When I started in the fuels and lubes research business in 1967, a big part of my job was to monitor changes in automotive technology and the effect that these changes had on the fuels and lubricant requirements.
I remember the first emission control engines and their effect on temperature and operating conditions. I followed the technology through VW’s electronic fuel injection to electronic ignition, EGR, catalytic converters, and on and on.
The new technology worked very well, except for a few initial problems like when one of the manufacturers used aluminum connectors in its electronic ignition circuits. Just a small amount of corrosion increased the resistance and the engines died. But these gremlins were worked out and the new systems work very well.
Then in the early 1980s I went over to the aviation area. What a culture shock. They still had magnetos, carburetors, and mixture controls. However, since I had grown up on a farm, I was familiar with 1940’s technology, so just adapted to it.
But now, 50 years later, the gap between the technologies that people are familiar with and comfortable operating and the 1940’s technology used on “modern” aircraft has widened greatly and become a significant problem.
So whose fault is this? Is it the old guys who have learned how to fly with the current technology and do not want to change? Is it the airplane manufacturers who don’t want to change and their lawyers who say that change is dangerous and opens them up to additional liability? Is it the FAA? Or is it the millennials, who I picked on in my February column, “15 reasons why teaching Millenials to fly is tough“?
Many years ago, a reporter asked Bum Phillips, the coach of the Houston Oilers, who was the cause of a bad loss: The offense, the defense, or special teams? Bum stated the loss was a total team effort and everyone had contributed.
The same applies in general aviation. So why did I pick on millennials? I probably should have said the younger generation or young people. But millennials is a more recognizable term and they do represent the beginning of the widening of the gap in technology that I referred to earlier.
The point of the original article is that one of the significant problems in general aviation is the lack of new technology.
I know there are a number of millennials and other young people who are into GA and understand the show.
But I also believe strongly that millennials who know how to fly old technology aircraft, as well as old people who have been flying forever, would all appreciate new technology in engines.
Just think how nice it would be to go out to the airport, do a walk around, then climb into the aircraft, turn the key, and fly off. No pre-heat, no priming, no mixture strength adjustment, and no worry about carburetor icing. Then in the air, it would be very smooth, with almost no engine noise.
And you do not need to stay awake nights worrying if your engine is rusting away and how you are going to pay for a $40,000 rebuild.
The bottom line is that if we want to attract a significant number of young people to general aviation, we need to update the technology for GA aircraft engines.
So here is the challenge to the younger generation: Start working on the GA line up to incorporate some new technology into the aircraft. Some of this has been started with the light-sport aircraft (LSA) program, but it needs to be extended to other aircraft.
Hopefully this will prevent you needing to write articles like this when you are old and gray.