that’s right!” As it turned out, he as preparing for retirement and selling off the business at that time and I wasn’t able to continue with him before his retirement. I remember his airplane fleet was immaculately clean and polished and the car he drove daily was an old El Camino that looked to be almost never washed. 😉 …Anyone remember Stone Aviation? I really liked that sometimes grumpy guy.

    • Kimberly says

      Rod, I guess he didn’t really WANT a Lexus badly enough. If he did, he would be asking how many of those features of the new one were available on a used one, at much cost savings.
      Here is what I have found in a lifetime of selling (both ideas and products): Let them TRY it. Let them try the candy. Let them try the cauliflower withOUT cheese sauce. Let them touch it. Paint them a word picture with themselves sitting in a left seat w/ a headset on.
      ON THE GROUND, put them in the Captain’s seat and take their photo. Print out a copy. Advise them to take it home and put it on the fridge and look at it for a while.

    • Buzz Becker says

      I would say let them taste the candy! Let them have all they want! Not to give it away, but to allow them to participate and to enjoy all the flying they ‘can’ afford, even if it’s not complete through certification, even if it is not a weekly renter. Get as many people as possible to become familiar with the business (an FBO in this case) and to have a pleasant experience with the company. In this world of aviation business, favorable public sentiment is gold. And when someone who cannot afford to complete pilot training now but later has the means, your school/FBO will be the one they return to. Being disqualified and turned away at the earlier stage would certainly assure that I, for one, would ‘not’ return to ‘that’ school/FBO.

      • Kimberly says

        Guys, last night I attended my local Illinois Pilots’ Association meeting. While not a pilot, I became a member of this group because ‘the desk guy’ at my local FBO (where I was hanging out after being fired from that second airline) recommended it. Not so I could get a new job, but merely to be around ‘like-minded people’.
        Conversation revolved (as it nearly always comes to) in part around a local event we are holding, then moved on to ‘not getting many hours in the air, cold and wind to blame’. Our President is a CFI, so I asked him if the wind bothers him much once he gets off the ground.
        “Not really. I am too busy flying the plane to worry about it.”
        I, on the other hand, currently spend most of my time in the back seat. Believe it or not, I am so quiet that pilots will often ask if I am ok. “Just soaking it all up” is my usual reply.
        At one of our breakfasts, I was sitting with the head of IDOT-A, Dr. Susan Shea. As we chatted about how to make our STATE CAPITOL’S airport more bustling, I told her that I thought more of our Legislators should be flying home from work. This is not a popular idea, because of fuel and driver costs.
        “Well, it’s not like they are stopping along the way to shake hands with constituents!”
        Several years ago, either Pelosi or Feinstein made a public statement that “anyone making decisions (laws and regulations) regarding commercial airplanes should be required to fly on their results” (Perhaps not a direct quote, but an adequate paraphrase).
        Why not? Passenger groups are the ones who drive a lot of the legislation regarding aviation at every level, based on ONE bad experience. Not a life or death one, just a bad one.
        When I worked as a Flight Attendant, while many of my more senior co-workers referred to our job as Adult Daycare, I just figured that anyone old enough to fly without paperwork I had to sign was old enough to act like a grown-up in my cabin. I never threw anyone off, because I didn’t NEED to.
        And we had FUN. I had people on DELAYED flights smiling as they deplaned.
        Because it was obvious I was having fun.
        Which, of course is never allowed at work.

        • Buzz Becker says

          You ‘are’ a pilot, Kimberly, albeit a student pilot, and with your current medical you are statistically considered an ‘active’ pilot. I’m sure AOPA warmly welcomed you to the meeting. AOPA is very big on student pilot education and helping pilots look forward to flight as a fully certified pilot at any level. 😉

      • says

        Hi Buzz, If by chance, could you drop me a note DIRECTLY; I would like the opportunity to discuss this “teaser” topic and WHY I’m not particularly fond of it. They’re “pros and cons’ to this – not as BLACK or WHITE as one might see it. – at your leisure! Thanks, Rod

  4. says

    Ravi, yes, and it’s the QUALIFING* (the customers needs and wants) that’s NOT being done! * basic sales (person-ship) 101? Both Mike Dempsey and I’ve concluded: the “problem” IS at the point of ones FIRST experience/contact (potential student/customer) with the flight school – to few “prospects” and to many “getting away” do to inept or any “sales” (identifying/qualifying) presentations what so ever?

    • Kimberly says

      Rod, is there a makeup mirror on that right hand visor?
      Flying around Cape makes me think of JFK, Jr.
      Overcome that plz

      Ravi, I might be able to make Romeoville.

      Buzz, thx for hanging in/out.
      Have a GREAT day!

      • says

        Great Kimberly…will be nice to meet you Friday night if you can make the event! I’m giving away two great headsets there, a Lightspeed Sierra and a Sennheiser S1. You can register and enter for the giveaways on my app: Hope to see you!

      • says

        Kim, LOVE it! I just remembered now – your in my “file”. I’ll drop you a note soon! Yes, JFK ,Jr – sad tale indeed – he departed (CDW) NJ – my old stomping grounds! Rod

    • says

      Absolutely Rod, the lack of qualifying is where most fail, hence my earlier remark that not all businesses that are in business deserve to be in business. The cream eventually rises to the top…or is the only thing left in the cup!

      • Buzz Becker says

        Ravi, I know it’s straying from topic a bit, but, in summary, what would be the process of ‘qualifying’ a customer for your tour events? I know in general the process, but wanting to know more your thoughts, how you apply it in your business and how you might apply qualifying to private aviation.

        Yes, Ravi, many businesses that are not viable should not have started in the first place. But many businesses (and we’re talking about aviation here) have become unviable (financially/economically) in our present economy. Perhaps a bit harsh to imply that they didn’t ‘deserve’ to be in business and that the survivors (not ‘yet’ failed businesses) are the ‘cream’ and therefore somehow ‘deserve’ to be in business. Just some thoughts. If I’m misreading you, I apologize.


        • says


          That’s very interesting question about my qualifying process for the tour. Under the definition of qualifying that I used for my previous response, my process is to talk to the local flight school (who is my local coordinator) and best understand the current needs and opportunities in that region. If I truly understand the local environment, I can cater to it and achieve the best results.

          However, there is another qualification process which falls along the more widely used definition of the word. NAFI helps me select flight schools because for my program, I need to partner with those who have the best success track record of student completions. I need to make sure that the local communities with whom I visit have the best opportunity to live their dream. For that to happen, a school with a low dropout percentage (amongst other things) will improve the success of my program. High Schools as well need to qualify in the traditional sense based on how many students they can have in attendance. The public is the public and I’ll welcome as many of them as I can at my public events!

          Regarding my harshness, you are right…my statement is a bit harsh. But that is also reality and especially so when there is a shrinking customer pool. It’s math. But I agree that there are unfair regulations, taxation, certifications, etc. and things that we need to rectify so that more business owners have the chance to succeed. That would be good for everyone.

          However, there people with wide eyes who start businesses without any solid plan or foundation, and simply feel entitled to be successful (I see this in some flight schools who just sit around expecting people to just show up at the airport, and also in many music stores who buy expensive guitars before qualifying their market to see if anyone wants them). They are the ones who perhaps don’t deserve to be in business and end up hurting the industry by delivering a negative customer experience.

          Then there are some that are unable to adapt to the times, perhaps the ones your are referring to. Sure, they don’t deserve to fail, but in comparison to those who are able to adapt, ultimately the best overall businesses generally survive what’s sometimes referred to as “the dip,” and therefore they have, perhaps, earned their survival. Nevertheless, we need to always fight to maintain an even playing field so that everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed.

          • Buzz Becker says

            Again, very well said, Ravi! Thanks again for your very detailed and honest reply! 😉

    • Buzz Becker says

      Rod, I fully understand the idea of financially qualifying a customer for an aircraft purchase or a contract, and how qualifying prospective customers applies when scoping out prospective clients in a target market. But I’m curious, Rod, in the ‘qualifying’ of a customer for flight lessons, what would be ‘disqualifying?’ Since you were an FBO owner, can you further describe your ideas on how this applies to small FBO’s, prospective ‘walk in’ flight students and new renters, etc.? Thanks in advance! 😉


      • Buzz Becker says

        ..and, Rod, I ask this because FBO’s and private aviation are not generally failing due to delinquent customers. They are failing due to ‘lack’ of customers, and yes, a lack of customers with financial means.


        • says

          Buzz; VERY good question: -for “Flight School Sales 101”!
          Since I get PAID for my expertise in marketing and sales, I’ll give a few “free” tips to determine the “WHO” carte- blanche!
          I have develpoed a
          “demographiuc” proflie consistant with the BEST buyer for non-career flight training and aircraft sales: 1. A MIMIMUM general population of 150K for every ONE flight school OR small FBO. 2 At LEAST 6% of this (9,000) earn a MIMIMUM of $150K average houshold income 3. A mimimum of 25 small-medium size business’s $25-100M annual gross sales range (Business Pilot Program?) and FUTURE aircraft single owner or fractional possibly. (you manage the bird $$$$?)

          Perhaps the biggest fault in GA is at the “retail” level in the marketing to these small-medium buinesses; most think a company airplane is a G-? or Falcon ?, etc. Little do they know that the Cirrus, Bonanza A-36, Cessna 414, PC-12 are ALSO company airplanes. To a firm grossing $40M+a year, the “investment” in a $500K+ bird is financially do able. Not so for “most” weekend aviators!

          And frankly, web sites do NOT bring the “demograophic” (individual) who HAS the financial means too buy; LLLLOOONNNGGG term flight lessons let alone a $40+ pre-owned C-172. This crowd is about 41 years of age, married, with 2.2 children. WHAT doposable income – you got it – ZIP!

          Mike and I have develpoed several “packaged” pro-active marketing/sales programs -but NOT for free – nobility isn’t our game – no offense. An article at our blog, April 2013; Marketing, Advertising & Sales:, may be of interest to you and other pro-active agressive flight school owners and managers. Hope this helps a little!

          • Buzz Becker says

            Okay. Very good! That’s understandable, Rod. And it appears to be a very well thought out marketing strategy for attaining and retaining a financially ‘qualified’ clientele, and thus ensuring sustainability, as well as student success in their flight training.

            I fully agree regarding the reasons for most student drop outs; those very problems exist at every flight school I’ve been in and around.

            How would you respond to the ‘walk in’ customer who you know is scraping the bottom just to learn how to fly or to rent occasionally and may not fly regularly? …or the customer who comes to you and tells you of her/his ‘passion’ to learn to fly?


      • says

        Buzz, I’ll take a stab at answering your question (perhaps Rod will have a different view, but I’m going on the road so I’m likely to be out of the loop for a little while!).

        In this case, the opposite of “qualifying” is not “disqualifying.” One can qualify a student in the sense that by understanding his or her goals, one can best position the benefits of learning to fly to suit the individual.

        Part of the reason why flight schools go out of business is not just due to a lack of customers, but due to 80% of their students dropping out. Why does this happen? Probably in part because the student was not properly “qualified” at first, and consequently the result didn’t meet expectations, leading them to perceive a lack of value from the overall experience. However, if a good CFI (and school manager) truly understand the needs and desires of each student (through qualifying, i.e. understanding the individuals interests), then the value proposition is presented differently from the beginning.

        This is where the original article has merit, because someone looking for utility but is sold on the joy of flying might ultimately feel that he is not getting the enjoyment that he was sold. However, if after each lesson the student can understand useful application of what he has just learned as it pertains to his or her own personal goals, then the value is maintained. I think the art of any sale and customer retention has a lot to do with understanding the customer’s intent (through qualification).

      • says

        Buz, “Disqualifing” EXCELLENT question! Since I still do real esate sales in the metro Bergen County (NJ) area, this is HOW, which could be, with some modification, applied to the flight school (non-career) student prospect,

        The prospect: Professional gent – mid 30’s – “probably white collar management type working in NYC.
        ME: Good afternoon, yu heer for the “Open House” I assume?
        PROSPECT: Yes, my wife and I would like to see a few of the condo’s in the complex.To help me BETTER show you the “right” condo for you, would would be your approximate “investment” range that is comfortable for you both? THEY LOOK AT EACH OTHER – AND SAY AROUND $7OOK! Do you show them the $1.4 3 BR unit on the Hudson River, odf course not, you then lead them to the PRODUCT that closly matches thier “financial” profile – the Borduex – these unit are in the $650-725K range. NOTE: if the prospect can ONLY afford sa $500K, unfortunely, the”product” is out of their price range.

        Now with our student prospect, the same or simular “senario” would apply.
        YOU: Nice to meet you Mr. Watson (not first name YET) and let me get you coffee or a soft drink? (make him feel comforable in an unfamilure enviorment) an lead him into YOUR private office.
        HIM: About 60+, driving a 700 class BMW,well grommed, etc.
        YOU: I guess you live fairly close to the airport? (assumption?)
        HIM: Yes, PLATIUM HILLS ESTATE, only took me about 10 miniutes to get here.
        YOU-NOTE: Know the area – the homes in PLATIUM HILLS are in the $1.5M+ range.
        YOU: May I ask, do you still go (assumption) in to your office? (IS HE STILL WORKING?)
        HIM: Only 1-2 days a week.
        YOU: The reason I ask was to try to pattern your trainng (assumption HE’s going to signup for lessons) to your schedule. Would you be able to come out say 3-4 lessons week? NOTE: DON’t THINK for HIM about the MONEY – YET!
        HIM: What would the approximate cost be to obtain the private license?
        YOU: Well, may I call you “Jim” – that’s why I ask about how many lessons you could make a week. Would you be able to “budget” say $1,400-1,500 a month,this way we could posibly have you licensed in about 6 months, asummimg no cancellations for weather or other issues.
        HIM: That would be NO problem – would it be posible to get started this week?


        • Buzz Becker says

          Hmmm. Food for thought. Interesting approach, and I think it would serve many prospective customers well, with an eye on both the students success and success of the business. In my several years of flight instructing, it’s not an approach I’ve seen applied in flight schools, but it does make perfect sense. That, in addition to a welcoming atmosphere that makes visitors comfortable (flying for the first time, even walking into an FBO, is quite nerve wracking for some) and dialog that probes a prospective customers goals and seeks to help the customer to achieve those goals.

          So, Rod, together, with yours and Ravi’s keen business sense and Ravi’s people and entertainment talents, how could you fail?? :) I’ll teach ’em to fly your jets and how to get their airplanes (perhaps a Cheyenne 400ls or King Air) safely into their favorite canyon getaway strips. 😉 …and I’ll help Ravi provide some great guitar music and entertainment at the company fly-in party. 😀


  5. says

    How bout that -100! And thanks, Kim, Ravi, and Buzz (job?) did I say that?
    How bout that – guess we’ll have to title this:
    “Intro to Sizzle/Steak 101?”

    Oh boy, here’s comes this guy Beck again and his “negativity” – surprise!!
    Kindly allow me to detail a little of my GA ‘business” history to you all.
    from the years 1966-78, I experienced:
    1. Starting a flight school (flight club) (CDW) 1966 Executive Flyers
    2. Employed as a CFI at no less than 5 FBO’s/flight schools; none of which lasted more
    than 6 months. 1966-78 (all today are long “out of business”)
    3. Started a second flight school/aircraft sales operation – (TEB) 1971
    4. Employed as Sales Manager for a new FBO in Daytona Beach, FL (DAB) 1974
    5. Employed as Sales Manager for a Cessna dealer (PDK) 1976
    6. Employed as Director of Marketing & Sales – (TDZ) 1977
    7. Principal/partner /GM full service FBO – (TDZ) 1977-78
    8. Self employed – aircraft sales/aviation business consultant – (CDW) 2008-present
    Other: Promoted a NEW county airport in Sussex (NJ) 1974
    Produced 5 aviation theme “Air Airshows” at 4 (1 twice) in 4 major northern shopping/centers/malls – 1972 & 1974
    Introduced a bank to aircraft financing – 1972
    Volunteered and taught 7-8 graders aviation academic subjects – Sparta (NJ) 1973-74
    Driven YES – passionate – not so sure?
    Since 1956 (age 13) have “Taken of & landed” about 84 makes & models “big deal”?
    Did I “give it my all” – you be the judge

    So ladies , gents boys and girls, would you say I have something to bring to the table in the way of ‘hands on AND outside (other un-bias business experience?) the wingspan thinking?

    How do WE solve the “problem”? OK, here’s a million dollars (summary) how I would go about this from a BUSINESS (profit) motivated approach.
    OBJECTIVE: Getting more future “buyers” into GA.
    1. Identify WHO (now) has the greatest (financial) ability to buy the “product”
    2. Identify WHO (now) has the greatest NEED (notice not want)

    So we’ll START with the demographic of # 1 (primary buyer group) – IMMEDIATE SALES
    Next, # 2 same demographic? ” ‘ ”
    Enter “secondary” buyer group – (same identifying methods) -FUTURE SALES

    For example, the “primary group” may be those with household incomes of say 150K+
    The “secondary group” may have fewer purchases now, if any, BUT may be good lower volume purchasers in the FUTURE, i.e. high school/college students, married males 37-49 age raising families, BUT, FUTURE primary buyers in 7-10 years from now?
    Now, do to the GOAL of a more immediate “cash flow”, concentration is BEST focused on the “primary group” – about 80-90% of pro-active effort – 10-20% on the secondary group, via public relations and occasional “spontaneous” (special events?) flights, or promotions.
    This is a PROGRESSIVE coordinated systematic effort – no “gaps” in the planning and implementation process and cohesive – period!
    Now, since I DON”T work for FREE – i’ decided the time was “ripe” for a little push?
    One last thing; Wouldn’t EVERY one working in GA be a little bit “happier” if they could make a GGOOD living doing what they liked/loved instead of being a “salve” and having a low self esteem? I LOVE you all – even Gen. Patton has a “soft side” – NITE, NITE!

    • Kimberly says

      Thanks for accepting and achieving the challenge, guys. I do appreciate it.
      In the meantime, between reading your comments on my handheld device AND celebrating Fat Tuesday, I did the following, itsy-bitsy, my-part baby step:
      I visited one of 3 local high schools (where none of my own children attended), “Flight Training” magazine in hand and asked to see the Librarian.
      Turned out, she’s a friend from church. She was more than happy to have the magazine and said she would put it out for her kids to read.
      Walking into the library, I passed through “The College Room”. I think I have an AOPA publication that can go THERE, too.
      Lastly, I got contact info for the sponsor of the school newspaper and sent her an e-mail about a local flying event to be held on May 3-4 at our local airport. The sponsors are gathering scholarship money, which seems to be of interest to high school students, particularly at this time of year.

      • says

        Hey, that’s great Kimberly…just the kinds of things that can seed the dream and make a difference. If I recall from you other post, your in Springfield, right? I’m heading to the Chicago area this week to do aviation events in Romeoville (Fri evening for the aviation community) and Lockport (Sat morning for the public), plus high school events in between (schedule and details are on my tour website That may be a bit of a hike for you, but if not, it would be great to have you there (tell your flying and non-flying friends too…one event for each!). Anyone else reading from the area is welcome too. I’ll then be doing the same programs the following week in the Washington DC area.

      • Buzz Becker says

        Wow, Kimberly! I commend your putting your feet to getting the word out to the next generation! Great ideas! …I’m sure there are a few aviation magazine readers who toss their mags after reading them. For those willing to make the commitment, perhaps school libraries would accept ongoing donations of these mags to their magazine racks. Just a thought.


    • Buzz Becker says

      Hey, Rod! I caught that! :)) …”Buzz job”… No offense taken. 😉 Actually it well describes my current hair style. 😉 …as well as my preferred method of arrival by air. 😀

      [Note and disclaimer: Low level, close-in fly-by’s (‘buzz jobs’) are not always legal, nor safe, even when done with ‘permission.’ Before getting ‘stunt’ minded while flying, know your FAR’s/CFR’s, know the airspace you’re in, the rules governing it, and know all persons, property, vessels, vehicles and structures in proximity to your path of flight. KNOW your airplane, what it can and cannot do, be fully aware of power lines (high and low), phone lines, …and clothes lines…, fences, etc., by ground, first. Always get appropriate permissions beforehand, plan for all contingencies (such as sudden ‘engine out’) and plan for the safety of all persons and property.]

      Impressive resume, Rod! Yes, it’s apparent that you’ve ‘been there and done that’ and that the old models just don’t seem to work so well anymore, Rod. The model you propose seems necessary for profitability and sustainability in today’s economy; others (namely some large FBO’s) are doing it now. But I fear that if this if this approach must prevail, Private Aviation will further be relinquished to the elite. As we are headed now, comparing aviation prices and costs this year to just two years ago, it appears inevitable.

      About flight instructor pay, decent paying flight instructor jobs do exist, but are far and few between. Flight instructor pay, for the most part, will always be what pilots are willing (or forced) to take for building flight time and experience.

      Sleep well, Rod! :) ..and all! 😉


      • says

        Thanks Buzz, Another fine publication, “AW”, recently had a blog; “Passion has it’s price”, interesting comments WHY many left aviation – ZiP financial future and security? After reading many of the commenters, affirmed I wasn’t alone!

        • Buzz Becker says

          Thanks for the reference to that article, Rod! This is the link:

          I’ve read it and, yes, passion does indeed have a price. I’m a living example of just such passion and the sacrifices made to be in aviation and to fly. Actually, flying has been more than a passion for me; it was a ‘calling,’ if you will – long story. Although in retrospect I sometimes count the costs and cringe, to say I’d have done things differently would be like the bird saying “I should have been a fish.”

          For the recreational pilot (and low paid professional pilot, as are ‘most’ pilot jobs) the sacrifices and costs to fly are great and becoming much greater. Still, it is the love of flying that graduates new pilots and keeps renters coming back. It certainly isn’t great pay and quick return on investment. There are certainly many angles on flying and we need to look at them all, but in response to Spence’s article, how do we answer the question of what we should be selling to motivate new prospective pilots and to turn the pilot population numbers upward, and, I might add, to keep them flying? After all, most of the pilot population that ‘was’ flying is still out there, they just aren’t flying. And if pilots don’t continue to fly, then inevitably aviation will suffer the same eventual fate. (By the way, “pilot population,” by most accounts, is the number of current medical certificates, not the number of people who have attained certification. I would argue that the current aviation picture is actually much more bleak than these numbers would indicate. Although pilots’ medicals are current, their overall flying activity had decreased greatly.)

          So, in short, Rod, as you elude to in your previous post, it appears that to keep private aviation alive and to bring in new pilots, aggressive marketing efforts must be made where the money is, to those who ‘can’ afford it already, at today’s prices. Still, however, I would argue that only with great motivation, whether it be passion or “drive” (as you described your own experience), will prospective students become interested in flying and follow through to become certificated pilots and future professional aviators.

          So, Rod, let me ask you, if not bringing aviation and people together to spark the passion that ignites motivation, the motivation to shell out fortunes to learn to fly and then to stay actively involved in aviation, what exactly would you sell?? What would you say to those who ‘can’ afford training through to Commercial, Instrument, Multi-engine land certification but who have never before had an interest in aviation (not that they don’t like it, they’ve just never been around aviation, for example)?? What would you have your salesmen sell say to them? What would be their sales pitch?


          • says

            Yes, I can clearly see that your life passion” IS flying and aviation – good for you! But the article in “AV” clearly shows, ones passion might take a “jump seat” to other priorities’ that ONLY a more predictable source of income can provide. I also believe that ones ORIGINAL motive for being in GA or aviation is in the “piloting” of aircraft – what or where does one belong who had a business FIRST and flying second interest go – that’s WHY I left in 1978. Since ALL my experiences to date were in the “recreational” segment with an aviation consumer base dominated by “weekend” pilots (just before the corporate jet/larger FBO chain movement) – not for me – and disappointed – departed.

            Now, to “answer” your question, here go’s!
            I have a theory – bear with me here – I think you’ll see the LOGIC in this.

            The recurring theme by many “private/weekend” or recreational aviators is “COST”! But what they’re REALLY saying is; the “benefit(s) isn’t worth the cost; hence the cost/benefit equation or simple “ZIP value?

            Now the “fun” has been “sold” as the major or primary benefit for decades (recreational market) and hardly, if ever, the UTILITY value – why? WHO’s been doing the “selling”; the one time private/weekend pilot, now owner of a flight school WHOSE very motivation was for FUN – nothing more!
            Ultimately, this ‘fun” wanes – benefit DOESN’T equal cost possibly? And OTHER alternative “fun” events; museum, Great Adventure, ice skating, that provide “fun” for a lot less $$ – make cent$ so far?

            Now back to the “sizzle” (I call it steak) blog for a minute.
            TODAY, and do to the many alternatives to flying, and here, either as a hobby or possibly in a future business (utility) capacity – the ULTITY component IS what is should be PRESENTED to the potential student ; again, (non career) the typical guy/gal shows up at to your local smaller (not corporate FBO) or flight school and inquires about flight training – the INTERVIEW ‘ or “How to sell flying for dummies” – Part I.

            FLIGHT SALES MANAGER: “Thanks for coming down today! I’m curious, Is flying something you’ve been wanting to do?
            PROSPECT: Well, you see, I have a friend who has a Cessna with “two engines” and he’s flown over to the Cape (Cod) to his summer home and one time I went with him – boy, we made that trip in LESS than an hour.
            CRTIQUE: What’s this person is saying here – “I WAS IMPRESSED with the time saving – the same drive takes 4 hours – HELLO – this IS the “why” this person is here – of course it was/is fun – an ADDED component!
            FLIGHT SALES MANAGER: So I guess your investigating getting a pilots license and possibly buying your OWN airplane some day?
            PROSPECT: You are reading my mind!

            Is this a MOTIVATED prospective student – you bet it is!
            WHY – easy!
            The ‘end” game is buying a plane 9possibly) AND using it -the UTILITY value the major component of THIS persons REASON/PURPOSE for obtaining a license -the “fun” factor/component is a bi-product!

            WHAY so many airplanes sitting “out of annual” or rarely not being used – there’s your “answer”, I think? To much COST – benefit “overpriced for “fun” ONLY – makes any cent$?

            Todays ‘recreational flying BUYER needs to be SOLD on the VALUE proposition considering the INVESTMENT ($8-10K+) and for “fun” ONLY just doesn’t make ANY cent$!

            On the commercial, instrument, multi programs ; tough sell, BUT, here’s an alternative: The “Business Pilot Program” again, UTILITY value. The course is a private-instrument with the objective of creating a FUTURE (owner flown) Cirrus, A-36, and ultimately possible a PC-12 or 414? And you (your operation) provides a “right seat” safety pilot until he/she meets insurance requirements?

            BOTTOM $$ LINE: To continue to sell the fun ONLY aspect or component isn’t going to work IF you want to retain the LTCV (Life Time CUSTOMER Value) for any period of time. More LONG term aviation customer/consumers as opposed to many short term or unpredictable ones?

            Is this the “answer” to retention; allegedly GA’s biggest problem – maybe one of them? See our blog on “Marketing , Sales & Advertising” for the small FBO/flight school, March 2013, at our site: – let me know if this makes ANY cent$ to you -thanks – and keep M flying!

          • says

            I’m not sure why this is becoming an “either/or” debate. We need to sell both (or all) aspects and benefits that are relevant to the would-be pilot. It’s called qualifying the customer.

          • Buzz Becker says

            Hey, Ravi! 😉 I know you joined the discussion a bit later, but if you’ll read ‘all’ the posts I think you’ll better understand my responses. It is not “becoming” an “either/or” thing. This discussion has pretty much ‘been’ an either/or thing from the start, well before I joined the discussion. From my first response, I acknowledge the merits of ‘both’ and argue only that it is not ‘wrong’ to sell the ‘passion.’ Thanks again for your reply, Ravi!

            (It is a bit difficult to follow the many branches within this discussion being there are so many responses and replies to responses. It’s very helpful to take note of times and dates of when reading.)

          • says

            Buzz, I think I was actually responding to one of Rod’s comments (although I think the original article takes a position that it should be one way, and not the other…as you point out). I don’t know how the threads work, but I click reply in the email, it takes me here (or somewhere), and I type assuming it is winding up in the right thread.

          • Buzz Becker says

            Sorry, Ravi. I see that now, that you were replying to Rod’s post. 😉

            With many responses these threads can be a bit tricky to follow and to navigate at times, Ravi. The way these posts are ordered is according to which “reply” button is selected within the forum. There is a maximum number of responses allowed in a branch which forces one to select another “reply” button in order to respond (usually the button at the top of the thread is then selected). Also, at some point during this discussion, the GAN website appears to have changed the way postings are displayed (order of posts, indents and branches), or perhaps defaults kicked in due to the number of postings. Anyway, taking note of dates and times helps. 😉


          • Buzz Becker says

            Wow! Great reply, Rod! Great answer! Extraordinary effort! It’s pretty clear that you and Spence come from the same schools of thought. Your well thought out perspective gives some much needed “meat” to Spence’s original discussion. I just knew you had more to say, Rod. 😉 Good job!

            It’s never been an either/or proposition for me (please read all posts). I’ve been expressing the merits of both from the start. Only suggesting that it is the passion and the love of flying that will keep private aviation alive and that we are not selling the ‘wrong thing’ by selling learning to fly and the joy of flying. If so, the Ravi’s tour and events like Sun ‘n Fun have little value in ‘selling’ private aviation.


  6. says

    Kimberly, you and others make some excellent (and inspiring) points! It’s true, finding positive press about aviation is the exception, not the norm. Additionally, the public doesn’t generally perceive general (or recreational) aviation as an activity that includes them. I’m really trying to change that with my You Can Do It tour ( — comments and suggestions always welcomed). It’s not just about doing events for the public, but also generating positive aviation-oriented press. With the first tour stop alone (Riverside CA) the PR reached over half a million through media, inviting the public to join our “exclusive club.” I hit Chicago next week and Washington DC the week after, and then Sun ‘n Fun. I certainly hope the industry will continue to grow its support of my efforts, but perhaps even more important, I hope that my efforts demonstrate that it is possible for each and every one of us to have a positive impact on influencing the public’s perception of and participation in general aviation. Pilots must recognize that a larger and more active pilot population equals a healthier industry, and therefore more leverage to solve problems and protect the freedoms that we all cherish. If individually each of us makes an effort to be more inviting, collectively we can all make a significant difference.

    • Buzz Becker says

      Very nice website, Rav! ( I would encourage others to visit as well. …and your quote of Albert Einstein. Einstein also is quoted as saying “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.” Education imparts knowledge, but inspiration awakens the imagination and makes all thing possible. Your page is inspiring, Rav, and your efforts to get the word out is evident. Thank you!

    • Buzz Becker says

      WOW, Ravi!!! I know this is off topic, and please let me apologize in advance for that, but I must say, I’m more inspired as I read your website, and listen to your interviews (and also your music) on youtube! I loved your guitar work with Hanson! I’m a guitarist myself. I had some radio airplay of two songs on a Eugene, Oregon during a ‘homegrown’ album project promoted by local musician, instructor and music promoter John Starkey (..and also had a song stolen by a Fresno jazz musician who’s gotten quite a bit of airtime – from the song I wrote and taught to him.) A classmate and friend, in high school, Ross Bolton, went on to become a legend in the genre of funk guitar, but sadly fell victim of cancer just this last year. I’d love to write an aviation song with you, Ravi! I have many melodies and leads that would work great. Only short on lyrics. 😉

      Back on topic… I love the message of your tour, Ravi, and perfectly appropriate for response to Spence’s article! – promotion of aviation and inspiring future aviators! Keep up the great work and God bless, Ravi! To readers: Please visit Raviator’s website! ( An aviator who truly ‘has’ the passion! …I want to go flying!!! (…with inspiring rock guitar in the headsets, of course. 😉 )


      • says


        Thanks so much for your kind words! I do work very hard at all of this, but it is a labor of love. “If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life” – Confucius. The bottom line is that I live my dreams, in music and now also in aviation. Every kid deserves the opportunity to live his or her dream, and I’m in the fortunate position to help foster that process. I don’t know if while browsing my website you came across my boarding school project for the poor in India, but this is a great example of giving any kid the opportunity, regardless of socioeconomic background, he or she can succeed…period.

        We all do a good job of identifying the problems in our industry and society and discussing, but I believe we can generally do a better job of being proactive and actually implementing change, even on the smallest of levels. So, I do what I can, and try to structure it in a business model so that it is sustainable.

        Thanks for sharing your music endeavors with me! I did write a theme song for AirVenture and will be doing one for Sun ‘n Fun too, but haven’t yet identified the “aviation song formula” that works for me lyrically…more experimenting ahead! Amazingly, 49.7% of pilots play a musical instrument. When I first learned to fly, I was perplexed by how many musicians I kept meeting at airports while flying cross-countries. Yet, there is a common theme that seems to run through these activities. Passion, dedication, routine, commitment, etc. Then, there is also an “opposites attract” component: regulations versus freedom of expression, political biases, etc. At the end of the day, I think we are all artists, scientists, and humanitarians (hopefully). I can’t think of two greater activities than music and aviation, so the 49.7% of us are quite lucky!

        • Buzz Becker says

          Yes, Ravi, I have seen your page for ‘at risk’ kids: then select “Advocacy” in the menu bar below, then select “At Risk” in the menu bar. I commend you for your extraordinary efforts, Ravi! You are a much needed ambassador for aviation and your passion is contagious. You are putting your talents and blessings to great use, Ravi, in aviation, in music, and in advocacy for ‘at risk’ children. For your efforts, the kids are blessed! And future (and present) aviators alike. 😉 ..not to mention those who so enjoy the music as do I. Again, keep up the great work, Ravi! You are indeed ‘not’ selling the wrong thing! 😉 God bless!


          • says

            Wow, you really did go “deep” into the web site! Actually, there was some updating today, so the new location of the page about boarding schools for the poor is,, and then Youth > Poor (or direct access here: Imagine how those kids can benefit from STEM education and its application in the cockpit of an airplane! And, imagine how our industry could benefit from creating pilots out of the largest segment of the global population. Food for thought. Thanks for the positive support!

          • Buzz Becker says

            Yes, Ravi, there certainly is no shortage of people in to world to bring in new pilots and the next generation of professionals. Beyond promotion of aviation, we need economic solutions. FBO and airport closures and relocations are hindering availability and accessibility. Security issues further hinder accessibility. Many issues needing creative solutions.

            And, certainly , a breadth of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) training is critically important to future professionals aviators!

            Speaking again of aviation songs, Ravi, maybe we need a song that paints a picture of aviation of old, how it flourished from the time of the Wright brothers, passenger travel, jet flight, personal (or private) aviation, space flight, then the turn downward in the pilot population, the seemingly lost vision for the joys of flight and the spectacular possibilities, and to now, a new vision of flight, a modern vision encompassing the advancements in technology, new possibilites … with a Go Pro or two on board, of course. A new and even more spectacular vision of flight and flying! 😉 …a flying jingle for the masses. A ‘hit’ flying song would certainly be effective in reaching new aviators, wouldn’t it, Ravi?! 😉


  7. Kimberly says

    Abraham Lincoln said it this way: “Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without public sentiment, nothing can succeed.”
    I have done over 30 years of family tree research. After one knows the names and approximate time frames of the lives of one’s ancestors, one turns to newspaper reports for obits and marriages to find out dates, then communicate with the courthouse to get documentation of life events.
    In the course of looking at my grandparents lifetimes, focusing on the 30’s and 40’s, I was astonished and fascinated to find EVERY front page had some sort of aviation article. Granted, there were many that were reassurances that, although a small plane had fallen from the sky, the sky itself was not falling and the problem was often simple fuel starvation, there were others about ‘come see a plane near you’ type events that were set up to prove flight was possible.
    Turn to your Sunday paper today (and I haven’t looked at mine yet) and tell me if you see any mention of aviation. Is it a positive mention? I don’t agree that ‘any press is good press’ because I think that aviation most often gets mentioned when it is misbehaving.
    As someone who has begun the journey to achieving a private pilot license, I can tell you that streamlining The Manual would be very helpful. After reading pages and pages, and thinking “Darn, this feels like something I just read 2 pages ago!” and then looking back and finding out I did, in fact read all those same requirements for a different classification of flying license, it’s frustrating to begin to suspect that one is merely wasting time.
    At some point in the past few years, I sat in on a discussion of Biological Health and Age (An AOPA Safety Institute presentation). This concept (in case you are unfamiliar) has to do with how well you have taken care of your personal health. The case study was regarding a 70 year old man who had taken care vs. a 40 year old man who had not. The 70 year old was actually YOUNGER in terms of biological factors than the chronologically younger man.
    I don’t think the ‘wider audience’ understands the variables of flying. And because they feel that it is a very exclusive and expensive club to join, they walk away.

    I like the idea of 2-3 broad categories of pilots’ license. Now use that to streamline the medical certification involved. (I currently carry a 1st Class, not because I plan to get an ATP, but simply because one can always demote, but it is very difficult to advance)
    And expect insurance costs to climb.
    I can repair anything on my own car, based on the concept of self-preservation. Why would I drive with faulty brakes, when I am the one most likely to get hurt?
    We need to be projecting that same sense of self-preservation.
    Of course, this is just one little opinion.
    From a Household Goddess.

    • Buzz Becker says

      Excellent perspective, Kimberly! All of it. Especially important is this sentence: “I don’t think the ‘wider audience’ understands the variables of flying.” Correct indeed!

  8. Tom says

    I’ve read with great interest the responses by B. M. DeVandry and Raviator. I wanted to thank you both for seeing my question “What is a pilot license for” and giving meaningful thought and answer.

    This is a start.

    Maybe the answer is to first redefine how our unique niche in aviation fits in with the rest of industry. Let’s move away from General Aviation. We need some marketing teeth along with acceptance to have a new concept created called Private Aviation.

    Private aviation’s value proposition is about the magic and freedom of flight. It’s not about business tax deductions or utility needs. It’s grass roots, not corporate. It’s not about marketing and making money, its about belonging and acceptance.

    Is this just a dream or can a concept like this really take root? I can’t help but think if we can define who we are and what our purpose is, that solves alot of the problem. At least we have something to build on, a foundation if you will.

    • says

      Tom; I guess your not the “capitalist” or opportunist I thought you were . Thank you for making your case clear. “Socializing” GA – not my take and very different here ; as long as those in the “business” are motivated by passion or pure emotional satisfaction (non-tangible)
      from recreational GA in their quest to make it NOT about marketing and making (profitable) money – I would say your either very young and naïve or older and less wiser perhaps? My source; 55+years exposed to GA from various angles. Regardless, best to you and the others who share your sentiment!

      • Kimberly says

        Rod, you have just shown a small part of the reason that this paradigm shift has been difficult.
        We cannot agree on the best battle plan.
        And, have no doubts, my friends. GA is not ‘under attack’ (as AOPA had previously claimed), ALL aviation is under siege.
        How to present a united front to the uninitiated while exploiting our diversity?
        Rod’s perspective is the business one: aviation is profitable, at every level (or at least, it CAN be)
        vi’s perspective (and the one I most identify with) is the educational one: learning to fly incorporates many other transferrable life (and job) skills.
        Many of us appreciate the romantic aspect: I can do something to impress that you can’t do.
        And the question remains:
        How to appeal to a wider audience, knowing that we are an imperfect group, whom some persons still identify with Da Vinci’s madness?

        • says

          Kimberly…glad we’re on the same page!

          As Buzz pointed out in reply to one of my earlier responses: regulations, costs, etc. also need to be addressed; promotion alone won’t solve the problem. However, I’ll maintain that at the end (and beginning) of the day, this is a numbers game. If we can convince more of the public to recognize the unparalleled education and VALUE of learning to fly (even if only a small percentage continue to fly) we’ll have more people in the air and by virtue of numbers, be a healthier industry with greater leverage to put costs and regulations in balance. As long as we are shrinking, we don’t have much ground on which to stand (or land, as it were!).

          In terms of value, it’s pretty apparent to me that the 6k I invested to get my sport license has delivered better ROI than the 40k/year I spent at NYU! That isn’t to say that one choice is better than the other, but it does offer a little perspective and comparative analysis. I’ll take that one step further and postulate that had I (or my parents) invested the 6k in learning to fly during high school, the ROI on college would have been better. This is part of the message that I’ll be delivering to thousands of students and STEM teachers during my week at Sun ‘n Fun as part of the You Can Do It tour. Hopefully that will help to generate some public appeal.

          • Charlie Kile says

            In 1969 I got my license with 35.2 hours logged and passed the written by studying on my own.
            I had 20hours dual at $14 per hour, and 15.2 hours at $10 per hour for a total of $430.20.
            Taking the test was free.
            Getting a Private license today will cost closer to $10,000. Inflation can’t be even close to accounting for the increase.

          • Kimberly says

            Charlie, I’m new (although not young), so I was unaware that a license was EVER that cheap.
            Presume for a minute that the cost isn’t going to decrease. This is the most likely scenario we are facing.
            What would you tell a 15-yr-old who thinks he might be interested in applying some of his testosterone driven ambition? What about a 15-yr-old girl who has never been any closer to a plane than an American Airlines TV commercial?

          • c says

            I don’t know what I would tell a young person that wants to fly.
            You nearly have to have the equivalent to a college degree to get a private license now.
            The light Sport was supposed to counter that.
            However the restrictions on the aircraft relegates them to mere toy status.
            For traveling it’s a lot cheaper and nearly as fast to drive.

          • Kimberly says

            Tell me why you did it. I seem to recall my mother spending about $75 per month on rent in the small town where I grew up, back around 1969. So you spent the equivalent of nearly six months rent because ______________

          • Charlie Kile says

            Because flying has the ability to set my mind and soul free.
            the instant the wheels leave the Earth I am transformed. I can’t think of any other way to describe it. It happened the first time I soloed in 1951 and still does to this day!

          • Buzz Becker says

            Hey Charlie! I fully identify with your words! I am precisely the same as you describe. Taking to the skies, for me, has always the calming effect that you describe. So, I did a small experiment during a jet flight from PDX. I measured my heart rate at several points during preparation for flight and immediately after lift off. I was the ‘flying pilot’ on a ferry flight that day. Immediately after lift-off, after cleaning up (gear up, flaps up) and trimming for the climb I checked my heart rate again and it had dropped more than 15 beats per minute, confirming what I already knew. 😉 Happy flying, Charlie! I’m with ya! :)

          • Charlie Kile says

            I have had the good fortune to retire from two nationally known companies.
            During my tenure at these companies I would need to travel some large distances.
            A great opportunity to use my own plane.
            However neither company would allow it. In fact both said that the instant I entered my plane I would be terminated immediately!
            They both claimed that their insurance wouldn’t allow it.
            One went on to say ” what happens if I crash into a school house” The other was afraid I’d run into a loaded 147 !

          • Buzz Becker says

            :) Yes, and the further private aviation and small aircraft operations fade away, it’s likely such public misperceptions will only increase, Charlie.

          • Charlie Kile says

            A little more about myself.
            I soloed at Beacon Field in Grovton Va. in 1951. I bought my first plane, an Ercoupe for my High School graduation present to myself and have owned at least one flying machine ever since then.
            In 1969 my family convinced me that I needed to get a pilots license. The previous experience explains why I was able to get it in only 35.2 hours logged time.
            In 1966 I worked with a crop duster for a couple months.
            I thoroughly enjoyed all the time that I flew up to getting my license, after that it hasn’t been nearly as pleasant. It some times feels as though the FAA is doing every thing possible to make it difficult to maintain that license.
            Makes me wonder if I wouldn’t have been better served to never have gotten it.

          • Buzz Becker says

            You are not alone in your sentiments, Charlie! You are not alone! And as you so aptly feel, as do so many, it just shouldn’t be SO difficult to engage in the flying of a small aircraft in God’s beautiful blue skies! 😉


          • Kimberly says

            I missed a chance to see your program at Oshkosh last year (and you were on my proposed schedule).
            Planning to slip into Sun ‘N Fun for at least a day or two while travelling elsewhere in FL at the end of this month and the beginning of April. I look forward to hearing your speech.
            In the meantime, tell me how you actually GET into a public school. It seems that this is just not done in Springfield, IL.
            I think while we are working to retain current members, we have to nurture the ones we have already produced. As a mother, my kids knew the best way to get something: see it, want it, bug Mom nearly to death about it. They all had the chance to fly even when I was unwilling to go up myself. I wanted them to grow fearless, which has been a double-edged sword.
            May I have your permission to post one of your videos on my Facebook page? Which one would you recommend?

          • says

            Hi Kimberly,

            Great…I look forward to meeting you at Sun ‘n Fun. The only presentations that I actually have on campus are on Saturday the 5th — At 9am I am giving an Aerospace Teacher’s Workshop, and that at 11 in the Central Florida Academy (which is open to all Sun ‘n Fun attendees). I will be roaming the grounds most afternoons and also speaking at the NAFI dinner on Thursday night (full schedule is on my site).

            You are right, getting into schools is extremely challenging. So much so that most people give up. But I’ve kept hammering away at it for a number of years and ultimately gained enough credibility and testimonials to where the schools understand that I have one singular goal–to empower teachers and encourage students to work hard. By developing programs that showcase the value of an education and the opportunity to live one’s dreams, I’ve managed to not be competing with teachers for time with their students (which is the primary obstacle, understandably), but enhancing the effectiveness of the time they have with students. That really is all I can hope for and what I consider to be my main job…I’m just there for an hour but the teachers are the real troopers day after day.

            Regarding videos…depends really what you want to showcase. If it is the school program and “You Can Do It” message, try this one:

        • says

          Kim, Yes – we’re coming from 2 different “camps” – yours “social” (educational) along with many others here; mine from a “free market” or profit motive stance.
          What I know of from “experience” in the “business” and more recently as an observer, that most “fail” in GA (recreational) do to the lack of applications of basic business principals that would apply to ANY business – aviation or otherwise. Kindly contact me directly for my “take” and WHY my position on this if you choose: Look forward to “talking” with you!
          ps aren’t they’re a lot of “for profit” educational institutions in the USA?

          • Kimberly says

            Yep! There sure are a lot of for-profit higher education facilities in the US. Many of them are public and therefore tax supported as well.
            I am not against the profit motive. I own American Airlines stock and I have been watching it climb since I bought it and some Airways stock back in November. Even with all those cancelled flights, it seems that we still have a BUNCH landing safely, filled with passengers, happy or not, hungry or not.
            I think it’s YOUR turn to write back to me. I changed my phone number because I got a new account and thus a new phone.
            I am NOT dismissing your way of looking at this problem. I am trying to determine how best to approach a very real problem from a bird’s eye view.
            All this debate amongst ourselves doesn’t help our bigger cause. If someone who THINKS they might be interested in aviation as a career choice spent anytime with existing aviation experts, they might think it had all been done and there were no more challenges to meet.
            And we know that just ain’t so.

          • says

            Rod, I actually agree with your premise. If we don’t run aviation like a business, we don’t deserve to be in business (and most certainly, not everyone running a business deserves to be in business). I often say that in aviation, “we have ‘for profit’ problems which require ‘for profit’ solutions.” But why put “education” and “profit” on opposite sides of a coin? The most profitable business investment one can make is in intellect; one’s own and those in society (i.e., educated customers). I’m not motivated by profit. I’m motivated by progress. The more progress I make, the more profit I make. It’s easy math as far as I’m concerned, and if I budget my business like I budget my fuel, I’ll successfully complete my flight. A quote that I include in many of my presentations is “Don’t chase success. Pursue excellence and success will chase you.” That’s the benefit of a free market. I think if aviation pursued excellence (especially in customer service), success might just find us.

          • Buzz Becker says

            My sentiments exactly, Ravi! And I love Charlie’s and the other ‘experienced’ contributions to this discussion. All the perspectives shared here are valid and valuable. They are ‘our’ perspectives and they each shine light on the many facets of aviation, as a passion, a tool, business, engineering and advancements, and the one nebulous thing that we as aviators know (and that the non-flying public does not know until they themselves experience it), the value to the person, the value of the experience, the sense of accomplishment, the confidence, and the world of possibilities that opens in a person’s mind (and soul) when they’ve experienced and themselves mastered the magic of flight.

            There are many dichotomies that exist within the world of aviation. ‘Private Aviation’ (if you will) in America can only thrive if it survives, but it must thrive in order to survive. When not thriving, FBO’s and airports close, pilot population dwindles, activity further decreases and the downward spiral is quick and steady.

            Although, Rod’s does not appreciate the “passion” of flying as do I and others (“passion bull”), I like the perspective Rod shares and I see the value in his words. Rod, like many of my friends is a ‘profiteer’ who seems to have a primary passion of making money and gaining a return on his money. Very wise. It is perfectly natural and understandable that profiteers try to find ways to profit in endeavors that interest them. Rod is an aviator, like us all; without profiteers with his keen business prospective, private aviation will not thrive, and if not thriving it will not survive as we know it and will be ‘relegated’ and relinquished to the elite.

            Spence suggests in his article (in a very provocative way) that we ‘should’ be selling what aviation and what an airplane can “do” for us, can do for business, as a tool (rather than selling ‘learning to fly’). But nowhere in the article is it presented exactly what it is that an airplane “can” do and how persons and businesses can benefit. Spence is exactly correct, and it is indeed critical to aviation growth that we much do what we can to teach what an airplane can do for us. I disagree only with the provocative suggestion (or question) that we may be selling the wrong thing (learning to fly and the joy of aviation, etc.). It is ALL important!

            So, what is it exactly that aviation and flying CAN do for us?? Airplanes move people and things quickly. In this age of technology, airplanes can also do many, many, things that carry technology aloft. Military, surveillance, photography and video, atmospheric sciences, mapping, even space science, and more, all of which can contribute to the advancement of technology, the environment, the gathering of data useful to our everyday lives, etc., etc..

            Perhaps more nebulous in this discussion of what an airplane can do for us and how we can profit as businesses is the value of ‘face time’ (or in-your-face time, as it sometimes is), the value of meeting face to face, in person. The value of in-person or ‘face time’ has nearly been lost on our internet generation (but certainly not lost by internet CEO’s). [I am more guilty than most in this regard and I have suffered for it, being overly respectful perhaps in minding my own business, I’ve been perceived as distant and disinterested, which could not be further from the truth.] And if anyone questions the value of in-person meetings and relationship in building friendship and trust to engage in multi-million (now multi-billion) dollar deals, just take a quick look at the equipment ‘they’ are flying!!! …and I must say, I can see here by your invitations to meet and talk that Kimberly, Rod and Ravi are keen on the value of in-person ‘face time.’ 😉

            Accountants hate aviation (because of it’s large $$ outflows) unless they have clear data to show it’s profitability. But these numbers are closely guarded secrets and hidden deep within company records; it is thus often difficult to prove the profitability of an airplane and to ‘teach’ it to prospective aircraft owners/operators.

            In response to Kimberly’s questions, what would you tell a 15 year old boy or girl, my answer is simply this: Take them flying!!! Let them ‘participate’ in the aviation you so love. Let them fly, hand’s on, encourage them to look around for all they see outside. This is all that it took for me personally to suddenly go from being ‘me on the ground, those airplanes above’ to being ‘connected’ to aviation myself. However I do admit that the F-102’s and F-106’s daily sonic booms overhead as a kid did get my heart racing and I couldn’t exit the house fast enough to watch them and their contrails as they passed overhead. But it wasn’t until I could fly and participate myself that the incurable bug struck. I am incurable! :)

            A suggestion to flight instructors and FBO’s. For first flights (I mean never have flown, hands on), volunteer your time for that first flight, at no cost. FBO’s need to cover the cost of fuel and the cost of operating time on the aircraft, but for that first flight, offer the aircraft at cost. ..and, by the way, the lost profit and ‘gift’ is tax deductible for both flight instructor and FBO.

            We made it Kimberly! This is the 100th comment. 😀

        • says

          Kim, Ravi and other INTERESTED parties: PLEASE contact me ASAP1 I’m very pleased to learn your BOTH are with me to the same destination – just different routes – GREAT! Kim drop me a note at: “ – you to RAVI – many valid solutions that make sense/cent$ or at least “maintain” altitude for recreational GA – the meter is running and the altimeter is winding down!

          And Ben, thanks for the time and space to “openly” express ones “take”!

  9. B. M. DeVandry says

    Again, it would seem as circumstances (fate?) would have it, most of my previous response-posts, and those of another (concerned enthusiast?) in other aviation-related publications, may be (much) more appropriately suited for this ‘article’ by Mr. Spence.

    So please accept my apologies (and I’ll no doubt sure be doing a lot of that here … sorry!) for the redundancy and ‘re-posting’ of this …a previously posted comment from last year … (as well as its length!) in this forum. But this issue is I feel far too important a subject, although I also fear already futile a 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 capable of.

    First …the relevant posts by “garnaut”;

    “First of all GA is doing just fine …never better in fact. That is if when you say ‘General Aviation’ …you mean the 98 percent of GA which is executive aircraft. Ninety eight (98) percent of the GA industry’s annual revenue is 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 (private) piston airplanes. Sorry, but that is not what ‘General Aviation’ is anymore.
    And the little guy (privately) 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 at Flying (magazine) 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/has been the problem.

    One such special interest group is ‘Business Aviation’ …which is supported by AOPA, Flying Magazine (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.


    …”B.M. DeVandry” 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 its 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.”

    …’garnaut’ lays it out in its irrefutable reality. But …facts are ‘Facts’. Anyone who’s seriously interested can follow-up and confirm these numbers themselves …(big) ‘Business Aviation’ IS now what we will have to refer to as ‘General Aviation’ …and those of us who’ve been around these last 30 years have watched (and some, unfortunately, participated in) it’s unholy mutation.

    …Now for my feeble attempt;

    Here we go AGAIN …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’ …STILL just don’t seem (or simply refuse to) to ‘get it’ !

    I’ve rarely commented once, let alone twice in (any) forums so please forgive the following ‘re-cap’ and redundancy of a couple previous rants, in previous ‘comment sections’ (including this one) …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’s 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 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!

    (but we now of course know the C-162’s ultimate fate)

    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 actually can’t 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 of 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?!? (‘Private/Recreational Aviation’)

    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 45+ 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 on the (relatively) 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?? …continuing decline in attendance at Oshkosh? ….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!

    Until one is willing to HONESTLY identify & admit the problem ..said problem will never, can never be solved.

    Please …PLEASE …Let’s ALL get real!

    …And finally, to the above commentators, which again, includes you as well Mr. Beck (and with exception of the couple who do seem to “get it”) and to the many previous ‘commentators’ and authors writing in this publication and ‘forum’;
    Although I certainly can’t know most of your social-economic backgrounds, one can glean a little insight from your articles and responses.

    But it would seem many of 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, if you’re (intellectually) honest with yourselves, 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 one to be 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 are in fact one of the many active and willing participants in it …and, unfortunately, 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 assessment of the data & facts)

    …and our beloved ‘General Aviation’ has just simply been one of its many and most obvious casualties. Call me a ‘simpleton’ …but when one CAN’T AFFORD the steak, well…

    But there I go “digressing” again…

    Thanks all for ‘puttn’ up with me. And I promise I’ll (try to) stay out of this (shooting ones mouth off) comment/blog/response stuff for a little while henceforth!


    • says

      Mr. B.M DeVandry; Frankly, “got it”? I got it 36 years ago – NOT a “business” in any sense /cent$, by anyone’s business standards and LEFT – no regretts Not into the “passion” bull, etc and working for almost”free” just to be a part of the GA culture 24/7. To each his own?

    • Buzz Becker says

      No need to apologize, B. M. DeVandry. From the perspective of the aviation small guy, your points are spot on in every respect! Yours and other posts clearly indicate the increasing problems with the obsolescence of the “general aviation” term. By it’s current uses, it is clearly a misnomer. From a government perspective, ‘general aviation’ means tax supported airports that do not serve airlines (or serve only one or two commuters or smaller) and those who use those airports. It does not distinguish “private aviation”, corporate, business, charter, FBO’s, flight instruction, recreational flying, etc. To another, as clearly implied but not explicitly stated ‘general aviation’ means biz jets and high dollar aviation. To anyone around when the term was first coined, ‘general aviation’ means the small guy, first and foremost, the operation of light aircraft in all it’s forms. At the top (government), the ‘small guy’ has nearly been completely forgotten in these ongoing discussions of ‘general aviation.’

      We need new terminology that clearly divides what we now call “general aviation” into it’s constituent sub-components, terminology that allows all involved in the discussion to be clear in their meanings. And what a can of worms that might open. But well worth the risk and clearly necessary for approaching resolution of the many facets involved and solutions to the increasing issues facing ‘us’ (meaning the ‘small guy,’ ‘private aviation’ if you will – as per Tom’s suggestion).

      I have flown Part 91, Part 135 and Part 121, nearly all aspects of ‘general aviation’ and ‘commercial aviation’ as they are currently termed. I do ‘not’ mean to pit one group against another – I am all groups. We’re aviators! But aviation at it’s roots is dying, for all the many reasons discussed. What to do?? Continue to talk, to distinguish and to clarify. But before we can proceed this use of terms and terminology surrounding ‘general aviation’ clearly needs some fixin’. In doing so, we perhaps need to be careful not to throw the baby out with the bath water and do away with the “general aviation” term, but introduce additional terms to aid clarification in the discussion. And any terms arrived at will only take flight when officially recognized and clearly distinguished at ‘the top’, within government.

      • says

        I totally agree on this “general” term; General Aviation”. Several years ago, I came up with this idea:
        1. Recreational aviation (personal flying – generally non-profit?)
        2. Business aviation (crop dusters, AirVac, charter, owner flown business aircraft)
        3. Corporate aviation (salaried crew – G-5, Falcon 900, etc)
        4. Educational aviation (college aviation programs, flight/sim training, etc)

        Just a “rough draft!

        • DShannon says

          Nice draft, Rod — though I’d really like to see a category that describes the aviation I’ve always really wanted: which is comparable to the individual transportation afforded by the personal family automobile. This is not “recreational”, though that is one of its uses. It is not “business”, though home-based businesses often depend upon it. But its primary “business” is not a profit-making one for its owners, but is rather “merely” personal transportation from point to point. The businesses of buying and selling and maintaining such vehicles, which is what would have to support their existence, would need to emulate the economics of the private automobile, as would their regulatory environment. Of course, these would not be traditional airplanes requiring airports and runways. Traditional small light helicopter designs might qualify, though they present safety problems in close quarters. The designs in work by Moller Aircraft of Davis, CA are promising, as are some others such as UrbanAero of Israel and even the Martin JetPack of Australia (though that wouldn’t quite meet the “family car” requirements).

          My point is that rejuvenation of the notion of private aviation may depend on the development of suitable technology to replace existing technology that is inadequate to its needs. Personal electronics technology has progressed suitably to enable “cockpit” instrumentation to become inexpensive and compact. GPS infrastructure has already provided a basis for this as well as improving navigation for all sectors of aviation and other kinds of transportation and even personal movement such as hiking. Only the vehicle development is still lagging, it seems. I’m not certain to what degree it is inhibited by a lagging or actively resistant regulatory environment. Of course, part of the remaining vehicle development is to make them economically producible and thus affordable on a scale similar to automobiles. I believe the private automobile has demonstrated an appropriate model for a successful development of widespread private aviation. It remains to be seen, I suppose, whether Mr. Moller may emulate the successes of Ransom Olds or Henry Ford. As more private air vehicles enter service, even despite an existing unsupportive or hostile regulatory environment, their governmental support should begin to improve (assuming the forces of democracy and the value of personal liberty continue to operate).

          The television show “Sky King” inspired many would-be aviators with existing technology. The “Jetsons” animated cartoons inspired a vision of a different sort of aviation based on advanced technology yet to be developed. Rejuvenation of the aviation dream may be found somewhere in between.

          • Buzz Becker says

            DShannon, this fits somewhere in-between. (see link bellow) It’s called Pal-V. Park it your normal size garage (or smaller). Drive to your local government owned and maintained “Air Pad” (future tense) for takeoff and landing, or any approved location (by revised regulation, of course). Just some food for thought. 😉 Looks fun to me. But first productions will certainly ‘not’ be ‘affordable’ to the masses.

          • DShannon says

            Yeah, I’m aware of the roadable designs that could begin to address the interim commuting mission, but they aren’t much help with the grocery shopping, even if they were affordable. They wouldn’t help at all where I live, which really demands true point-to-point transport. Inadequate designs that depend on an infrastructure designed for a different purpose and not universally available can be more a resource-wasting hindrance than a helpful stepping stone. It is the broad range of the multi-mission capabilities of the private auto that supports its success. If we consider a marketing approach to increasing aviation, we must develop the right product for the market (i.e., market-driven engineering).

          • Buzz Becker says

            :) I want that flying grocery getter, too, DShannon, but we’ll need to wait until compact, affordable anti-gravity machines can be mass produced (and I do believe it will happen within 10’s of centuries). Market driven engineering already prevails for nearly all consumer goods, including aircraft (i.e. the kit plane and LSA market). I do get your point, though, and there certainly would be a market for an affordable personal craft of this kind. When that time does come perhaps such a craft will be the rebirth or a new age of aviation, a new kind of aviation.

            Getting back to Mr. Spence’s original question of what we are selling and the matter of the survival of grass roots general aviation, with the huge number of kit planes and LSA’s available and under construction right now, one might think it’s a sign that grass roots aviation is doing just fine, but an undeniable factor in the huge success of the kit plane market is the selling of ‘hope’ of affordable flying. For many kit builders, it isn’t until their craft is completed and flying that the real financial costs of aircraft ownership is realized.

            For those seeking the most inexpensive two-place or larger aircraft (not ultralight) ownership in the current economy (2014), and if it is not so much the satisfaction and rewards of building that interests you, as astounding as this may sound at first, until you’ve done the math, in ‘most’ cases the best deals in aircraft ownership and lowest overall cost (depending on how you value your time and the time lost ‘not flying’ during a build) is the purchase of a freshly rebuilt older certified aircraft. Or, if it is a certain kit plane that you must have, a freshly completed, newly built plane (even better, a nearly completed plane – but be sure to have it checked out by an A&P mechanic or IA before purchase). In the current economy the options are many. Except for LSA qualified aircraft, these will of course require a Private Pilot license, however the money saved by purchasing a non-LSA-qualified airplane will usually more than cover the extra cost of a Private Pilot license, you’ll be a better pilot for it, and will have the extended flight privileges that Private Pilot certification affords.


          • DShannon says

            Thankfully, the situation is not quite so bleak or fanciful as to require waiting for actual anti-grav tech. While the machines I cited as examples are yet a year or so from market availability, and mass-production cost-reduction is not yet possible, the prototypes seem to work as advertised. Regrettably, my 30+ year-old Piper Warrior wasn’t a great grocery-getter, either, but I bought it for exactly the reasons you cited and enjoyed it for several years. Also regrettably, it would be virtually useless to me where I’m located now, which is why I sold it. Even when compact VTOL aircraft may become available and arguably affordable, the marketing challenge will remain to convince the potential market to adopt the new tech in place of the existing known reliable tech, by comparing advantages and disadvantages to shift perceptions in favor of the new tech and its “sizzle” value.

          • Buzz Becker says

            I’m surprised the personal tiltrotor concept has not gotten more attention. I have a couple prospective designs of my own. For flights of useful distance, the efficiency of a tiltrotor far exceeds any propeller/rotor type VTOL.

        • Buzz Becker says

          After some soaking time, here some thoughts about this matter of terminology and categorization of the sub-components of ‘General Aviation:

          To make changes and to move forward with clarity (as opposed to confusion), first we must consider where we’ve been, where we are now and where we’re going. For example, this blog is part of ‘General Aviation News.’ Any changes to (or elimination of) the General Aviation category must be implemented so as to divide past, current and ongoing discussion smoothly into it’s sub-components and new classifications. If the General Aviation name goes away altogether, so goes General Aviation News (hopefully to re-appear as a publication that continues to cover all sub-components of general aviation as we know it now, but aptly divides and clarifies using newly defined categories and terminology).

          That said, here are some possibilities:

          1) Create a new category that separates Business Aviation from Commercial Aviation and General Aviation; a category that fits nicely between them. The new Business Aviation category (Biz Av for short) would include all aviation activity of the following types: Corporate, Fractional/shared ownership, Charter, and all aircraft for hire business except for light aircraft rentals and flight instruction. These would remain in the category of General Aviation.

          2) Same as above, but business aviation as defined above retains the name General Aviation and all other aviation officially becomes Private Aviation. I believe this is the categorization Tom had in mind in his original post.

          3) Do away with the General Aviation name altogether and divide it clearly and distinctly into Private Aviation and Business Aviation categories as defined above. For continuity, what we prior referred to as General Aviation could be referenced as Business & Private Aviation or Private & Business Aviation.

          Each has it’s advantages and disadvantages, and as stated earlier, before any new categorization and terminology to “take flight,” to become official, to be accepted and used, they must be officially recognized (in writing, regulation and/or law) by government. Much discussion is needed, but ‘it’s time’ to take action on this. It’s time!


          • DShannon says

            OK, Buzz — Your division of General Aviation into two segments, one for Biz Av and one for Private Aviation which comprises personal transportation and recreation, makes a sensible dividing line between profit-making and “non-profit” missions (discounting the light aircraft and equipment rental business). Flight instruction, of course, is a distinct business that may serve any aviation segment, be it Private, Business, or Commercial. But I’m not clear about the advantages and disadvantages of this clarification of the mission categories. Some might worry that attempts to serve the Private segment, as it currently exists, provide too little ROI; and therefore it will wither away entirely since it lacks the numbers that support the comparable automotive industry. Others might worry that it will only exacerbate existing tendencies to marginalize light aircraft and exclude them from larger airports. Does PrivAv become a niche market? Is it possible that industries might concentrate on meeting its varied needs to support its widest array of missions? And what affect might any of this have on the military segments of aviation? And where do RCAs/UAVs fit in the scheme of things? I don’t know that the answers to any of these questions will actually help to revitalize the private, “fun”, aspects of aviation.

          • Buzz Becker says

            Good questions!

            To illustrate the need to divide and categorize and to arrive at new, official terminology, we need only reread Mr. Spence’s article from the beginning, and these responses that follow, with a ‘mind’s eye’ on this issue. Such ambiguities abound in discussions of General Aviation. One author means one thing with “General Aviation,” another means something altogether different. Many shift their references in the same article, in one paragraph meaning small FBO’s, in another business aviation, in another meaning general aviation airports (as opposed to commercial airports). Etc.! This problem of ambiguity and bias currently exists primarily within ‘General Aviation’ discussion.

            Reading the articles here in GAN alone with the same ‘mind’s eye’ should clearly illustrate the ambiguities that abound in this regard.

            Most troubling is the way so many use these ambiguities to further their cause. For example, citing a “General Aviation” figure that should apply primarily to “Business Aviation” but their meaning is clearly to use the figure to make a point about “Private Aviation,” and vice versa.

            Military Aviation needs no re-categorizing. The ambiguity (and bias) that prevails in discussions of General Aviation is not so prevalent in discussions of Military Aviation.

            However, your question “And where do RCAs/UAVs fit in the scheme of things?” may further illustrates this need for clear categorization. For now, since their evolution is relatively new and separate from General Aviation (but becoming intertwined, of course, as the enter service), there has been no ambiguity as it relates to General Aviation. As things continue to evolve, the operation of these vehicles should nicely fall into the categories of Private Aviation and Business Aviation, or perhaps they should have a category of their own (as they do already, unofficially), depending on how things progress as UAV activity increases. …And things are changing fast, new issues arising daily as UAV regulation is drafted.


    • LARRY says

      Thanks for that insightful view from someone who has been around long enough and done enough to have a valid opinion, BMD. I agree 110% Like me, you wrote a long diatribe for an obvious reason … you HAVE the aviation fever and you lament what lots of forces are doing to out avocation. I especially agree with the cost of airplanes through the years. I’ve owned a ’75 C172M for 30 years. When it was new, it sold for just over $20K. When it was run out at 10 years old, I bought it for $13.5K. Five years later, I purchased a brand new Lycoming 160HP engine (from the Piper Cadet fiasco) for $13.5K. Today, the airplane has less than 3K hours on it and is worth about what I have in it … $30K. And Cessna wants me to consider buying a brand new same on the outside C172 for well over 10 times more … are they CRAZY? I’d like to see an analysis of what it would cost if 14K 2014 Cessna’s were built to unit cost. I’d bet that they’d STILL cost too much.

      What we’re down to is the chicken and the egg question. Until airplanes come down to the cost of a high end car times two or three, they won’t sell many of ’em. And, until they sell lots of ’em, the price won’t come down.

      You’re a realist … I can tell…now then … lets re-arrange the deck chairs on the ship called GA … as it goes down.

  10. Kimberly says

    Tom asked me if ‘enjoyable’ is enough reason to get a pilot’s license.
    I fly commercially to MT at least twice per year. My granddaughter lives there with her mother (my daughter). On one flight, I had a local physician seated next to me in the back, aircraft right, just in front of the lav. We chatted all through the taxi and right up to the point where we were powering up for take-off. “Shhhh!” I told him. “This is my favorite part.” He told me when we were at cruise level that he wished he had taken a picture of my face as we were taking off. “You just glow like a kid at Christmas.”
    I’m new to this. I backed into GA from commercial. But it just never gets old.

    • Buzz Becker says

      Your post makes me smile, Kimberly! :) That’s the passion I’m talking about!!! And there are many, many “favorite parts” of aviation to love, whether it be the take off, the landing, high flight, fast flight, nap of the earth – tree top level flight [where legal, of course], scenic flight, aerobatics. As a pilot, A&P and masters degreed aeronautical engineer, many friends have inferred that it was my passion to be an astronaut. But I’ve never aspired to space flight. Personally, it’s always been about being aloft, atmospheric flight at low altitude, exploring the earth below – from the sky, at low altitude. Bob Hoover style, graceful as a bird aerobatics above a scenic terrain. I’ve a passion also for airplanes and performance, as well as safety of flight – safe aircraft, safe systems and safe procedures, redundancy, reliability, etc. …Secretly, I love nothing more than a tight, slipping, power off turn to a river canyon (‘greaser’) landing – in a high performance twin. 😉 ..exploring an airplane’s flight/performance envelope and knowing exactly what it can and cannot do. And, not to mention the awesome aesthetics of Van’s airplanes, the RV series of airplanes clearly shows that the flying/handling of an airplane alone can spark a passion for flight that cannot be extinguished. 😉 And seeing from the cockpit as you pilot the craft and appreciating the beautiful wings you sit upon (or under) and the breathtakingly awesome form of the machine you’re flying (whether it be classic or new, fast or slow). And as you so succinctly say, Kimberly, “ just never get’s old.” :)

  11. says

    While my efforts are centered on the flip side of this coin (I’m all about showcasing the value in learning to fly), it just goes to show that there isn’t a single solution to this issue. We need to address it through multiple verticals.

    What is a private pilot license for (to answer a question posted below)? It is the opportunity to participate in one of humanity’s greatest achievements…the magic of flight. Anyone who does not recognize that is unfortunately missing out. As an industry, our greatest opportunity is to promote that value. Life isn’t all about practicality, utility, and balance. It is also about emotions and extremes (something we often put aside in a quest for financial justification and success).

    The problem with promoting something that isn’t practical and utilitarian for most is that you eliminate the majority. However, digging deep into a person’s quest for an emotional high is universal. It’s not just about what you can do with an airplane. It is also about being at the controls and experiencing the magic of flight at your fingertips. I believe the latter resonates with a greater percentage of the population.

    To respond to two specific points in this commentary: People buy boats for the sport and the experience of being out at sea, alone or with friends, but always within their control. Moreover, while many of us do drive mostly for utilitarian reasons (except for the large percentage of people who live in cities and find mass-transit far more practical…an metaphor here for GA verses airlines), there is no teenager out there dreaming of the practicality of getting his driver’s license. He is longing for the experience of driving and the freedom it grants him. If we lose sight of that and go back to practicality in an age where the next generation is searching for a thrill, we are moving backwards instead of forwards.

    In addition to the experience, what one learns about oneself through the process of flight training is unique. The awareness required to suppress any fears of death leads to better efficiency in every aspect of life. This is another way to sell flight training and get more people in the GA door. I always say that even if I never flew again, learning to fly was the greatest investment in developing essential life (and business) skills.

  12. Buzz Becker says

    It’s great to see so many passionate responses to this article. Perhaps it was ‘intended’ to be as provocative as it is. I do agree that aviation as a tool, business and personal, has been much overlooked in in the promotion of general aviation, but perhaps a much greater error to imply that everyone is doing it wrong by promoting “the joy of flying.”

    The problem of dwindling activity in general aviation boils down to two basics: (1) Money and cost. (2) Simple ‘involvement’ in aviation. When those already in aviation cannot afford to fly, their involvement in aviation decreases. When their involvement in aviation decreases, the involvement of family and friends likewise decreases. When people are involved and around aviation and flying, as any truly passionate aviation enthusiast knows, it’s easy to find the joy, the passion and to see the practical aspects of flying, …with the help of friendly education, of course. Friends teaching friends and friendly aviation educators making the extra effort to talk and to teach both the joy and the practical merits of flying.

    Aviation ‘involvement’ is undeniably intimately interconnected with economics. Passion for flying naturally grows from involvement and firsthand experience. Realizing the practical and business merits of aviation naturally follows for those with the passion to fly. Mr. Spence’s sentiments must be acknowledged, however, and it may indeed be very true that a large number of people and/or commercial entities will be sold on the practical merits of aviation without the need to foster the joy of flying.

    But it is the passion for aviation, airplanes and the joy of flying that will keep general aviation alive and well far into the future! To catch that very contagious bug, the love of airplanes and a passion for flying, we need only to be ‘involved’ in general aviation and to be around others who already have the bug and who talk and ‘share’ their passion. But again, such involvement takes money. Many of those who have long been involved in aviation can no longer afford it (due mostly do the economic imbalances caused by inflation and debt – personal as well as government debt, but I digress).

    So, as per Mr. Spence’s sentiments, it appears necessary to ‘involve’ those who do have money but who have not yet been involved in (and caught the the passion for) aviation. But, again, as per Mr. Spence’s sentiments, those with money (and who’s lives are focused on money and economics) may first need to be sold on the economic/business merits of flying and the usefulness of airplanes. In the end, however, this alone, void of the joy of flying, may lead only to further growth of commercial aviation and allow general aviation to further decline.

    At a grass roots level, simple involvement and firsthand experience with airplanes and flying is absolutely critical in keeping general aviation alive. So it is our job, those of us who’s blood flows of airplanes and aviation to involve others, to educate and to instill the passion.

    So let’s take our kids, family, buddies and co-workers to an airport picnic – take them often! Take them flying, just for fun. If you live in the Portland, Oregon area, Stark’s Twin Oaks Airpark has a picnic table that sits above and overlooks the entire runway. It is grass roots general aviation at it’s very best, with the scenic beauty of the Tualatin Valley and surrounding hills, and you won’t find a more friendly family of aviators anywhere on planet earth! They indeed ‘have’ the passion and the joy for airplanes and flying! 😉

    Mr. Spence makes some great points that indeed must not be forgotten in the marketing of aviation in general. But it is indeed, fundamentally “the joy of flying,” IMO, that makes general aviation thrive, at the personal level – light aircraft, LSA’s, etc. (aside from corporate and commercial branches of general aviation)!

    For those who have caught the flying bug but have not yet learned to fly, it is first ‘awareness,’ created by involvement and promotion, ‘accessibility’ created by individuals and entities (commercial and government) that interface with the flying (and non-flying) public, and lastly ‘affordability,’ affordable aircraft, affordable fuel (gas and other forms of energy), affordable flight training, etc. The affordability requisite may in fact be the most important; it’s solutions will certainly require revisions to regulations, new aircraft designs and construction, and perhaps the re-thinking of general aviation airport layout and function and the laws and rules that regulate them. …But again I digress. 😉 Share the passion!!! :)

    My sentiments. 😉


    • DShannon says

      Dear Buzz —
      Picnic at the airport? Try THAT at Santa Monica! Now certainly there are non-urban airports surrounded by pretty scenery such as you describe; but even they have been rendered generally off-limits by security demands and all manner of other regulatory hindrances. More to the point, the cost of flying is not the sole inhibitor of our passion to “slip the surly bonds of earth”. Excessive regulation has encroached on what was once a quintessential exercise of freedom. Fear of the mischief that someone might possibly dream of getting into by using an aircraft has induced all manner of authorities to try to seize control of one or another element of the flying infrastructure and system. The FAA charter was to promote aviation as well as to regulate it; and regulations have been the primary tool to strangle it. But it’s not solely the fault of the FAA; because Homeland Security and the Customs Border Protectors have decided to protect us all by denying our native legal liberties far above and beyond any actual FAA limitations. It is by means of local ordinances that the city of Santa Monica still intends to strangle the airport. Flying depends on fuel supply, parts availability, licensed maintenance and airport operations personnel, navaids, ATC, equipment manufacturers of all sorts, and more. Unless these all are supportive of private individuals traveling in aircraft of various sorts, these individuals will be unable to exercise the privilege to fly freely. What’s more, not too long ago a glider pilot operating in an entirely legal manner was deemed by some ignorant security and police folks on the ground to be a threat to a power plant; they managed to contact him by radio to insist that he land; and they arrested him. The general triumph of an attitude of fear over a sense of freedom and a trust of one’s neighbor has brought about an environment that is actively hostile to the exercise of the liberties that make flying possible (let alone enjoyable!). There is a lot more to be sold than merely the joy or the potential utility of flying. Basic American values need to be promoted all over again, because people have either forgotten them or they have become afraid of them. It is liberty itself that is threatened. Can anyone expect enthusiasm about the freedom of flight to flourish?

      • Buzz Becker says

        Yes indeed! You shed light on very immediate concerns and very real threats to general aviation. The outcome of the Santa Monica case could affect general aviation airports and general aviation in general for generations to come. As a pilot I’ve flown into Santa Monica many times (corporate, cargo and commercial). No doubt, the Santa Monica airport is an icon of general aviation that ‘must’ be saved! But without somehow instilling into the non-aviation locals and the local governments an appreciation for the history of Santa Monica it’s future is uncertain at best.

        With my response to Mr. Spence’s article I do not intend to ignore the many important issues you raise,, DShannon. Your points are well taken. If not clear by my words, my intention was simply to reply to Mr. Spence’s provocative question, “Are we selling the wrong thing (to those yet-to-be general aviation operators and enthusiasts)? Your passion (and anger?) is evident and justified, DShannon, and indeed general aviation faces many threats beyond the question of what it is we’re selling. As aviators we need to do our part to respond to them all. …in as cordial a manner as possible, I might add. Thank you for your reply to my post. 😉

        • says

          Buzz; sense you seem to be quite asute on “GA”, the (recreational) segment, I would like a simple response/answer to this question? WHY don’t we see more $MART money invested in the recreational segment of GA – doesn’t seem to be a lack of capital/investment interest in large FBO chains, etc curious to hear your take?

          • Buzz Becker says

            Well, Rod, with experience as a flight instructor in a large metropolitan area as well as rural, and having corporate, charter, Part 121 airline, fire patrol and cargo operations experience, well as recreational, with time in three biz jet types and two passenger jet types, perhaps a bit more astute on GA than on the recreational segment only. My postings here point toward the private, recreational and ‘grass roots’ segments and ‘light aircraft’ (be it for business or personal use) because it in these areas that general aviation is hurting most, and I am, like you and the others here, an aviator who feels the squeeze.

            In response to your question though, Rod, it is apparent that huge investments are being made in the manufacture of LSA’s and kit aircraft. Whether it is $MART money, that is yet to be seen. There is no shortage of FBO’s in our area, but with dwindling activity at FBO’s there’s not much willing cash for fleet upgrades, etc. And until this trend takes a turn for the better I think prospectors will be staying far from light aircraft end of general aviation for the most part. Some recent apparent exceptions are a handfull of large FBO’s with booming charter and fractional jet programs who have the extra cash for upgrades to their light aircraft fleets. It’s yet to be seen whether these new planes will turn a profit.

            The ‘field of dreams’ promise of general aviation (speaking of the light aircraft end of things) is long gone it appears. As light aircraft activity dwindles and FBO’s fail, until the economy takes a MAJOR turn ‘and’ owning, operating, maintaining, fueling, storing and insuring light aircraft somehow becomes more affordable, either by better incomes or lower costs (or both), it’s difficult to envision those FBO’s coming back anytime soon. The large FBO’s are able to absorb the losses on the light aircraft end, and they know that many of those light aircraft customers will later feed their profitable jet services.

            And although it appears large, multi-service FBO’s are thriving in their light aircraft operations, increasing prices for their aircraft and services continue to ground recreational pilots and pilots flying for personal business by thousands per year.

            As airline activity continues to increase, recreational and light aircraft activities are being steadily forced away from large commercial airports and some have proposed that light aircraft not be allowed, at all, to land at busy commercial hubs. Santa Monica is being pressured to ban jet traffic or close the airport altogether. If and when that happens (jet traffic banned) the airport will lack power and money to continue the fight and the airport will surely close sans some very powerful advocates to step in and take on the fight. I know of at least three airports that once existed in our area that you would never know existed by the buildings, houses and roads that have swallowed them up.

            As with anything in economics, supply meets demand. As new aviation enthusiasts (as well as long time aviators) demand flight instruction, rentals and new aircraft, government/tax supported general aviation airports should thrive. But until affordability issues are resolved and new aviators and operators are brought in (the primary focus of Mr. Spence’s article) it is inevitable that we will continue to watch grass roots and light aircraft aviation dwindle, …to extinction if these problems are not solved.

            This, of course, does not address the political aspects affecting general aviation and the increasing opposition between aviation and non-aviation factions, the resulting airport closures and increasing restrictions on the operation of light aircraft.

            Answers and solutions are hard to come by and it will take continued discussion and action by many to turn this ship around. Kudos to Mr. Spence for provoking further, much needed thought on the subject.


  13. says

    Several points that Larry highlighted are spot on, but will probably not be implemented because our government, aka FAA, is more interested in control. Regulation is the means to control, plain and simple.

    I have been flying since 1976 and remember filling long range tanks on a C-206 for forty dollars. We will never see that price again. I believe that if a person takes a ride in a general aviation airplane, they either love it or leave it. We all need to take someone flying so that they can see first hand the thrill and fun that flying really is, and especially if we do not scare them to death. Those who love it will find a way to justify the expense. The big problem comes when they find no FBO has airplanes to rent at a reasonable price. Buying an airplane is another matter all it’s own. All airplanes are not exorbidantly expensive, it is the upkeep that may tingle their pocketbook. Again, you can justify anything if your priorities are right. I am not rich, or poor, and flying is expensive but there are ways around that.

    As for utility; what I tell my cohorts is that all pilots must eat, so why not combine the two and enjoy a flight to the resturant that you cannot drive to and from in a day. Flying has never been a cheap activity, but depending on one’s priorties, the cost could be reasonable justified with a little sacrifice. All my vehicles are paid for, so I am not making payments on a camper and a big duley.

    A few activities that are available include; back country flying to go fishing and/or camping, grassroots fly-ins wherever they are, go to a remote beach or flatland fishing resort that caters to the fly-in consumer, or just hanging out with those fortunate to have their own personal strip. Flying should be a fun activity, not necessarily purposeful other than pure enjoyment. Learn to fly in the mountains or on river banks for added adventure. Check out in a tail dragger, work on a new skill. Flying teaches self-confidence and motor skills not acquired in other venues.

    I am seventy years old and own a fifty year old Cessna 150 that has been reworked and flies hands off. There is no greater pleasure than to take my plane aloft for a couple hours a week to just fly around to look around. I fish, so scouting potential fishing spots adds to the adventure. Just to improve on my skill is justification for me. I like being part of an exclusive group of people, regardless of the equipment flown. I fly with airline pilots and two hundred hour pilots and we all learn from each other. I fly for the pure joy of it, not that I haven’t been scared to death more than once, what skills one learns from handling an airplane cannot be duplicated elsewhere. The expense of flying will always be a nemesis, but there are ways around it.

    I do not believe that the alphabet aviation groups have sold flying as an activity for the common man. They seem to cater to the professional, the corporate, and the high dollar experimental. When a young person sees the ads, they know that no way can they afford that road. Even the LSA crowd has priced itself out of the common man market. I do not mind flying a fifty year old airplane. My goal is to leave terra firma any way that I can. Speed in not essential to being aloft and enjoying all there is to see and experience. I will still cover the ground faster than in a car. After a tough day at black rock, flying adds a relaxation not found even in sailing.

    If flying is a hobby then do not figure out your costs or you will find another hobby. Many go to RCflying. I am not rich but am retired and budget my expenses for that which I value.

    As far as the elimination of the third class medical, what do pilots flying for recreation need one for? A trained pilot is more qualified to fly an airplane, and knows if he is healthy to do so, and will exercise safety, far beyond the drunk driver behind the wheel of a car or boat. There is no medical required for those activities.

    Sell the thrill of flying, the adventure of going new and different places, grass runway fly-ins, and show the people that not everyone needs to be rich to enjoy the joys of flight. Market to the regular people just for the fun of it. Just a note, I got interested while in college one spring when I saw the Cessna 150 on the green being promoted. The whole point is: show young people that there is an option to motorcycles, drag races, and video games. They can actually get in on the action. Show them how to manage the cost through clubs, and group training.

    Bottom line is learning to fly. What is wrong with a simple airplane? One can always upgrade once he/she has that license to learn.

    • says

      I think your post is “Spot On”! Today’s prices for fuel, rental fee’s, etc. are a lot higher than when I first started flying but that is the nature of the beast in today’s crazy economy. But, like you’ve stated, there are ways around it. I remember flying several friends of mine around together and splitting the rental cost. It made it totally reachable financially. And they in turn shared their experience with others that they knew. First hand experience is the best evangelist for our purpose of sharing GA with non-flying people.

  14. says

    To summarize this fine post by Mr. Spence and THOSE with a pro-business marketing
    “problem solving” approaches;
    1. The UTILITY (practical) value of ANYTHING is an “easier”sell than a want”
    2. This utility “value” of an aircraft is generally directly in portion to the cost (capital investment) – example; 1. Ultralite – $10K (“O” utility value- 100% pure recreational)
    2. Cessna Skyhawk XP (70% recreational utility value – 20%
    pure recreational value – 10% practical utility value)
    3. Cessna 414 – $300K (50% practical utility value – 50%
    recreational utility value?)
    4. Gulfstream 5 or Falcon 900 – (90% practical utility value -10%
    recreational utility value?)
    Naturally, these numbers are not “etched in stone” – just perhaps the reality of “need VS want” and the priority of need OVER want? Mike & Rod ;

  15. LARRY says

    Chuck … the examples you cite and the logic you espouse to justify or even just tempt the non-flying public to take up private flying worked fine in the 50’s and 60’s but is not relevant in the 21st century. You are oversimplifying the problem as if one or two minor changes will solve everything. To use your logic and if it were that simple, all we’d have to do is put one or two Sky King episodes back on TV and everything aviation would be back to normal. It ain’t gonna be that easy. Not by a long shot.

    As someone who commented on an article I wrote 10 years ago said, when LSA had just started up … in the halcyon days of the late 40’s or early 50’s, a dishwasher or factory worker could want to learn to fly, afford PPL flying lessons and maybe even buy a used Aeronca or Cub … and keep the thing up thereafter. Today, even upper middle class folks (what few there are OF them) would have a problem with that idea. As pilots, we can’t control the economy, the uncertainty of the future or the myriad of other pressures that life now puts upon us.

    For a second, however, lets assume that the target person we seek to ‘lure’ into our avocation has the financial wherewithal to afford to learn how to fly … let’s even say they could afford the bill for a serious attempt at obtaining their PPL all at once and then DO it. Now what? By that time, they’ll realize that most flight schools are renting less than desirable airplanes and the ones that have nice equipment are charging an arm and a leg FOR it. Let’s assume that this person is a member of a family of four or five plus the obligatory dog and does have someone living 450 miles away. They’ll soon find out how much it costs to move them all in the necessary airplane and the limitations of renting. At this point, they have to make a decision. Rent occasionally to cut holes in the sky and maintain some semblance of currency OR buy a reasonable airplane. Frankly, I think most folks don’t need to get their PPL before they figure this out and THAT is why there’s an 80% drop out rate for student pilots, these days. They realize they’re swimming upstream away from Niagra Falls and swim like hell for the shore rather than continue against the flow of the river.

    Now lets assume that our newly minted PPL has about 150 hours under his belt and is hankering for a reasonable beginning airplane … say a decent C172 (the dog and a kid have to stay home). That airplane will set him back something between $50K for an older clean one OR around $100K and up for a newer non-glass model. That’s a lot of money to plunk down either in cash OR by payments. Now they figure out how much a hangar costs … IF they can even find one close by. Then they get their first annual bill and are taken aback. Along the way and because they’re active, the fuel bills are already causing economic havoc with their budgets and their non-flying spouse begins to take note and complain. Then a cylinder fails and by the time that’s fixed, the battery goes. Then, they find out about the looming ADS-B OUT requirement they didn’t understand when they started this all, they realize what THAT is going to cost them. On and on … the costs start mounting.

    Now then, lets even throw in that this person has the “fever” and does try hard to stay up to date, current and just soldiers on … costs be damned. Sooner or later, other life demands step in. THAT is why the target person the AOPA thinks is a decent prospect is in their late 40’s with kids grown and gone. These are the most likely to be able to fit into most the above demographics.

    So you want me to believe that just taking this prospect out for a long flight to a distant $100 hamburger at a local airport fly in and maybe have a beer with one’s airport buddys thereafter will lure him in … I don’t think so, Chuck. Not even if he watches ALL the Sky King TV series episodes.

    At some point, this forty-something will start worrying about HIS ability to keep up his medical in this FAA-gone-mad-apnea world of 100% safety. By then, he’ll know about LSA and might even try it out. He’ll be used to decent airplanes and all of a sudden he flies a 1320 MGTOW “kite” and decides that his family of four or five plus dog plus friend ain’t gonna fit in it AND … he isn’t going to trade his $100K C172 for a decent LSA … with all of its limitation and add $50K or more for the privilege of not worrying about his medical.

    Finally, as our new prospect realizes all the BS that the FAA dishes out and how segments of same will impact him, that new C7 Corvette or boat or other similar toy will start looking better and better. He doesn’t need a medical to drive his new $60K Corvette.

    As I’ve said before and I will continue to say … unless and until the FAA wakes up, GA is dead in the USA. I’ve read and heard every idea to save it that there is and none of it will replace the quarter million total pilots or 161K private pilots that we’ve lost since 1980. At this point, as this pilot of 43 years experience sees it … the best we can do is to save those that we still have that are active for as long as we can. ALL of us should be writing our individual Representatives asking for support and passage of HR3708. That’s as good as it will get. IF it doesn’t pass … we’re done except for finally realizing that we’re done.

    The following changes COULD make a difference but I’m NOT holding my breath:

    1. The FAA is directed per HR3708 to drop the 3rd class medical requirement. Anyone wishing to fly at night, above 14K’ or with more than six people would have to have a medical … per that Bill.
    2. The FAA drops the annual inspection requirement for privately flown ‘simple’ airplanes flown less than 100 hours per year to an annual engine inspection and a full annual by an A&P/IA every 100 hours OR five years … whichever comes first.
    3. The FAA works with industry to specify and provide high octane non-alcohol MoGas that will work in the current generation of older piston airplanes.
    4. The FAA increases the MGTOW of LSA airplanes from 1320/1430 to a nice even 2000 pounds.
    5. The FAA starts taking PROMULGATION of general aviation — which IS a part of the 1958 FAA Act — seriously.

    Hmmm … seems like the common denominator in items one thru five are … FAA !!

    Now that I think about it … which came first … the chicken or the egg … oh, I mean the “sizzle” or the steak.

    • says

      Larry, respectfull; your not in touch with ONE thing about ANY government agency; albeit FAA (Federal), state or/local municipal, etc; they’re in CHARGE – period! Want to be in ANY business – best to work a PLAN, which includes current regulations and laws, applicable to that enterprise, and “maneuver” around them – or just “plane” forget it!

      Constantly harping about blaming the “Fed” for 90% or? of GA’s or any private sectors inability to function in a free market, rest assured no one would be in business – let alone GA.

      • LARRY says

        Rod … I agree 100% BUT … And before I say that, let me say that I have been flying privately with advanced ratings for 43 years, I own both a C172 and a PA28 and a beautiful hangar near Oshkosh, am an A&P and can mostly afford all of that. I HAVE the “fever.” Here’s the problem. At SOME point as one gets older, their ability to assimilate BS with a CAPITAL B wanes. At some point, the cost/benefit analysis steps in to ask the proverbial … “Is all of this worth it?” Just about the time I settle in to — as YOU say — work within the system, the Feds come up with still more BS. Sooner or later, you throw the towel … I mean “plane” in. I am AT that cusp right now. I will NOT sell two fine GA airplanes in order to get the down payment on a kite (LSA). And, I’m tired of taking two airplanes apart year after year so that my IA buddy can ‘bless’ what ain’t broke. The decimation of GA’s pilot population is largely for these reasons. People get tired of swimming upstream. Younger folks are more apt to put up with it all but the absolute numbers of pilots in the US reflect that this position IS negatively impacting our avocation. SO … I’m glad YOU have a plan. I have one too. Start backing out of it all and become an alchemist … turning beer into urine by the side of the runway as I watch the remaining pilots run out THEIR clocks. Sorry to be SO cynical but … I am tired of being over-regulated to death in order to gain 1/2 of 1 percent great “safety” by an Agency who couldn’t manage anything.

        DShannon hit the nail on the head succinctly. Overregulation is strangling aviation. An adversarial stance by the FAA … putting absolute 100% safety ahead of promulgation of any kind is forcing more and more people out. As much as I love it, as many aviation assets and capabilities as I have … I’m tired. All it’s gonna take is one or two more issues and my David Clarks, C172 and PA28 will be on the block for sale. I’ll let Obama and the rest of his political stooges worry about who is going to fly our airliners in the next generation.

        • Kimberly says

          And my response to you would be:
          You obviously have both the time and the inclination to sound off about the FAA.
          Good for you! You are not alone.
          Are you willing to have someone type up (or do it yourself) a letter/petition that addresses your problems with this agency, get signatures from your ‘hangar mates’ and send multiple copies to your Congressmen/women? To really inundate them, it’s helpful to also e-mail and fax it to them, so the staffers can’t claim they didn’t receive it.
          Don’t bother with registered mail or a follow-up phone call. You’ll just get voice mail.
          However, as someone who eats a LOT of meals with elected officials, I can give you their most popular excuse for inaction:
          “I had no idea!”
          Give ’em some. Politely, of course.
          (Are we at 50 comments yet? LOL)

          • LARRY says

            Kimberly. I AM vocal. I AM active in my quest. I HAVE an online aviation conduit. I LIKE to write (and I touch type very fast) and others have told me I’m half good at it. I’ve done more than my share. Last summer, I got wind of several Wisconsin politicians appearing at the Gulfstream finish facility at Appleton and travelled there to be in attendance and to see if I could ‘glad hand’ someone. I did manage to talk to WI Senator Ron Johnson and talked with him for maybe a minute. Even tho we were AT an aviation employment get-together, he seemed ‘distant’ to my comments about throttling the FAA. Last week, I wrote an email to my WI rep … Tom Petri (who is on the Aviation Subcommittee) and so far have gotten no response. A couple of years ago I got wind that my Florida Rep, John Mica, was pushing an agenda requiring PHOT pilot licenses to the FAA and I went out of my way to find out he had an office near my house, spoke to the aid IN person and then wrote several caustic but professional letters directly TO him. I’ve heard nothing more about this SO far? And, I am planning on writing an “open” letter to Michael Huerta for online publishing AND I’ll send a copy directly TO him.

            There’s a saying …Illegitimi non carborundum … “Don’t let the bastards wear you down.” Well, I’ve DONE my part but I know lots of pilots who ONLY moan and take no overt actions. SO … your idea IS valid. ALL of us have to keep this up hoping — against hope — that maybe someone with power will listen and change things?

            As I tell my wife … if aviation dies in the US … it isn’t going to be because I didn’t try to save it.

            GUYS … are ya listening to Kimberly? Get yo’ pens out !!

    • d says

      Revise FAR 61.113- Alleviating, lessen, weaken comercial pilot restrictions allowing non commercial private pilots more freedom to fly inconjunction with employer needs and friends/ family travel allowing either to pay as much as they want to pay for the pilots incidental efforts. You don’t have to have a commercial license to haul parcels or passengers in your personal vehicles. At a minimum remove the “flight time” comp. restrictions etc… could be modified many ways to allow productive use of our flying. May be an attraction for new and old pilots.

    • Kimberly says

      Larry, I was informed three years ago by Great Lakes Media Relations Elizabeth Cory that a common misconception among aviators is reliance on that old mandate you refer to about ‘the promulgation of aviation’.
      According to Ms. Cory one of the more recent Reauthorization Acts (those that appropriate funds for the agency) deliberately omitted any sort of marketing mandate. The FAA is no longer the leaders in promoting (a more modern word with the same meaning) aviation at any level. We are now responsible for ourselves.
      It has not been my experience that every person involved in GA is willing to embrace those exploring that possible hobby. The idea of “I’m special because I have a pilot’s license” is not a bad self-image, but it does leave those who are not familiar with aviation feeling snubbed. So they take their cash and their time and go do something that makes them feel involved and WANTED. Like eating pancakes with Boy Scouts whom they can later see in the newspaper as having achieved their Eagle.
      Looking at the other 41 comments (nice thought-starter, Mr. Spence!) thus far, the problem is simple:
      The persons most closely affected by this issue cannot come to a concensus on the priority list of what the problems are, thus they cannot seek solutions to those problems.
      It’s EROSION. How do we control the erosion, of pilots’ rights, of aviation involvement, of aviation promotion?
      One does not need a pilot’s license to enjoy flying.

      • LARRY says

        Kimberly. I, too, have read the interpretation that the FAA is no longer in the business of “promulgating” aviation and was operating ON that assumption UNTIL recently. A legal eagle type showed — in a recent periodical I cannot remember … likely Sport Aviation? — that this ain’t so. I don’t know what to believe. But … your “catch” isn’t lost on me, either way. But even if the FAA is no longer charged with “promulgation,” common sense would dictate that they still don’t throw incessant roadblocks into our way … under the “guise” of safety. A recent SPECTACULAR example of what I’m saying is the unilateral — without public comment — threat of requiring sleep apnea testing for aviators … with no scientific backup based upon accident analysis for the need for same. What the hell is the Flight Surgeon General thinking? AND, as I understand it, he’s an aviator himself? At best, the testing should ONLY be aimed at pilots flying for airlines, not GA.

        Here’s the way I see it. The FAA has a vested interest in seeing that aviation lives a healthy existence in this Country. If the absolute numbers of pilots goes down, sooner or later we don’t need as many of them. Every new and ridiculous requirement put out by them has a negative impact on someone in aviation and pushes them over the edge. SO … said in reverse … if you can’t promulgate it, at least don’t decimate it with incessant requirements.

        Let me give you a good example. Last summer, I got wind that ONE (overzealous) FAA engineer in the Atlanta FSDO had authored a NPRM for modifying around 7,000 fuel selectors in PA28 airplanes because one brand new (and stupid) pilot had accidentally turned the fuel off in-flight. The NTSB finding was that there was a modification that WAS written against some serial numbered airplanes, but not all … and THAT AD was decades old. In the subsequent decades, PA28’s weren’t falling out of the sky until that one pilot caused a crash (everyone lived). Experience had shown that there wasn’t a problem but because the NTSB mentioned it in their finding, this engineer decided 7,000 airplane owners had to spend ~$5million bucks to fix what wasn’t broke in their airplanes. As an A&P AND owner of a PA28, I called this guy up, chewed him out royally for fallacious logic and then followed it up with formal Federal comments and a letter directly to the FSDO director. WHY should the collective “we” have to endure such nonsense?

        Look … here’s the bottom line. SOMETHING is driving current pilots away. SOMETHING is causing interested folks to not take up flying. And those ‘somethings’ are causing economies of scale to drive the cost of a simple airplane beyond the point where mere mortals can either afford OR justify buying one. It ISN’T that there isn’t interest … just go to Oshkosh and see all the civilians salivating at all things aviation. It IS the cost which has it’s basis in an overzealous FAA.

        I see no way out of it. But WHEN airliner flights start getting cancelled more often and the population at large figures it out, it’ll be too late.

        It’s TIME for the FAA to realize that from GA comes all the professional pilots that this Country needs. It’s TIME for the FAA to realize that every ridiculous requirement they levy upon an aging pilot population has a negative outcome … as shown by the pilot population numbers. It’s TIME for the FAA to start getting command of it’s people. I don’t hold out much hope.

        All of this notwithstanding, your “catch” was good.

        • Kimberly says

          I agree with what you are saying. (If I am getting this right)
          Job justification? Isn’t government the one group that can subsidize studies that produce reasons for a decline in anything? Seems like we have all read of the mating habits of South American rats.
          However, I think you are seeking a foresight that has not existed at the federal government level since I was a child in the 1960’s and 70’s. It seemed to me that government agencies (at all levels) were better at customer service back then, based on the concept that every customer was also an indirect employer (through taxation and fees). This no longer holds true.
          However, I am not sure that introducing the phrase ‘national security reasons’ into the conversation furthers the cause.

  16. Mark C. says

    +1 Mr. Spence!

    “Fifty years ago general aviation manufacturers determined there were more than 5,000 small companies in the Washington-Baltimore area who could profit from an airplane.”

    Bravo, we’re one of them, today there are probably 10,000. A couple of years ago I tried to engage AOPA in a campaign to push the utility of aviation to 16,000 business owners through organizations like Vistage. Pilots license not required, there are dozens of CFIs who would love to build time on the cheap flying aircraft owners around.

    I’m sure I’ll here the refrain that unless your flying for business it’s too expensive to fly, but if 16,000 middle market businesses were using non-jet aircraft to advance their cause, the cost (due to economies of scale) would come down for us all.

    To the other Mark, I beg to differ on small biz operators being the most dangerous, and aircraft not being suitable for biz use. I complete 6 month and annual recurrent training totaling at least 24 hours with an instructor every year, receiving a new BFR and IPC every six months. I belong to an organization of owner-operators that has nearly a thousand members that do the same.

    With the weather avoidance and avionics systems in small planes today, (and an airplane with appropriate capabilities) over the past 5 years and more than 1,000 hours of flying I’ve had to cancel 3 trips and postpone a half dozen more.

    I love to fly, but I fly 100% for utility, 80% biz, 20% family. Some day I hope to be able to justify doing loops around the clouds, but for today what could be better than throwing my wife and three kids in the plane for the 2 hour trip to Stowe, VT, 2.5 hour trip to visit family in Downeast ME, or the 5 hour trip (fuel stop included) to Disney? Now that’s utility.

  17. Paul says

    Spence speaks of value and utility like he read about this in a book. What can a pilot really do to benefit the community with his airplane? The FAA has done their level best to suppress general aviation, not promote it. What good does it do to convince the public that aviation can benefit them? The FAA stopped listening to them a long time ago. They’re not elected, they don’t answer to anyone but OPM, yet they make the rules and bend over backwards to twist the wording of the FARs to prosecute the honest pilot. Benefit the community? Nonsense.

  18. says

    I work with an aircraft listing agency,, and it has been disheartening to see the decline in general aviation.

    It is apparent the Pilots and potential pilots are deterred by the high cost of purchasing, maintaining and operating an aircraft. Selling the experience and the benefits of flying is key. We have found that most first timers fall in love after puting on a headset and going for a ride. Its exhilarating to fly yourself to a destination. More exposure and creating a path to successful ownership would be very helpful.

    Great article, thanks for sharing.

  19. Tom says

    What is the purpose of having a pilot license? What is the value proposition?

    What is it that- once I get my license- compels me to fly more? I’ve budgeted for a private pilot license. Now that I spent the money to get the license, what should I be doing with it?

    These are the questions that must be answered! If I’m not in flying for a career or job, tell me the benefits. Who here can do that?

  20. Tom says

    Yes, this is absolutely the correct approach. Please check LEN ASSANTE’s article from this blog on 2/20 (The changing face of general aviation). Look closely at the comments.

    If we can’t answer the simplest question “What is a private pilot license for” then we cannot move forward. We are a ship without a rudder.

    If you are not in it for a flying career, then what is a pilot license for. Someone answer that first and then we can fix what might or might not be broken.

    It has been said that ‘necessity is the mother of invention’. I agree with this. But since there is no true identified need in flying, we cannot hope to find a creative path to fix private aviation.

  21. DShannon says

    Dear Mr. Spence —

    While I have enjoyed the “sizzle” which is the pleasure of personal flying, I’m all in favor of touting its utility (the “meat” of the matter). However, just how much utility can the average pilot derive from an aircraft that he might be able to afford on a par with a boat or other vehicle? I owned a 4-place SEL airplane for a number of years, and I did manage to use it a few times for visits to far-flung friends and relatives, but that is not a great deal of utility for the cost, particularly considering the additional costs and delays of getting from an airport to my actual destination. And despite that I lived but a few minutes from my local airport where I paid to hangar the craft, and the fact that I worked for a major aircraft manufacturer, I could not utilize the aircraft to shorten my commute or make it more pleasant because there was no facility on or near my company’s premises where I might land and park the aircraft. There was even a major international airport just a few miles away from the company, but timely transport from there to the company was virtually impossible and far from convenient. I can’t consider spending more time and expense for an inconvenient air-plus-ground trip to constitute “utility” as compared to even the unpleasant utility of jammed highways in the alternative automobile trip. Even if I could have afforded to trade my airplane for a small helicopter (even an ultra-light gyrocopter), I would not have been permitted to use it for such commuting, due to regulatory and insurance constraints. Businesses, even small ones, may be able to calculate a return for their investment in an appropriate aircraft, but I suspect that the private individual who can do so is rather rare. And the number of such private individuals is not likely to increase in the current financial and regulatory environment, given the selection of currently available aircraft and their costs of storage and maintenance. What’s more, the area where I live now is not well-served by local airports, so a VTOL of some sort would be an absolute requirement, along with a regulatory environment that authorizes and supports point-to-point air transport at the ground level. I suspect that I’m not alone in such surroundings. So just what sort of utility are you envisioning as an appropriately salable commodity, that could ever hope to encourage an increase of the private pilot community?

    • says

      Mr. Shannon:
      WHO is the BEST prospect/candidate for the “utility” value bird ; the small-medium business enterprise! Did you know about 25K firms in the USA fall in this category presently? Mike Dempsey and myself, feel very strongly that THIS is an untapped market – what is referred to as the “owner flown” (non-salaried) business /corporate aircraft. An example of an owner flown bird may be anything from a Cessna 182 to a Cirrus SR-22 to a C-414, to a TBM or PC-12!’

      This market has been ignored for decades – time to wake it – sell the “STEAK” – the “utility value” – make any cent$? Not every business owner fly’s or needs a 450+KNT G-5 or Falcon 900. Many smaller companies equate operating a “company airplane” is this IS ‘they’re idea of a corporate aircraft – time to inform them otherwise!
      ps You also may enjoy our many blogs at: – thanks!

  22. Mark says

    I am not optimistic about this approach. For one, the pilots I’ve known who use airplanes as a tool for their business instead of the love of flying are among the most dangerous pilots I know. Such pilots will not subscribe nor read periodicals such as AOPA Pilot, Aviation Safety, Flying, etc… They have other interest to spend their time on. In addition, with some exceptions, flying small aircraft as a way to travel is generally a very poor way to travel; especially, due to weather, if one is on a schedule as most working people are. I have owned a 172 since 1995, and intend to own it for another 20 years. I love to travel in it, because I love to fly. However it’s much less stressful and much easier to meet schedules if I simply load up the car and drive.

    As I see it, if the cost of fuel cannot be brought down to half of what it is today, individual flying for the fun of it will die within 20 years, or less. Business flying will suffer significantly because it’s the total package, of weekend fliers, and business aviation, that supports the supply of parts and equipment to keep aircraft going. With only the support of business aviation, the support network will soon fall too. The fly-for-fun part of general aviation should have pushed gliding instead of LSA. I believe the LSA industry will lose over half it’s manufacturers within 10 years; maybe more than half. And I believe within 20 years the LSA part of the industry will slide down to a small, almost insignificant portion of the industry; almost already is. If enough resources are spent on developing electric power, that could be a saving grace for fly-for-fun aviation, maybe. Sorry to be a pessimist … or am I being a realist?

    • Kimberly says

      Mark, before I can load up to travel to Florida later next month, by car, we need an oil change (special filter) and new tires. Unless something is drastically changing while I type, the fuel cost is estimated at $615 for that trip.
      Ya’ll can laugh all you want, but Tupperware is based in FL. They are an international corporation with multi-million dollar profits. This means they have a HUGE marketing department.
      Not every new TW consultant is a blood relative. (Just like pilots)
      They know how to push every new product BEFORE they introduce it to their Salesforce. (Like Rock N Serve containers made from lexonpolycarbonate ‘just like jet airplane windshields’)
      Consultants are advised to ask a minimum of ten persons per week to ‘join the team’. From this ten, there is ALWAYS at least one ‘yes’. Five will usually try it, and four others will shut you down flat. This is for the opportunity to cold call women you have never met before and ask them to invite you into their homes for 1-2 hours, after they have done most of the sales FOR the consultant, who is mostly responsible for compiling a weekly order and separating individual orders.
      They began to use the phrase ‘heirloom quality’ in describing TW because it is guaranteed for life (with certain restrictions) for full replacement at the retail purchase price. If the original product isn’t available, a substitute or credit is issued.

      Just in case you are unfamiliar with the company’s history (since the majority of their customers are female) it all started with a guy named Earl Tupper who had a great product idea. Then he met a lady named Brownie Wise who taught him how to do marketing.

      Let them touch it, and they will want to own it.

      • Mark says

        I’m not sure if you were stating a reason you should drive or fly? I just changed my tires .. on my Cessna 172. Including Tubes, it cost me over $200. And that was just the two mains. Planes and cars need oil changes, in fact, planes need them more often. I can’t imagine it would cost less to fly even a 150 to FL then it would to drive a car. Factor in the need to get a rental car if you fly … the hassle of getting to the car rental place, etc… Last time I went to Atlanta, I drove. It took ALL DAY to get there, but the trip was much more relaxing; especially since flying would have meant dealing with 40 know winds at just 3,000 feet.

        • Kimberly says

          Um, yeah.
          Four tires for the car will be $600.
          The flying would simply be more enjoyable. Seems there aren’t as many SOB’s and bastards on the airways as my co-driver takes verbal note of on the highway.
          Since I am going to visit friends, I think they might be willing to drive me around.
          I just drove on the interstate last Thursday in 40 mph gusts in the car. It most definitely wasn’t boring, either way.
          I’m not even CLOSE to having spent as much on comms for the auto and personal use as we have spent in the last six months on the Cessna.
          It is easy to see both sides of the equation, particularly if you use both sides of your brain for problem solving.

          In response to another comment (made by someone else) about the cost of a fight physical for a pilot vs no physical for a boat driver, I would point out that most people with good sense know they should have an annual physical anyway.
          (Maybe this is just ‘a girl thing’ because we have to be probed and poked and manipulated for an annual from the age of 14?)

          • Tom says

            Kimberly, do you see “enjoyable” as the main value proposition we should be pushing prospective new (non career) student pilots with? IE- if we have to give a prospective new pilot a reason for getting a license, do you see it as this?

          • says

            Dang girl, sounds to me like you’ve got your head screwed on pretty good (not crossthreaded!) I wonder, are there any more around like you?

    • says

      Mark; REALIST – and NOT in denial! BRAVE; considering many “idealist” here!
      We also had some “ideas” and comments on LSA and WHY it hasn’t realized it’s market potential. Kindly, if you will, see our blogs at: Thanks!

  23. Bill Fountain says

    My daughter, son in law and grandson live 7-1/2 hrs away. I would love to fly there but with diabetes it seems hard to get a license that would let me do that. VFR would be hard due to changing weather conditions. Cost of lessons are a concern too.

  24. Kimberly says

    I am a proponent of selling the sizzle. I can recognize if it is coming from steak or chicken by the smell.
    Just yesterday, I booked the commercial flights to get from my city to another capital city (SPI to HLN) for my daughter’s birthday. In the time it would take me to drive there, I can be there and back home. One day flying commercial on United’s schedule, visiting the cities where they have airports, and touring the US for an entire 9 hours, with only a porthole view of the outside and below. Even so, this is modern jet travel at its finest: one day to travel 1500 miles vs. a 24 drive (which I wouldn’t do straight through). Costwise, it is going to be a tad more, because I tend to want to go RIGHT NOW.
    My TIME has value. Instead of fighting traffic, I can lean back and read.
    Conversely, if I were in the Cessna, I could hit autopilot and look at what I was flying over.
    Somedays, one just wants to be above it all. It’s relaxing. And flight instruction is cheaper than therapy.

  25. Tomco says

    I think many wishful, wanna be pilots would respond to a flight school offer (that I have yet to see) that said something like:

    “Actually pilot our airplane and fly alone safely! Our solo course is only $2,500 for the average person.” Ask for details.

    Once at this point the student is either hooked or not.

  26. Tim Tedrow says

    In 1992, I was sold on the sizzle (fun, excitement) of flying but I had to sell the steak (utility) to my wife of spending $2,600 on flying lessons. Checking into lessons for my son in 2014 at the same location is now $8,000 to $10,000. In 1992, I could rent an Arrow for less than the cost of three airline tickets for most of our family trips. By 2000 that changed to the airlines being cheaper so we were making more trips in commercial planes.

    In most cases, the decision to fly is not a spur of the moment decision like “sirloin or filet”. In whole industry has to sell the sizzle and the steak. One without the other will never work.

  27. Ken says

    Well, I hope they are reading the comments here. Flying has practical advantages too. My parents live 450 miles from me. Next year, they will be 80 years old. From my home to western KS, where they live, flying is a very practical means of transportion. Interstate highways dont go close to thier home, but the municipal airport is within sight of thier backdoor.

    I flew there last weekend to see them and look at some land for an investment. I was able to fly there and back, in a relatively slow Cessna 172, in 8 hours which is the same time it would take to drive one-way. It made a weekend trip feasible where it would not otherwise be feasable.

    As they get older, I can fly there to make sure they are ok at home whereas driving would be prohibitive while working a full time job.

  28. Hunt Harrison says

    Rod Beck’s last paragraph about Cessna ads in the 60’s and 70’s reminded me of the Beechcraft ads in the National Geographic in the late 60’s to early 80’s. What a great demographic! I’m sure these had something to do with me getting my pilot’s license. It’s too bad the aircraft companies don’t still advertise in this magazine.

  29. says

    Is EVERY one oblivious here or am I on another plant?
    Is there ANYONE who can acknowledge that the UTILITY value IS what needs to be sold – weather for recreational or business travel and use?

    Frankly it’s the HIGH price (cost/benefit) for the “fun” ONLY (want – not justified) and NOT the utility value that’s under scrutiny!

    Mike Kelly; -you “get it” EXACTLY – you would need about 40 C-172’s flying 50+ hours annually to EQUAL the potential income of $100K+ to the FBO, generated by just ONE King Air B-200 tenant!!

    • says

      First of all Rod, learn how to spell, I believe you meant to spell Whether, not weather as in climate conditions.
      Now then, many people want to fly, I know I do. Unfortunately my time in the air as a Marine Combat pilot does not count to getting my GA to fly a helicopter. The Marine benefits do not cover this type of training. So I have to try to finance a course for near $20k fortunately I can through Upper Limit Aviation, but for most flying is a dream, and will remain that way until some of the aviation elite decided to bring the cost of entry pilots to an affordable level.

      • says

        “Learnn two spel”? Tanks – cents I ad in vet inly hit “seend” bfour I had a channce too korrect this air row – perhaps u could hellp mi out hear?
        What is the korrect spsleng 4 the da vord “jackass”? (mul ta coicce)
        1. Jac ass (French version)
        2. jack-ass
        3. jackas
        4. or jackass

        tank u!

  30. Mike Kelley says

    I believe you have it exactly correct Mr. Spence. If more understood how to use the airplane to conduct business those of us that use the airplane for fun would benefit also.

  31. says

    The problem of getting people into the air and keeping them there is simple cost. Many people stung by the current economy can’t afford the $20,000.00 flight schools, or even the $5,000.00 just to gain a GA. If aviation wants to fully recover in the private sector. both winged and rotor it has to get its head into the clouds and out of its wallet. Make fling less expensive..

  32. Dennis Reiley says

    After WW II when many learned to fly on the GI Bill they tended to solo after 8-12 hours total flight time. Their ground school was a lot simpler. Now you’re talking $5000 plus to learn to fly. If that doesn’t tell you where the problem is, nothing will.

  33. Jeff says

    Sorry Mr. Spence, wrong message.
    Lets look at those boats in the marina. The marine industry took a bigger hit than aviation in the last recession and still has not come close to recovering. Along with the higher price of fuel, $1.25 compared to the $3.25 today, the boating public has dramatically reduced the number of hours on the water, cut the distance they would go in their boat and changed how they used their boat.
    We in the boating business also have seen older boats in our shops, less maintenance on the fleet and many boats just left sitting.
    On the aviation side add in the required costs such as the annual and the outrageous pricing for parts and components along with the high price of fuel and it is no wonder there are fewer pilots.
    Another distinction would be the time and cost and difficulty in learning to fly. It isn’t easy. There is a reason over 80% of all student pilots fail to complete.
    When we do get our certificate then what? For many of us there is no rational economic reason we fly. We have no future on the commercial side. We do it because we love it.
    Yes there are some, for them it is a legitimate and cost effective reason, but not for many.
    Many of the arguments to get more minorities and women involved I have heard from the marine side for many years, with not much result. Now I am hearing the same from the aviation side of things.
    I am also of the opinion the FAA, TSA and others really don’t care about small GA and would probably be just happy if we went away.
    If we want to stabilize GA lets do a few things.
    Make GA airports friendlier.
    Lower the cost of parts. For instance why can I buy a radio for an experimental for $1,100 and a comparable radio for a 152 is $2400? The FCC sets the specifications not the FAA, correct? Both do the same thing. Allow parts and components that meet industry “standards” to be used in certificated aircraft.
    Quickly do something to lower the price of fuel.
    Scrap ADS-B for small GA aircraft. How many are going to spend 1/4 to 1/3 the value of their aircraft to equip?
    Even with all this flying will never be “easy”, nor cheap. We always be a nitch market.

  34. James A. Mitchell says

    Boat owners don’t have to pay a special doctor a see if they are fit to pilot a boat, they don’t have to ride with some boat captain to tell them if they steer a boat.

  35. Charlie Kile says

    The percentage of private pilots in the overall population had declined dramatically.
    Your article mentions that there are lots of boats in the marinas that are about the same cost.
    The owners of these boats aren’t spending in excess of $5000 to learn to operate them, Paying a doctor every three years to continue operating them, $300 per month to park them, $1000+ per year to continue operate them, $5.00+ per gallon of fuel, or $150 an hour to have them worked on.
    Not to mention the FAA regulations!

  36. says

    Mr. Spence;
    “We need to show the public WHAT they can do with an airplane – learning to fly will be just incidental to that”. Your on to it, however, respectfully, I believe you may have (inadvertently) had this “inversed”?
    If the “sizzle” = “fun”, (the sugar ?) and the fun ultimately wanes somewhat; wouldn’t the “steak” = the UTILITY value, have a more lasting pleasure and nourishment?

    Frankly, way to many advocates of “GA” have been pushing the “sizzle” for far to long. Time to cut out the ‘fat” (sizzle) and get down to the “meat” (utility), wouldn’t you agree?

    If you may, check out Cessna’s ads of the 60’s and 70’s;” go to YOUR vacation home or business in a Cessna” AND enjoy the flight while getting there!

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