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In Search Of Airborne Connection

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It's been clear for a long time that the pilot population is in decline, but the reasons why and the ways to change the trajectory seem to be somewhat less clear. Plenty of theories and proposals have been floated, and various advocacy groups have taken aim at the issue, but so far nothing seems to have had a huge impact. The latest focus seems to be on connection and community-building. It's not just about making it easier or cheaper or more efficient to learn to fly, this theory goes -- if we want to attract new pilots and keep them active, they need opportunities to interact with other aviators and have fun.

A few years ago, Radek Wyrzykowski came knocking on the door of our AVweb trailer at Oshkosh, to tell us about a new idea he had to launch something called the IMC Club. Based at a little airport outside Boston -- not the usual hub for GA activity -- his idea was simply to get pilots together to share their experiences with instrument flight. A few years later, the IMC Club has almost 50 active chapters, and more in the works. The Club's success certainly adds evidence to the argument that there's a need for community and connection among pilots.

AOPA launched a new initiative last year, the Center to Advance the Pilot Community, to encourage the development of flying clubs and keep pilots active and engaged. They've put a Flying Club Finder online to help pilots find a group nearby, and they've been highlighting and promoting clubs at their website and in their members' magazine. It's not yet clear how much impact this might have had, but AOPA says there's a growing "buzz" of support for flying-club growth.

SocialFlight is working a different angle, using a free mobile app to try to get pilots out to events and help them connect online. The app lists over 3,000 aviation events on an interactive map, and also has social features to help pilots make plans together. Within a few months of launch, more than 10,000 users had signed up, SocialFlight says. The product aims to "inspire us to fly more because it gives us that mission, that reason to get out there and make new friends, learn new things and remind ourselves why we fly," the company says.

EAA of course has been working on this whole community concept for years. Not only does their big show at Oshkosh attract more pilots than any other event in the world, but their chapters around the country provide a forum for members to get together and share their knowledge every month. If there's a downside to EAA's efforts, it's that the chapters tend to focus on the homebuilding aspect, which is great for the builders, but leaves out a lot of other pilots. Over the last few years, EAA has been working to become more all-inclusive -- it's challenging though, to widen the tent without alienating the core membership.

Will all of these efforts help to reverse the trends and grow the pilot community? It's too soon to tell for sure, but my own sense is that they can't hurt, and might help a little. But personally, I think the most likely turning point that will change the trajectory for the future will be when increasingly automated systems make it easier and safer to fly. I know that's an arrow to the heart of aviators who prize their hard-won skills and enjoyed every step of that journey. But a decade or two (or maybe three or four) down the road, when little airplanes are as easy to operate as cars and hopefully safer, today's community-building efforts should provide a healthy and robust root system to support all that new growth.

Comments (46)

Barbed wire, photo ID's, TSA's, the DHS pulling guns on pilots when they land, and an FAA being more interested in prosecuting than helping. Basically it's too much trouble to fly "for fun".

Posted by: Mark Fraser | May 23, 2013 7:00 PM    Report this comment

I wonder why nobody ever mentions the single-most aircrafts' simple feature that I think would really get aviation flying (pun intended): folding wings. I know that the flying car is a pipe dream, but allowing people to tow their aircraft to their homes bypassing hangar costs and airport boards BS (never mind to allow them to refuel outside the airport environment) would simplify significantly aviators lives. I am talking about a 'glider simple' system to (best) allow a single person to setup and fold the wings in a reasonable time. I can't believe that such a feature would double the (already high) price of an LSA...

Posted by: Enrique Troconis | May 23, 2013 11:18 PM    Report this comment

"...most likely turning point that will change the trajectory for the future will be when increasingly automated systems make it easier and safer to fly. I know that's an arrow to the heart of aviators who prize their hard-won skills...

Extremely incisive remarks on two counts. I hope many people read these words. I am extremely optimistic about private flying and Mary Grady is indicating part of the reason.

Posted by: David Sucher | May 23, 2013 11:25 PM    Report this comment

High taxes, high cost of Avgas, lack of mogas, TSA goon squads, GA FBOs only interested in jet set, less money to spend on flying, tired old airplanes half a century old - these are the reasons sport aviation is in decline. The EAA and AOPA turned their backs on recreational pilots years ago and are now dependent on major donors. Look where this got them - both are essentially without leaders. One correction from your old friends here in Raleigh - EAA chapter 1114 in Apex , NC has pilots from all backgrounds. Builders among our 180 members make up maybe 1/4 of us, but these are also the best volunteers and most loyal members. One of the reasons that the EAA is in decline is its obsession with inclusiveness, at the expense of the home builders and restorers which have always built the organization's solid foundation. Rod Hightower took a wrecking ball to that foundation, and I doubt seriously that even the great Jack Pelton can repair the damage done.

Posted by: Kent Misegades | May 24, 2013 6:04 AM    Report this comment

Enrique, both the Terrafugia and Icon, now in development, have folding wings, and there have been a few other LSA models on the market that offer them... I don't know how significant of a factor that is for folks, weighing the convenience of hangaring at the airport vs the savings of trailering it home, but these mfrs at least seem to agree with you that it's something buyers want.

Posted by: Mary Grady | May 24, 2013 6:08 AM    Report this comment

Cultivating community is definitely worth it. Ask any major player in Silicon Valley, who routinely ponies up $1 billion for companies like Tumblr. They're buying eyeballs and rewarding the founder(s) for creating community.

You quickly realize (in software) just how important community is. Outside of the day job, techies (and pilots) need to come to this realization too. It takes decades for most techies to realize that people are the most important thing of all, not gadgets, gizmos, bigger engines, or anything we're used to salivating over. It took me forever (decades) to realize that. People, people!

Posted by: Pete Kuhns | May 24, 2013 6:09 AM    Report this comment

For myself, when the hourly rental for an old 172 exceeded $100 an hour (same for LSA); I could not find anyone who wanted to 'share the cost' with their airplane; or 1-2 people to buy a used airplane, I could no longer afford to fly (especially since I have not had a raise in years).

For a new pilot, until there is some attraction to flying that out-weighs the entry price for training, yearly expense to stay 'current' and the economy improves (better wages), it will be a very difficult sell.

Until the entry level cost of a private pilot license becomes more reasonable for

Posted by: Richard Norris | May 24, 2013 6:24 AM    Report this comment

mary, you still stick with the easy excuse's,which isn't always the case. Yes, it still is the 3rd class med, and remember,you young folks don't have the $.

Posted by: Melvin Freedman | May 24, 2013 6:57 AM    Report this comment

Flying is personal. When you fly alone for recreation your view and the bird can become "one" again. The dance of harmony with a willing partner, without toe-stepping, is a waltz or tango of passion. There is were flight becomes easy and rewarding. When heart rate and anxiety are low and the muscles relaxed your situational awareness is at its very best. Try 2 Red bulls and donuts and a simulator with all of the bells and whistles!

Electronics, autopilots and emergency "chutes" are no substitute for practiced skills of the dance. Even an F-22 Driver should have regular Pitts time.

Posted by: Larry Fries | May 24, 2013 7:29 AM    Report this comment

Hi Mary. Well if I reminisce a little and try to understand the reason GA (PA as Oscar calls it) has had it peak. We start with the roads of yesteryear usually mud track considered an upgrade if it was gravel and the national highway was strip roads (two strips of tarmac one for each wheel and you would move over to occupy one strip when being overtaken or for oncoming traffic). To do a simple 200 to 500 mile journey would take at least a day maybe two if the rivers were swollen. Crossing rivers was adventurous at the best of time and when swollen dangerous. Farmers usually had a light aircraft to fly from their farms to city centers. This was more convenient, easier and certainly the quickest way to travel. The farmers were the only one that could afford such a craft what with Government grants/loans and massive insurance payouts.

Today the road infrastructure is excellent with good 22ft tarmac road in the most rural areas and massive dual carriage ways as national highways. To travel 200 to 500 miles is comfortable with air-conditioning and quick in the modern cars taking a few hours to do the trip.

To do any traveling in a light aircraft today is not such fun as you have to HAVE TO land and takeoff from some airfield careful not to upset the local residence with noise.

Posted by: Bruce Savage | May 24, 2013 10:04 AM    Report this comment

I don't see a problem with declining pilot population but rather a change in our overall behavior. Many people these days from the young folks to baby boomers are getting their adventure through smart phones, apps and cable tv. These are far more affordable than flying,,, that includes ultralights.

Posted by: Jim Skibinski | May 24, 2013 11:40 AM    Report this comment

I can tell you why I'm quitting, which may have some general applicability. The 3rd class medical, which I will have trouble with shortly; the cost of fuel, which makes a weekend trip of 3-4 hours each way in my 182 a major expense; decreased hours from the above, making the $5000 fixed cost of ownership $80/hour; and an engine and prop both coming due for replacement at once. I don't think there's much wrong with GA that wouldn't go away if costs came down. Even the 3rd class medical would be less of an issue if younger folks could afford to take up the sport. The FAA, TSA, and boorish Customs officials (at least locally) are major irritants, but not deal breakers. And as for folding wings, no practical aircraft (4 adults and baggage at 120 knots for 4 hours) exist tht I know of. Even if I had such a plane, I'd have to purpose-build a garage at home for it, and the hassle of towing it to the airport--need a truck capable of hauling 4000 pounds of trailer--would cancel out the hangar savings (though I admit I live in an area where a decent hangar is available for $200/month).

Posted by: David Chuljian | May 24, 2013 12:24 PM    Report this comment

I have watched the number of planes tied down at KLWM go down by 60 too 70 percent. That's all of us who are already Pilots and owners. Gas prices are what we talk about the most, Next is he expense of Next Gen equipment. Even the airport takes a surcharge when we buy gas or they will have to close. The cost of training is enormous, if I had to do it now I couldn't afford it. All this muttering about socializing etc. is not looking for a cause but an excuse! It is too damn expensive for the average guy, like me, to afford. I'm not flying anywhere near what I used to. Stop looking for excuses and realize what it costs to fly today, then you will realize why the average Guy/Gal is being closed out! Pretty soon it will be for only the rich like Europe and maybe that is what our present leaders want. Yes I am quite aware of the safety concerns of the FAA etc and I can see what Next Gen can do for larger all weather aircraft, but for the person that flies only because he/she loves to on a good day. Next Gen is wasted on them.

Posted by: daniel buldini | May 24, 2013 2:18 PM    Report this comment

A major reason for the declining pilot population, in my opinion, is the the lack of interest young people have in flying. When I was young, (I'm 49)the only thing cooler than a pilot was an astronaut. All my friends had built at least some airplane models. Most could identify all kinds of WW2 airplanes. And anyone offering us a chance to go for a flight would have been overrun. Kids now just cannot be bothered with anything that does not run on a computer or their phone. And even if there is a spark of interest, the cost is enough to make them go back to their computers. It's not just the cost of flying, but the way basic living expenses have increased. Over the last 10 years I had an almost 40% reduction in spendable income (i.e. flying money). I used to stay in practice by renting - the last time I rented was 18 months ago. The last bastion of relatively cheap flying is homebuilts. And even there fuel costs will soon severely limit us.

Posted by: Peter Thomas | May 24, 2013 3:20 PM    Report this comment

Seems to me that efforts like SocialFlight, Fly-ins.com, and Flying Club Finder are merely social media bulletin boards for already licensed pilots. Most pilots I know didn't have an interest in joining a club or group to learn to fly. Their desire and passion to pilot an aircraft simply carried them aloft.

On the other hand, if the future flyers are anything like the Facebook and Twitter crowd today, where even fragile, personal dreams and goals that shouldn't be shared until fruition are commonly extroverted, maybe they depend on and need this comradery to get them thru the discipline and training it takes to get the license.

But it still takes that certain drive and perseverance to learn to fly, and wheelbarrows of money now and down the airway, so maybe they're really just patiently waiting for those autonomous aircraft to arrive so they can at least text that they flew in a left seat. Truly, wouldn't that be good enough? I'm sure for many it will be. Virtual reality is rockin'.

Posted by: Dave Miller | May 25, 2013 4:28 AM    Report this comment

So, There you have it. Unless the carriers start funding the training and education of future pilots, they will have to hire only well healed domestic personnel. Other governments are are planning for the need by training here. Perhaps some of our Vets could find jobs in aviation through the GI Bill. Our system of personal desire funding will fall short. The 1% is all we have to fill the old and new fleet of recreational craft. If they want to fly it is not for an income it is because of an income.

The romance of the "dance" will die with us unless the cost and freedom to participate returns.

I have been trying to explain that too many people have looked to the aviation community for profit. Well, exploitation has a history of killing the killers. Maybe the 1% will have to find other targets in other countries and other continents.

Posted by: Larry Fries | May 25, 2013 5:57 AM    Report this comment

I'm a youth mentor for a chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen in the Northeast. We have 18 kids between the ages of 13 to 17 in our three-hour-a-week aviation ground school class. We also have a 172H and three CFI members. We offer FREE flying lessons. Roughly three of the 18 students bother to take occasional advantage of this $175-an-hour (by Northeast standards) gift. The rest of them are too busy, would rather do something else on their weekends, etc. etc. GA is dying, and this is one reason why.

Posted by: Stephan Wilkinson | May 26, 2013 6:06 PM    Report this comment

Larry Fries is right on. The scheduled carriers should train their own pilots plus insure they are airworthy ie medicaly. The 3rd class med must go also, whether the faa likes it or not, the aero med div is a bridge to nowhere.Pork barrel.

Posted by: Melvin Freedman | May 26, 2013 6:39 PM    Report this comment

Aviation is suffering from what any fad has happen to it as it goes from everyone being interested in it for fun to a more mature market based on its utility.

It happened in Boats, snowmobiles, ATV's motorcycles ETC. Ultimately the consumer realizes the cost of having "Fun" and then is willing to pay the cost of their "fun" or they quit. the alternative is where a person can justify the cost of the vehicle or tool based on its utility. It is no wonder that ATV sales are declining but the "side by side" market is growing. the Side By side type off road vehicle can be used for fun but it is also very useful and it can be justified because it makes your farm or ranch or l3 acre homestead more productive.

To really reliably travel in an aircraft you need a well equipped aircraft with known icing capability in most of the country. Thus Any useful aircraft will be expensive. and the only way to justify it is to pay the "fun"cost for your toy as many people do with a big boat or have a utility use for it.

compounding this problem for aircraft is the large # of good used aircraft, heavy singles and twins that can be upgraded to "new"capability at 1/3 the cost of a new aircraft. This kills the "new" market until the new aircraft can boast much better technology like a 350 Hp diesel engine that runs on jet A

Posted by: william Lawson | May 27, 2013 8:19 AM    Report this comment

all these new terms ie sports pilot, light sport acft, are just a ploy, diverting the attention fr the real cause of the demise of the pvt pilot, the 3rd class med. If you don't have the passion, forget it.

Posted by: Melvin Freedman | May 27, 2013 8:41 AM    Report this comment

Reading all this one thing stands out. Cost. The other side of the equation is reward. We don't pay our instructors or our professional pilots like we used to. Ask a professional pilot thirty years ago if you should become a pilot and he would talk your ear off for a hour. Ask one today and he will tell you to go to real estate school.

Posted by: Stuart Baxter | May 27, 2013 8:57 AM    Report this comment

we need to see the declining pilot pop in a different way. Simply the last several decades of declining pilot numbers is a reversion to the norm. After WW2 pilot numbers soared due to the returning military and the GI bill gov funded flight training program. These GI bill trained pilots began to retire/ give up flying in the 80s at the same time that costs of buying an airline ticket dropped due to deregulation making private flying more and more expensive relative to taking a commercial flight. Along the way a perfect storm of increasing fuel costs, an increasingly risk averse population, and international terrorism added to the disincentives for private flying. Without changes in incentives mainly driven by government programs I doubt that pilot numbers will be rising anytime soon.

Posted by: Bob Reinaker | May 27, 2013 9:19 AM    Report this comment

Consider that the first time I paid for a flight lesson a C172 was $25.00 per hour wet and that same plane is going for well over $100.00 per hour now with a fuel surcharge that is definitely part of the problem. As others have mentioned, today's youth do not seem that interested in flying. I have offered many neighborhood kids rides in our plane only to be met with apathy. We are facing a core change in society that shuns perceived risk for computer games. I have no idea how we as pilots can work to change this but I am open to any ideas.

Posted by: Ric Lee | May 27, 2013 9:26 AM    Report this comment

Mary, I agree with your assessment on these sorts of social ideas. The turn around may indeed happen with gadgetry improving safety, but that stuff might not be right around the corner. What's available today is to create a flight school model that both makes a profit and is aimed at selling airplanes to many of its students. Creating a community within the flight school would do more than a little for that school.

Posted by: Eric Warren | May 27, 2013 9:41 AM    Report this comment

Sailplane pilots have formed clubs for more than 50 years, and while this is a very low-cost way to enter flying, it also requires a commitment in time and effort. Like all volunteer organizations these days, soaring clubs have a hard time maintaining sufficient volunteers. The flying clubs that AOPA is promoting will encounter the same problem.

I agree that young people do not share the awe of flying that baby boomers had, but they also have crushing student loan debt that we never had. If they can't afford to live away from mom and dad's house, they won't be able to afford flying lessons, either.

Posted by: Patricia Valdata | May 27, 2013 10:13 AM    Report this comment

Flying consumed me in my youth and I was determined to fly for a living. My dad, however, convinced me that the probability of landing an airline job was so minuscule that I should seek a career elsewhere. His convictions were so strong, in fact, that he forbid me from flying as long as I lived under his roof (odd thing for him to do, considering the fact that HE was a private pilot, former airplane owner and still quite passionate about flying... go figure). Being the obedient son of a fundamental Baptist minister, I didn't go against my dad. However, after stumbling through eight years of getting my bachelor degree, determined to find SOME career that enable me to fly, I succeeded in landing a job with a major aviation company, selling aircraft parts and equipment. Best part... the keys to a well equipped single engine Beechcraft. Here's where strange gets stranger, and more closely defines the problem with general aviation; after 5 wonderful years, the aviation company I worked for decided that general aviation as a mode of business travel was too expensive and the airplanes were sold/transferred and replaced with company cars. I struggled to stay current for several more years, finally giving up and taking up fishing/boats for relaxation. Here's what I found... I can enjoy my boat for hours and hours with the engine silent. I never enjoyed my airplanes in such a state.

Posted by: Phillip Potter | May 27, 2013 10:19 AM    Report this comment

Here I sit in Calif visiting our Granddaughter while my two owned aircraft sit idle in my owned hangar next to my owned private runway in S Indiana. Why did I not fly one of them here? Simple! The cost of avgas! Even two of us can fly round trip for less than the cost of gas in my Lancair (which is fuel efficient) Most of the reasons previously mentioned apply to short trips which happen but less frequently. My 13 yr old Grandson who lives 200 ft from those aircraft would rather play computer games than fly with me. It breaks my heart but it is true. It is time to sell the aircraft but it a buyers market. I do not want to give them away plus my wife says I never sell anything. I am glad to have lived when fun flying was still affordable and kids wanted to fly.

Posted by: Earl Schroeder | May 27, 2013 11:15 AM    Report this comment

Comment not entered due to lack of space!

Posted by: Richard Pearson | May 27, 2013 11:27 AM    Report this comment

The adventurous youth are getting into ATV's and motorcycles for outside fun, as it is so much cheaper than flying, and they don't have the knucklehead politicians claiming they are a "threat to national security" when they want to go joyriding. Then, there is the local politicos closing airports to GA, in favor of the "big money" flyers, such as mega charters, airlines, an private jets. (And I know, those aircraft technically fit in GA,) but the politicians don't seem to get the overall picture. Basically, enjoyable, pleasurable flying is getting much too expensive for anyone without deep pockets. Friends of mine owned a couple of C-152's and a C-172, flight training center, and pleasure rides, as well as s small freight/courier business. Politicians put them out of business in their town, because of lack of foresight, and that just cost the community all kinds of tax dollars. (They moved their freight business to the next town over, but couldn't keep their aviation business going, because of the costs.) Local airport doesn't have anybody renting planes because of the cost. Local FBO has no support for GA, if truth be told. Don't even have paper charts, or pilot supplies, of any kind. And this is a major chain FBO.

Posted by: Doyle Frost | May 27, 2013 4:47 PM    Report this comment

I haven't flown in ten years. I question whether I should spend the time and money getting current, which would then cause me to spend an additional $10+k a year on rentals and fuel, or blow my money on something else like a Lamborghini? As a Professional Engineer, I would buy an airplane if I were allowed to take (and pass) an A&P licensing exam. That way I could combine flying with restoration of my airplane. I don't need a mechanics license to work on the Lamborghini.

Posted by: John Martin | May 27, 2013 5:03 PM    Report this comment

Bravo, Mary. Flying GA was never a cheap, and not a hobby. It is a complex, expensive, passionate "dance" with physics, mechanics, weather, communications, geography, navigation, technology and yes, other people sharing the passion. I fly my fast, strong TR182 for about $150/hr if i get my 150-200 hrs a year. That's 15 hours a month, on average. $2250 a month, all in. i use it for business travel, personal travel, i use it for Angel flights, and net expense after all the utility of the plane is accounted for is less that $1000. That's awesome - I love to fly! LOTS of folks spend $500 - $1000 on hobbies, not just the 1%. Flying demands passion. If you can't get excited about soaring above the clouds, feeling the sense of adventure and shaking free the bonds of time and space, don't bother. the future of GA is hopeful. We MUST make it easier and safer, and we will. info tech won't be cool forever - everything comes in waves, and the need to reconnect with the physical world will pull hard on those who want to fly. The lesson in my life is that the cheapest way leads back to the crowd, and I never thought flying was life in the crowd. Next Gen isn't perfect, but i'm glad we finally are integrating new tech. There is more to come. If you want only to fly they way we did in 1975, see ya! the future will be much different, and i think, much better. Safer, easier, and plenty of utility and excitement to keep our GA pilot population strong.

Posted by: Joe Goebel | May 27, 2013 5:48 PM    Report this comment

Bravo!, Joe! $2250 a month, 100hrs.@$150/hr. to "dance"? What about the other fees of personal travel? You may not consider yourself a 1 percenter but you are not a 95 percenter! We all had your life of freedom when we first started living our "dream". I still dream but I also know It's just that. You are truly blessed, Joe. God bless you and and your enthusiasm! God bless us all!

Posted by: Larry Fries | May 27, 2013 6:32 PM    Report this comment

I liked the freedom we had flying in 1975. We didn't live in fear of our own government.

Soon, with ADS-B all your flying movements will be recorded in 3-D and monitored from chock to chock. Automated software will check for the minutest of FAR violations; and the punishment will be heavy. Do you really believe that the CBP/TSA/DHS folks will not make any mistakes? I'm one of those that goes to extreme measures to comply with every bit of the law and regulations. But I have no confidence that doing so will prevent one from being targeted. This harassment has to stop or none of the other reasons matter.

Posted by: A Richie | May 28, 2013 10:33 AM    Report this comment

'We didn't live in fear of our own government. '

Speak for yourself. No one I know does. But, that's your choice, conceptual paralysis can be made to be just as real as the physical type, no doubt about that. Newcomers that we desperately need in left seats do not benefit from feelings of powerlessness, however. We need to convey our strengths of creativity and problem-solving and show as pilots, we have the ability always to circumvent any roadblocks or reactive thinking by those who would hinder their goal to fly.

If people want to try things like SocialFlight, Fly-ins.com, free rides for seniors, whatever, go for it. It helps to set a fine table, but if the meal is too rich or difficult to prepare...

Posted by: Dave Miller | May 28, 2013 2:29 PM    Report this comment

Well, Iv'e read some very valid blogs. Pilots are very creative people. But, no one has really taken the faa to task about the 3rd class med.No guts no flying folks.

Posted by: Melvin Freedman | May 28, 2013 3:23 PM    Report this comment

$2,250 is about 27% of the average government worker's income. That is city, county, state and federal government in California. So one can make the argument that an average person can afford flying if they have the passion.

With regard to the physical. I don't know why anyone would want to avoid it. I gladly take, and pay for myself, a comprehensive physical every 2 years. This includes EKG, lung function testing, chest x-ray, a full blood work-up, etc. Why? Because I want to live a long and healthy life, and have confidence I'm healthy enough to keep flying safely carrying my loved ones and friends.

Posted by: Edd Weninger | May 28, 2013 4:06 PM    Report this comment

A bit off topic, but a friend and I were talking last week about the possibility of trailering a plane to an airport anywhere in the L.A. Basin. We came to the conclusion that there is only one airport that you might gain access to without having to have a security gate access card.

We also do not know of any airports that allow anyone to bring fuel onto the airport.

Posted by: Edd Weninger | May 28, 2013 4:13 PM    Report this comment

Mary's final paragraph is exactly right in every detail.

Sorry, all you he-men with the right stuff. There will (I hope) always be a place for flying as you like it, but it is not the wave of the future. It is the nostalgic past. The world has up and left you behind.

The FAA will, once again, be playing catch-up. Their NextGen schemes don't even see this coming; but automated flight will steamroll them worse than GPS did.

A Cessna Caravan has already been flown with an extraordinary system to automate everything from engine start to shutdown at its destination. a diamond twin and a bonanza have been similarly tested, but the Caravan work is the most sophisticated and capable to date; and it allows full pilot control as well as full automation.

I have no insights about what avionics firms are doing, but I'd bet any amount that they are already working on the systems to automate flying.

Use your search engine to search on: "Pilot Optional AN=35650661" Click on the "Read The article" box, and take it all in. This stuff is old technology already.

Posted by: S. Lanchester | May 29, 2013 1:49 AM    Report this comment

The observations about the internet generation being detatched from passionate, time-intensive pursuits are spot on in my experience. My 24 year old son is starting to get interested in learning to land at least, for self-preservation purposes, but really has no desire to fly either of my airplanes or help build my RV kit. Even less so, his two sisters desire only "street cred" by posting facebook pix of their one flight, each. Like a real life "Matrix" existence, a resume of virtual exploits can be more varied and interesting to their faceless peers than a single or few tangible ones.

Posted by: William Grant | May 29, 2013 3:30 PM    Report this comment

W. Grant, and S. Lanchester,

You may have missed the point of recreation. As a wise man once said, "Whatever blows your skirt up!". I wonder what Mr. and Mr. Wrirght thought about all of those people calling them less than sane. Also, there have been 100 years of constant improvements in every form of recreation including many new ways to bring meaning to meaningless activity. Even nude running has given way to high tech. and running in place! There is evidence that parachute hang-gliding was practiced thousands of years ago! Ever wonder when the first person slid down a snow covered hill just for fun?

As for me, my dreams have turned back to the way I felt when mastering the '46 7AC Champ! Oh, those lucky dudes with the chance to relive "real" flying. THAT would blow MY skirt up!

Never fear me lads 'n lassies, what goes around.....

Posted by: Larry Fries | May 29, 2013 5:09 PM    Report this comment

L. Fries,

Yes, I mentioned he-men and right stuff, but certainly missed the idea of pointless recreation that blows up skirts. I've got a lot of fun time in Champs and Tri-Champs, too; but never thought of it those terms.

Whatever automation does to improve the safety, efficiency, and interest in flying (a lot, I suspect, even for recreational pilots), the old flying flivvers will always be there to delight the competent pilots and scare the peewaddin out of the rest.

Posted by: S. Lanchester | May 29, 2013 10:44 PM    Report this comment

LF, In the context of this discussion my point was not to disparage the chosen recreation of the millenials (although I do) but to point out the improbability of their sustaining the time-intensive and expensive hobby of flying or any other resource-intensive hobby, for that matter. The virtual world is truly becoming more attractive and easily attained. The psycodelic "tune out and turn on" mantra of the 60's has been reborn with a vengeance via the internet and nano-second video cards.

Posted by: William Grant | May 30, 2013 9:24 AM    Report this comment

Just would like to have movement with Flight Sim and it would be perfect. No more $100 plus cost for flying just sit at my computer and fly LOL

Posted by: Bruce Savage | May 30, 2013 9:55 AM    Report this comment

Hanger flying is fun! The social side of pilots is a hoot!

Posted by: Larry Fries | May 30, 2013 9:56 AM    Report this comment

Thank you LF, you gave me a fabulous idea(l) (I'm from Bristol hence the l at the end of some words. Bristol used to be called Bristo). Hire a hanger and have a load of simulators complete with movement, have a small motor outside wafting petrol fumes into the hanger every so often for effect and of course a cafe and then charge $100 per hour (will have to pay for the fuel)for the pleasure.

Posted by: Bruce Savage | May 30, 2013 11:13 AM    Report this comment

Capitalism will find a way as it gets painful and new opportunities arise. We may find it useful to envision our for-pleasure component of GA, which has always been “crumbs under the table” of productive aviation, as a function of the probable realities of the low pay, 1500hr 2nd officer, user fee-laden future. The diminishing supply of pilots will force airlines and businesses to cultivate new pilot starts through indentured scholarships and “starter” non-turbine fleets. These companies will, over time divest a supply of depreciated, well-equipped singles and twins onto the used market. Entrepreneurs will start more cooperative executive fleets with these low(er)-end aircraft and expose more people to the fun and usefulness of “small airplanes.” A new paradigm is born.

Posted by: William Grant | May 30, 2013 11:34 AM    Report this comment

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