AVmail: May 9, 2011
Letter of the Week: Cost Killing GA, Not Instruction
I listened to your discussion; however, you and AOPA are totally ignoring one of the biggest impediments to GA, namely the cost. The cost of GA has increased unbelievably in the last several years, and with the pressure on people from the other economic problems, something has to give. The answer touted for years was going to be the LSA class of aircraft, but they have turned out to be a joke. The cost/benefit for that class is a joke.
Fuel costs are unbelievable and climbing faster than a speeding bullet. I know people who would love to become pilots, but the answer is the same: They can't afford it. I will agree that there are some flight schools and some flight instructors that are not good GA ambassadors, but when you find that, you simply go somewhere else. Cost is the real problem, and I think you already know it.
China and GA
Regarding the "Question of the Week": For the West, there will be some short-term good results, but as China continues to develop, under its own imperatives, its aviation sector will bend to its own concerns. They have their own ways, not necessarily hostile to ours but rather shrugging at our concerns as not relevant.
We Americans tend to see events as "good for us" or "bad for us" rather than how the local folks see it. We have to grow up and realize that others have interests other than ours.
Howard N. Bunte
Rapid opening of China to GA will be a mixed blessing, with winners and losers in the U.S. It's possible, for example, that Chinese industry could produce light aircraft such as LSAs at a world-beating price, which would be good for U.S. buyers. On the other hand, China clearly wants to dominate markets, and their massive, low-cost production capacity could put U.S. GA manufacturers at a severe disadvantage. Just as Chinese goods dominate the shelves at Wal-Mart, Chinese aircraft, parts, and avionics could one day be essentially all there is.
Opening GA in China is great news. Even if no profit whatsoever came back to the West, we would still benefit from the added volumes turned over by companies such as Cessna, Lycoming, and others, driving improvements like we see in the automotive industry and driving costs down. This is huge.
China is a market that cannot be ignored, but they are after the technologies and means of production, not cooperation with the U.S. Over the long run, those that choose to cooperate and participate will end up being consumed by their Chinese partners. This does not bode well for the U.S. industrial base.
As an industry we need to face the fact the business jet market, like real estate, was living off various forms of leverage versus a solid business foundation.
Having grown up around private aircraft, including being a decades-long user of charter aircraft, it seemed to me there were far too many folks owning aircraft who seemed barely qualified both financially or operationally. Our own industry fueled the fire, acting as if aircraft appreciation was never going to end and everybody could have an airplane through whatever program was available, no matter the exit strategy (or lack thereof) because of appreciation!
At the end of the day, economics, like water, will seek its own level, which is what's happened here.
General Aviation is an exclusive tool, which it has been since the Spartan Executive (look it up) was the corporate plane of choice, and it's going back that way again.
The lack of clientele and excess inventory are the collateral damage of this reality.
Damned If You Do ...
How the ignoramuses in the government and media can get upset about a controller and a pilot trying to determine the condition of a fellow aviator, possibly in distress, is incomprehensible. The controller and the Southwest flight were acting in the finest time-honored tradition of trying to assist a flight that might have been in trouble. The firing or suspension of anyone involved in this is simply outrageous.
Capt. H. Michael Newman
In all the fuss over the Southwest crew and the Cirrus, I keep thinking how such a move would have affected the ill-fated flight of golfer Payne Stewart where the private jet flew more than 1,000 miles on autopilot with an incapacitated crew before going in. Yes, safety margins were compromised, but it was done under full control in response to a controller's request in concern for the crew of the unresponsive Cirrus.