Pilot Ranks Dwindling?

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General aviation shipments are coming off a record high half-year, but that surge apparently isn't being fueled by new pilots. The Washington Post was at EAA AirVenture this year and, while it may not be a revelation to readers of this publication, informed its audience of the next crisis facing aviation: most pilots are old white guys. The Post reporter solicited opinions from an assortment of 50-something pilots on why the place wasn't teeming with eager, fresh faces and, not surprisingly perhaps, got answers that sound suspiciously like something their parents and grandparents might have said about them 30 or 40 years ago. "The younger ones want instant gratification. Learning to fly is work. You have to work at it," Jack Gilbert, a 57-year-old pilot, told the Post. Gilbert blamed video games and others chimed in that flying lacks the adventure (read: danger?) and intrigue that drew many to it. But what do young people have to say? Oddly, the Post didn't publish response on the topic from any young people but that didn't stop younger folks from lighting up chat rooms. Since there's no way to verify the identities or credibility of chat-room correspondents, the posted comments, like those on airlinepilotforums.com, should always be taken with a grain of salt but a couple of young pilots offered what appear to be their honest and frank assessment. Essentially, they say (we) old folks should chill out and let the ordinary market and social forces do their thing, because they will, anyway. "[Fewer] pilots to fly the planes equals more demand with less supply and maybe higher salaries for those who stuck with it in the future," noted one writer, who said he was a 21-year-old CFI. Another said it's the image of pilots that's turning away young people. "It's always pictures of the stereotypical dork guy or girl with a conservative look wearing a golf shirt. Screw that," says the 19-year-old college aviation program student. "I don't want the new aviators of the sky to be total geeks who have no life outside of aviation."