Here’s an unsettling statistic. Of the thousands upon thousands of prospective pilots who begin flight training each year, approximately 80% give up before reaching their goal.
Yep, eight in 10 flight students throw in the towel, give up on their dream, and settle for living something less than the life they’d dreamed.
Now imagine that you run a business. It can be any kind of business, really. What the widget is doesn’t matter.
For the purpose of this mental experiment we need only to consider the critical dynamic of any business. There is a product or service sought by members of the public, there is a human being on one side of the counter who we will call the provider, and there is another human on the other side of the counter who we will call the customer.
Now, it’s important to keep in mind that not all people on the customer side of the counter are actual customers. Most represent simple inquiries — and inquiries are very much different from customers. Do not mistake the two. An inquiry is simply an individual coming to you for information, or guidance, or support. They aren’t necessarily going to buy from you, but they see you as a resource of value.
That’s important. When someone comes to you with an open mind, an outstretched hand, and a sincere request for help, it could be said we have a moral obligation to do our best to fulfill that need. Within reason, of course. We owe them good customer service at least.
And there’s the crux of the issue. Good customer service. Keep that in mind. We’ll come back to it.
The flying club I belong to just suffered the loss of a new flight student. The young woman in question is sharp, fun to be around, helpful, motivated, and by all accounts a darned good flight student.
I’ve flown with her, and she’s just a perfect pilot candidate. Her motor skills are excellent and she keeps an open mind while flying and during ground school sessions. She’s got everything she needs to become a truly proficient, professional pilot. And that was her goal. But now she’s quit.
General aviation lost another good one. Why? What happened that turned this goal-oriented young woman with big dreams into a quitter?
Exhaustion. That’s what did it. Simple, basic exhaustion. She began flying during the summer months. She had a bright, sunny disposition then. She was outgoing, excited, and looked forward to her lessons with great anticipation.
Now, she’s burnt out. She frowns or scowls most of the time. She runs home from her lessons at top speed to get started on the several hours of homework she’s got to do each night. Her life has become a never-ending treadmill of research, reports, quizzes, and tests that have left this amazing young woman feeling as if she’s teetering on the edge of failure, rather than reveling her astounding achievements.
When our institutions of learning have managed to make our best and brightest feel as if they’re falling behind and unable to pursue their personal goals, something is very wrong with our value system.
My own children experienced a similar crises of confidence as they struggled to achieve the bizarre standards set out for them by a school system that is driving them like cattle toward the killing floor, while excoriating them for not putting more effort into their studies.
Thankfully, they were wise enough to unplug from the whirlwind before it damaged them too much. What they found on the other side was success on their own terms. Today they are self-sufficient, industrious, productive young men and women who are making their way in the world just fine.
Shouldn’t that be the desired outcome of participating in our educational system in the first place?
That brings us back to customer service, which at its root is an expression of respect for the person we’re tasked to work with. Providing good customer service to others doesn’t suggest I should bend them to my will. Rather, it allows me to learn about the person I’m working with, identify their goals, and help them achieve those goals in a way that’s palatable to them. Whether they’re buying a house or a cup of coffee, my role is a service provider is to meet their expectations and goals.
Incidentally, you’re a service provider too. We all are.
I’ve communicated with the young lady who quit our club, and I’ve invited her to have a cup of coffee or a lunch break together. Her parents are concerned about her change in attitude. They miss the excited, ambitious girl who came back from her first flight so fired up and ready to go.
I’ll suggest this when we meet, and I suggest any flight student who is feeling overwhelmed seriously consider this same advice: Take a break.
Give yourself the freedom and respect the institutions in your life aren’t showing you. Take a breather. Accept that you’re tired and get some sleep. Rather than throwing away dreams to achieve pointless milestones, re-organize your calendar and learn how you use your time to achieve your dreams, not someone else’s.
I have no idea what my class ranking was in high school, but I was very near the bottom of my class, I can tell you that. I didn’t finish college and consequently I do not have a college degree. By the current standard of educational excellence I am a disappointment.
Yet somehow I managed to make a record that was distributed internationally, do television, at least one movie, write several books, perform on the stage in New York City, and become a pretty darned good pilot, too.
Eight in 10 flight students are dropping out before they finish. It’s time we do something about that. And by we, I mean you and me — specifically.
I have had the dream of flying aircraft before I could walk. Took a single flight lesson at the age of 11. Decided at the age of 39 I was going to finish becoming a pilot. I called around and was blown away by how expensive it was. So my wife and I figured out our budget and I could take one lesson every 3 months. So I was saving money for flying. Everytime I felt I had enough to start training something would come up. Someone would get sick, car engine would throw a rod etc. I got frustrated and called the fbo that had the cheapest rated in the area and said I’m at least taking one lesson to the wife. Showed up that Saturday morning, went through preflight, took off, flew some maneuvers, did 3 touch and goes all on my own. When we were taxing my instructor asked how often I could fly. I explained , wife, kids, family, mortgage and told him every 3 month’s. He told me he had a gift certificate($200) in his desk for 3 years and was waiting for the right person to come along. Then he asked what I did for a living and I told him auto mechanics. He then showed me a car that needed work and asked if I would be interested in trading. Now it’s 2 years later. I have my ppl and close to 100 hours. I work for him about 3 nights a week on trucks or projects he needs done. Now I know I hit the aviation lottery, but my point is that it doesn’t always have to be done the traditional way. If you really want it, you can always find a way!!!
Gee, how many hours were you under instruction before you soloed? Was it five years at one training hour every 3 months? Not being sarcastic here, its just the synopsis you gave seems vague just how many hours you put in before you soloed.
The standard as I have known for a pilot to solo is 20 hours. I for one think that that time is not necessary for everyone because some have a natural ability to learn very quickly. Pehaps this was your case but what year did you solo?
I have a friend that spent two years going after his PPL. Money is no issue for him as he retired wealthy from tech. He has the time, the money and the IQ. He has everything done except to take the checkride. He quit. Why? He says he doesn’t want to spend the time/effort to stay current and doesn’t want to fly unless he does.
John R. Merola says
Nonsense? No. It’s a factual story and a real person. He just turned 50 and has walked away after about 80 hours of lessons and rentals.
Youre not giving this young lady and many others the credit they deserve… I for one fell hard into the passion trap. Well theres no jobs but commercial is around the corner i gotta finish it, I spent all this money on commercial i better find a job and use it, i gotta get multi ifr to find a job, well that didnt work better get an fir.
These people dropping out have woken up to the lies of “PILOT SHORTAGE” there are way more careers that are easier to pursue and succeed in where you can make more then enough money to pursue aviation for passion. She will be back, but once she’s a M.D. or lawyer or some other well paid job, with less competiiton.
Anthony J Madonia says
Political innuendo aside, I agree with all of these comments. However, I think it’s important to point out what our competition is. Yes, flying is expensive – always has been, always will be. Like all of you, I was bit by the aviation bug at a young age and have somehow got a PPL and instrument rating while raising a family and running a business. Lots of fits and starts along the way.
I think another reason for the dismal new pilot numbers has to do with technology. Today, young people can sit in their basement, and, with the latest gear, enjoy jet fighter performance in Dolby surround sound, at a relatively small price, and without that awkward feeling that accompanies a maneuver performed poorly. Seriously, it’s easier to be Top Gun on a video game than it is to learn complex holding instructions or the intricacies of advanced avionics. For many people, the video game is more exciting at a small cost. I don’t have an antidote for this, I’m just pointing out the issue.
Kudos to General Aviation News for giving all of us airplane nerds a place to voice our opinions on these things – thank you!
Sitting at home in comfort viewing simulated flight of an aircraft with YOU at the controls is more exciting and safe than actually being in the pilot’s seat of an actual aircraft where physical responses determine your safety. While this may be the desire of some to enjoy flight of an aircraft by use of a video game, it is not the desire of a few who really want to master the physical operation of same. Many young or first time pilot’s to be, may drop out of piloting because of the possibilities of pilot error that could be fatal. However, becoming a pilot of an aircraft with safety as a priority, will result in real satisfaction of flying an actual aircraft. Also, when some new pilots begin to realize the high cost of flying aircraft and the multitude of government regulations governing same, it is easy for them to drop out. The latter is one of the reasons for GA pilot’s to give up flying, but is also a reason for pilot’s to speak up when the FAA exceeds reasonable expectations of piloting rules.
Simulators are NOTHING like the real thing, even full motion ones. The entire point of GA is to be able to pilot and fly yourself…
Sarah A says
Not like the real thing but close enough. I make my living developing the software that runs in those machines, mostly military trainers and I have flown the full motion simulators for a variety of helicopters and top of the line biz jets and turbo props. I find the helicopters to provide a very challenging flight in the hover realm especially the ones that run the blade element models that modern high speed processors. These simulators make great motivators to prospective pilots and student pilots. As for myself I can’t get a 3rd class anymore so the sim’s are preferable to an LSA and free.
No GA student can get near a full motion simulator. And no simulator can match seeing a physical runway in front of you, feeling the roll of the aircraft over it, lifting off and seeing real terrain below. Neither can the simulators produce random traffic and ATC interaction like you get in real airspace. Nor can a simulator equal the feeling you get knowing you are leaving the REAL ground and then have to at some point get back down again.
But light sport flying is low cost if you build a kit and use Mogas. And you don’t need a medical for either.
Sarah A says
They full motion simulator is not a replacement for the student pilot but a great motivator when they see what it is like to fly a multi million dollar state of the art aircraft. That is a matter of location though. Many military and civilian training facilities conduct tours and that is what you would be looking for. I have seen plenty of these when working in the field and even rode right seat to keep the inexperienced out of trouble with the motion system engaged. But as I said it does not replace actual flight experience for the PPL candidate.
LEE DISBURY says
Light sport is fine – but if you have had Third class medical denied you cannot get a LSA. I had accumulated around 60 hours with 8.9 of PIC
Had done my, xcountry, xcountry at night.
As a 65 years old who started and stopped training over a 12 years period- I just gave up. I tried to deal with Ok city FAA and their default is no.
No one should take an AME exam if they do not already know they can pass it. Find an AME that you can ask questions of before officially starting the exam to determine your chances. If you think you can’t pass it do not take it. You can then fly as a Sport Pilot on a DL at that point.
You are joking with your response correct??
There is absolutely no comparison between flying an aircraft and playing a video game
And yes I’m a licensed pilot of many years and have operated the most sophisticated flights simulators
Simulators are good for training but learning to fly requires an aircraft and it’s environment
Not pretending while in a safe room in the basement
Nyal Williams says
You are right because a simulator leaves out kinesthetics. But they are useful for teaching concepts and for teaching how to observe. In spite of the old saw about flying being a seat of the pants operation it really is about how things look — otherwise flying on instruments would never work.
I instruct in gliders, both in real life and on simulators and I have taught a student who was able to do the complete first flight in the first glider she ever saw and she had never been in a small airplane, to a small airport, and had never been around any pilots and knew nothing of aviation.
To be sure, she still needs the real time instruction to build in the physical sensations and to meet the requirements of the regulations, but the simulator is a useful and inexpensive way to do some of the training. The airlines and the US Air Force use them because they are effective and profitable.
Dick Russell says
Simulator use: not many ‘real’ good sims for GA as one would cost as much as the real airplane- however, our airline community and business aviation have used them for years. I know as I worked for Flight Safety for several years and to perform the maneuvers required by our FAA simulators are much safer than the real airplanes and said maneuvers would put undue and unnecessary loads on an otherwise good airplane. Our airline pilots get type rated in a full motion simulator and the first time they fly with passengers is the first time said pilot flies an airplane for compensation. However simulators for GA are cost prohibitive.
Nyal Williams says
The simulator I use is for gliders and it costs about $300, including the software, the stick, and the rudder pedals, if you already have a computer. Its use is not authorized by the FAA, and I don’t advocate that it should be. However, it is wonderful for teaching concepts and for practicing all maneuvers, including aerobatics. It can shorten dramatically the actual airtime needed to become a competent pilot. And it is fun and visually convincing. It is also useful in bad weather, at night, in winter. Furthermore, you can meet up on line with other Condor pilots and fly the same tasks together — even races — and you can see each other’s glider while this is happening. This is a huge world-wide movement.
John R. Merola says
Let me see, hmm, soaring in a simulator you gotta be kidding
Nyal Williams says
Not at all! If you have Skype and will share addresses I can demonstrate it for you. You will not need a camera; I can share my computer screen and can demonstrate thermal soaring and ridge soaring. All we need to do is meet up on Skype.
John R Merola says
Son, I’m an octogenarian, you expect me to what …Skype. I can just about find the button to turn on the computer. I’ve flown simulators even taught instrument students in-um. Airplanes sure, but the only way to fly a glider is soaring in the air.
Dick Russell says
ditto on technology – I’m lucky t remeber how to log on let alone this other high tech crap!
Nyal Williams says
Merola, I will be 86 next week. I have been instructing gliding since 1967 — back when commercial glider pilots could do that and when there was no such a thing as a CFI for gliders. I started instructing on this simulator back in the very early 2000s and have had great success.
Soaring is possible on a simulator. The weather is programmable enough for thermals to appear — based on the geography shown in the terrain.
I found a John R. Merola on Skype and sent a message; I presumed it was you. Skype is like a telephone built into the computer and with a video camera it can show, live, anything the camera can see.
Skype can show you my computer screen directly without any camera connection if we both have the Skype program and you can watch me fly any one of several gliders in the Alps, in Australia, Scotland, Germany, Japan, and lots of different places in the USA.
I have made a 12 hour glider flight in the Alps on this simulator and it is highly realistic — both in the details of the terrain and in the aerodynamic behavior of the glider in and between thermals.
I would really like to show you that.
John R Merola says
Oops, sorry dad, Just a young whippier-snapper here out of his depth. I’m an airplane instructor and former DPE in airplanes who started teaching in gliders in the 70s for fun.
I do know what Skype is just haven’t used it, don’t have a camera on my computer. I guess I was being a little sarcastic. I do have experience with airplane sims, great tool for recurrent training & teaching instruments. To me there is nothing like being in the air especially in a glider, never felt that way in a simulator. Thanks for your kind offer..
Nyal Williams says
Well, you don’t get the bodily sensations, of course, but the first time I flew this gliding simulator I got all sweaty. The view is not as panoramic and that bothered me. It was a short while before I got accustomed to it.
Where do you fly? I’m in North Carolina now,l where I started out, but most of my gliding career was in Indiana.
Dick Russell. On my airline, we had great simulators complete with the ability to give you the feeling of motion and even g-force. We still had to actually fly the airplane a couple of hours and then have the FAA ride with us in the actual airplane to get the type rating. I can’t believe that your airline lets the pilots fly passengers the first time they fly the real airplane unless I mis-read your comment. I don’t know what airline you are talking about, but I would avoid it if I did, for fear of getting a first flight pilot.
Started learning to fly at age 15. Soloed shortly after my 16th birthday. Then…girls, college, grad school, work, international travel, etc. etc. etc. Finally, I went back and decided I’d pursue aviation as a career…at age 35. In one year of dedicated, full-time training, I earned my PPL, Commercial, Instrument, Multi, tailwheel endorsement, and CFI-SEL. At one point, after instructing a bit, I even got my Part 135 charter certificate (SEL only, but hey, it was a start!). And you know what I learned? The number one reason people quit and student and active pilot numbers are dwindling? The almighty dollar. Back in 1982, airplane and instructor were $35/hour at the school where I started. According to the interwebs, the value (purchasing power) of that $35 today would be $88. But now? A Cessna of nearly that same vintage with perhaps upgraded avionics rents for $150-170 per hour. That’s not including instructor. This is, of course, on account of lawsuits and insurance companies, and fuel prices, and regulations, and and and and…too many variables to list, and that doesn’t matter. There’s no magic bullet I see that will reduce the costs back to a reasonable level. If you fly 10 hours a month to stay current once you’ve got your ticket, and let’s say you belong to a flying club and pay only $90 (only!) per hour. That’s $900 per month. In some cities, that’s the same as rent! (Not in Seattle, mind you — that’s barely half of what it costs to rent an apartment around these parts…but that’s another story) Is it any wonder, then, that with all the aforementioned frustrations of changing instructors, changing schools, etc. that people become discouraged not only with the process, but with the prospects of what happens after they get that piece of plastic? The number one goal we should have as a flying community is to figure out how to bring the costs down. Because it’s those same costs that are an inducement to find a way to get things up into the air without the need for humans at the controls.
Flying is fun. But for someone who earns an average income, flying competes with rent and food and family expenses and a plethora of other things and will nearly always fall by the way side. For the absolute passionate fliers, they’ll not understand that competition. But the flying community has to be open enough and inclusive enough to include people all along the interest spectrum. Otherwise, general aviation, excluding private jets and so on, will go extinct.
Hopefully GA will not go extinct. If all you want to do is just fly for pleasure, then consider safe ultralight aircraft such as a powered hand glider. This aircraft can allow you to fly slow, even cruise with the thermals, and with the least expense of flying and a relief of all those FAA regulations of high powered certificated aircraft.
Which ‘ultralight aircraft’ is cheaper? A new weight shift kite has a Rotax 912ULS engine, glass panel, Mode S xpndr, carbon fiber airframe and costs $110k. Used SLSA or ELSA are around $50 to 80k dependent on hours and age and condition. The only advantage to the ‘light’ aircraft is fuel burn and the use of Mogas. Flying them is little different and often requires MORE stick & rudder skill than flying larger planes.
Sorry, but you are wrong about low cost ultralight aircraft. I won’t mention any name brand but I know of one company that will sell you a complete powered hang glider for $14,000 to $17,000. This aircraft gives you real safe flying, where you have the wind against your body, like being on a motorcycle, and you get slow flight to enjoy the scenes below, and if you want to catch some thermals, you can shut down the engine and glide for hours, then fire up the engine again and fly home. But……..if you’re a pilot that doesn’t want to fly like the birds, then slow flight by ultralight may not be for you. I was surprised when I read one day that a current airline pilot was out enjoying powered hang glider flight. Must have been because he was so tire of flying so fast?
No. I am not wrong. I fly out of an airfield that has two dozen of them on it. And the largest weight-shift school is on that airfield. Here is a link Paul Hamilton’s site…he is a founder of the sport. http://sportaviationcenter.com/
You are talking about a kit and/or a toy…not a professionally built SLSA. If you are having kids go up in rickety kits then you are putting them in danger.
I am not wrong about a full functional powered hang glider trike with a 2 cycle Polini engine at 36 hp. It is produced by Silverlight Aviation for $14,000 to $17,000. I watched a video of this aircraft and it is nothing short of more fun than flying a Cessna 152. Its advantage is that it can be broken down and placed in a bag that fits in the trunk of a car.
So, GBigs, it is not a toy or kit as you would suggest.
I was not referring to a terse kit or drone-like toy. I am talking about a rotax powered, carbon fiber two-seater kite with avionics capable of flying into any Mode C airfield. This is what Paul instructs in and flys over Lake Tahoe. And it is the smallest aircraft anyone should be flying in to be safe.
Graeme Smith says
I can think of a significant portion of the EAA membership who would respectfully disagree with that assertion. By all means make it your own personal minimum – but don’t impose it on others who choose to fly quite safely in more limited airspace.
You can call what you want that is safe and what is not safe, but I would never place my body in a seat of any flying aircraft that I considered not safe. The Nano Trike that is offered by Silverlight Aviation is safe but apparently not so with you and that’s ok.
Vickie Cunningham says
I am currently in the process of obtaining my PPL and it has been quite a journey and has required tenacity. Closure of a flight school, changes in types of aircraft, weather including frozen chocks and 110 degree heat are just some of the challenges. In my case, from the start I have tried to look at the journey as more important than the certificate. It helps when you have one of those lessons that make you wonder “why am I doing this?”
And each takeoff continues to remind me that this is why I am doing this. Not for the certificate, for the experience.
(But I still want the certificate!?)
Just finish it…you will wonder why you ever sweated getting it. Once you are licensed you can fly when you want and learning new pet tricks will become a lot more fun. Tell yourself the more you know the safer you will be….
It took every ounce of energy to make it to the PPL finish line. The pressures are high. My attention now is to keep active in the community, so I began an aviation t-shirt club (http://aviationtshirtclub.com). It should be launching soon.
Your comment looks a lot like an advertisement to me. I hope it really isn’t and if not, I apogize.
John R Merola says
All this to-do about flight training, bunch of cry babies stop your complaining about the flight school, the instructor, the cost, etc… If you’ve been bitten by the bug and you’re serious about becoming a pilot then just do it. Once I was bitten I just went out and did it,
In little over three years I went from solo student to commercial, instrument, CFI , MEL.
Was it hard you bet it was, did it consume all my free time, yes. Did I complain about my
Instructors and the flight school you bet I did. Did I let it stop me NO. I certainly didn’t need a t-shirt to do it.
Richard Russell says
Like some, I was persistent doing my solo May 1955, Hamilton Field, Derby (formerly ElPaso), KS, but didn’t license until 1969 in CA! Hang in there, be persistent and overcome obstacles I say!
Avi Weiss says
Every few months/years, an article/posting on this figure pops up, with the authors perspective being one of surprise, disappointment, or fatalism. The issues surrounding the high dropout rate have been present for many years, are unchanging, and fairly well known to anyone who has flown for more than a month or so: the cost of flying, instructor quality, and FAA bureaucracy that surrounds those two.
Many solutions have been proposed over the years, including reducing certification costs for creating new and light training aircraft, CFI’s coming from the highly trained and seasoned professional pilot population rather than the “freshly minted pilot” population, and cleaning up the rules around flight training to ease the certification requirements.
None have been embraced so as a result, we have what we have. Until the industry makes a serious effort to address this, and the FAA is somehow incented to participate, we will continue to have what we have, and all the digital tears spilled over it won’t change the problem. Ultimately, the whole issue will begin to go away over the next generation or so as “self-flying” aircraft become more relevant, and the need to have a human pilot begins to fade.
When humans are no longer flying aircraft, I’ll no longer be doing any flying. (Same goes for “autonomous” cars.) I will never understand this deep desire, of so many humans, to surrender their authority over to machines. As if machines never fail, and computers never crash.
Sadly, humans crash planes and cars far to often killing innocent people. Would you give up your smartphone, washing machine, television, microwave oven, autopilot, or online banking/buying? No. Btw, cars and planes are already loaded with automation…esp passenger jets. Machines are already here.
A better question would be… would I trust my life to my smartphone, washing machine, television, microwave oven, or on-line banking? (I’ll sorta give you the “auto-pilot”… sorta.) And the answer would be… NO!
What? You think the machines aren’t going to crash planes and cars, killing innocent people? It’s already happened. There have already been documented cases where the computers mis-read what was happening and over-rode the pilot’s input, causing crashes that killed.
As for that auto-pilot… I’m still the one “in control”. The autopilot is only a tool that I use. If it becomes clear that that autopilot is malfunctioning – and they do malfunction sometimes – I am in a position to turn it off. That is not an option in a “pilotless” airplane. In that case, if and when the system malfunctions… who will be on board to take over?
It’s really a smal step to move to that last bit of automaton and get the aircraft to do everything themselves. But I can’t ever see a passenger aircraft without someone onboard in charge.
I can see future when there is only 1 IT manager on board making sure he aircraft is performing correctly. They could do this today…
Richard Alexander says
The requirements for obtaining and maintaining a pilot’s license are much more rigorous than those for obtaining and maintaining an automobile license. You are expected to be knowledgeable and skilled before you fly an aircraft. We let just about any idiot drive a car, because it’s his right of travel. Say what you will about making flight autonomous, but society would advance if we could convert the unwashed masses to someone else driving their vehicles. Ironically, it’s easier for automation to fly aircraft than drive a car.
Ken Killian says
In ten years we will have pilotless drones flying and carrying individuals —-then what??? They are already flying in China
Well no drones flying in China I live in China flying for a Chinese airline…
Val Lynn says
You’re touching a collective nerve…
“…crises of confidence as they struggled to achieve the bizarre standards set out for them by a school system that is driving them like cattle toward the killing floor, while excoriating them for not putting more effort into their studies.”
It makes me wonder whether the goals many have set for themselves are chosen without intention, connection or appreciation of the journey itself. Is it possible we’ve raised an entire generation of under-confident, high achievers thrust into high-volume, production-oriented “institutions?”
Or is the journey itself, through these institutions – not really places of “learning and discovery” – just wearing them down with their pragmatic push to completion.
Liad b. says
Want to fix the problem ?! More flying and less talking about flying. More VOR flying and less book flying. More expensive ?, yes, very, but trying to “just get the mm to pass the exam” mantra didn’t work for the past 20 years.
In 5 years we will have electric trainers at $5/h. When that happens we will see more people stick with it, and spend more time in the air and less time in books or sims.
$5/hr electric trainers? Where do you get that number? The total cost to operate is more than the fuel cost. Electricity comes from fossil fuel too (that’s why they are not low carbon footprint as the electric car advocates pretend).
The flying time between recharge is small…about an hour of pattern flying. The amount of charging is unknown to those of us not involved in developing these things.
But the gorilla in the room is not fuel cost, it’s the time and money for the plane & CFI (or school). And again, the general lack of interest, will and persistence this new crop of kids seems to lack.
Sarah A says
Only $5/hr because they are electric ??? What about reserves for periodic maint and the cost of replacement parts like tires and of course the batteries, those things do not last for ever. And what about the initial cost of the aircraft amortized over its useful life oh and some insurance. By the time you add up all the costs I doubt you have any savings, just a plane that is only good for local flying a limited number of hours a day. With today’s aircraft they can fly all day and night if you stop periodically and fill up the tanks.
Totally unrealistic dreaming that does not address the problem of the high student dropout rate.
More VOR Flying???? Pretty soon you won’t be able to find a VOR station to use as the FAA is getting rid of them, I heard.
John R Merola says
I know what a G-1000 is, what’s a VOR?
Don Cordier says
Sadly, Mr. Beckett’s article is all too true! However, I have been instructing (full time) since 1972 and the percentage remains about the same.
My observations are that most students learn to fly in spite of their instructor or learn to fly “in self defense”!
I was extremely fortunate in that I carried a high student load and am always interested in the student’s goals and objectives along with the other factors in their lives that contributed to the additional pressures.
I used a few motivating techniques that worked very well and had only three “quits” in several hundred trainees.
I still teach (mostly advanced ratings and certificates for CFI and ATP) but use he same techniques which customers appreciate.
In my closing comment (and humble opinion), the three biggest obstacles for aspiring pilots and instructors today are 1) high cost 2) poor instructor (most seem to quit after acquiring ~700 hours of instructor given and 3) the bureaucracy known as the FAA!
Of course, there re many different factors for many people too!
John R Merola says
Don, You must be the man.
Val Lynn says
“My observations are that most students learn to fly in spite of their instructor or learn to fly “in self defense”!”
The material and the training are not the problem – the students are the problem. Today’s crop of kids have been given to goofy idea that little to no effort is needed to succeed and when you hit a wall and fail to do it you get the reward (or trophy/ribbon) anyway. So naturally if you are pre-loaded to fail you fold like a tent at the first sign of real work.
This is not just true for Aviation it’s true all over the place. You can thank permissive parents and psycho-babble driven teachers for most of it.
Btw, the G1000 is just a button driven windows machine. And NDBs are defunct. So quit whining folks, Aviation is worth the effort…just go do it.
Bill Callahan says
Mr. Bigs….you said it brother. Like Liberals grand idea of winners & losers….. everybody gets a trophy…..so what’s the point?
My bumper sticker: Liberalism is a Mental Disorder.
Kevin Engen says
Why are you politizing this discussion on aviation . I am a liberal and affended by your comment.
John R Merola says
Brett Moore says
That’s an incredibly biased view. You really think the kids don’t want to learn? every school kid I know is trying so hard. They are just worried about the future
“So naturally if you are pre-loaded to fail you fold like a tent at the first sign of real work.” – hopefully you’re not a CFI.
I think you’re missing out on the evidence of several young adults getting their PPL. Maybe they achieved because their CFI didn’t have some preconceived notion that they were spoiled.
Jim Hackman says
Flying difficult?? Wait until you read the next article on the G-1000 ! Might be easier to learn to play the piano! If you thought NDB approaches were a mental challenge, you’ll love the G-1000! OTOH, you can listen to music on it!
Dick Russell says
Jim: I hate to burst your bubbles but an entry level student often has enough issues learning the basics! CAP elected to get G1000 when they acquired the new 172 & 182 and the average CAP pilot is a pilot @ PPL level less than 200 TT. Iron gauges are fine for new students and these students can get the fancy avionis training later; I’m a 50-year+ accident free CFII and believe I have got this far without forcing any of my primary students to learn and be proficient in G1000-! By the way, I’m typed in CE650 and CE560XL and was proficient with those Avionics but was a multi hour pilot when I took the initial training.
John R. Merola says
Jack, I know what a G-1000 is ,but what’s a NDB or for that matter a VOR?
Jack Hodgson says
The standard aviation training syllabus was actually designed with the GOAL of getting trainees to quit, the sooner the better. It’s from the 40s when we needed to train a large number of pilots, and needed to screen out a certain type as quickly as possible. It was never about inspiring people to learn and love flying.
The syllabus should be turned on its head. The stressful things like emergencies, stall & spin training, and solo, should be moved toward the end of the process. Things like navigation, routine airwork, and dual cross country should be first.
We teach flying all wrong. (And, by the way, it should be free to the student. But that’s a different rant.)
Graeme Smith says
I have to agree – the RAF 1940 syllabus is almost EXACTLY the same as the Part 141 school Jepp syllabus I used in 2010. (Except they’ve taken out actual Spin Recovery which was item 5 on his syllabus and actively practiced on lesson 4 in the air). I just about fell out of my chair when I read my Uncle’s 1940 logbook to find it the same. Mind he soloed at 8 hours and got his wings at 10 hours and 45 mins. The RAF were a bit hard pressed in 1940. (He survived the war).
Glenn Swiatek says
Precisely, even MORE so is the IFR method.
Initially it was to weed them out fast. But today it extends the time for instruction.
David Mandot says
It’s nothing new- when I was an instructor at a small airport/flight school back in the early 70’s, about a third of our students dropped out before or after solo, and another third dropped out before their check rides. the remaining third got their private tickets, and flew for a while, but about half of them dropped out in the first year. I think it’s always been that way. A lot of people are just in it for the challenge- after that, they go do something else.
Darrell Arnett says
“driving them like cattle toward the killing floor, while excoriating them for not putting more effort into their studies.”
Wow, nailed it. The lowest bidder is not necessarily what’s best for your kids.
Tony Madonia says
Politics aside, I agree with all that’s been said here. I have a PPL and IFR rating, and went through my fair share of CFI’s and flight schools. I was close to a multi-engine checkride when the school sold the only twin engine aircraft they had.
My best advice to student pilots is to recognize that there are going to be plateaus in their training, as well as several setbacks. The day before my IFR checkride, the CFI was tempted to cancel the ride because the review flight was absolutely terrible. However, the next day, the checkride was near-perfect. I have driven home from several instruction flights wondering whether or not I can really figure this out, especially IFR training. Recognize that every flight is different. Some are better than others, some days things seem to “click” and other days the needles seem to wander all over the panel. Keep training, it will eventually make sense.
As an industry looking to attract more participants, we are not only competing with high fuel rates, an aging fleet, and high operating costs. We are competing with 4K video game systems with booming surround sound that aren’t dependent on the weather, don’t have scheduling conflicts, and don’t include that awkward feeling of a maneuver performed poorly. In today’s collectively shrinking attention span, putting a 172 thru it’s paces isn’t nearly as exciting as controlling a fictitious jet fighter behind enemy lines. Not to mention the relative cost difference . . . .
For those of us wired to fly aircraft, it is a wonderful obsession that I count among my greatest joys. It is my hope that GA begins to thrive again, and that this pastime is still here for future generations.
John R. Merola says
Even I quit after 50 yrs., 45 as a CFI and 28 years as a DPE. The glory days of GA were the 60s and 70s. Then learning to fly was fun, reasonable cost wise and not hampered by all the new FAA regulations which don’t amount to a hill of beans. Learning to fly is not a secret, not a mystery.. Just about anybody can do it.
Bill Callahan says
Well said John. Those were the Glory Days. I was a participant. You might want to grab my book: Over & Back by Wild Bill Callahan for my version of the Glory Days. They truly were at $1.00 per gallon!
John R Merola says
Bill I haven’t read a book in 40 years.
Nyal Williams says
Now I know which way you vote.
John, to me the Glory Days of Aviation were the years prior to that big brother bureaucracy called the FAA. There are many great guys who work for the FAA, but their hands are tied by the bureaucracy and their multitude of lawyers who write the regulations that it take, in many cases, someone with a law degree to interpret. I learned to fly in the early 1950’s and it was fun. Those were the glory days for me. Now, every day I’m on top of the grass and can take a flight in my plane, is a glory day.
Graeme Smith says
Out of interest – what was the accident rate on those days?
John R. Merola says
I don’t know what the accident rate was or is. I do know that the dropout rate hasn’t changed in the last 50 yrs…I worked for a busy 141 school and it was always between 60 & 80 percent for new students. Giving over 10,000 hrs of duel instruction as a CFI, and signing off over 350 students for certificates and ratings, administrating over a 1000 flight tests as a DPE…and as far as I know none of my students or applicants has ever had an accident
I have no idea what the rate was, but it probably wasn’t any worse than now. There were still low time pilots flying airplanes like the Bonanza and getting caught in weather and manging to disassemble their aircraft in flight.
Glenn Swiatek says
Today we stil use morse code. Have you ever printed out the pages of weather brifing codes.
I wonder how many teletypes the FAA is using these days.
I am astonished – continually – at the acceptance of anachronisms in this technology-based pursuit. Morse code? Coded weather briefings? Simplify. There is already plenty of complexity to deal with.
Dick Russell says
I’m still addicted and have been since grade school when my hump pilot uncle gave me my first ride in his Howard DGA; however, am retired FAA inspector/manager, retired police pilot and can relate to all comments! When I was @800 Independence Avenue, I observed too many bureaucrats occupying a point in space that mattered less about the future of GA! And, GA is on the bottom of the rung and the airlines are the priority for the FAA bureaucracy- I became the ‘crap disturber’ whenever I commented about GA being the entry level for ALL aviation pursuits! Not good me thinks but has anyone ever tried to change a bureaucrat mindset? However having said all that, much of what becomes ‘required’ equipment is aimed for convenience of the airlines, not GA, but we in GA are forced to spend mega dollars to comply with a rule that alows the airlines to operate more effectively! Not good! Anyway, I’ll continue to fly my little airplanes, a C120 built in 1947, and my OTW built in 1943 as long as I can crawl in them but does little to ease the perpetual movement and encouragement for entry level students to our aviatiin profession- I agree that the glory days of aviation was in the 50’s and 60’s when I first flew off a grass strip in KS!
Dick Russell says
John – I was with the PEX team my last 2 years and took a downgrade because I was so frustrated with the FAA bureaucracy, fir what it’s worth!!
IF all you want to do is just to fly at the speed of fowls and see the earth below, then fly ultralight aircraft where regulations are very few but necessary for survival.
I guess I missed the point about the young lady that had put so much into being a professional pilot, just up and quit. Maybe someone can cue me in what made her want to suddenly quit? I don’t get it that she was exhausted. It had to be something else.
Dick Russell says
John, et al: I agree with you as I may have missed something and perhaps (?) she quit due to other circumstances and she only knows that. You all fly safe out there
The young lady should have been advised to stop flying while taking her normal high school classes. High school students are very busy taking the normal load of classes in addition to any sports or other extra-curricular activities.
To attempt the completion of the Private Pilot coursework while taking a full load of high school classes is overly ambitious.
Tell her to come back after the school year is over. She will learn more and enjoy it more without so many distractions. Young students will remember most of the things taught during the previous summer.
Kevin Smith says
My stepson is 14 and wants to learn programming languages. He wants to become expert at several so as to achieve his goals, one of which is economic independence (and to support his parents!). He won’t need college for that: you don’t “need” single-variable calculus to code. Education today in the disunited fascist states (post-11/8/16) is an anachronistic and “un-nimble” set of pre-packaged stuff intended to keep everyone in the racket employed. Aside from, perhaps, critical thinking and articulate and cogent writing, how much (and I mean this for the few who know their objectives and have the character to pursue them) does “college” provide? When “college” is too busy spending billions on their football program?
This article is eye-opening. The CFI circus described is disgraceful; the victim should have found another “school” long ago.
I’ll be short and succinct … please keep your political viewpoints (“post-11/8/16”) out of this aviation blog. It doesn’t belong here! Jamie is trying to be helpful and optimistic and you are injecting something that doesn’t help anyone.
Jeff Lewis says
Good point (steering clear of political commentary), but I would also add: look past that one reference and chew on the rest of the line offered in comment, and you find a really good string:
“Education today … is an anachronistic and “un-nimble” set of pre-packaged stuff intended to keep everyone in the racket employed. Aside from, perhaps, critical thinking and articulate and cogent writing, how much (and I mean this for the few who know their objectives and have the character to pursue them) does “college” provide? When “college” is too busy spending billions on their football program?”
As a forced-retired ATC and dyed-in-the-wool whistleblower slant critical thinker, there is a lot in these lines I sure do agree with.
:::tipping my hat to Jeff::: thank you.
To those not Jeff, consider the potential secretary of education’s “qualifications” and tell me that “politics” is not the central, defining topic and crisis of this country’s present and future. The (small) Black Hand(s) will touch everything, and everything touched will be infected, including general aviation. One can’t hide from this topic.
Wylbur Wrong says
I was part of the team that wrote the initial Space Shuttle support at Goddard Space Flight. I never finished college, do not even have an Associates degree. Yet I programmed rings around the MS holders.
Later, I was involved in AI languages at IBM helping the Ph.D leads get product to GA and shipped.
Today, I have a very difficult time with interviewing new BS holders that are so clueless about real world programming. Academia is too busy with their own view of themselves.
And I’ll stop here because now this is leaving aviation.
But I think the idea that was brought up about how academia behaves and the relationship to teaching today is right on mark.
One last thing: I have been an instructor of computer languages. But always “undergraduate” since I don’t have a degree. Think about the politics in that.
For at least the last 3 decades our children have been bombarded, by the popular culture, with the message, “You have to get an education. You must go to college.” And some many business have followed suit. These days it is almost impossible to even get an interview if you don’t have some kind of degree. As if the only place you can get an education is through a college.
Heck, I’ve been working for over 40 years. The last 33 for the same employer. the last 25 of which doing the same job. (I’m a tooling & equipment designer, utilizing 3D CAD modeling software.) Originally we were a relatively small company. And I was the only one doing what I do. then a few years ago, ahs the company grew, they decided to expand the department and hire some more people. Naturally they hire recent college graduates.
Now suddenly, I don’t know anything. And, of course, I can’t tell these new hires anything. Because they already know it all. They even have a piece of paper to prove it. (Strange, however, that one of these newly minted geniuses can’t even read an engineering drawing. Yet he has a degree in mechanical engineering… from a major – MAJOR – state university.)
We, as a nation, put to much importance on that piece of paper, and far to little on actual knowledge.
Keep your political OPINIONS out of this. That has absolutely NOTHING to do with the subject matter and no one cares what your political OPINIONS and complaints are. Try to keep your arrogant focus on whats being discussed and leave out whats not. If you can’t then please don’t post.
+1, Tracy. Thanks for that.
M.A. Dean says
Excellent article, Jamie. Perhaps your finest.
I have been saying for years that college is not for everyone. There are plenty of people out there that don’t have college degrees yet live happy, successful, productive lives. Sadly, for too long now, the popular culture has been telling our children that they are somehow deficient if they don’t get that all-important piece of paper. The question I have is; why? I can only assume it’s to create a “market” for their product. They are not so much concerned about the needs of their customers, as they are about the profits that come from making the “sale”.
It’s about time kids hear the other side of the story.
I’m a student pilot with over 150 hours of flying. I’ve been hampered by CFI changes, strict school standards and constant ‘review’ flight lessons. At first, like your student, was very eager to learn and achieve the goal to become a commercial pilot now I just want to finish my PPL. I started with a former military CFI who was very strict and I do mean strict like he still had the mentality of being in the military but I stuck out and was halfway to my stage one when I was suddenly changed to another CFI so I began the course with my second CFI who was quite the opposite, totally laid back and when I finished my stage one the CFI was offered a job at an airline and I found myself with my third CFI, again another military pilot. By this time I had already 75 hours and again found myself starting from scratch to prove to him that I was capable of being a pilot. I finished the second and was almost going for my stage three check when, you guessed it, I was assigned to another CFI whom in turn wanted to go over the beginning. By this time I was already amassed 130 hours and just a couple of months ago I finished my stage three. Right now I’m at 150 plus hours and my CFI keeps doing review after review. He insists that I have to be within school standards set upon the chief CFI which are commercial standards. I’ve already spent almost $20K and still have to do review lessons. I can perform any maneuver and even a couple of commercial ones but I still cannot get the go-ahead from my CFI. I’ve talked many times with the owner who appears to be on my side but it is practically impossible to get an appointment with the chief CFI since she’s always ‘busy’. The school is normal sized with five airplanes and, like yourself, I’ve seen many students come and go, just a handful have stuck it out and most of them have corporate or international sponsorships, or student loans. The dispatcher, who’s my friend, has told me that the school has some internal conflicts regarding student performance, on one hand the owner wants to see more students graduate but on the other hand the chief CFI wants to see less students graduate because they’re not performing to her standards. Many friends have told me to leave or switch but I’m so close that I’m going to keep at it because this is what I love to do and I’m going to give them the satisfaction of not giving me what is rightfully mine, a PPL. Oh! Also, there’s a list behind the school’s refrigerator (I haven’t seen it by my dispatcher friend tells me) that has the names of the students who have left the school or have failed the checkride. I wholeheartedly agree that flight schools have to do more to keep student pilots interested and replenish the diminishing pilot population in America. Flying is awesome and safer than ever but it’s more expensive than ever as well so not only a student’s motivation is key but a school’s full integration is paramount. PS. My first CFI told me that flying is not in my blood, I told him he’s wrong and that he should keep teaching me as I am a paying customer. He did not took it well.
Kevin Smith says
Jonathan, I meant my post as a reply to you, but posted it in the wrong place. You deserve better instruction from CFIs. Shop around!
Sarah A says
I cannot say this as a fact but from my own limited experience many CFI’s take up that profession to build time for airline jobs. You can’t sit in the right seat now without 1500 hours so where else will it come from. That can lead to having instructors who vary in quality and motivation. I noticed several complaints about getting switched between CFI’s slowing down the process but few mentioned where the previous CFI went to if they were no longer available. As I said I cannot back this up with statistics, just my own observations over many years. What you need are professional CFI’s who are making it a career and are striving for excellence and not time builders.
Ray Hamblin says
Sarah A.’s comments are spot on. Change today. Look for a professional full time CFI. Also request references from recent graduates of the Flight School.
Dick Russell says
Sarah: no different in the 1960’s; my CFI was doing flight instructions to help pay for his education and he jumped from the student before me to the one after with little briefs or post flight brief- not much has changed in that regard. However I’ve thought for years that a new CFI from that school be employed by another college to do flight instructing – ‘what’s first learned is remembered best’, that is to say, if A given CFI learns proper techniques wrong those will carry over to his students and employment to be a CFI ought require and interview and flight checks.
I just quit the school and left a formal letter explaning my decision to leave. As you’ve guessed it, the school’s owner called me up and tried to talked me into getting back, I told him that the only way I would go back is that my CFI signs me off to the checkride or the Chief CFI schedules a meeting with me. It’s been five days and not a peep. Good-bye! I’m going to switch to an AOPA top rated school. It’s halfway across the country but they have all I need to finish.
John R Merola says
Good grief, If learning to fly was so hard how all did we do it.
Jonathon, it sounds to me like the owner of the school needs to get rid of the Lady Chief F/I. It sounds to me like she is a big part of the problem there. It’s too bad you have been run through the ringer with all of those instructors. Maybe a good talk with the boss about this and if that is not productive, a change to an independent flight instructor, not tied to a school.
John R. Merola says
As usual the students blame there instructors, the flight school and any body else they can think of. I did when I was a student instead of looking into my own short comings. If you want miracles go to church, if you want flight instruction see a CFI.
It’s all about the eternal office conflict but, as for now, she’s still the Chief CFI. Aside from their differences, the Chief CFI is an excellent pilot with over 3,000 hours instructing and 5,000 flying. She flew before she got her driver’s license BUT she’s very unavailable unless it’s a flight lesson or a checkride and in my state I’m not allowed to schedule with her. One rumor I’ve heard is that, oddly enough, she hates flying. I can’t be absolutely sure but she wants to settle down and do something else so we have a theory that she wants to get fired in order to cash in on the final years on her contract and move on.
Aside from that, I’ve quit the school. The owner talked to me into coming back but I stated my requests and, so far, I haven’t heard a peep from my CFI or the Chief CFI.
Graeme Smith says
Sounds like you are in a Part 141 school with a syllabus and stage checks. The point of which is you should NOT have to start all over again with a CFI switch. The point of a part 141 school is better record keeping and something any instructor can build on – not completely start all over again. (Though – I’ll grant you they probably want one flight to get an idea about you). Time to shop for a new school and insist on getting a copy of your training transcript to take with you. you paid for it – it’s yours to take with you.
Absolutely! That is why I went with 141 but as it turns out, I have to get signed off by my current CFI and he’s, in his words, not sure I’m properly qualified to be a pilot.
I haven’t asked for a training transcript, I’m going to do that tomorrow. Thanks for the tip.
Glenn Swiatek says
I am very sorry to hear your story. Hopefully you will be over this soon. Do not stay with this school any longer than you have to.
Fwiw, it was just before the Garmin 430 was introduced that I got my IFR rating. At San Carlos, just south of SFO. I flew the IFR checkride at 162 hours. I had the same instructor for both the private and the instrument. He went on to fly heavy metal. It was a flying club.
Jeff Lewis says
What you describe feels a lot like the CFIs are milking the cow until she’s dry.
Most community colleges have high 75%+ drop out rates, so the aviation industry is not immune from that. Being a member of the working class in America is hard work.
Agreed Phil, we bitch and moan about our workloads here while other countries are kicking our butts in education, oh coincidentally also commerce, and their student workloads make ours look like a day with Mr. Rogers. We have gotten soft in our aspirations and want to be just like the EU, how’s their GA and general economic and opportunity market? We have consistently lowered the bar in education and work and called it “no child left behind” “core” and others to appease “it’s too hard, waaaa”. Yes, institutions are in the business now of selling degrees, this requires parents and students to be smart first in whether they should even make the decision to buy (I did not and I am still CEO of an aerospace corp), so like others mentioned, be careful about the buy decision (especially considering the incredible price tag in most cases) having said that the institutions do not hide the amount of work is expected from the student. I’ve looked at dozens upon dozens of BA and EMBA programs and have not pulled the trigger due to additional workload that I’m not prepared to take on at this time. Having said that, if I did, I know that sleep would be merely a fleeting afterthought and my attitude would probably go down hill and it would take the sheer will decision in spite of sleep deprivation, feeling inadequate, family comments about neglect, wanting to quit, to complete the program. College and getting a PPL at the same time seem to be pretty lofty goals to me and I doubt that I would have the grit, so props to anyone who has done that. I don’t blame the school for a student washout, I would say it rests on the students shoulders in this particular case for not adequately recognizing what would be involved and an error in assessing her own ability to meet the requirements of doing both. I would like to see a program available nationally beginning in junior high the continued in high schools that allows students interested in flying to do a first flight, ground school and flying towards a PPL as part of their elective curriculum which takes into account the rest of the workload while doing this. I’m sure we have small pockets of this going on (where I live we have used the 4H aerospace program,yes that 4H, to get small children introduced to aviation, we have a statewide aviation program tied into STEM for junior and high schools) but it is not a national priority at this time and it really needs to be.
Seems to me this whole bunch of commewnts has drifted away from why students quit to flying simulators, ultralights, etc. The fact is, it is for several reasons including, but not limited to the cost, the attitude of some FBO’s & their instructors, and the excessive FAA regulations that take an attorney to interpret.
Really none of the comments on “why students quit” are valid here because none are coming from the students. But wondering whether young people in general are less patient, driven, clever, emotionally ready, interested and willing to undergo the effort is appropriate. Why? Because short of hearing from them we can only guess it may be connected to political correctness and the culture..
Your comment is right on track. Cost of flying is a major issue for those who have less than deep pockets. However, if flying your own aircraft is just a time to get off the ground to avoid the congestion of traveling by auto, and you hate the high cost of fuel, why not retreat to ultralight flying, where fuel consumption is very small and all those pesky FAA regulations that exist of certificated aircraft? Sit back and enjoy the view below and if you’re really “ultra-light, turn off the engine (providing you’re at a high altitude) and just slowly float back down to where you restart the engine and fly home. But…..don’t worry if the engine doesn’t start because you can land without power in a ultralight.
I’ve been flying for 64 years. Flew airline fotr 30. I fly for fun and love Cubs, Champs, etc. although at my age I have trouble getting in them anymore. I’m not into ultralights at all. I weigh more than the legal ultralight weight limit and have absolutely no desire to get off the ground in one although I’d do it rather than skydive. But, to each his own. It takes all kinds to make up the world of aviation..
John R Merola says
The high coast of flying?? 49 yrs ago I started training for my Private, I was working on the airport as an A&P my take home pay was $34 a week, airplane rented for $8 an hour the instructor $1.25 per hour. To fly 1 hour a week was almost 1/3 my pay, 2 hours a week all most half my pay. The numbers may have changed but the cost in today’s dollars is the same.
Your math is funny. Let’s average the incomes of people earning $30K, 40K, and 50K per year. The results are gross (pre-tax) earnings of:
Renting a Cessna 172 runs between $120 to $150/hour; for a Cessna 152, it’s around $100 – 120/hour. Add to that the cost of an instructor, which could be as low as $40/hour and as high as…well as high as it goes. Let’s call it $50/hour to be conservative. So now you’ve got anywhere from $150 to $200/hour for instruction. PPL is going to run the average student somewhere between $6,000 to $12,000. Fine, they can likely save up that amount. But once they have the ticket? Can they reasonably afford to spend money on flying (let’s say 5 hours per month at $120/hour = $1,250) on top of rent, food, vehicles, etc.? Remember “student” can be the kid in high school or the business exec looking for another hobby, and everything in between.
Even if the costs “are the same” (which I don’t believe), it’s not an attractive proposition for the bulk of the population when they can spend their money on other, less expensive, pursuits. This is borne out by the declining number of a) flight students, b) people earning at least a PPL, c) certificated pilots who are inactive.
Your anecdotal “this is how I did it” story is great; glad you did it. But the numbers don’t add up.
John R. Merola says
Sorry, too complicated for you? I’ll give you the “TL;dr” version:
Learning to fly and renting to fly are both expensive and serve as a barrier to entry, even more so now than in the “glory days” as you referred to them in an earlier post.
There. Made it easy for ya.
Who alleges flying is for everyone or can be afforded by the average person? That’s what cattle-class airlines are for…to serve the masses.
How many can afford a Malibu house or an ocean going yacht? How many have a ski house in Vale? How many own a thoroughbred horse or hang out with the 1%ers?
Learning to fly is cheap compared to owning a new aircraft, like a Cirrus SR22. And that is an entry level plane if you are not going to go up in a 50yo rattle trap and take your life in your hands.
The original article discusses the drop-out rate of people who begin to learn to fly. There was never any assertion that everyone should learn to fly. I don’t follow your point.
The thread has drifted into the cost of flying (which usually happens when any aviation discussion tries to figure out why the sport is dying). Some are laying blame on that cost for the lack of students and the students quitting before they finish. And for those who get a license and never fly again.
Yes. The cost of flying is a significant factor in impacting student drop-out rates.
You have a different perspective?
John R. Merola says
Look when I learned to fly and got, “ ALL MY CERTIFICATES & RATING” it was a terrible burden I had other financial responsibilities. It wasn’t easy, but I didn’t complain it was something I going to do. So if you really want to do it, do it . All this stuff about 8 out of 10 drop out, yes they do, it’s always been that way. Maybe it’s the cost or maybe it’s tougher the they thought. I was in the flight training business for almost 45yrs and personally trained hundreds of students, the ones that succeeded were smart enough to stick it out no matter what there circumstances were, it was something they REALLY WANT TO DO. Stop making excuses, any one can learn to fly ….if they really want too
Rick Pannemann says
You seem a bit tone deaf, John. “Suck it up” is hardly an enticement to encourage people both to come to aviation and/or to stick with it (simply based on the tone of your comments, I would definitely not care to fly with you). “Back in my day” anecdotes don’t help with the stark reality of declining student starts and increasingly inactive pilots. If you’re fine with GA going extinct, that’s all well and good. Otherwise, your statements are counterproductive.
John R Merola says
Now Rick, you may be right about “Tone Deaf” all those flights before headsets (had to hear the wind in the wires). Now that I am a flying octogenarian you can imagine my memory not what it use to be, but I’m certain I NEVER offered to fly with you. A man of mighty big words that hurts my good ear, counter-pro-duct-ive. I checked the AIM it’s not there, checked the FARs what do you know it’s not aviation terminology. If you’re gonna write notes on an aviation site always the correct aviation terminology..