For the past few months I’ve been shopping for a house. Not a particularly big house. Or an impressive one. Just a house that my family and I can move to where we’ll be dry when it rains, warm when it gets cold, and comfortable when the Florida sun beats down in August.
If I were to put my search into aeronautical terms, I’m looking for a good, used Cessna 172. A reasonable purchase price coupled with modest long-term maintenance costs is what I’m hoping for. Oh yes, and I want this mystery house to be no more than a few miles from the house I currently call home.
To me, none of this seems irrational, elitist, foolhardy or reckless. And I assume most Americans agree with me, since more than 60% of Americans own a home, or are making payments toward the purchase of a place they can call their own.
This caused a thought to pop into my head. Why do so many Americans own homes? Presumably because they see value in the proposition.
They willingly struggle to save a down payment. They launch off on a tedious and sometimes disappointing search to find a home that is a good fit for both their family size and financial limitations.
They make offers, consider counter-offers, undertake inspections, and pay for those inspections even if they choose not to purchase the house because of inconsistencies discovered along the way.
And that’s to say nothing of the inevitable and completely unknowable maintenance nightmare that’s hiding in the future. The furnace, the plumbing, major appliances breaking down – it can all come back to bite you years from now when you were least expecting it.
It’s true. The majority of Americans enthusiastically choose to go through all the pains and processes of becoming a home owner in an effort to find and move into a structure they find satisfying. Something they could do far more easily and with much less hassle simply by making the decision to rent rather than own.
They do all this because of the perceived value they’ll derive from home ownership. Even with the risks and unending workload of maintenance figured into the process, owning a home strikes most of us as a better deal than not owning. It’s self-evident to us. So we buy, upgrade, and buy again.
Conversely, only a very small percentage of Americans learn to fly. Orville and Wilbur’s ingenuity and industriousness haven’t escaped their attention. It’s not that they’re unaware they have the ability to fly. They simply choose not to.
Presumably because they don’t see the value in it. The cost, risk, and maintenance requirements of holding a pilot certificate outweigh the benefits, at least from the perspective of the vast majority of the population.
I find that interesting. And maybe a bit curious.
Learning to fly is perceived as being expensive, yet even a relatively dim bulb can learn to fly and earn a pilot certificate for roughly one-tenth the cost of a home in that same geographic market. In many cases, far less.
Which leads me to believe the challenge is in the perceived value of the certificate itself, not the cost of obtaining it. After all we buy cars and boats, motorcycles and recreational vehicles that cost more than flight instruction would, and those vehicles will all decay and be worth close to nothing in only a decade or so. The pilot certificate lasts a lifetime.
I’m willing to bet that it all comes down to vision – and I don’t mean the vision your doctor tests with an eye chart. I’m talking about the vision that allows one to see the potential for a more fulfilling life.
We know we can go to the ballgame in our RV and tailgate with fellow fans. We don’t necessarily realize that both home and away games are accessible to those who have access to an airplane.
Many of us dream of saddling up the motorcycle and heading for parts unknown. Substantially fewer of us know that loading up the airplane will allow us to go farther, faster, and reach destinations that are virtually inaccessible by other means.
Motorcycling to the Bahamas for a long weekend is tough. Flying there is just a hop, skip, and a jump across some of the most beautiful scenery ever to catch your eye.
You could take a ferry to Catalina and back for less than $100. Your transportation will only take a couple hours out of your day-trip. Or you could fly yourself from Zamperini Field in just 15 minutes. The value of that decision comes down to having more or less time at your destination.
We aviation enthusiasts often talk about the cost of learning to fly, and the cost of maintaining our aircraft, yet we rarely get into involved discussions about the cost of finding, buying, and maintaining our homes. The value of a home is readily apparent. Consequently, the associated struggles are considered to be worth the hassle, the cost, and the headaches.
Imagine, if you will, the average American having a vision of being a pilot in their head that’s just as clear as the image they conjure up of the value of owning a home. What if they saw the weekend trip with their significant other as being just as valuable and inducing as much pride as the new deck they labored to create back home? What then?
How might our numbers change, and how might the public at large benefit, if people focused more on the inherent value and unfettered freedom of being a pilot, rather than dreading the cost and complexity of becoming one?
That’s an interesting question. One that I’m hoping you’ll have an answer to that will shake the doldrums out of the majority of people who just can’t wrap their heads around why anyone would want to learn to fly.