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EAA's Not So Young Eagles

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The persistent downturn in the aviation economy is obviously related to the larger world economy, but there's another long-term trend buried in the numbers: The pilot population is dwindling and student pilot starts have been down for a decade. Take your pick of theories to explain this, but I don't think there's a single cause.

My theory is that multiple demographic effects related to age, real incomes, employment patterns and the rising cost of flying have all conspired to make an unhealthy environment for growing new pilots. And bluntly, the magic and romance of flight notwithstanding, the population at large appears not to be as interested in airplanes as it once was.

While most of us talk about the decline in pilots, along comes EAA to do something about it. It wants to expand the popular Young Eagles flight demo program to include adults. As I've noted before, I like the Young Eagles idea and I've participated in it a couple of times. But its overarching weakness is that it's selling to unqualified prospects with little or no money. A 12-year-old kid, no matter how passionate he might be about slipping the surly bonds, is in no position to make the cash register ring at Cessna. Maybe his or her parents are rich enough and interested enough to fuel the kid's interest when he or she eventually comes of age, but it's just as likely other interests will intercede.

Ah, but adults are different. If they're interested, they have the money to act of their impulses and, I suppose, EAA will eventually find out if there are enough of these folks to make a difference. But no one should delude themselves into thinking this will turn things around very rapidly. The numbers are sobering, making EAA's effort just a beginning.

At the start of the last decade, there were 243,823 private pilots, according to the FAA, with students at 86,731. By 2009, the number of PPLs dropped by 32,000—a little less than 2 percent a year in decline, with the usual peaks and valleys in the line graph. The student pilot population showed a similar decline. The good news is that, according to the FAA's tracking, 2010 saw a substantial rise in students, although I don't know how reliable that data is. Furthermore, the total number of pilots also increases, thanks in part to about 3000 or so certificated sport pilots coming into the fold.

Nonetheless, just to stay even, the industry will have to add about 4500 new pilots a year or, say, 375 a month. That doesn't seem like an impossible number and it probably isn't, until you consider that to make one certificated private pilot, some larger number of students will try and lose interest or drop out. And just to get one would-be pilot to the student-start stage will require a bunch of dry holes, so to speak. (Retention is a topic for another day.)

Still, you have to start somewhere and EAA's adult Eagles idea is as good a place as any. It's proactive and the timing seems right. As the association retools itself into the next phase of its existence, I suspect promoting student starts will be a much bigger part of what it does. It has the grass roots ethos and volunteer-oriented membership to make this work and, properly leveraged, AirVenture—the world's biggest airshow—could be a powerful source of leads. I'll bet we'll be doing videos on that topic next summer.

We will see as this idea unfolds. Meanwhile, I'd be just as happy flying an adult as a kid, frankly. They tend to whimper less when you box them with a rolled up sectional from the front seat of a Cub.

Comments (73)

Retention is the 800 lb gorilla in the room. When newly minted pilots discover how little practical utility is to be had in light GA aircraft a great many move on to boats, hot cars, etc. This is GA's dirty little secret. Still, trying to attract and retain new pilots is better than doing nothing.

Posted by: R Boswell | August 17, 2011 8:48 PM    Report this comment

I fully support the new EAA program to recruit adults. All of your points regarding the "Marketing to kids" program are spot on, but for EAA there is another reason to move the emphasis toward adults - particularly older ones.

It turns out the flagship activity of EAA - amateurs building their own aircraft - is an activity that really works best for retired people. Take a newly retired engineer or other creator of stuff and tell him his new life is to go fishing or sit on the couch with a beer and watch young folks play professional sports and you have a big sale to make. Take the same person and tell him he can work at his own pace to build his own airplane - the world's best boy toy - and wind up being an airplane owner for a fraction of the cost of buying a factory built plane and you have already completed the sales pitch. This activity may not be for everyone, but the ideal candidate is retired rather than moving into the teen age phase of life.

Young Eagles might have long term potential for creating new pilots, but adult Eagles have a much greater potential for creating airplane builders.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | August 18, 2011 5:59 AM    Report this comment

R. Boswell has it right. Until we "make the airport the destination" and figure out a way to make flying more affordable people will turn to other ways to spend their discretionary income.

Posted by: steve egolf | August 18, 2011 7:58 AM    Report this comment

"make the airport the destination" is no longer the case. Most are now ringed in barbed wire, guards, and require background checks for badges JUST TO ENTER and watch planes fly. Most airports are no longer parks or even welcoming.

It's kinda hard to to talk new people into the hassles of flying; doubly so when you ring the airports in "go away" barbwire.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | August 18, 2011 8:19 AM    Report this comment

R Boswell is 100% correct and I'm living proof. I earned my PPL last year at the age of 25 and flew about 100 hours... only 10 hours so far this year. It's tough to justify spending all (literally) of my expendable income just for the pleasure of being in the air for fun. I've been on the ground for the last 7 months.

Posted by: Matt Comerford | August 18, 2011 9:27 AM    Report this comment

I agree as well. I've been saying that Young Eagle is limited in its effectiveness, and what we need is a program to keep adults from dropping out once careers and family come along.

I think too much emphasis and resources are placed on presenting aviation as a mode of travel. It can be, but for most recreational flyers it really isn't. Most of our flights are consist of sightseeing, making expensive holes in the sky, and giving rides to our friends. The time and money to "go somewhere" just aren't available.

Germany has an active flying scene - just not the same kind we have. They have gliders, microlights, paragliders, and active clubs that operate them. Some of these clubs have more teens and 20-somethings in them than any other age group - something you won't see here in the States. Why do you think so many of the early LSA's and all current gliders come from Europe? They already have a market for recreational flying!

If we can put more emphasis on flying for fun (think local grass strips, cheap MoGas) rather than transportation (big, imposing airports, expensive AvGas) maybe we'd have more sucess keeping aviation going.

Posted by: Scott Thomason | August 18, 2011 10:02 AM    Report this comment

@ Matt Comerford - What are/were you flying? My guess is Cessna's rented from the flight school. Getting into a partnership would be a far cheaper option, but it's often hard to find partners. AOPA recently took over the APA website, so while there are now more people on the site looking for partners there are also more people looking for something IFR capable and way outside my budget. Posting a flyer at your local airport and/or hanging out at the airport may still be the best way to find a partnership for something like a 152 or a Champ or...

To the rest: I really think the "practical utility" stuff is one of the things that's killing us. Look at the other options: boat, jet ski, hot rod car, camper, motorcycle... Are any of these really practical? I'd argue that while you can use a motorcycle or the car to get to work every day, the person really bought it because it's fun. I'd further argue that there's a pretty large fraction of the sportscar and motorcycle community who never use it for a "practical" purpose - it's just fun. Other than ICON's materials, I haven't really seen a lot of the fly or buy an airplane "because it's fun" message. Why are we so hung up on the "flying for business" crowd? Yeah, it's where the $$$$ for a new Cirrus are, but it's not where the bulk of the US population live.

Posted by: Roy Etter | August 18, 2011 10:03 AM    Report this comment

I think historically it was the manufacturers and FBOs that tried to drum up interest; as it should be. But where are the ads showing a beaming new solo student climbing out of a new 150? Nope just ads for jets. No other businesses like cars, boats or motorcycles seem to feel it necessary to have a Young Eagles program because they can sell themselves in a manner that people can relate to. Maybe there's something fundamentally wrong with the airplane business.

I think the EAA should redirect its efforts to its core business, airplane nuts, or the whole Airventure county fair is going to collapse for a want of airplanes and people who like them.

Posted by: Stephen Phoenix | August 18, 2011 10:13 AM    Report this comment

I have been involved with the young eagle program since 1994, there are comments saying a 12 year old is not likely to follow up an learn to fly. Not true, I have young eagles that have gone on to get their ticket, one even graduated from the Air Force Academy. I don't think this should be an offshoot of young eagles,it should be its own program. Trying to fly young eagles and old eagles at the same rally would be a bit confusing.

Posted by: Warren Levin | August 18, 2011 10:13 AM    Report this comment

@ Roy Etter

The aircraft industry along with the FAA and fixed based operators have always been oriented toward commercial/business aviation. Even the General Aviation Manufacturer's Association limits its activities to type certificated planes (the ones that can be used for business).

Today there are two big classes of aircraft focused on recreational flight: Experimental-Amateur Built (the ones EAA has been all about for some 60 years); and Light-Sport Aircraft. Generally speaking, neither of these can be used for commercial purposes (except LSA for flight training). If you move your attention to these areas of aviation you will see a lot of focus on recreational flying and aircraft designed for that purpose rather than commercial aviation.

You can start by looking at the EAA - both the national organization and your local chapter. The LSA world isn't quite so well organized, but you can start by looking toward LAMA (the light aircraft version of GAMA) and ByDanJohnson (dot) com. Dan Johnson is the president of the Light Aircraft Manufacturer's Association.

All that said, I agree we could all benefit from more "Structured" recreational aviation. Fun flying events and the associated free publicity would go a long way to give aviation enthusiasts something to do with their planes and flying skills.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | August 18, 2011 10:33 AM    Report this comment

I'm an 18 year pilot thinking of selling my 182 (my user name is from a previous plane). Retention of actual pilots is also an issue, as my situation shows. Owning the plane costs over $5000/year for hangar, insurance, and annual. A club doesn't fit the mission, flying on a couple of long trips a year that tie up the plane for as much as 3 weeks. (A partnership might, but so far I haven't found a suitable partner/plane at my local airport.) Flying is just plain inconvenient and expensive and will be until someone invents a really cheap helicopter that cruises at 150 mph on 7 gph and can land in your backyard. Right after the federal government eliminates the deficit . . . I think we're looking at a slow decline of plane owners in my situation, trying to afford a plane for practical transport--it's just not economically viable and convenient.

Posted by: David Chuljian | August 18, 2011 10:35 AM    Report this comment

---- I think the EAA should redirect its efforts to its core business, airplane nuts, or the whole Airventure county fair is going to collapse for a want of airplanes and people who like them. ----

Actually, AirVenture is moving in the other direction. This year's event attracted over 500,000 people and over 10,000 airplanes. I wanted to try to capture this incredible event with my new Nikon and just couldn't get the scale down in images. It is HUGE.

If anything, AirVenture gets too much attention from EAA. I would like to see more like the "Adult Eagles" program mentioned in Paul's article to get the focus away from AirVenture and back to the folks building 2 seat airplanes in their garages.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | August 18, 2011 10:39 AM    Report this comment

Young Eagles, let's welcome the Old Buzzards to our program.

Posted by: Robert Falconer | August 18, 2011 12:29 PM    Report this comment

Let's give it a try. The SSA's FAST program has had moderate success in bringing powered pilots into the Soaring Community. There is no simple solution rather a lot of hard work, outstanding customer service, good communications and more hard work.

Posted by: William Ross | August 18, 2011 12:35 PM    Report this comment

I agree that there are no simple solutions and I fear it is a race against time and that time is coming sooner than I care to think about. All one has to do is look at the virtually deserted airports on a sunny weekend day. The issues are more complicated than simply increasing costs and fewer pilots because of the economic malaise. Even if existing (or new) pilots can find a way to fly more by use of pernerships, etc., what happens to the industry infrastructure that keeps the whole thing afloat without a massive reversal of current trends? For example, fewer aircraft means fewer qualified A&Ps to work on GA aircraft (honestly, who would pick that as a career path right now unless you simply love it?). Fewer sales also means that traditional GA manufacturers will disappear into the sunset (Mooney is probably already there and I am not so confident about Piper's prospects either but all of them are at risk given the puny unit sales they are experiencing). Once that happens, parts become scarce and more expensive. Trust me, it is not going to become less expensive to fix all of these old planes assuming you will even be able to find someone to do it. We are not at that point yet but the trends are all in the wrong direction. Hard work ahead.

Posted by: Ken Appleby | August 18, 2011 1:05 PM    Report this comment

The Adult Eagles idea is a great one, as is Young Eagles.

This new, age-43, private pilot is not worried about the future of aviation. He just wishes more people would come out to the airport.

Where I live the airports aren't barb-wired or any of that TSA stuff. People just don't know the local airports exist. That's probably the #1 issue regarding GA in America: most Americans don't even know their town has a beautiful, open-to-all, airport. And that they can easily hope a free ride if they just post something on the bulletin board.

Posted by: Pete Kuhns | August 18, 2011 1:21 PM    Report this comment

IMHO, one can segment the pilot market into two broad segments: propeller/rotor heads who just love aircraft and flying and want to be at the airport first and foremost. (I am one of these and after 45 years of flying, the airport is still by far my favorite place!) The other segment consists of those who want to use an airplane to achieve other purposes and arent necessarily in love with aviation. This is the segment that typically wants to use an airplane for travel. This segment is potentially far larger than the the previously mentioned one. However, when this group of pilots diacovers that they need an instrument rating (and need to stay current and proficient) and need a high performance piston or turbine aircraft to make travel practical, they decide that the hassle isnt worth it even if the cost is not an issue. Boats. motorcycles, etc may not be any more practical but they also dont require a never ending commitment to use safely. This probably wont change much until technology can take the pilot mostly out of the aeronautical decision making loop.

Posted by: R Boswell | August 18, 2011 1:24 PM    Report this comment

I agree with Ken Appleby on the looming problems. I'm a 50 year old student pilot, and while driving to about every other lesson I wonder and worry about what kind of future I have in aviation once I get that ticket. I'm going to hang in there and have a club Champ I can fly relatively cheaply. I'd like to own a plane some day, but the TCO might be too high. There has to be a way to make recreational flying less expensive, and relaxing government regulation is the first place to look. The simplest part costs 50X what it should due to the costs of certification, and to add insult to injury I have to pay an A&P to remove 4 nuts, install the part, and reinstall the 4 nuts. Owner-built is an option, but at my age I want to spend time flying, not spend ALL my free time for the next 5 years building an airplane (like my wife would put up with that). Sport aviation makes some headway on addressing this, but to fly two people away for a week vacation, or 4 people for a weekend, it doesn't work. And then there's fuel costs, keeping pilots from flying as much as they otherwise would. How many do we lose, just because they can't fly for 6 months and are just rusty enough to doubt their abilities, and don't want to spend $200 flying with an instructor to polish up their skills? Even for pretty successful people, it's tough to go home and explain that a Saturday afternoon of "play" cost $500 or more. Even amortizing the cost of a really nice boat, fishing is a LOT cheaper.

Posted by: Mark Consigny | August 18, 2011 1:49 PM    Report this comment

Another factor in the shrinking market is that many of the pilot population is made up of post-WW2 military folk who used their VA benefits to get their ratings back in the day (saw some phots from EAA and was shocked at how old (and I do not mean middle aged) the crowd looked, no offense but just an observation). I have often wondered whether that created a bubble that otherwise would not have existed and which continues to skew the data and maybe the entire industry today. Maybe what we are seeing is just a return to the norm or what would have been the norm but for the boost. Not sure what this means as a practical matter other than the downward spiral may have begun sooner but for the "golden age" which saw a huge influx of pilots over a few decades and which is not likely to be repeated on that scale any time soon. The industry will have to figure out how to right-size itself but that will not be easy.

Posted by: Ken Appleby | August 18, 2011 1:57 PM    Report this comment

Mark C,

Yes, aviation is expensive. It always has been and always will be. The amateur built area is a way to cut the expenses, but I don't think this is a good plan. The amount of work each builder must do needs to be a "Labor of Love" rather than an attempt to save money to acquire an airplane.

I really think the E-AB world works much better for retired folks than anyone who is trying to work for a living while building. When you are retired from the daily grind the hour or two you spend each day on your airplane project make you feel good about yourself rather than feeling overloaded.

Before retirement you can do a lot of research into the building process and also learn many of the skills you will need for this immense task. All of the skills and information you need can be obtained by joining EAA and also joining a local chapter and going to meetings. You will be exposed to a lot of really valuable stuff (both for aircraft building and other aspects of life) and only need to devote an hour here and an hour there to gain this information. When the time comes that you are ready to start you build project you will have many of the skills you need, know a lot about the suppliers in this industry, and have a lot of personal friends involved in this hobby.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | August 18, 2011 2:04 PM    Report this comment

"The amount of work each builder must do needs to be a "Labor of Love" rather than an attempt to save money to acquire an airplane."

I often hear it said that "there are builders and then there are flyers." It seems that the guys who build get more satifaction out of being in the shop than being in the air. A high perentage of builders work for years and then sell their not-yet-completed project to another builder, who may go through the same cycle. Nothing wrong with building airplanes but not likely to be an effective way to increase the pilot population significantly.

Posted by: R Boswell | August 18, 2011 2:24 PM    Report this comment

No offense to the builders, but that is a small segment of an already tiny GA segment. Hard to see the catalyst for meaningful growth there. Building a safe aircraft is a huge undertaking and it is beyond the time/interest/skills of the typical pilot let alone a non-pilot who you are trying to induce into aviation. Just learning to fly appears to be a daunting enough task judging by the drop out rate, hard to see how adding the need to build one's own aircraft to the mix will fuel real growth in the pilot population. I have great respect for that segment but it is a very small self-selected group of very dedicated folks. These folks are already under the tent. I am not optimistic that this will be the door to growth. The LSA segment has a better chance and even there, the numbers are still very underwhelming for all the hype of the last few years. The aviation media gets all excited if an LSA manufacturer gets five new orders at EAA. If this is the order of magnitude we are dealing with, we are in real trouble (and we are I am afraid).

Posted by: Ken Appleby | August 18, 2011 2:44 PM    Report this comment

I agree with all of you who say building your own aircraft is not a way to get a huge increase in pilots. On the other hand it is the most successful way to get more, and more modern, aircraft in the fleet. I just read a message from the NTSB that said there are 33,000 E-AB aircraft in the fleet. I would guess that many of them were built since the general aviation manufacturers all but stopped building planes in the 1980's. E-AB planes vary from motorized lawn chairs to very high performance planes with 4 or more seats, but the largest segment is 2 seat planes. A good portion of the current light plane production of certified planes came from Experimental-AB planes. The latest one I know about is the Cessna Columbia (I hope I got the name right).

EAA and experimental aircraft building is more about the planes than trying to increase the number of active pilots. I'm afraid you will need to find another way to get a huge increase in pilots.

I suppose you can call the E-AB world a small segment of GA, but I think 33,000 new planes flying around might be more properly considered the most lively segment of GA.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | August 18, 2011 2:56 PM    Report this comment

The pilot population is shrinking from both ends. I know plenty of pilots who have hung up their wings. When asked why, the responses include: bored of it, no where to go, $100 hamburgers aren't worth it anymore, too expensive, etc. And I fully agree with R. Boswell that the limitation in utility of some of these airplanes makes it rather unattractive.

It makes me laugh when people compare ownership of airplanes to boats and motorcycles. When was the last time you invited a half dozen friends on your Archer or Skyhawk w/ a cooler full of beer & good eats basking in the sun on the water, swimming & fishing? I rest my case. With $200 for beer, food, and gas, you can spend an *entire day* w/ a half a dozen friends on a boat. For the same $200, you'll be lucky to get a couple of hours of flight, and weight & balance permitting, you MIGHT get 4 bodies in that plane. If you're renting, you'll have that "got to get her back on time" hanging over your head at all times.

While I think the EAA's Golden Eagles (read: the older crowd with cold hard cash to spend) is a positive step, I think it's also a bandage over a sliced up jugular vein. Pilot start/drop-out is a problem, and I agree with Paul B. that the reasons are many. I also think we need to think about the existing pilot pool and find out just how many of these people are actually flying, or are just happy card carrying arm chair pilots. The active pilots in GA may be fewer than any of us would like to believe, or admit.

Posted by: William Wang | August 18, 2011 2:59 PM    Report this comment

I believe that one needs to have an accurate "big picture" view of what may be a contributing factor in the declining pilot population. Folks of my generation (born 1943) grew up in an age when aviation was experiencing rapid technological and economic development. There was still an element of excitement, adventure, and mystique associated with flying. Over the last 30 or so years, this has become much less the case. With domestic airfares as low as $49 and NY to London fares in the few hundred dollar range, virtually everyone today travels by air. Flying has for most of the public become a routine, commonplace event, and has, as a result, lost its allure for many. The easy access, low cost , and near perfect safety record of commercial aviation has, in my opinion. diminished the attractiveness of personal aviation as an avocation for many (but certainly not for all.) I believe that this macro change in the aviation environment is a significant factor (among several others) in accounting for the declining pilot population, and this trend will likely continue for the foreseeable futu

Posted by: R Boswell | August 18, 2011 3:55 PM    Report this comment

Ken is on to something. "...many of the pilot population is made up of post-WW2 military folk who used their VA benefits to get their ratings back in the day...

Some of the most active members of my EAA chapter are Vietnam-era combat pilots. I also remember flight schools at local airports like VNY and TOA were packed with vets in the 1970's.

Posted by: Jim Lo Bue | August 18, 2011 4:06 PM    Report this comment

Several months ago Paul made a powerful case for eliminating the 3rd class medical for single engine personal flying. Along with the high cost of fuel and a/c rentals, I think this is a major factor in the loss of pilots. Living in the Northwest, we are considering getting a boat and a smaller motor home. Using both does not require a medical, so why should light plane flying for 3 or 4 place planes. As in boating, we complete a course, get a quick coast guard checkout, and we are on our way... If the airplane industry used boating or RVing as the pattern, even with high gas prices...still a lot of activity there. I have two friends who are in their 70s and 80s still enjoying their toys...but have given up flying, primarily over a little blood pressure bump or controlled disorder with medication...they say it just isn't worth the hassle... I sure hope EAA and AOPA will take an active role in changing this obsolete FAA policy... and save the taxpayer big bucks in the process.

Posted by: roger bailey | August 18, 2011 5:01 PM    Report this comment

Right on, Roger.

The FAA aeromedical division spends fully half their time, energy, and money on third class medicals. Even the FAA guys admit there is only a chance that these medicals might have a safety impact.

Alas, in the government it is easy to establish new programs and regulations and nearly impossible to eliminate any of them.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | August 18, 2011 6:03 PM    Report this comment

So, a free half hour around the patch, maybe a Sporty's ground school free lesson, and a voucher for a discounted first flight lesson will have adults saying, 'yea now, that's what I needed for a lifetime commitment to becoming a private pilot!?'

Normally I'm not nearly so cynical, but with respect to EAA and this new idea, to me it's misplaced effort. The aviation gene pool, so to speak, is shrinking. One needs patience and persistence to get a PPL, money now and later to keep active, mental acuity and physical fitness, and other factors previously well mentioned by other posters. I just don't see it from my porch.

We've all been saying it for years now, but it's worth repeating - flying yourself for years and years mostly alone or maybe with one, in your own/rented plane falls in the 'passionate' category without a doubt. And a person with a passion doesn't need a lick of persuasion by anyone to dive headlong into it. 60 dollar flights from Phx to Vegas, San Diego, or a dozen other close places doesn't help bring pilot starts up at all either. Paul's second paragraph on the blog says it well for me.

This ain't beer while watchin' the game, nodding off while fishing, or overeating at the casino. Good luck, EAA.

Posted by: Dave Miller | August 18, 2011 9:30 PM    Report this comment

Aviation has advanced to a very high level. That means that you can get in an air conditioned plane and fly at 600mph across the country for less than the cost of a bag of groceries.

A SEL rating on the other hand is limiting, expensive, slow, and has recurring costs not associated with actual flying. It's as impractical as building your own car in your garage or build your own FM radio on the kitchen table. People just don't need to do it themselves anymore.

Dave is correct; GA is now relegated to passion and hobby status. It no longer has mass appeal because frankly it's a lot more trouble than it's worth.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | August 19, 2011 8:50 AM    Report this comment

For those interested in this sort of thing, there is an interesting book by Nicholas Carr called 'The Shallows: What the Internet is Doing to our Brains' that shows how the brain is actually re-wiring itself from processing reading printed pages versus Internet pages.

An experiment at UCLA showed that just an hour a day on the Internet for a week changed the brain's neural pathways significantly. The author posits that human brains over the past five hundred years from reading books have been trained to concentrate for prolonged periods, ie. getting a ppl ticket, and that discipline has enabled man to produce ideas, inventions and the important stamina for their success.

This relates to aviation, in my opinion, very strongly. Asked to read a short story on a computer screen, over 75% of a study's subjects had trouble following the text. Only 10% of those reading traditional text did.

I know electronic readers and all things electronic are here to stay, but if our brains are re-wiring themselves to a less disciplined, second rate ability to concentrate for long periods to accomplish tasks, it's similar to aviation in that a lot of sacrifice of other factors is needed for speed, and deciding whether that is always a good thing or not might be our new challenge, among too many others already mentioned.

Posted by: Dave Miller | August 19, 2011 12:13 PM    Report this comment

Again we get back to the FAA. As Mark said, "it's often more trouble than it's worth", and unfortunately he's right. Aviation is a passion for me, but sometimes even I marvel at how may hoops I have to jump through every year just to stay legal. Enter the feds, requiring a useless medical certificate, onerous security, high certification costs for every part of an airplane, etc. That's the main difference when we start comparing sport aviation to RVs and boats. It's still worth it to me but I understand why it's such a tough sell.

Posted by: Chris McLellan | August 19, 2011 12:21 PM    Report this comment

As David Miller points out, geezer flights are not going to solve the pilot numbers problem but it can win us a lot of friends. I've kinda been doing old eagle flights for years. Very few of those have been converted but on the other hand, our airport has made a lot of new friends who have been very supportive of the airport when we've needed it

Posted by: Richard Montague | August 19, 2011 1:54 PM    Report this comment

Richard Montague makes a very good point. I've often thought at our fly-in that it was a shame we can't take the adults, too, as many seem very interested and a little disappointed that they can't go up. Now maybe instead of advertising Young Eagle rides, we can just advertise Airplane Rides and make a lot of people very happy, including the pilots and staff who will no longer have to explain that adults don't qualify. If we gain any new pilots or friends of the airport at all, it's worth it.

Posted by: Mark Consigny | August 19, 2011 2:26 PM    Report this comment

Nowhere in any of these comments has family life been mentioned. For folks in their 40s or 50s, at the peak earning potential, in reasonable health, aviation is a great way to spend some time with your kids.

Mothers and fathers who can discern the potential benefits of teaching the whole family about aviation seem few and far between, but they do exist... and are probably the same parents who read to their kids every chance they get. Less TV and video games, and more time spent actively involved with the kids is the recipe here.

Yes, Virginia, that means getting everybody in the car some Saturday morning, driving to the local airport, and watching the rag draggers pick up their banners. Breakfast would be in order as well. Let the kids see that mom and dad are not afraid to sign up for flight lessons, even though they are out of their comfort zones at first! Maybe some families will develop mutual respect and become whole families of aviators.

There are many good people to be found at the local grass strip. They are known as "airport bums" and they tend to make great mentors for those families who show even a hint of enthusiasm.

Flying is not for everybody, and that's fine. But for involved parents, family involvement in flying can be a perfectly acceptable antidote to many of the forces that tear at the fabric of our society; moreover, it can teach the science and geography and common sense that is so often lacking in the youth culture today.

Posted by: Daniel Hain | August 20, 2011 8:32 AM    Report this comment

I own a certified aircraft but would now like to build a kit plane. I have three adult children who have experienced my passion with aviation since they were kids. I've dragged them to more airports than I can count but I can't give the plane to any of them. They simply are not interested to spend the time and money to maintain an airplane and remain current. A free airplane that they know all to well is anything but free.

Posted by: Jay | August 21, 2011 6:16 PM    Report this comment

As far as flying teaching '..science and geography and common sense', my teen son says there are apps for those on your smartphones...and they're free, no costly plane rental,..etc.

Using a time machine instead of an airplane might show a previous middle class with a family disposible income to enable the N. Rockwell airport of yesteryear, without fences, smothering FAA regs, terrorism threats, noise nimbys, almost out-of-reach fuel costs, and unfunded airport projects, but in my opinion it simply is not the best demographic today for new pilots. Flying Golden geezers may help a bit, but even with that we need economic vibrancy again to save GA. And a return to a stable middle class.

Posted by: Dave Miller | August 21, 2011 8:54 PM    Report this comment

The term "General Aviation" (GA) has needed a makeover for several decades. The EAA has sub-categories like "Sport Aviation", "Vintage", "War-Bird" and others, but GA is as much commercial as "Air Carrier" is. I like to define myself as a member of "Recreational Aviation" (RA). The key to the growth of RA is changing government regulation of this key segment of the market. When my dad started flying, he taught himself how to fly. When he cracked it up, he pulled it into a shed and fixed it himself. He hauled Jerry cans down to the gas station to get fuel. RA is taking a couple of laps around the pea patch, or going to the beach, or visiting friends, or going out to eat at some distant place and coming back the same day. Limiting government regulation of this segment and EAA's inclusion of adults in its YE programs could reinvigorate this enjoyable activity. I support the efforts of some members of Congress to reduce government regulations that restrict business growth including "Recreational Aviation".

Posted by: David Miller | August 22, 2011 6:35 AM    Report this comment

Well, I know I just spent over $1000 in 100LL this weekend to get to KLOU from KMGW. I know I could have done this **A LOT** cheaper by either driving or flying the airlines, but I wanted to experience GA and all the greatness in it. We were headed to a Civil Air Patrol National Conference.

So, I found a buddy with an Aztec, my CFII/MEI friend, and about $1000 worth of AvGas and off we went. As we were in route to KLOU, cruising at 6500MSL with "George" doing the flying, I just looked around and said, while the gas was outrageous, I knew my bags were safely tucked away in the back, my brother was behind me and I was getting 4 hrs of ME/Inst time.

I'm glad I took the trip. The new "older eagles" program should be totally seperate from the current "young eagles" program...show them the business case for using private aircraft and the pure joy of crusing at 6500MSL looking at the world fly by...

Posted by: R. Doe | August 22, 2011 8:15 AM    Report this comment

After reading all of the comments so far, I find myself agreeing with many of them. For me, after nearly 39 years of flying, there's still a significant "wow" factor in getting up there and boring holes in the sky, whether I go somewhere or not. My airplane is my friend, and she's fun to fly just locally while being reasonably capable for going on the occasional trip (48 year old IFR-equipped 172). But the hoop-jumping that is necessary to keep both her and me legal each year is definitely onerous and expensive. As the joke goes, a thousand here, a thousand there, and pretty soon you're talking real money, not to mention the real personal effort it takes, especially now that I'm on a Special Issuance medical.

In today's world of instant gratification, way too many people want the kind of learning environment that amounts to an afternoon doing S-turns in a parking lot on a motorcycle or docking and undocking a boat a few times, perhaps another day learning rudimentary navigation, but which essentially says, "learn the ropes today and go do it tomorrow". They don't want to spend months and months and thousands of bucks getting to the point that they can do it on their own. They're the same people who rail loudly when their computers take 10 seconds instead of 5 seconds to bring up a web page--and unfortunately they're in the majority of those who have the wherewithal to buy into aviation, so they choose to use that ability elsewhere. (continued below)

Posted by: Cary Alburn | August 22, 2011 8:30 AM    Report this comment

But we have to start somewhere. Putting adults into an airplane, and relaxing some of the hoops (especially the medical hoops), might just encourage the "wow" factor. People don't become passionate about anything without first tasting it. Once that's there, the other impediments melt away significantly.

I enjoy taking both children and adults flying, and believe me, if there’s a “wow” factor to be had, it comes out as readily in adults as it does in kids. Realistically there’s a huge damper on it when I respond to the inevitable question, “What would it cost to learn to fly?” with “somewhere around $10K for a private license”. But for someone in their prime earning years with disposable income, that’s not as daunting as for someone not yet earning minimum wage or just starting out in life with significant student loans to pay off. So while it's not a cure for aviation's woes, EAA's proposal makes lots of sense, and for certain, it can't hurt—just don’t call it by some insulting name!

Posted by: Cary Alburn | August 22, 2011 8:31 AM    Report this comment

Yes good idea. That's why PilotJourney.com has been doing this since 2006 and sold thousands of first time flight lessons.

We even tried to work with EAA once. :)

Gary Bradshaw President, Pilot Journey

Posted by: Gary Bradshaw | August 22, 2011 8:52 AM    Report this comment

--- RA is taking a couple of laps around the pea patch, . .. Limiting government regulation of this segment --

The government has done just that. The Sport Pilot and Light Sport Aircraft rules go a long way to ease new pilots into the air. They also help old pilots get back in the air without having to deal with FAA aeromedical bureaucrats. This move was shepherded by the EAA but required substantial effort from the FAA, ASTM, and others as well. I think we will see another burst of response if (when?) the FAA drops the 3rd class medical certificate all together.

Recreational Aviation doesn't have to mean short flights and avoidance of the NAS. It just means you aren't flying to further business interests. Retired folks could conceivably go out and fly IFR in multi-engine planes for the education and recreation aspects of the flight just as they could to it VFR in LSA from their local grass patch. Put another way, recreation flying is about the reason for the flight rather than the type of aircraft or details of the flight plan.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | August 22, 2011 8:54 AM    Report this comment

Wonderful! That's exactly what I have been encouraging pilots to do to celebrate Women Of Aviation Week annually. I certainly hope will EAA will also encourage its members to celebrate Women Of Aviation Week. Next one is March 5-11 2012.

There is no right age to get the flying bug and I have seen no study that demonstrate that people who solo at 16 make better pilots that those who solo at 27, 35, 48, 56, or 63. The only difference is the potential length of your flying career and the odds of having a commercial flying career.

One 2-year old girl who was introduced to flying during Women Of Aviation Week was so enthusiastic about her experience that she convinced her parents to look into flying lessons while many women of age just bought flight lessons before leaving the airport.

Posted by: Flying Bug | August 22, 2011 9:36 AM    Report this comment

I doubt FAA rules will change until a corporation/business interest forces them to.

And I bet companies like Cessna make very little from their piston division.

Ergo, third class medicals are here to stay (ugh).

Posted by: Pete Kuhns | August 22, 2011 9:40 AM    Report this comment

Mirelle,

I actually have seen one study that suggests it does make a difference what age a pilot gets rated. The study was about pilots who get into inadvertent IMC. It showed little difference between instrument rated pilots vs. non-rated ones. However, it did show pilots who started young had a much higher chance of survival than those that started after age 50.

Of course, I am in favor of people of all ages getting into aviation. I am equally in favor of pilots intending VFR flight remaining in VMC.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | August 22, 2011 9:55 AM    Report this comment

Paul, I recently got 5 decades of pilot statistics fresh from the FAA. There has been no recent increase of pilots recently unless you count the students. The counting of the students is not accurate because as the FAA put it in the little note below the table, student certificates are now valid for 5 years for less-than-40-years old (i.e., students who have dropped out are still count). So expect a steady virtual increase of pilots in the next 3 years.

When you don't count the students, the number of pilot has decrease from 532,517 in 2000 to 508,469 in 2010. The biggest decrease is between 2009 (522,005 to 508,469).

Although the number of students has decreased, there were between 45,000 and 60,000 student pilot certificates issued per year in the late 90s when the economy was good. Since 2001, the annual number has varied between 53,000 and 65,000 annually.

What has really changed over the last 2 decades is our ability to train pilot candidates. Out of all pilot candidates committed enough to learning to fly that they obtained a medical/student pilot certificate, 65% became unrestricted pilots in the early 1990s; today, less than 35% do.

We currently have far more CFI than we have students. Couldn't it be a good time to up the standards for CFI? If CFI is a stepping stone to the airlines, what's the worse that could happen by doing that? Better airline pilots, may be...

Posted by: Flying Bug | August 22, 2011 9:56 AM    Report this comment

Flight training cost has increased by as dramatically as one would think. In 1970, a flight lesson in a 2-seat airplane with fuel and instructor cost $20-25 ($114-143 in 2010 dollars). In 2010, the same lesson varies between $130 and $160. (I used an inflation converter for 2010 values)

What has changed dramatically is the cost of ownership of a new aircraft. In 1970, a new Cessna 172 cost $12,500 ($71,601 in 2010) or 3.2 times the cost of an average new car. In 2010, the same new Cessna 172 cost $269,500 or 9.2 times the cost of an average new car.

Isn't any wonder that the recreational sector is disappearing? Why earn a private pilot license if you would be able to use it the way it was intended to be used? Go on trips with family and friends.

The high daily minimum for rent an aircraft at a flight school are not helping either...

Posted by: Flying Bug | August 22, 2011 10:17 AM    Report this comment

The FAA has no way of knowing how many inactive pilots became active again because of the SP/LSA rules. There is no paperwork involved for pilots (like me) who have started flying again. The FAA just doesn't know how many certificated pilots are active. (They also don't know how many pilots are flying without any federal blessing at all.)

I don't know how CFI performance impacts the "Drop out" rate for student pilots. I do know the general education level of public school students has deteriorated a great deal from 1990 to now. Flying is a technical activity that requires a generally technical person. Playing with video games does not qualify in this case.

My own experience suggests we need more "Active" CFIs. At one local airport I learned it is impossible to get a dual flight unless you schedule it a week in advance. There are plenty of aircraft, but the CFIs are all part time and need to free up their schedules to make a dual flight.

Pilots becoming CFIs merely to get time to qualify for the work of airline pilots has been a problem as long as I have been flying. I've always opted for older CFIs who are teaching because they want to teach. I expect a big change in the formula for creating airline pilots over the next few decades. The military is not creating the large numbers of pilots who filled these jobs in the past, and the CFI route just isn't lucrative enough to fill all the empty seats we expect to see in the future.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | August 22, 2011 10:25 AM    Report this comment

@PaulM I might be a little prejudice here but did the study deal with the likeness of the occurrence also? Somehow, I think that someone older is less likely to get into the situation to begin with. May be I am wrong. May be wisdom does not come with age :)

Posted by: Flying Bug | August 22, 2011 10:25 AM    Report this comment

Another aspect which should be addressed is tort law, if we want to keep and finish the students we do get. Too many CFI's are afraid to sign off on anything because they'll be in hot water if a student bangs himself up. I soloed a couple weeks ago, and this past Saturday spent a solo hour shooting touch & goes on the most perfect flying day ever, and nothing short of financial ruin or complete physical or mental incapacitation will ever keep me away from flying now. My CFI understands this and pushes his students to get the basic skills down and solo as quick as possible, but most don't any more. It's no wonder students quit if they have to get 30 hours and $6K into it before they know the sense of accomplishment and pure joy of flying a small aircraft all by themselves. Get them soloed at 10 hours and they'll not only be hooked for life, they'll be much more motivated to study, review, and practice so they can finish up.

Posted by: Mark Consigny | August 22, 2011 10:29 AM    Report this comment

Mireille,

I just don't know the answer to your question. The study, as I remember it, dealt only with pilots who had encountered unexpected IMC. It didn't report on the statistics for those who had this experience, just on the results of the experience.

The part that surprised me the most is that half of the instrument rated pilots in unexpected IMC died. I would have thought that once you know how to fly on instruments the ability to perform a somewhat less than perfect 180 would be with you for life. This just isn't so.

Apparently the youngsters who spend their whole adult lives flying are just more "Natural" at handling the IMC surprise than folks who started flying at an older age. One possibility is they are "Wired" to deal with unexpected events more than those who started later. Let's face reality -- most flying is really boring but there is always the chance of unexpected and unwanted excitement.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | August 22, 2011 11:44 AM    Report this comment

Paul M,

There is actually evidence that people with advanced training are more likely to go closer to the edge and... get themselves in trouble. That's true for driving and flying.

Having an instrument rating does not make one instrument current. The instrument scan is first to go with inadequate currency. If the pilot can't keep the aircraft right side up IMC, nothing else matters.

Yes, a 180 seems easy enough to do but as the saying goes, "All pilots know how to make a 180, only the good ones know when".

I have been an instructor for many years and have neither met a "natural" pilot. Flying, as anything else, is learned. However, some do learn faster and better than others. Actually, I have found that pilots that start with a glider rating have the finest understanding of how airplane fly.

I believe, from personal experience, that the only thing that makes someone a "natural" flyer is lots of experience and many hours in the air each month. The catch is that it can also make someone feel so comfortable that they become careless. It would have been interesting to compare the experience level of each pilot along with age. I didn't see the study so I don't know if they took that into account.

Posted by: Flying Bug | August 22, 2011 1:52 PM    Report this comment

"All pilots know how to make a 180, only the good ones know when"

That one is a keeper!

I've always said the reason I haven't killed myself yet is the 4 inch wide yellow streak down the middle of my back.

Actually, I had the unusual benefit of getting my private pilot license through a USAF Aero Club. According to some of the FAA guys (Experts?) I've discussed this whole issue of safety with that makes me one of the 5% or so of GA pilots who are really safety oriented. You can't help but be that way after doing military aero clubs.

I hope that means I would be one of the survivors of inadvertent IMC. I've been there once already and got out of it with all my parts (both me and the plane). It wasn't real IMC, just a condition where there was no visible reference to orient the plane. I had plenty of visibility to avoid traffic, just couldn't see anything else. Among other things it convinced me it was time to work on an instrument rating.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | August 22, 2011 3:20 PM    Report this comment

I wrote a 4-part series for Midwest Flyer magazine--it is just finishing. So many commenters here echo my own. Briefly:

Flying is expensive--and has ALWAYS been expensive.

Students knew what flying cost when they signed up--but that ITSELF was not a deterrent--after all, they DID sign up.

Dropout rates are higher than ever--not because flying is expensive, it is because of a lack of PERCEIVED VALUE--students fail to see the value for the money.

We need to show students ways to continue to do the kind of flying THEY want to do--partnerships, clubs, homebuilts, LSAs, etc. We need to show how they can remain involved after getting their certificate.

There are pilots that learn to fly just for the learning experience. After achieving their goal, they drop out. These people need the further challenges of more ratings, aircraft checkouts, or challenging places to go.

Posted by: jim hanson | August 22, 2011 3:58 PM    Report this comment

We do a FAIR job of instructing (within the FAA guidelines--SERIOUSLY in need of change in themselves) but a HORRIBLE job of teaching people how to use their airplanes. Pilots now can get their ratings with only 5 hours of cross country experience--no wonder that many pilots never GO anyplace. After getting the rating, pilots usually give rides to their friend--an activity quickly used up. They then do the "flight breakfast" scene for a couple of years--then quit. We need to teach them to think about interesting places to go--or how to use the airplane to do things they ALREADY like to do. Hunting, fishing, antiquing? A pilot now has a 500 mile radius for even weekend trips.

We need to emphasize the SOCIAL aspects of flying. We USED to have people that hung around the airport--but no longer. Most activities are more enjoyable when done with other people--golf, motorcycle riding, bowling, fishing--almost ANY activity is more fun with other people around. In the sterile atmosphere of most airports, there is little socialization.

Posted by: jim hanson | August 22, 2011 4:04 PM    Report this comment

Years ago, Beech promoted a sort of "aviation country club"--social activities for pilots. At my FBO, we do fly-outs, fly-ins, but mainly, just "get togethers" for pilots. We organize impromptu live lobster feeds, Wisconsin fish boils, shrimp boils, etc. I have a commercial stove in the hangar, where we prepare prime ribs, smoked ribs, etc. We just finished a Dungeness crab feast Saturday night--we have to limit attendance to 85 people--we usually "sell out" within 5 days. It costs us nothing--we put it on at cost--but it has become a BIG draw with local pilots--who often ask if they can bring a prospective pilot.

Young Eagles is a good program for involving pilots in spreading the word about aviation, but it was never intended to be the ONLY way pilots can participate. The structure of Young Eagles CAN and SHOULD be used to not only involve Gray Eagles, but for many OTHER kinds of airport activities.

Posted by: jim hanson | August 22, 2011 4:05 PM    Report this comment

When I was in college, before I considered learning to fly, I stayed with a family that were a testament that flying is fun until one does the "dying thing".

The lady had a young daughter and was pregnant with her second child when her husband died in an airplane crash. Witnessing their pain on a daily basis did not prevent from learning to fly, but it sure made me a strong advocate for safety.

On another note... night VFR in mountains and over open water can be as disorienting as IMC and can surprise many VFR pilots.

Posted by: Flying Bug | August 22, 2011 5:24 PM    Report this comment

--- night VFR in mountains and over open water can be as disorienting as IMC and can surprise many VFR pilots. ---

The same thing can happen in day time too. Just try flying a 20 mile crossing over Chesapeake Bay with 7 miles visibility and a complete overcast. You have gray air, gray clouds, and gray water. Guess how I know . . .

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | August 22, 2011 5:41 PM    Report this comment

Two points: Young Eagles program has several benefits besides fostering new pilots. It brings many adults to the local airport (for their first time) and provides education opportunities about pilots, the FAA and the airport. This helps off-set media hype whenever there is an accident, or noise complaints. Our EAA chapter flies ~500 YEs a year and we get to explain about experimental aircraft.

As for third class medical issues; a proposal was put forth to allow pilots flying aircraft less than 6,000 pounds to use their drivers’ license. The Docket Number is FAA 2009-0481 and you can access at www.regulations.gov. More information is available at: http://www.potomac-airfield.com/.

Posted by: Martin Heller | August 24, 2011 9:07 AM    Report this comment

Last entry was truncated. More information on the 3rd class medical proposal is at: www.potomac-airfield.com/.

Posted by: Martin Heller | August 24, 2011 9:08 AM    Report this comment

I think it's a wonderful thing to include adults in the EAA flight experience. This was brought home to me when the father of a teenager my husband was taking for a Young Eagles flight lamented to me that he wished there had been a program like this when he was a youngster. He'd never been up in an airplane, much less a small 2-seat taildragger. My husband later gave him the thrill of his lifetime by taking him up in our Citabria.

While I concede that this particular man will likely never become a pilot, he's now certainly a lot more aware of the pleasure of aviation & a lot more likely to be on our side of the fence in aviation issues. I'm probably an accidental pilot myself, having only earned my private pilot certificate at age 60. But I'm pleased that in the 4 years I've been flying I have logged over 800 hours. Adults deserve consideration too. Paul's right: the adults have the money. Take them up. It's good PR.

Posted by: Susan Simmons | August 24, 2011 12:49 PM    Report this comment

Take them up. It's good PR.>

Maybe, maybe not. Experience can solidify or dissolve a preconceived idea. Something that eludes me with this discussion, however, is, are actively interested adults being turned down for a free ride at YE events and such? I've never seen it, and every pilot I know would be happy to follow up the next weekend to fly Dad or Mom for a half hour if interested.

Sure, no one can argue that any effort at all goes toward a goal, but as an adult over sixty myself I would have to be rather naive, maybe childish to allow an intro flight to circumvent a lifetime of real, personal experience in all things emotional, like a first flight.

Some years ago when Dad was still alive I took him up for a flight to introduce him to personal flying. He wanted to pursue a PPL and fly to golf courses with his buddies. But rental scarcity, high-normal BP, weather, cost, and countless other factors kept him with the airlines.

I want my dues and support to the alphabet groups to go to the tough stuff that I can't get to other than writing and voting, like fuel accessibility and availiblity, medical issues, COST, increasingly ubiquitious airport fees, plane availablity, and COST. Eight airports surround me and only one has a few very old, tired 172's to rent.

Posted by: Dave Miller | August 24, 2011 3:02 PM    Report this comment

Leave the free rides, pancake breakfasts, airport bbq's and social life to us on the local level, and spend the effort, money and moxie on the big stuff. My dad didn't want to 'hang out at airports'. He wanted to be on the golf course. He just wanted to see the perceived value to personal flying exceed the comparison to the airlines. He didn't, and that was fifteen years ago.

Posted by: Dave Miller | August 24, 2011 3:03 PM    Report this comment

I am surprised at how many pilots are advocating that the airlines are better and cheaper. Try the airlines to fly to off-the-beaten-path destinations. Try the airlines to leave 2 or 3 hours after you planned because of the last minute task. Try the airlines to go on a trip on a whim. Cost-wise, the airlines will indeed be cheaper when flying to hubs and on long distance trips with advanced planning. But that's the only time they compare favorably.

Posted by: Flying Bug | August 25, 2011 10:15 AM    Report this comment

EAA should name it the bald eagles

Posted by: B Noel | August 25, 2011 12:43 PM    Report this comment

I am surprised at how many pilots are advocating that the airlines are better and cheaper>

You're confusing observation with advocacy.

For off-the-beaten path destinations, those with poor time management skills, or impulsive flying, yes, as long as the PIC is healthy, the aircraft ready, if VFR, the weather is good, and one has a full wallet, I'll take my aircraft anyday. But when one gets to the calculator and sees the now prohibitive costs to enable one to fly as desired above, GA isn't viable any longer for so many who would love to fly. Nibbling at the edges with golden eagles intro flights, still expensive LSA, etc. is like someone said earlier, putting a bandaid on a cut carotid artery. You're either a passionate fly-at-all-sacrifice person or very weathly individual nowadays to keep flying, imo.

This weekend, 3 days, four adults, one telescope, one motorhome to the G. Canyon (200 miles) to camp and hike with food, fuel and park fees should cost me personally about 40 dollars. I'm just sayin'..

Posted by: Dave Miller | August 25, 2011 2:34 PM    Report this comment

It causes me a bit of pain when every question asked on issues surrounding recreational flight brings out hoards of people whining about the price of aviation. It should be no surprise to anyone that flying is an expensive activity. Fuel at $5.50 per gallon is enough of a flag that you just can't fly for free.

You can fly on a budget. If you put in some "Sweat equity" on either building your own plane or doing your own resurrection on a damaged TC'd plane you can become an airplane owner for a price similar to a car or motor home/camper. For a little bit more you can buy an elderly two seater in reasonable airworthy condition. You still want insurance and a hangar which might bring your fixed expenses to a few thousand dollars per year on top of the original cost of capital. If you can't afford a hobby that costs perhaps 5 thousand dollars per year then you can't afford to own an airplane and fly it. You also can't afford to play golf, own a motorboat, or even spend a lot of your time going to the movies. Smoking cigarettes is also out of the question.

So let's all get real and stop whining about the fact that flying isn't free. If you really want to be a pilot and airplane owner you can probably pull it off with a relatively small budget. A larger budget will get you more airplane and more fuel consumption.

We just don't need to hear every week about how expensive it is to fly.

Posted by: Paul Mulwitz | August 25, 2011 3:52 PM    Report this comment

So let's all get real and stop whining about the fact that flying isn't free....you just can't fly for free.>

And whining using obtuse distraction of the core problems won't get more pilot starts either.

It's insulting to sincere pilots and friends of aviation who are trying their best to keep the ship from sinking and continue to fly. Most I know are giving it up - not because they smoke or are too stupid to budget, but the perceived value and cost is no longer viable. Re-read the blog and thoughtful posters above and stop your own whining, please.

Posted by: Dave Miller | August 25, 2011 5:18 PM    Report this comment

I think there is merit to the both the kid and adult YE concept and here is why:

My introduction to flying was a YE flight before YE even existed, just a family friend giving me a front seat ride 29 years ago when I was 17. I had other priorities on my mind (college, marriage, kids, dog....) but it set a spark. 10 years later, my wife had enough of my talking about flying and not doing, and had the initiative to find the local FBO to buy an introductory flight lesson, and that ignighted the interest at a time when we could afford flight lessons and rental a/c. This lead to a pilots license, a 1/7th share in a 172, an instrument rating, then a move up to a complex Comanche (still shared 3 ways), 4 trips to OSH with my son and a new way of life. The point is that any one program or exposure to aviation may or may not be successful in generating a long term pilot, but a combination of experiences throughout one's life can increase that probability of developing a long term pilot / owner. Are free adult rides the answer? I don't think they are the only answer. But a front seat flying experience delivered by a motivated pilot with follow-up on how to being the training process can help ignite or re-ignite a spark that can result in a life changing decision to invest time and $ in aviation It won't happen if we sit back and do nothing, but if each one of us made an impact on one non-pilot this year, and 10% of them start flying, and 25% of those stick with it, we reverse the trend

Posted by: Murray Collette | August 25, 2011 8:57 PM    Report this comment

I think there is merit to the both the kid and adult YE concept and here is why:

My introduction to flying was a YE flight before YE even existed, just a family friend giving me a front seat ride 29 years ago when I was 17. I had other priorities on my mind (college, marriage, kids, dog....) but it set a spark. 10 years later, my wife had enough of my talking about flying and not doing, and had the initiative to find the local FBO to buy an introductory flight lesson, and that ignighted the interest at a time when we could afford flight lessons and rental a/c. This lead to a pilots license, a 1/7th share in a 172, an instrument rating, then a move up to a complex Comanche (still shared 3 ways), 4 trips to OSH with my son and a new way of life. The point is that any one program or exposure to aviation may or may not be successful in generating a long term pilot, but a combination of experiences throughout one's life can increase that probability of developing a long term pilot / owner. Are free adult rides the answer? I don't think they are the only answer. But a front seat flying experience delivered by a motivated pilot with follow-up on how to being the training process can help ignite or re-ignite a spark that can result in a life changing decision to invest time and $ in aviation It won't happen if we sit back and do nothing, but if each one of us made an impact on one non-pilot this year, and 10% of them start flying, and 25% of those stick with it, we reverse the trend

Posted by: Murray Collette | August 25, 2011 8:57 PM    Report this comment

The EAA Adult Eagle program is a good idea. This includes young adults as well as middle age and old guys like me. We are now including rather than excluding. As an EAA member and CFI, count on my help.

Posted by: Rafael Sierra | August 28, 2011 10:44 AM    Report this comment

Boxing your passengers with rolled up sectionals is no way to encourage them to become pilots. Instead, you should politely ask them to step outside.

Posted by: Art Zemon | August 29, 2011 7:25 AM    Report this comment

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