NJ Aviation Conference to focus outside the cockpit to grow general aviation


For too long now the aviation community has focused on the question of how to revitalize general aviation. The pilot population has been steadily declining and the costs of flying have been increasing.

There have been programs geared to grow the pilot population, such as the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles. A whole new class of aircraft, Light Sport, and a new certificate, Sport Pilot, were created. As good as these programs and efforts may be, the downward trend continues.

All of these efforts were geared toward those who, on some level, were drawn skyward — to those who already want to fly. But what if the answer to strengthening general aviation lies outside the cockpit?

That’s the premise of the 19th Annual New Jersey State Aviation Conference sponsored by the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Coalition May 2-3 at Princeton University and Alexandria Airport (N85) in Pittstown, N.J.

Linda_Castner“That is the gist of the whole conference — changing mind sets,” said conference organizer Linda Castner. “The future of general aviation is not, I repeat, not just producing people who can fly and buy aircraft. The future of the whole industry is how many people seek careers beyond being a pilot or air traffic controller, and will lobby for the value of having a small airport in their community.”

For the first time, the MAAC conference is expanding to two days. The first day is the “Seize the Day — Build for Tomorrow” Symposium, which will feature innovations on growing general aviation with panels on education, policy, safety, and technology. It will look at what is happening right now and how you can get involved, as well as looking outside the box — beyond an aviation audience — to strengthen the industry.

Panelists include representatives from Redbird Flight Simulations, OpenAirplane, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), the FAA, the New Jersey Department of Education, and Rutgers University.

Rich_StowellNew Jersey Department of Transportation Commissioner James Simpson, an ATP-rated pilot with a Citation type rating, will speak, as well as Master Flight Instructor Rich Stowell (left).

The second day, “The Art and Science of Flying Ground School”, presented by Stowell, takes attendees from talking about general aviation in a conference room and brings them out to Alexandria Airport, a living laboratory to experience general aviation first hand.

This interactive ground school weaves history, biology, and technology into a high-level exploration of the wonder of flight in general, and of airplane and human performance in particular. Through the lens of aviation, pilots and non-pilots, educators and students will gain not only new insights into the world around them, but also renewed awareness about themselves, organizers note.

“We want to do more than put people’s fannies in airplanes to get them to buy them,” Castner said. “We want to put people’s fannies in airplanes for what it teaches them about themselves, about careers in science that may be outside of aviation. How does aviation help an engineer in biology? We’ll show you in this workshop.”

The first day of the conference will take place at Princeton University’s Carl Fields Center for Equality and Cultural Understanding and the second day will be at Alexandria Field (N85) in Pittstown.

Cost is $85 for both days or $50 for just one day and includes continental breakfast, lunch and reception on May 2 and lunch on May 3. Attendees will have a chance to win door prizes, including two round-trip tickets anywhere United Airlines flies in the United States.

For more information: NJAviation.comArtandScienceofFlying.comAlexandriaField.com


  1. Trevor Forde says

    I started flying as a freshman at Princeton ( 1969) and as lifetime member of the Association of Black Princeton Alumnae ( ABPA) which was involved in getting the
    Carl Field Center at Princeton, I am happy to see the site involved with aviation.
    I want to attend this event and give a door prize, but I can’t find the registration form. Please contact me at 4captnt@gmail.com or 646 430 0628.
    Trevor Forde – ATP/CFII
    Captain TS Consulting

  2. Douglas Brown says

    Very soon, GA will not be the primary route onto an airline flight deck. A US version of the multi-pilot license will take over that role. If GA is to survive, let alone grow, it imust become genuinely and demonstrably useful to the non-aviation public. People who don’t fly airplanes need to be able to traipse down to their local airport, climb into a small plane next to a GA pilot or automated aerial vehicle, and fly to visit their family 350 miles away. It might be a bit of a devil’s bargain, but small airports might also possibly be useful to businesses that hop onto the UAV bandwagon.

    Make no mistake, however. The wider public has to have personal reasons to want small airports close at hand. If they don’t, they’ll vote away the land for development and to get rid of the noise.

    • says

      “Make no mistake, however. The wider public has to have personal reasons to want small airports close at hand. If they don’t, they’ll vote away the land for development and to get rid of the noise.”

      Bingo! That’s what the conference is all about. If small GA isn’t relevant to a good portion of the 99.8 percent of the population who aren’t pilots, then small GA will disappear. Soon.

  3. Yves morier says

    Very interesting approach! I agree that the future of GA is also with the local community. We need to attract young people to aviation. Even if they don’t make a career in Aviation, GA will teach them a lot.

    Best regards and happy Easter,

    • says

      The real problem is that the vast majority of the population has been impoverished by the economy so that general aviation is now only accessible to the very few who can afford it anymore.

  4. says

    If I remember correctly, the state of New Jersey outlaws freelance CFI work, something to the great economic advantage of New Jersey licensed flight schools who secure some measure of monopoly. Of course they can argue why it is necessary the way the governor, on behalf of the economic interests of automobile dealers, outlawed Tesla electric car sales.

  5. Bob Thacher says

    Let’s start a campaign for all the trickle-down beneficiaries of GA to subsidize fuel costs for aircraft less than 6000 pounds, andpossibly double the subsidy if purchased by a student pilot.

    By beneficiaries I start with the manufacturers, then the FBO that rents parking space, the CFI that teaches the new airman, the mechanic that maintains the plane(s), the restaurant on the field, Sportys, messes Garmin, Bendix-King, etc.,etc.

    Obviously not an easy program to administer, but a means of overcoming what I perceive as the greatest single barrier to getting newbies and oldies in the air.

    Good luck.

    Bob Thacher

  6. Ken says

    This is a pretty simple equation. It is two parts. First, get fuel prices under control….and that is hard to do. The fuel is complicated by both oil company and FBO price fixing and greed. America can’t get control over the oil price fixing for automotive and truck fuel. We stand little chance of accomplishing that with AV fuel.

    The second is get the FAA off our backs. It is estimated that 100,000 pilots can return to the air if the 3rd Class medical requirement is eliminated for certain private pilots. This will have a huge impact. The fuel may take care of itself if we get more folks flying again and get volume back into the AV fuel market.

    Take the money you will spend hearing about what I have just summarized already right here, give it to the AOPA, and insist that they hire a lobbyist to pay off some politicians and get this passed asap. This is how the rest of the world gets thier way in American politics…..we darn well should too!

  7. Daniel Ruiz says

    Hello! What an interesting event. So sad I can’t be there. Is there a way to receive the presentantions from the panels? Thank you

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