No Time To Fly? No Surprise

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I found myself hovering the mouse cursor over the answers in last week's simple poll question: Do you have the time to fly? The answer I finally clicked was that I've reduced my flying time due to other priorities, specifically work. I wasn't surprised that the MIT study (Link) we reported on last week revealed that lack of time is as big a factor as lack of money in reduced flying time.

This is a major sea change for me personally. Fifteen years ago, I was editing two magazines, I was involved with AVweb in its start-up days and still found time to use the airplane for business trips and I also carried a reasonable flight instruction load. I'm not sure how I did that, because I certainly can't do it now. Of course, a decade ago, I was just an ink-stained wretch of a journalist. Now I'm a videographer and multi-media specialist, too. We've had to learn to fit the additional duties into a day that still has 24 hours.

Last winter, when I learned of the Cubs to Oshkosh event, I embarked upon an ultimately self-defeating attempt to participate. It evolved from, wow, this will be fun to, I wonder if I can find the time to, boy, I'm sure glad I didn't do that. Why? It wasn't the money, although believe or not, even in the Cub, it takes $1000 in gas for the round trip from Florida to Oshkosh. That's twice the airline fare. But it would also require six days—three up, three back, allowing for any weather. AirVenture already blows a hole in the monthly editorial schedule. Adding six more days to that was simply untenable. So I demurred, as I suspect others do when immovable priorities loom. (The fact that dealing with airport security is a nuisance, waiting for the fuel truck and fetching the weather briefing doesn't help.)

So I make up for it as my schedule permits. This morning, I got to the airport early, propped the Cub and spent a glorious solid hour-and-half aimlessly burning precious hydrocarbons. I was testing a new LightSPEED headset with a fresh mix of music on my IPhone, which now has a couple of new nav programs on it. Rhythm and blues and spying on the beach kids from 300 feet. I may not have a lot of time to fly, but there's nothing to keep me from making the most of what I do have.

More Neil Armstrong
I wasn't quite prepared for how much Neil Armstrong's death last weekend would affect me. It wasn't so much the loss of the man himself, but the loss of an era of optimism and vision that he represented. I kind of spin off on things like this, rooting around in my library for books I've read on the Apollo program and scouring the Web for all sorts of interesting stuff. You can bury yourself for days in Apollo Lunar Surface Journals.

I came across a great documentary that I believe was originally made by Ron Howard for the IMAX market. It's called In the Shadow of the Moon and is making the rounds on The Discovery Channel. You can view the entire thing here.

Last week, I observed that I never tire of hearing the Apollo astronauts interviewed because each has a unique perspective on what it was like to participate in the greatest of human adventures. The film has interviews with astronauts rarely heard from: Charlie Duke, Edgar Mitchell, Dave Scott, Michael Collins and Jim Lovell describing how he could feel the fuel rumbling down feed pipes into 15,000-gallon-per-second turbopumps to feed the Saturn 5's five F1 engines for just 150 seconds.

Get yourself a nice comfy chair and a cold drink and settle in. It's worth every second of the 100-minute running time.

Comments (53)

That aviation background always lurks...
You may want to change 'Shadow of the Mooney' for 'In the Shadow of the Moon'
I understand. I hear the voices too... :)

Posted by: ENRIQUE TROCONIS | September 2, 2012 8:20 PM    Report this comment

Thanks for the link to the Apollo Lunar Surface Journals. I had never come across that website before. I just spent the last two hours totally immersed and captivated. And I didn't even scratch the surface.

I've been thinking about Neil and the moon missions a lot these past few days. I miss that time - A LOT! The whole country (and much of the world) had a "We can do anything attitude!" We can still see glimpses of it once in a while - Curiosity's Mars landing - and then seeing images of the landing from the Orbiter (think about that little piece of mathematical gymnastics)! But that only seems to turn on old geeks like me. We need the right idea, leadership, and drive to turn on the whole country and world, again. I believe we'd all be better off taking on an incredibly ambitious goal than bickering about trivialities which seems to take up most of the national psyche. Why not?

Posted by: LARRY BAUM | September 2, 2012 9:10 PM    Report this comment

Sheesh. Changed Mooney to Moon. That's what I get for building a customized spell checker. Thanks, Enrique.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | September 3, 2012 4:50 AM    Report this comment

No wonder GA flying is full of old people. The pensioners are the only ones that have time to fly and many fly to take away the boredom of doing nothing :)

Posted by: Bruce Savage | September 3, 2012 6:50 AM    Report this comment

Time and money.... aren't they same thing?
Google " Larson Einstein " and check out images.
One of my favorite cartoons. It had me in stitches the first time I saw it.
Bottom line... you spend your time / money on things you want.

Posted by: Andre Abreu | September 3, 2012 8:01 AM    Report this comment

And then you get those like myself that spend so much time in the cockpit, you don't have time to FLY! My co-workers and I are averaging some 30 hours in the air a week, but it's been 13 years since I've flown for fun and I miss it.

Posted by: Scott McGowin | September 3, 2012 10:27 AM    Report this comment

Scott, I know exactly what you are talking about. My company is authorized to do VFR legs, so last month when I had a chance to fly VFR between Missoula and Glacier Park on a repo flight we did so. At first light with clear weather what a scenic flight. I also fly skydivers occasionally on my days off because I still enjoy doing so and being VFR in a piston single is such a relaxing change from flying turbine equipment in all kinds of weather.
I did watch the Science Channel presentation of In the Shadow of the Moon. The day before the 8 part series Moon Machines was also on. This show highlights the thousands of engineers and technicians and other persons involved in the Apollo flights. These were the people that Commander Armstrong wanted to make sure that they got their share of credit for the Lunar landings.

Posted by: matthew wagner | September 3, 2012 11:37 AM    Report this comment

On the issue of flying time, I can comment with some experience on both sides. I became self-unemployed in 2009 after years of 50+ hour workweeks. I have owned a Comanche 250 for many years and mostly flew on weekends. Until about 2000, work would permit me to fly, but then the insurance/legal folks got excited and flying for work was forbidden. So I became a weekender. I managed to fly about 50-60 hours per year and enjoyed it. Flying is like therapy for me. I need a session about every two weeks to maintain a hospitable personality, as least that's the position of my wife, and she's right about everything else.

Since my departure from the workforce, I am busier than ever, but everything I do now has something to do with airplanes. I fly more, I work at air shows, I work the warbird flightline at OSH, I have been appointed to our local airport board, I have partnered with two buddies and bought a T-6, and I fly to and in air shows with the T-6. My flight hours are up, but my Comanche time is suffering. I'm not a rich guy and have to watch my budget, but my wife managed my money well enough to provide me the means to fly.

To make my point, time to fly WAS an issue with me, and while I'm still very busy, I fly much more as a retired guy than I did as a working guy. And not just to stave off the boredom of nothing to do... It's therapy, you know.

Posted by: Bill Foraker | September 3, 2012 1:44 PM    Report this comment

I was very surprised to learn many pilots have fallen into the victimhood of poor time management to such a large degree. It's one thing to ask your boss for another 10 grand a year so you can fly...but now we are unable to manage our time? This is disturbing, lame and unnecessary.

If this is truly the case - and I work many hours a week, too - that we have exchanged other priorities for the important continuance of our passion for flight, then we deserve whatever comes from such decisions in opportunities lost, infastructure, increasing costs, and increasing indifference from the public.

If you've lost the passion, interest or energy for flying that's one thing, but don't blame anything or anyone but yourself if you can't plan your day. Good grief. We have enough outside forces to deal with in our struggle to keep flying into the 'future'. Having the 'time' should be the least of our concerns. If we don't manage it, others will for us.

Posted by: David Miller | September 3, 2012 5:17 PM    Report this comment

I wish MIT would have put some thought and energy into surveying more NON-flying pilots to see why they don't fly. I think this is critical information not included in the survey.
Each segment of GA has to be looked at more carefully to understand what the latest down trends in total flying are being caused by.
I agree with Bill F. and Dave M. above. Flying, or golfing, or quality time with family, or work, are all are choices. If you want it bad enough, you can find a way. I got tired of hearing myself TALK about flying more, so 3 years ago I started re-configuring my life to integrate flying more into my life. I had 95 hours in my 12 year old log. I'm now instrument rated and am just short of 400, most of that cross country for business and or pleasure. I made it a priority, and it became a more consistent and productive part of my life.
I think that the more we try to boost recreational flying, the harder it will be to keep the industry strong. Flying is fun, its exciting and adventurous, but it is also a very complex process done with complex machines and the cost and time to do so safely is not going to change much. I hope that the $100 ($300!!) hamburger is always a worthy reason to go flying, but i think the health and future of GA is tied to making aviation a productive and competitive resource for business, travel, research, government and any other way to put well trained pilots in well maintained airplanes and keeping them in the air as much as possible.

Posted by: Joe Goebel | September 3, 2012 6:29 PM    Report this comment

Joe Goebels comment reminded me of a stroy I heard about B-17s in WWII. There was a study underway to find out how to make the planes more survivable. They documented every place hit on the planes that got back to find out where to increase armor, move systems etc. Then a young engineer came up with the brilliant idea of looking at where they WEREN'T hit since obviously the planes that got back didn't need more reinforcing in the places hit but the ones hit in other places didn't make it back. I didn't explain it well but the idea is we DO need to question those that don't finish flight school and those that have a license but don't fly anymore to find out what areas we need to fix. Asking active pilots what needs fixed is like patching a whole that didn't cause a failure. Lets find the problems that caused us to loose a pilot and fix that problem.

Posted by: RODNEY HALL | September 4, 2012 9:16 AM    Report this comment

".... Having the 'time' should be the least of our concerns. If we don't manage it, others will for us...."


In todays high-speed business environment, anyone wanting to earn a decent living is not in control of their time.

My son is a good example. When he was 16, I bought a Cherokee 180 for him to learn to fly. He was very enthusiastic and various instructors thought he was very capable.

A few years later, real life catches up. College, girlfriend, marriage, family, require a real good job, at the least in SoCal.

To get such a job and advance in today's business environment (telecomm), requires almost a 24/7 instant response connection. Add in family activities with new kids, and there is not much left over, either time or money.

If he gets to the upper tier of his industry, he might then be able to pursue his avocation for flying.

My opinion is that his environment is not much different than many others, those with the desire and talent, who we wish would join the general aviation community, but do not have the time to do so.

Posted by: Edd Weninger | September 4, 2012 4:33 PM    Report this comment

MIT again only gets partial credit. Lack of airports (and new airport rigamarole) means it takes too long just to "fly". Lack of airports also means you can't land near your destination and that's even more time wasted. Lack of airports means few hangers so that means the nearest hanger is somewhere way out in the boonies maybe 2 hours away.

People have more free time than ever; what we don't have are airports in every neighborhood like we used to.

Posted by: Mark Fraser | September 4, 2012 5:35 PM    Report this comment

It should be pretty obvious that increased costs and demands on time that modern society places have taken their toll on flying time. It takes an M.I.T. graduate student, no less, to come up with this conclusion? The school really accepted this work as sufficient for a master's thesis? My master's thesis was far more substantial, I can assure you.
Regards, Michael, Ph.D., Consulting Engineer

Posted by: BARNET SCHMIDT | September 4, 2012 7:53 PM    Report this comment

Hi Edd -

What a wonderful gift you gave your then 16 yr.old son. Mine is 16 now, and he hasn't a scintilla of interest in flying, sadly. I'll keep the door open, however...

I realize I'm at a disadvantage in being in a work environment that is probably the exact opposite of high-speed business, that of government (relax, it will eventually get done, or not), and counseling (where speed is not in our lexicon for success). But my wife is a trainer for a large corporation and does the Texas two-step often enough to allow me to say I understand how so many of us nowadays, maybe like your son, are doing the work of several and having to do it yesterday.

My point is a life in balance. If we can manage to keep our lives in balance, we should be able to pursue and enjoy the things that make us happy without being behind the power curve, so to speak. I don't like how we seem to value overwork and busy energies over everything else.

Outside of work, time is entirely our own clay to mold however we wish. We just might have to prioritize better, but as long as it doesn't hinder anyone else, we should be able to not have to say 'I don't have the time' when it comes to doing the one or two things that we truly enjoy, like flying.

Posted by: David Miller | September 4, 2012 8:07 PM    Report this comment

I'm not buying the 'not enough time to fly' argument at all. It's true that family and work commitments can easily deemphasize flying as a priority. (which is probably why recreational flying is dominated by gray-headed retirees) If it is truly a passion, you will make time for it. Even if your only flying mission is boring expensive holes in the sky, I think you do have to make enough of a commitment so that you remain current and feel safe in the air. So maybe this is the real reason why folks would say that they don't have enough time to fly. I know that I would feel uncomfortable with my flying abilities if I logged anything less than 3-4 hours a month.

Posted by: STEVE BOWLING | September 4, 2012 11:48 PM    Report this comment

At some point, even a passionate need to fly can/will get trumped by lack of money to do so. Most normal people do cost/benefit comparisons and at some point the cost to burn an hour comes into play.

As for learning to fly, with no real benefit, other than it's a passion fulfilled, to having that $8000 PPSEL certificate those who not not have the maximum passion will decide to not even pursue flying.

I love flying, but even I am having a problem wiht justifying the cost compared to what I ge tout of it.

Posted by: STEPHEN EGOLF | September 5, 2012 5:43 AM    Report this comment

When I have the time, I'll post the links. But this notion that Americans have more leisure time than ever is bogus. All of the serious survey data--Department of Labor, university research, industrial surveys--universally indicate the opposite.

Until the recession of 2008, work hours were up over 20 years ago and way up over 40 years ago. For many workers, the 40-hour week no longer exists and many work a six-day week. Productivity in the U.S. workforce--GDP per worker hour--has doubled in the last 40 years.

Most of this is due to technology, but that doesn't account for all of it. Additional worker time and effort is involved, too.

So when you presume to tell people they don't fly because they lack passion or are poor time managers, that's like saying to a busy mother that raising two kids isn't real work or that something's wrong with a guy who works 50 hours a week and feels overwhelmed. When people tell you something they feel or know, you presume to foist the fault back on them.

It's a bit of an elitist argument, no? You don't fly because you don't have the right stuff. But then we've always done it this way and we're harvesting the results.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | September 5, 2012 7:26 AM    Report this comment

How many remember the phrase “Time saving gadgets”. We were all lead to believe that the new technology would give us more time for leisure? Although bosses would never say “If you don't put in the extra effort you are out of a job” the pressure is there and we need our jobs (except those on pension like me but then I have children and know what they go through).

Having flown for the last forty years on and off I know what it takes to get back into the left seat. We have to relearn all that we have forgotten …. wait a minute who said that. Flying is like riding a bicycle you never forget. When you get back into an aeroplane the skills are still with you just a little rusty and you will quickly get back into your old habits (good or bad) and fly like you never left it. The problem is the regulations that enforce you to redo you licence so that someone can make more money. If (like my sons do) I was to do car track racing I would pay a small fee for the test to gain my racing licence. If for some reason I was to stop racing for a few years and returned I would simply complete three circuits in the car I am to race and I am back.

My sons both elapsed PPL's but with racing licenses are reluctant to re-establish they PPL's as it will cost too much. They have their own car and fix it as required (try that with your own plane) and it costs them together about £400 per day to go racing including fuel, track and entrance fee. Even with my own aircraft I can't beat that.

Posted by: Bruce Savage | September 5, 2012 8:00 AM    Report this comment

Another problem resulting from the time crush we all live in is that when we do make the time to dash out to the airport to fly a few minutes, are we really in shape to fly? Fatigue and stress from the real world don't magically disappear when we preflight the plane.

A friend who has been a pilot for years recently told me, "Flying used to be an escape, but now it's becoming part of the problem." Now that's depressing.

Posted by: Richard Montague | September 5, 2012 8:39 AM    Report this comment

As a new (1/4th) aircraft owner, I'm finding value in the owner-assisted maintenance. It cuts down on the cost of performing maintenance, plus you learn more about your own aircraft. I'm also finding that the cost of flying has been reduced: for the Piper Archer II I'm part-owner in, it costs about $100/hr to operate. That's 4 hours of flying, or nearly "all day".

Flying isn't cheap, and never will be, but it certainly can be made less expensive than many people realize. That leaves the time part of the equation.

Certainly today's business world provides pressure on employees to work 24/7 non-stop. But there's only so much a person can do in one day without resting and doing non-work things while still remaining productive. If we let work get in the way, it will. I had to (and continue to) fund my flight training all on my own while working like everyone else, but I made flying a priority, and so I have the time.

I get what others have said about not having time, but I still don't quite buy it. There *will* be times you truly don't have time, but to never have time tells me other things are a priority. So it's not lack of time, it's lack of prioritization. (And if aviation isn't a priority, there's nothing wrong with that - it's a choice).

Posted by: Gary Baluha | September 5, 2012 9:49 AM    Report this comment

Lack of time *IS* the problem.

When in my 30s my wife gave me a Discovery Certificate for my birthday. I went up with an instructor and loved the experience, but never followed up because I was too busy with work and family to pursue a PPL. At the time I was working 70 hour weeks including at least one airline business trip/week out of town.

Fast forward to a few years ago: In my mid-50s I finally had the time and was looking for a new challenge. Took another Discovery flight, got my PPL 4 years ago and became a CFI last year.

In retrospect I sure wish I had taken up flying earlier, but it would have required me to sacrifice my career and job success. On the other hand, because of previous business success I'm now able to afford my own aircraft.

Posted by: DAVE PASSMORE | September 5, 2012 10:07 AM    Report this comment

I may not have a lot of time to fly, but there's nothing to keep me from making the most of what I do have. '

Precisely. I've been saying this all along. I would agree, however, that those who find the time to fly despite all of their other energy output (what is time management but the economic use of energy?), instead of blaming a lack of time on their failure to fly, can be seen as elitist. It's rather immature, in my view, to categorize people that way, but that viewpoint is very common still. It's a bolder attitude, yes, but not elitist, in my view.

Paul, thanks for the link to In The Shadow of the Mooney, er, Moon. I found the watch it and really enjoyed it. A bit heavy on the drama, but that's Ron Howard.

Posted by: David Miller | September 5, 2012 1:11 PM    Report this comment

Interesting that this very subject has been discussed on the AOPA Forums in the past couple of days. Here's some of what I posted there (edited):

Most people with the means to take up flying just don't have the time or patience to put up with the hassle. I can speak not only for myself as an "enthusiast," but for friends and colleagues who have the means but to varying degrees lesser passion: I/we work 45-55 hr or more a week, spend an additional 30-90 minutes on the road each day commuting, then come home to manage a family and household with a spouse who may also have a full professional life. "We" tend to be pretty ruthless about how we spend our spare time. Absent a nearly irrational passion for flight, GA is not even going to get its foot in the door in these folks' lives. Somehow it's got to be made easier, more convenient, more hassle-free--and of course less costly would be nice too--to attract greater numbers of participants.

Posted by: Kevin Moore | September 5, 2012 2:12 PM    Report this comment

Part 1:
OK, this is my story, and some people may get motivated (or discouraged) by it... I landed in this country some 20+ years ago (at 32 years old) with a backpack and a hundred-dollar bill in my pocket (and barely speaking English), under an invitation from Florida International University (after they evaluated some oddball software that I wrote) to finish my "Computer Geek" degree. I got a REAL job offer shortly after that and was granted a (oh GAWD!, infamous) H-1 visa under the grounds of an "equivalent degree" (sponsored in part by the School of Computer Science at FIU). A few months after that, Hurricane Andrew (the then bucks blow-job) drove by and messed up a-bunch-of-people hair, including mine. I ended up quitting FIU. Besides the 100 bucks that I had (from the sale of my hanglider before moving here, who'd fly hangliders in Florida) I also had a SEL certificate (from when I was important in my country of origin). Over the first 10 years I flew boatloads of hanglider and ended up moving to Denver ('worked' there as ski patrol and snowboarder instructor too) and later to Colorado Springs, where I met this wonderful lady whose family lived in Montana, and we drove there regularly until I decided to dust off my SEL and bought me a Bellanca Super Viking. Oh, boy... Any more fun and it would have been illegal! I got Instruments, Commercial, got involved on dropping meat-bombs and became a certified skydiver myself. Life was good.

Posted by: ENRIQUE TROCONIS | September 5, 2012 2:56 PM    Report this comment

Part 2:
Then 2001 happened. And I lost (along with some other 5000 high tech geeks in the area) my well paid Computer Geek contract. And life went downhill. And nobody would hire me. within 3 years we lost everything. We moved to the NW corner of GA because by then I was CFI and I could pickup some crumbs from the hanglider park. And I began flying taildraggers and towing hangliders. And hiking the woods in Georgia working as a surveyor helper. And began towing sailplanes with crop-dusters. And then went on to get my glider CFI. And some 4+ years after the debacle I finally found a half-decent job in AZ as computer geek with CFI privileges because it was and aviation outfit. And then some year after that, the good contracts began piling up. And I kept on flying and 'geeking'. Got my Commercial MEL w/instrument. Last year I found an school looking for a CFI in Alaska and (telecommuting my daytime job) spent 6 months in Alaska giving taildragger instruction, mountain flying training (flew around MT McKinley in a 160HP C172 at 17500 ft, glider techniques), and still hallucinating about it! This year my friend opened a skydiving operation and I have spent the year flying for him, flying hangliders, sailplanes, airplanes, skydiving, running my WISP business, working on my daytime job, and fooling around with the (still the same) wife. A few weeks ago we finally bought a Bellanca 14-13. I partnered with a pilot-wanna be whom I'll be instructing.

Posted by: ENRIQUE TROCONIS | September 5, 2012 2:57 PM    Report this comment

Part 3:
One more of the endless stream of addicts that look for me for instruction in any of the forms of aviation that I practice. Someday when I grow up and make some money I'll do helicopters and float planes. So 20+ years later (of which at least 18 of them was taking care of both of my parents mostly in my own house) I am flying my ass off. Which was one of my dreams when I came to live in the US to begin with. And here is the moral of the story: I got here penniless, without speaking the language, I look funny, still talk funny, smell funny, and I have been (regardless) able to log some 3000 hrs flying (counting hangliding) over the US, parts of Mexico and Alaska, I fly almost every day, different airplanes, different gliders, different canopies, different missions, different people footing the bill, joined the Civil Air Patrol, and on, and on, and on... No, my story is not typical. But my story is possible. And if I could get this far with all the hurdles imposed upon me, how come young vibrant people can't get there with such a heads-up start? Believe me, nobody has yet come over to my place with a bag of goodies to hand them to me for free. Well, except after I got stranded after Hurricane Andrew, and my hair was all messed up... :)

Posted by: ENRIQUE TROCONIS | September 5, 2012 2:57 PM    Report this comment

OK, Enrique, you deserve a comb.

Most of us aren't as smart as you (lots of lead paint around here), or have your energy (we grew up with lead in our gas and parents who smoked), or have such a supportive wife (good find!). You are one of the few who anchor the high end of the GA pilot enthusiasm Bell Curve.

If only you were average; but you're not. I can live with that, but the GA industry can't. There aren't enough of you!

Great story. Hope it encourages others to "just do it." Too bad Bellanca isn't building airplanes any more. Keep yours dry!

Posted by: S. Lanchester | September 6, 2012 1:01 AM    Report this comment

Regarding the MIT study, asking the dwindling numbers of pilots about challenges to growth in GA is like asking transatlantic cruise passengers in 1955 about how to promote more cruises in the future; or like asking long-distance train passengers in 1960 how to stop the decreasing ridership. You are canvassing the diehard lovers of the mode; of course they will call for lower costs. No true believers will say that ships and trains can’t compete with airlines for 99.9% of long distance travel. Likewise, GA’s true believers won’t agree that GA can’t compete with airlines and Interstate highways for short and medium range trips, even though intercity travel by light plane is becoming a vanishingly small portion of the whole.

As Christensen noted, disruptive technologies are implemented from the outside, not the inside of an industry.

Anyway, however you phrase the issue, we are seeing a decades-long decrease in the number of people willing to regularly commit the time and money necessary for personal aviation. This fact can’t be explained away by the personal anecdotes we see here; and it matters not a bit whether people are using proper time management techniques. After all, good time management is just as likely to convince more pilots to drop out.

The hard fact that fewer people are making time to become and remain active pilots is actually more central than high costs. Either GA adapts to this time problem or personal aviation for travel will all but disappear.

Posted by: S. Lanchester | September 6, 2012 1:05 AM    Report this comment

What is missing here is that time and money are directly related. When you are young and in your 20's just out of college you usually have tons of time but very little money having just started a new job. You can't afford to fly. You then move into your 30's with a new kid and a wife and suddenly you have very little time but some money. At this point you can maybe afford to fly an hour or two a month but don't have the time on the weekends to get out to the airport. Next you hit your 40's. You are now starting to make good money at your job but your kid is getting ready to start college. You suddenly have free time again since your kid is a teenager and but all your money is going to your kids college fund. Then the 50's hit. Your kid is graduated from school but being an experienced worker in your field you have taken a job with increasing responsabilities and pay. You have more than enough money to go flying but don't because you are spending all your time at work. Finally you hit your 60's. You retire and suddenly have lots of free time and thanks to your retirement savings you have money to go flying finally. This is why when you go to the local airport you tend to see mostly older people there doing the flying. Up until that point you either had time or money but usually never both at the same time.

Posted by: Keith Macht | September 6, 2012 7:39 AM    Report this comment

Why would anyone want to fly? What other avocation requires the same licensing, time, money, dedication, discipline, training, recurrent medicals, biennials, relationship with a hostile gov't agency, invasion of privacy, paperwork, social stigma, and risk?

Posted by: Richard Montague | September 6, 2012 8:50 AM    Report this comment

People will make time to do anything they feel has added value to their lives. This, pretty much is your explanation. People don't see value in spending all that time, energy, money, and effort in learning how to fly an airplane. After you're done getting your private pilot certificate, that magic will die on you over time, just like anything else.

For the same money you spend on flying over the course of a year, you can do a LOT MORE of other things in life that offers equal, if not greater satisfaction. It always makes me laugh when people seem to think there's a "way" to rescue general aviation in this country. It's a dying art. Enjoy what you can before it's over.

I'm glad MIT pointed out that cost is a major contributing factor. AOPA can choke on that morsel.

To Enrique Troconis, I would say that you picked up a leprechaun along the way. Slainte!

Posted by: Amy Zucco | September 6, 2012 11:51 AM    Report this comment

I must be Missing something!! I thought that Aircraft were Time Saving machines!! Anyone who lives within 45 min. of their home base and has an aircraft that cruises At or Above 150kts. can Beat the Airlines Door to Door time up to about 1100 N.M., especially if you live in or near a Large City. That is the Main reason I bought a Mooney in 1997. When my boys were little I could fly down to their school, on the Other end of Dallas, pick them up from school in the courtesy car, and be in Galveston before 6 PM. If I drove I might make it by Midnight! Flying was a Lot Less Stressful than driving thru Dallas and Houston traffic on Friday Afternoon and a Whole Lot More Fun And Efficient!!

Posted by: Buz Allen | September 6, 2012 11:56 AM    Report this comment

It doesn't have to be this way. I don't know why so many have such pessimistic resignation about having personal flight as part of their life.

Some ask, why fly? If only GA would correct the 'time problem' for its subjects; that the road to earning the license could 'be made easier, more convenient, more hassle-free--and of course less costly would be nice too--to attract greater numbers of participants.'; (why not robotic golf carts with a mini-bar for that strenuous trip back from your plane!) and, oh no, 'after you're done getting your private pilot certificate, that magic will die on you over time, just like anything else.', yikes! and, 'It always makes me laugh when people seem to think there's a "way" to rescue general aviation in this country. It's a dying art. Enjoy what you can before it's over.'

Guess we're doomed, Gulliver. Might as well accept that conditions are not good enough and cynically laugh at those who believe.

And as for those souls who have collapsed time and restricted their freedom from having it all, I'll wave my magic wand and summon the Time Makers for you. Because, I'm sure, if the Time Makers could just give them more time, they wouldn't shrink it like they've done before.

Why fly? Why go to the Moon, or Mars or learn a second language. Because it's hard, rewarding and spiritually fulfilling. Clear Prop!

Posted by: David Miller | September 6, 2012 3:35 PM    Report this comment

Paul, My World War II Father's passion for aviation directed me from day One to devote my life to aviation. As a career, Aviation Engineer and Safety Specialist, It has taken time away from my deep love of flying. This year, I grabbed the unexpected opportunity to bring a Carbon Cub from Yakima, Wa to Danbury, Ct. It was the best 4 days, 12 legs, and 24 hours ever spent in the air. !Do Not Pass Up the Opportunity! This makes life worthwhile when you meet the many enthusiastic linemen, operators, youngsters, and crew hanging around the many local airports. It is refreshing to get away from the 'Not So Normal' world.
Neil, Thank You for your adventurous enthusiam and aviation leadership that guided my aviation passion. And For All Man Kind.

Posted by: PHILIP POTTS | September 6, 2012 4:29 PM    Report this comment

Well put, Dave. I think that the reason so many don't continue to fly is because they grow tired of listening to a bunch of privileged people whine 24/7.

It starts with the CFI with 200 hours total not paid enough despite the $100 to $150 a hour fringe benefit, then it's the airline pilots at major airlines that can't make it on $100K+ a year for 50 hours of flight time a month (yes I know that they don't start at that annual income but nor do doctors in residency), and now it is the poor private pilot that finds hours to watch TV and post comments online but doesn't have enough time to fly... whine, and more whine.

I'll never understand why it always seems to be the people to whom so much has been given (brains to learn to fly and brains to gather the money to do it) that complain the most.

Flying is optional. Those who can't figure out how to fit it in their lives financially or otherwise should get out of it instead of trying to ruin it for everyone else and making the activity unappealing for people looking in.

Posted by: Flying Bug | September 6, 2012 6:01 PM    Report this comment

It was long-ago observed that a person stuck in a dying paradigm is in a difficult position, for not only does he not understand the basic problem or its solution, but he can't even see either one. (e.g., “What am I missing here?”, “Why the pessimistic resignation?, “Why all the whining?”, and even mocking others with a “magic wand”)

This blog asked for comments on a suspected barrier to growth in personal aviation, so it is not whining for contributors to provide examples. Nor is it whining to note that student starts have been in general decline since the mid-1960s (almost 50 years!), and that the number of people willing to steadily commit the time and money necessary for personal aviation has been decreasing for decades, too.

There is a misconception among self-help peddlers, sales bosses, and others that anything less than full-throated enthusiasm is whining, negativism, and a drag on the march of mankind, profits, and the common good. I disagree. We must delve into problems to find solutions and create opportunities.

Flying is what it is; and we are happy for those who find the circumstances of flying to their liking, and choose to commit the time and money to keep their hand in it. It is not whining to note, however, that they are in a decreasing demographic, a shrinking paradigm. And, unfortunately, as evidenced in their posts, they aren’t the people to understand the decline of GA, or to find a new paradigm to fix it. No, indeed, they can’t even see it.

Posted by: S. Lanchester | September 7, 2012 1:48 AM    Report this comment

It was long-ago observed that a person stuck in a dying paradigm is in a difficult position, for not only does he not understand the basic problem or its solution, but he can't even see either one. >


It's fortunate, however, that at least you can. Sometimes one is all it takes for change. Big responsibility, though. I wouldn't push the magic wand idea off the table just yet, it may come in handy.

We must delve into problems to find solutions and create opportunities.>

More insight. Well done.

Current pilots...'they aren’t the people to understand the decline of GA, or to find a new paradigm to fix it. No, indeed, they can’t even see it.>

Coincidentally, I'm headed to a fly-in tomorrow. Will pass along your observation. Baby steps.

Fly safe, Dave

Posted by: David Miller | September 7, 2012 12:55 PM    Report this comment

I have said this before GA especially in the UK is being forced to die. Between the CAA, Airports Authorities , NATS and the general public GA pilots are being restricted every year with less and less flying space and less airport availability. The airspace over UK is very limited and the authorities are looking at ways to improve the safety of the commercial airlines. In their blinkered state the only solution is to reduce the very limited free “G” airspace even further thus taking away the flying space for GA Pilots. CAA claims to have a representative from GA when decisions are made about airspace but you have to wonder who they are. Now coupled with that we have had very adverse weather the last three years which reduces the available time to go make a hole in the sky that is if you wish to enjoy your flying (flying in adverse weather is not my idea of enjoying). The UK has very unpredictable weather making flying difficult anyway.

We now ask why do the young not want to fly? The answer is they want to BUT why spent a fortune to do something that the authorities will soon stop.

My advice: go and enjoy what you have when you can. If you have any political clout then start to lobby your local politician and try to change the status quo.

Posted by: Bruce Savage | September 7, 2012 1:11 PM    Report this comment

No time to fly is code for not a high priority. My fat out of shape friends say they have no time to work out. They make time to social network by the hour, however. No time is a cop-out.

Posted by: Michael Myers | September 7, 2012 2:38 PM    Report this comment

Dave -- Enjoy the fly-in; and keep the wand handy, we'll probably need it to quicken these baby steps.

Bruce -- As the saying goes, bureaucrats aren't happy until you're not happy. Private flying has lost too many high level allies in the UK over the years. Whether you can turn the nanny state around before it collapses for lack of testosterone, I don't know.

Michael -- You are right that it's a matter of priorities, so I would say that "no time" is short for "I don't choose to give priority to flying the way it is for me."

Many people who live in the center of a large metropolis (e.g., Manhattan, Washington, D.C.) say the same thing about driving a car. There are too many practical considerations involved to say they are copping out or lacking the right stuff.

Posted by: S. Lanchester | September 7, 2012 9:30 PM    Report this comment

The fact is there are rather large barriers to enty into GA. The die-hard aviators will make whatever sacrifice is necessary but that doesn't negate the fact that if we want an industry, we have to find a way to make it easier to get in and remain in or we are going to find it very lonely at the airport right up until the airport is closed to become a golf course and condominium complex.

Posted by: Richard Montague | September 8, 2012 10:30 AM    Report this comment

I think an interesting blog might be why we certain individuals developed a passion for aviation.

Instead of listing a bunch of reasons why it is difficult to fly personally, create a list of why we do.

Posted by: Edd Weninger | September 8, 2012 11:52 AM    Report this comment

Well, you can always try a major life change...either drop what you're doing, go into aviation professionaly and risk semi-starvation, or do like I did: Buy a house on an airport somewhere out of your city, get an auto gas STC'd airplane & fly to work 5 or 6 days a week for 15 years or so.

It's a kick, and you've got something in common with your neighbors for a change.

Posted by: John Wilson | September 9, 2012 6:59 PM    Report this comment

Why is it everyone thinks it is such a bargain to buy a $30,000 car every year or two and so expensive to spend half of that to get your first rating?

One of my workers buys a new car every year or two. He recently spent around 30K, again. He isn't made out of money and I know this only because I sign his paycheck.

My partner who is several years junior to this person, achieved her first rating (ASEL) for about one third of that 30K. She did this while working an entry level job and doing translation at night to save on rent so she could pay for flight training. I know because I was there. Now she owns her own airplane, which she flies regularly, as she uses it sometimes to fly back and forth to work. Her annual cost of operation, gas, insurance, and maintenance, I'm sure is lower than my buddy's annual cost of cars alone, forget the insurance, gas and all that. And she doesn't have to do her ASEL rating over every year.

Posted by: FILL CEE | September 9, 2012 10:21 PM    Report this comment

"Why is it everyone thinks it is such a bargain to buy a $30,000 car every year or two"

Because everyone doesn't. There are about 195 million licensed drivers in the U.S. Unit light vehicle sales are about 11 million, so a little over one in 10 licensed drivers are buying new vehicles every couple of years. I heard an estimate the other day that said only 40 percent of licensed drivers would ever buy a new car in their lifetime.

For airplanes, it's far, far less than 1 percent.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | September 10, 2012 5:50 AM    Report this comment

Flying your own aircraft for fun is for the wealthy or childless (with the occasional exception that proves the rule). If you're average, you gotta make choices on where the money goes. When you're the only aviation nut in the family, you know what the answer should be.

Posted by: Scott Thomason | September 10, 2012 6:58 AM    Report this comment

Cost of flying vs value of flying. That's what it comes down to. For x number of dollars I can get a pilot certificate, and y number of dollars I can then continue to fly. If I just absolutely love flying more than anything else in the world then the sum of x+y hardly enters my mind.

However, if flying is just one of 10 passions, the hassle and cost will drive me away to the other passions where the sum of x+y is such that I can pursue 2 or three of the other ones.

This is what I think is wrong with GA. It is too costly to attract and retain the people on the fence.

Keep blaming the problem on the people you are trying to attract and you will definitely not see GA grow.

Posted by: STEPHEN EGOLF | September 10, 2012 7:57 AM    Report this comment

Well, for me it's definitely money. I make time for what I want to do, but I want to do something a whole lot less when it uses up all my discretionary income to fly to Montana and go fishing for a weekend. Then again, I almost never fly just to go flying (although I used to, when I had access to a plane that was OK for spins). I fly to go camping at the ocean, or so my girlfriend won't have to wait in the Seattle ferry lines on a holiday weekend, or to get into a back country airstrip and fish less crowded waters, or to go solo kayaking in northern Canada. My income is off about 40%, so I fish near home, drive to the coast, skipped the Canada trip, and Susan and I take the ferry. I still do a few flying camping/fishing trips, but only if I can get someone to split the gas with me. So it's not the time for me, it's $6 avgas, and the fact that in about 130 hours I'm going to need a new prop and engine. When that happens, there won't be any flying, just an airplane for sale, cheap :-)

Posted by: DAVID CHULJIAN | September 10, 2012 10:58 AM    Report this comment

FillCee and Paul are correct. There are SO few people buying new airplanes because they are GROSSLY overpriced given the value for the non-business user. How we could get from building tens of thousands of new airplanes in the heydey of the '70's to counting 'em one'sy and two'sy today should come as no surprise. MY '75 C172M cost $20K new and my '67 PA28-40 cost $12K new. Extrapolate the growth of personal incomes to the price of a new entry level four place airplane and you see the problemo.

The FAA is excited over 'aging aircraft' yet they do nothing to reduce the burden of building or certifying new airplanes and do nothing to make it easier for people with some modicum of interest to take up flying for sport. USED is all we mere mortals can afford. A brand new C172 isn't much different than my '75 C172 ... so why should I buy new. Toss in fearing for my medical every two years as I find myself aging and you can see why - at any moment - I'm going to hang up my headsets despite the fact that aviations is THE joy of my life. Phooey on the FAA and their "I know better," and "we ain't happy until you're not happy" MO. They are SO preoccupied with safety that they are killing aviation ... one Advisory Circular, Airworthiness Directive, SAIB, FAR and etc at a time. Now toss in time and money issues and people will find other ways to make use of their discretionary time and money.

Let's just see what they do with the AOPA / EAA Recreational Pilot waiver request.

Posted by: Larry Stencel | September 10, 2012 2:08 PM    Report this comment

Sister: Was hoping to go into the air force then on to the airlines but realized that an airline career was hugely unstable and not as financially rewarding as she thought. She is now going to school to be an RN instead.
Buddy: his brother works for SkyWest and an uncle at Delta - was hoping to join the ranks. Got through Solo paying out of pocket but needed financing to continue though he knew he didn't want to rack up debt for a low paying regional job. He has since stopped training and is doing a sales job.
Buddy 2: He was going to train with me back in 07 but got married and got a good job without a lot of free time. He couldn't justify to his wife spending 10K on training for a hobby before even buying a plane - when you could buy a good used boat or jet ski and have fun today.
And Me: I'm a private pilot, my wife and I combined make six figures, have 700+ credit ratings, but because neither of our homes have equity, we weren't approved for a loan to start ATP flight training. I could go the slow training route, but am afraid of starting at the airlines at 35 or 40 with low pay and with a young kid. Better to just stick with my stable but boring office job.
These days there are just too many cheaper and usually more fun entertainment outlets to choose from for most to see flying as a good hobby. It needs to be seen as a good career again, and you will see plenty of people sticking with training. Financing options wouldn't hurt either.

Posted by: Andrew Durkee | September 10, 2012 2:58 PM    Report this comment

The only major source of financing pilot training is Pilot Finance Inc. Here is what it would cost you:
$9,000 for training (2 times per week) = $222 per month for 60 months. Total flight training cost: $13,320. That comes out to about a 16.5% interest rate. And this is pretty much the only standard private pilot financing option out there. Any smart person will quickly walk away. The only reason I'm a pilot is I wasn't smart enough to walk away and paid the crazy interest rates. AOPA, how about working with some banks to give students better options than then one above?

Posted by: Andrew Durkee | September 10, 2012 3:12 PM    Report this comment

Flying is different, very different from anything else I can think of. Without a real desire for the appreciation of flight, and it's very personal and profound rewards, the decreasing interest and perceived value from the population in general will continue to be the determinative factor in its non-business use survival.

I hope this will make a turnaround after the larger economies retool and the new normal is established, but until then, I'll not begrudge anyone to blame effects like cost, time and regulations, because we seem so helpless watching our love of flight suffer the slings and arrows of indifference. Nothing kills something more efficiently than indifference. It's hard to watch.

Other than the personal joy and fulfillment of flight, I don't know what savior can be brought forth to turn the tide - LSA's, glass panels, intro rides don't seem to be changing anything - but we need our best efforts, not our best excuses.

Posted by: David Miller | September 10, 2012 3:40 PM    Report this comment

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