The big bucks: a reason for the declining pilot population?

From the comments on our series about the declining pilot population, there is no question that a lot of people think that the cost of flying is driving old people away and scaring away new people. I said that I though cost was an excuse, not a reason, and some of you took issue with that.

Having been an active pilot and observer of the scene since 1951, I will try to put some of this in context.

$100 bills
Flying is expensive. After that, there isn’t much agreement.

The cynics have often said that pilots will allow for inflation in everything they do except flying. There is some truth to that. For example, we all pay a labor rate of about $100 an hour to get our toilet, car or furnace fixed. How about paying that for a flight instructor? I can hear pilots shouting “nnnnnnoooooooo” from the rooftops.

When I got my instructor’s rating (as we called it then) in 1953, we got $2 per hour for instruction. A fairly standard wage then was $50 a week so we had to instruct only 25 hours a week to make as much as a small-town newspaper reporter, for example. If today’s instructor gets $25 per hour, which would mean the FBO charges $50, that would probably be high except at some of the big schools. That is about half as much as the technician makes to work on your stuff. It is also only 12.5 times as much as I made back in the good old days. The multiple is much higher for repair folks and for everything else.

The point is that there is no way to make instruction less costly and, for quality control, it should probably cost about twice as much as it does.

A government regulation that is on the way will probably enable low-cost CFI services for a time to come. To be a crewmember on a Part 121 air carrier, a pilot will have to have 1,500 hours, many times more than is now required. The powers that be apparently think time in the right seat of a ratty old Cessna 150 is useful to a pilot flying a Boeing. Go figure.

The cost of airplanes has for a fact gone up way faster than inflation. In 1951 the retail price of a new Cessna 170A was $6,495. You could get your basic Ford for about $2,000 at the time. The gap has widened more than a little bit with $20,000 Fords and $300,000 Skyhawks. Of course the 170A had no real avionics, few instruments and no power source for the instruments of the day.

So, why are airplanes relatively more expensive today?

There are a lot of reasons, one of which is not obscene profits for airframe manufacturers. Cessna was about to go over a financial cliff when General Dynamics acquired it in the 1980s. Piper has been reorganized more times than I can count, Hawker Beechcraft is bankrupt, Mooney is out of business, and Cirrus has gone through several sets of money. The management of Diamond might tell you that the way to make a small fortune building airplanes is to start with a large fortune.

Where cars and other complex consumer things are either built with robots and other forms of automation, or with cheap labor outside the U. S., airplanes are still built with gobs of expensive man-hours.  Manufacturing efficiency has increased in leaps and bounds except in a few areas, one of which is airplane manufacturing.

Housing is a little like airplanes, too. Over my years of airplane ownership, starting in 1953, I bought some that were worth more than my house and some that were worth a little less. Even now, had I recently bought a new traveling single it would have been about the same money as my house was worth until house prices cratered. Now to get something equal to the value of my house I would have to do something not done since 1970: buy a slightly used one.

Every promise of cost reduction in airplanes has been a false promise, too. Composites were to be magic but in the end composite airplanes cost and weigh as much as metal airplanes. The lowest-cost and lightest airframe would be built like a Piper Pacer.

LSAs are the entry level airplanes of today and they cost about as much as a Skyhawk cost 15 or 20 years ago. Are they useful? Perhaps, but mainly as recreational devices.

I owned an airplane for over 60 years and flew those airplanes for close to 20,000 hours. The money involved flowed through my checkbook so nobody has to tell me that flying nice single-engine airplanes is expensive. It was once suggested that had I spent that money buying Walmart stock over those years instead of flying, I could today have that Learjet that I always wanted.

To me, though, the airplanes were worth every cent I spent on them. I flew to go places and, if I still had places to go, I would do so in a general aviation airplane. There is just no better way to travel.

Toyota plant making cars
A sight you won’t see in any airplane factory–robots at work on the line.

Inflation treats different things in different ways. That is as true in aviation as anywhere else. Take the cost of renting airplanes. In the 1950s a rule of thumb was that you had to get an hourly rental rate in dollars related to thousands of dollars an airplane cost. Thus the price of renting a Bonanza was $25 per hour. If that rule were true today, a Skyhawk would be $300 per hour,

Back in the 1950s there were a number of two-seat airplanes at our airport that were owned by blue-collar workers. Hangar rent was $15 a month and gas 25 cents a gallon and the airplanes took little maintenance. Still, those pilots likely had to give up some other things to feed their aviation habit. Today, that worker would have his data plan bill, his high speed internet, his cable TV and, in the summertime, the utilities to run his air conditioner. It is not likely he would give up any of those in exchange for a little flying.

Is there any possible solution to the high cost of flying? Some suggest you can buy an old airplane and fly for a lot less but that option will slowly go away as the cost to maintain those old airplanes becomes out of proportion to their value. In the recent past, I retired an old airplane because I wasn’t using it enough and the cost of maintaining it was going out of sight. I no longer had need for much travel so the airplane was not worth what it cost. That was my reason for selling it, not an excuse for selling it.

Lip service will always be given to lower cost flying, but there is simply nothing out there to enable it. Certainly the infrastructure doesn’t find any compelling reason to wish for more pilots. Except in very small places, any FBO will tell you that five or ten percent of his customers generate 90 or 95 percent of his revenue. It would make business sense to just deal with the ones that generate the most cash.

Fortunately most people in the airplane business still love aviation and want to provide services to all comers, regardless of the size of their gas tanks and credit limit. Some of those, though, might well read the reader comments about cost and wonder why they bother.

We have just gone through a traumatic economic time, driven largely by the government requiring home loans be made available to more people. Folks took advantage of those sub-prime mortgages to buy houses they couldn’t afford and when the house prices collapsed, so did their financial ability to keep that house. When I saw a story on TV about a person making $45,000 a year buying a $450,000 house, I honestly wondered who ever thought that would work. I would tell you who but then you would think I was trying to start a political argument.

Nobody is going to enable people to buy airplanes they can’t afford. Airplanes and flying cost what they cost. If a person loves to fly but can’t afford the price, that person fell in love with the wrong thing.

In 1956-57 I was in the U. S. Army, assigned the duty of running a Special Services flying club. Like all good soldiers I had learned the art of scrounging. I had gotten the club, free, a building moved from the post to the airport, tie-down spaces, fuel for the airplanes, plus surplus airplanes.

All we really had to pay for was outside major maintenance. The only thing to amortize was the cost of a couple of airplanes bought before the surplus ones came available, plus the cost of getting an N-number and standard airworthiness certificate on those L-21s (semi-Super Cubs) and L-17s (Navions). The rental price of a simple airplane was a few bucks an hour.

I instructed free on weekdays, sunup to sundown. On weekends, students could choose from a list of approved instructors and pay for the service The rental price for simple airplanes was a few bucks an hour. We had the required periodic membership meetings that were at times contentious. The main complaint? Cost, just as today. So I have been there and done that.

General aviation is not going to be “saved” by lower costs. It is just not possible. That leaves only increased value for that cost as a means for improvement. Will that happen? Maybe, maybe not. What do you think can be done to improve the value of your flying?


  • The reason is not the cost.

    The reason is to feel like.

    What about the cost of a sporty car, a motorboat ? –> “Expensive”, but not an obstacle.

    There are plenty of wealthy people.

    Those people have teenagers who could be interested in aviation.

    But aviation is no longer attractive : supposed to be too dangerous, takes time to learn, no longer rewarding, etc… (already said by many of you).

    NO LONGER REWARDING !!! This is the key point.

    What is the objective or subjective added-value of flying ?

    Flying or nothing.

    But flying for what ?

    What’s makes flying unbeatable ?

    As far as flying is perceived as unbeatable for something, flying is the answer.

    Flying is not an answer in itself.

    Flying has to be sold as a rewarding medium to access something else.

    The “something else” beeing objective or subjective.

    Personally, I fly for business and travelling in the Carribean. For me, flying is the answer to a weak regional transportation offer.

    One of my friends is a golfer. He flyes for visiting new courses.

    Flying for flying is not enough.

  • The instructor cost is minimal in the over all cost of learning to fly as a private pilot 1250-3000 depending on the level of ground schooling vs self taught. The aircraft rent/fuel is the cost driver. There are several schools where I live one I can rent a 172p wet at 115/hr no membership and one has a 172s 155/hr + club membership etc. That $40/hr difference adds up to 1600 for 40 hrs. Both have instructors for $49/hr which is fine that’s a respectable rate. The cheaper school is part 141 so in many ways a better deal. So for a license 2k goes to fuel, 2k goes to the instructor, 2k goes to rental, another 500-1k goes to books, videos, tests etc. We will never see production rates needed to drastically reduce the cost of aircraft. Our only option is to demand more efficient engines, cleaner airframes, and changes in the regulations that allow these things to be accomplished and still maintain safety. To save aviation we either need cheaper fuel (car gas price) or more efficient planes.

  • I earned my PP ASEL in 1970 flying C150s for less than I can now rent a lawnmower. I never mustered the requisite cash to be anything other than a renter pilot: the lowest form of winged life. I could be checked out in an aircraft, but not fly an equal aircraft at another FBO. Strike one. Having done what any serious business person would do: get a second supplier. What are the odds of 2 of 3 aircraft I was qualified to fly being down for maintenance at the same time? Strike two. What are the odds that the third had a crappy PTT switch that made radio comm impossible? Strike three. That was the first and last time I planned a trip in an aircraft where I had an obligation waiting for me. I gave up. Drove. And was an hour late for my aunt’s funeral. By the way, I was the minister who was supposed to officiate. I doubt I will ever again be airborne in a small plane except by some rich person’s largesse. I grew up watching Sky King. I earned 5 levels of the Wings program. To this day I cannot stop the impulse to look up at the sound of an aircraft. What killed flying for me? Cost. Low value (both maintenance and fun) aircraft on the flight line. And being treated poorly because I was just a renter. Some respect by FBOs, the alphabet organizations and even the general public might have kept me flying. Today I ride my bicycle and still pretend I’m flying it.
    Michael Munro

  • It’s ridiculous to say that cost doesn’t have an impact on people choosing not to fly. There are people who just can’t afford it.

    And okay, there’s only a certain amount anyone can do to mitigate or defer those costs (scholarships and student loans and the like), but most who take up that kind of thing are flying for a job, not for the fun of it.

    How many airline or military pilots nowadays fly outside of their jobs? I’d say very few.

    But there is a perception that pilots are wealthy. That just a little bit more can be squeezed out of us. The aviation authority in my country has just added a whole screed of new fees. $200 more for any kind of licence paperwork. $300 to get your medical processed – and that’s every time – every six months to a year if you’re really unlucky. Replacement licence? – That’ll be $100. On top of that they’ve removed free aviation weather access, so that’s $90 a year. Access to notams and whatnot? Another $150.

    If you’re only flying 20-odd hours a year, and rent on a 150 is in the range of $150-180/hr then those types of costs are really quite significant. It would be better ‘value’ if those types flew more, but they can’t necessarily afford to.

    I don’t even want to think about owners of aircraft and all the additionals they have to pay, plus the insurance ($500 to get the registration in any way changed on an aircraft!). I certainly couldn’t afford to own a plane.

    And the best advertisement for GA? The people already in it.

    The people who aren’t flying because they can’t afford it (shitty economy/increasing costs/lack of options locally) and who don’t want to deal with the FBO/schools/aeroclubs/whatever.

    The people who aren’t taking their friends/colleagues/the kid hanging over the (post-9/11 razor wire and threatening signs) airport fence/whoever flying.

    The people, who, when asked say things like ‘don’t get into aviation because it costs a bunch and we hate the FAA/CAA/CASA/whoever’, however true it might be.

    We’re pretty crap at advertising ourselves, yeah? Getting people to say ‘well, I’ve only got a bit of free cash, but I can take up this flying lark?’

    Instead people are seeing things like terrorists flying planes into buildings. Or seeing people like Sean D. Tucker or Kirby Chambliss fly… let’s face it, their routines are more likely to terrify spectators rather than inspire them to take up flight.

    People now have grown up with the idea of treating the airliners like buses – you’re pissed if they’re delayed, pissed at the cost and the service or lack of, and damn if there’s not bad publicity every week. Fine if you’re a ‘bus-spotter’. Not exactly thrilling. Again, not much inspiration there.

    So how do you inspire people to ignore the “excuses” of costs and take up flying?

    • It’s not about selling aviation as a way of getting to something else.

      It won’t get the guys the girls.
      It won’t really give you the best way of travelling to that meeting (‘time to spare, go by air’).
      It probably won’t get you great pay (especially not instructing), unless you’re very senior in the airlines/doing real well out of charter, and it’s going to be a terrible road ’til then.

      What will it be?

      A whole lot of fun (provided the FAA/CAA/CASA/that jerk at the FBO/School/aeroclub don’t get in the way)
      A challenge.
      A set of memories to look back on and wonder at.
      An experience you can share with the people you care about.

      It’s going to be six months to a year of flying once or twice a week. It’s going to cost you a fair amount, and you can’t lie about that. It’s going to be a lot of learning, but it’s not all that hard, there’s just a lot of it.
      It’s going to be frustrating because you have bad days, bad weather, bad planes, bad instructors, but there will also be those other days where everything goes right and they’ll be magic.

      Sell that image. Sell the idea that anyone can do it.

  • Mr. Collins– There’s a short video segment you did in one of the Sporty’s videos where you fly a Skyhawk out of Tampa/St Pete up the coast to a remote island for a fresh seafood lunch. It’s a very inspiring clip, very well done, and makes me want to go fly everytime I watch it. That flight reveals clearly the “value” of small planes and how certain trips are tailor-made for GA planes. We need to somehow get that clip running on primetime TV commercial spots.

    The value of GA is still there (though I think the goverment is slowing killing it through taxes/regulation/EPA & safety threats—all that needs to be reversed) but society has throttled back on every marginal activity (golf, boating, expensive dinners out etc) as has been said repeatedly in this discussion. When spending and confidence return, GA needs to be ready to show the value clearly, like your trip up the Florida coast does so well.

    Finally, the fact that YOU can’t find value anymore in GA because your traveling needs have dwindled speaks volumes. Most people do not have large traveling requirements, and so the value of “fun” flying needs to be advertised and promoted. Frankly, I’m surprised that you don’t find ways to still fly GA trips and tap the value that is there…no seafood lunches on remote islands for you any more? I’m still expecting to see an AirFacts article from you soon about your new taildragger/LSA adventures !

    • John, the idea of a prime time Tv spot foe GA sounds wonderful, what
      also needs to be address however, is the cost of obtaining a Private Certificate.

  • It’s the cost of fuel not the cost of rental, instruction etc. I live right near a VFR reporting point. Pre 9/11, 30 -40 planes overhead on weekends per day; now 5 per day. I also live near a very nice seaside harbor town. Pre 9/11 the harbor was majority powerboats; today majority sailboats. The reasons are not that complicated. Get me avgas at $2/gallon and I will get up in the air again, but at $6.50/gallon, no way. BTW, I walk to my local train station and use public transportation for my daily commute.

    • This is spot on. Dick mentions $0.25/gallon 50 yeas ago..the price of fuel has skyrocketed, more than double what inflation has done. Gas is energy, it’s what moves our economy. Free up the markets! Oil and Gas markets are highly regulated–they are NOT even close to being free markets!! Yes, I blame the government!

    • I agree 100%! The cost of fuel has caused a significant decrease in the number of active pilots and the number of hours flown per year by many pilots. Instead of flying a couple times a week, I now fly once every two weeks because of the cost of fuel. It is the main factor in the decline of general aviation.

  • Dick is correct that cost is not a factor in the decline in the pilot population, but my take is a little different. Its a simple issue of cause and effect. Rising cost is the effect of the decline, not the other way around. If we found a way to get more people flying then cost would go down. This is no different than any other industry. Just like personal computers were $2000 15 years ago, you’d be hard pressed to spend more that $500 now.

    My point is: If we can convince the population that aviation is worth the price of admission, then the cost will fall. We don’t need to be arguing over why its so expensive and what to do to bring the cost down, we just need to get people into airplanes and the issue of cost will take care of itself.

    • Cost is a factor in getting into flying and sticking to it, trust me been fighting that battle and I have wanted to fly since about age 10. I did some lessons in High School but cost/time got in the way. Then a couple years ago I got up to the point where my instructor wanted me to get my medical to solo, a few life events happened and my instructor moving brought a stop to that attempt. Now two years later I just did my medical, found a flight school with 1980’s planes and I have the money set aside for 50 hours at their rates. Well I’m in my 30’s now I grew up below the poverty line, paid for college myself, and now make six figures (yes even in this economy working your *** off does pay) but to achieve this I am having a hard time fitting in the time needed. I’m probably the only software engineer that doesn’t have a smart phone because I can’t bring myself to spend $50/mo on a data plan when I could fly an extra 1/2 hour.

      So the moral of my story is there are a few windows in life when you can take the risk, have the time, and have the money. Unfortunately those 3 things always seem to only come two at a time. Justifying the risk, money, and time is easier once you have your license and your family sees the benefit of flying to the beach (ocean) for the day/weekend instead of walking/driving down to the pool in the neighborhood. Luckily my wife is supportive of me in my goal so it will happen in the next two years even if I have to take my vacation time and do it all in two weeks.

      • I’m not denying that cost is a factor for flying. Cost is a factor for everything in life. I think in general people decide to spend their money on other things because they don’t see the benefit in flying. In fact, your story seems to indicate that you’ve overcome the issue of money and prioritized where you are willing to spend it. Its the combination of other factors that are prohibitive. I still maintain that while flying does involve cost, its not the cause of the decline in pilot population, it is a result.

    • Chris, the only way more people are going to fly, people have to be able to afford it. If people can not afford to fly, they will not fly.

  • No one making $45,000 bought a home that cost $450,000. The crisis was caused be the private security companies bundling and selling mortgages on the stick market a result of weakening regulation in favor of marketeers

  • I, too, grew up in the 50’s watching Sky King do his magic in Songbird. Likely as a result of that TV show, seeing a few airshows and a airplane ride in an Ercoupe provided by a ham radio friend, I aspired to become a pilot. Early in my 21 year USAF career and at an early age, I learned to fly at a military Aero Club and never stopped … for the last 42 years.

    NOTHING I ever do in my life will ever provide as much a thrill as being able to spontaneously go to my privately owned hangar on a nice day, pull out my Cherokee 140 and go for a short flight low and slow over beautiful rural Wisconsin countryside. The world from 2,000′ AGL is absolutely perfect and I often think about the masses who have no idea of what they’re missing. For that matter, I think about what I am missing when I drive vs. fly and don’t learn what’s hiding behind that clump of trees on a road I use. Flying offers SUCH an amazing perspective of the world that is only visible from above. And only a pilot can fully understand the absolute joy of doing this solo. We pilots are very fortunate, indeed.

    But then I land … and taxi over to the fuel pump. $250 later (assuming the tanks are mostly empty), I put the airplane away. I’m fortunate, I am an A&P so I do most of my own maintenance. But then the G-35 battery dies and a new one costs almost $200 … even with my labor. Maybe a magneto poops out … bring $500, please. Ooops, my biannual flight review is due … $250 please. Thereafter, my flight medical is due … $150, please. Then, do my annual myself … $500 please (IF I’m lucky!).

    OK, I say to myself … “this is the cost of being one-tenth of one-tenth of the population who can do this sort of thing and enjoy such a thrill. Don’t try to make aviation add up or justify flying in dollars and cents” I can afford it, I love it so … just be quiet.”

    Then I open one of my many daily aviation e-zines and I read about how the FAA has found still another way to become adversarial to its constituent minions (me). Or, I read about still another money grubbing lawyer trying to sue an aviation company when it’s perfectly clear that the accident was caused by pilot error yet the Company must bear the cost of defending itself. Maybe the NIMBY’s are moaning because Cessnas are flying over their homes.

    Finally — and for me (as I’m aging) this IS the final straw — I have to fear for my aviation medical every two years. I’d love to install some modern avionics in my C172 or my PA28 (I own one of each) but hold back knowing that I’ll likely never recoup the cost if I lose my medical. So I soldier on with what I have. I have about $30K invested in each airplane but would have to spend 10 times that if I wanted to replace either with a new same model machine.

    SO … beyond high cost — which I have thus far managed to cover — is what I call the BS factor. The FAA (and NTSB) are trying to justify their existence by conspicuous activities trying to make flying 100% safe and are winning … by grounding pilots … one by one. A non-flying pilot can’t kill himself if he ain’t flying, ya know. I’m sure the TSA is happy. As I find myself aging, my ability to assimilate BS is waning by orders of magnitude.

    For a time, I thought Light Sport was the answer until I realized you can’t make a decent airplane with a 1320 pound weight limitation. And — as you said — any machine thus built is nothing more than a recreation machine … I can’t carry my dog, my wife and a friend and some camping gear to a point hundreds of miles away in many of ’em. And — I’LL BE DAMNED IF I SELL TWO $30K AIRPLANES AND PAY $150K FOR ONE OF THOSE KITES !!

    SO, Dick, it IS about money in an uncertain economy as we currently live in. It IS about BS from the FAA, et al. It IS about pressures from the external world causing us to take a hard look at any activity that doesn’t somehow justify it’s existence in dollars and cents. Aviators ought to be given medals for all the BS they endure to enable their passion for flying to become reality.

    Will the last US GA pilot who uses my PA28 please remember to turn out the lights in my hangar when you hang up your headesets for good!

    • That is great Larry, it is really a quite a great way to reflect on life @ 2500 feet AGL, If one can afford to do so.

    • Very, very, very good! Most, if not all, of us can relate to several of the points you make…. and I’d wager most of us aren’t A&P’s and can’t afford a 172 AND a Cherokee in our own hanger which makes it all that much worse for us.

      • … and I didn’t even cover any insurance costs or costs associated with building and then owning a decent hangar. That said — and as I said above — I have about $30K invested in each of my GA airplanes and maybe $40K in my large hangar … about $100K total. And the EAA / FAA wants me to buy a Light Sport airplane for maybe $150K+ ?? Are they NUTS? What young man or old man is going to plunk down that kind of loot in THIS economy and now faced with the spectre of a second Obama Administration finding ways to tax everything that moves.

        I HAVE some ideas that would re-invigorate GA but the chances of anyone listening is less than miniscule, sadly. The Govment can’t even appoint an FAA Administrator … why would they care about GA?

        Face the music here, folks … aviation is now in it’s terminal years in this Country.

  • There have been so many excellent and well thought out responses to Mr. Collins observations and opinions.

    Cost is something that we all incur when it comes to activities that are not related to living items like housing, food, clothing, and electricity. Anything outside of that is a luxury item. Head to any third world country and you will see that principle in spades. So we weigh the desire vs. the costs. What can I do without, or if you are lucky enough, you have the disposable income to afford the instruction, owning, or renting an aircraft. In my case, there are times when I have a little left over at the end of the month to get a lesson in. I look at buying something fun and say to myself “that is 2 hours of instruction”. For most of us it’s about sacrifice or adjustment. I do agree, it’s a really expensive way of making the houses small.

    As for the rising cost of aircraft, if we could all afford to buy a new plane, it would be a wonderful world of shiny new planes and gee whiz instrumentation. Unfortunately the majority of us cannot. The alternatives are to rent, which over time claims small fortunes, but is a great way to support local clubs and aircraft owners who can barely afford their planes anyway. Another alternative is to look at the secondary (used market). Many of these planes are less than the cost of a Honda Accord, and are maintained very well. Granted, $20k to $40K is a big bite to swallow, but why not approach a couple of other pilots and buy the plane as a partnership. Shared costs are much easier to swallow. Let someone with the wealth buy new and take the massive depreciation costs. Much like a car, buying used is often a smarter investment, not to mention used aircraft are far better maintained than a used car.

    I do think we need to address the benefits of being a pilot. Granted, at one point it was a way of getting away to a place that was harder to get at by car. Now, with the exception of Alaska and the NWT, we in the states can get most of these places by car in close to the same amount of time. Instruction needs to move outside of the training “box” and become lessons to a destination. That will aid in moving congestion away from heavily impacted areas near airports where mid-airs and near mid-airs are a growing problem, but also show students the benefits of flying to other airports and part of why they probably wanted to learn in the first place.

    All and all, it’s just another 2 cents worth. We all have our reasons why we want to learn to fly, fly, and, in some cases quit flying. Cost, benefit, or something else. One thing is for sure, it’s up to us the pilots, schools, students, mfg’s, FAA, and AOPA/EAA, to begin dialogues together to find new avenues and solutions to stabilize and grow GA. It’s up to all of us, together, to move GA to a new golden age.

  • As usual Dick speaks with the voice of experience and is probably quite accurate. Increasing the value (or percieved value) is probably the most likely avenue.

    For people with significant travel needs; that value has been met by the business jets in the upper echelons. For lesser needs, Cirrus, Cessna and Piper have been properly concentrating on those customers and are probably about as successful as they can be. There just aren’t a lot of people that need to travel the 200 to 400 hours per year it takes to justify a fully equipped traveling airplane. Unfortuneately, unlike the good old days, there isn’t much trickle down of those airplanes to the rest of us that would like to fly. A used Citationjet (or Cirrus for that matter) would be too expensive to operate, for most people, if they were giving them away.

    For the rest of us that leaves,old used airplanes, LSA, kit planes and no particular reason to fly. So why bother? There are several good reasons we could offer:
    1) Some, like me, were just born with the DNA and are going to do it no matter what the obstacles. We give up wifes, houses, cars, kids, careers, whatever to make it happen. If your one of those, welcome, you’ve come to the right place.
    2) Flying career – it used to be a glamorous career path for those who didn’t want to do real work. Still is a good career, just not as good, but most careers aren’t as good nowdays. These prospects should be encouraged to learn through solo anyway, then steered to the big schools or the military.
    3) Recreational travel – many are smitten with the idea of flying to their favorite ski lodge, etc. This is one that has been oversold, and we should downplay it. The average VFR/occaisional IFR pilot is not up to that job and we should state that up front. However, we can emphasize the joys of spontaneous travel in good weather; and that would be enough for many prospects.
    4) Improving personal abilities – Many people take Yoga classes, cooking classes, mountain climbing classes, etc which have no immediate obvious payback, but cost a fair amount of money. It should be shown that learning to fly, even if just to solo or a Light Sport license, enhances the persons abilities to examine and plan complex situations and improves confidence once those are mastered. It actually doesn’t look bad on a resume either, even for an unrelated job; makes you stand out from the masses.

    So how can the cost be driven down to meet the needs or desires of the non business travelers?
    a) Flight schools need to sort their customers out right after solo. The business traveler prospects need to head for simulators and fully equipped IFR airplanes; cost won’t be the object here, exemplary training and scheduling will be.
    b) For the non-business prospects the LSA is really all we have; it should be embraced whole-heartedly. I say baloney to the idea that a good airplane can’t be built at 1320 lbs. There are already numerous ones out there. Schools should embrace and offer these planes at a rental rate which is profitable (about .1% of the airplane cost). Instructors are going to get the rate that a good one-on-one music instructor would get.
    c) After the license is obtained I think there are changes in the commercial rental structure that would encourage more rentals. Say maybe offer planes on a daily or weekly rate like a Hertz car rental. It would be good to get away from the hourly rental idea; that discourages rentals because it is painful to go fly for an hour and then write out a big check for it. A daily rate at about 4 to 5 times the cost of a car rental would be more palitable and would encourage more flying.
    d) Clubs – I know these are a big deal to the AOPA, and they do offer the dual potential of social atmosphere and lower cost. The social aspects can be great if the club is run by a social type person. The social aspects can be lousy if its a group of separate interests. The cost is only significantly lower if someone (mainly an instructor and/or mechanic) sacrifices their time for the good of the club. Other than that, the only cost reduction is due to the sharing of initial purchase and fixed costs.
    e) Ownership – It should be encouraged for pride of ownership and convenience if nothing else. If the schools buy new LSA then there is a good trickle down effect for ownership. Used LSA aircraft would be affordable and fun to fly. Kit airplanes offer another avenue which is affordable to many and it is getting better with more advanced kits. The kit industry is taking care of itself. Pretty much forget owning old Bonanzas and such; those days are nearly over.

    Anyway, that’s how I see it.

  • Why is no one talking about partnerships (may have missed it skimming responses)? Ownership does not need to be one pilot, one plane. Expenses, except fuel, are cut in half with a partner. Yes, there can be problems with partners, but my experinces have been great. Sure beats renting or not flying at all!

  • I’m 27 and I’ve been into airplanes as long as I can remember. I completed my PPL last year and am about to go after my instrument rating.

    The declining pilot population is more than just money, although that is a major deterrent for people in my age demographic. People my age if they are going to fly do it as a career, I know next to no one who is 27 and flying for fun.

    Many people my age just do not see the value in devoting 6-10 month of time, hard work, effort and a large amount of money to be able to pilot an airplane VFR for a hobby. Their logic is “why should I put a ton of time and effort into something, when I can get where I want to be by hopping a commercial airliner?” They really don’t see that flying yourself is part of the adventure of life. My peers also seem to need the newest “stuff” and flying a 1956 C172 (one of the cooler planes I have flown) with steam gauges would not be appealing to them. This logic leads them to the Cirrus or G1000 equipped aircraft, which naturally drives up the cost. That leads into money, also a big issue, yes I know where there is a will there is a way, but when you do not have a job or huge student debt, as many people I know, you’re probably not going to be spending $1000 a month on a hobby. I seem to be in the minority of people my age who made the right decisions, right education (yes I acknowledge that luck was involved here) and have a good job with a large enough disposable income with almost no debt.

    The other end of the spectrum is flying as a career, something I personally wanted to do. I’m sorry but after a lot of research and talking to plenty of pilots in the business who hate it, why would someone want to spend 100K getting their ratings so they can instruct for poverty level wages to get picked up by an airline to continue to make poverty level wages, eventually climb the ladder to better wages to only be let go because of greedy/incompetent upper management within an airline. I know their are alternatives to this and everything is about who you know and right place right time but its simple economics. You can spend 100K on training/college and make 20k-30k or you can go to school get an engineering degree and start at 50K (and spend less at school assuming you go to a state school).

    I agree with a lot of the comments on this topic about advertising and getting people interested, but with a high cost of admission, dated training techniques and FBOs that don’t seem to care if I do business with them or not, I am afraid I will be one of last pilots who flies for pure pleasure and the adventure of getting to a destination. Flying is expensive, it has and always will be expensive, personally I believe its worth every penny. For me it gives the challenge and enjoyment that work does not.

  • How many people drive the two lane back tops on their vacation road trips anymore? Heck as a kid that was our vacation just driving through the mountains no where to go. The last time I went to the mountains (south east US) they have cut through with 4 lane roads and its hard to find the curvy fun roads anymore. This mindset of the destination over the journey may have more to do with the lack of new pilots the more I think about it. We are a country that has become destination oriented and no longer willing to enjoy the struggle and effort of the journey.

    Has there ever been a study of the people who dropped out of flight lessons as to reasons?

  • I think we can safely say that flying is expensive – for myriad reasons. There are always ways to save money, but I think the real question is, “how important is it if there are fewer pilots in the U.S.?” We waste a lot of time and energy bemoaning the declining population, without clearly articulating just what we fear the effects will be. Is it really as grim as certain organizations make it out to be? I dug into GAMA’s own data and found a few interesting implications:

  • For some perspective….

    I have my father’s logbook and private pilot certificate in front of me along with several of his receipts from 1948-49.

    He paid $6.00 an hour to rent a 65hp Cub back then. His instructor charged $1.50 an hour.

    He was 26 yrs. old, an Army vet of WWII returning stateside in late 1945. I don’t know how much he earned per week at the time, but would guess it to be in the neighborhood of $50-60 per week.

    Today, at our local FBO, a Cherokee 140 rents to a student for around $125 an hour and an instructor runs $30 hour.

    • Good perpective. If you put that into 2012 dollars, $8dollars in 1948 dollars per flight hour is about $80 an hour in 2012 dollars. Assuming he flew about 10 hours a month he was spending roughly 36% of his salary on flight training. However $220 a month in 1948 is worth about $2200 in 2012 so to remain at the 36% of ones salary to devote to flight training in 2012 at your rate you would need to be making about $4200 a month. I also think that basic neccessities were a bit cheaper in 1948, no cellphones, cable, internet, etc.

  • Obviously they don’t have the utility, but gliders are always an option folks. I was always interested in flying power, but there is just no way to justify the cost if you are near a big city. I’ve spent many enjoyable hours in a glider at $27-50 a tow.

  • Flight training and private flying here in Puerto Rico has decreased well over 50 pct in the last year, due mainly to Avgas over $7.00 per gallon. I know 2 or 3 long-time pilots who are now selling their aircraft. The only activity is in the light-sport category, partly because auto gas can be used and is cheaper. Insurance is an issue here also, due to very high rates.

  • Yes, cost is a factor and flying has steadily moved up the cost scale since I learned to fly in the 70’s. I bought my first plane with a partner in the mid 1980’s. It was a used Grumman AA5 Traveler, and we shelled out $9,500 for it. Even with a new interior, new paint and some panel improvements it was an inexpensive toy. We even had covered parking for $15/month. Since then, both my income, and the cost of buying and owning an airplane have cone up, but the planes (even used ones) have increased more than my income. Still, I make sacrifices and continue to fly because I’m completely enthralled with the magic of aviation.

    There are people out there that easily have the resources to fly, but don’t. That is a market that needs to be tapped, but it is hard to lure people in with all the barriers that exist to flying. When I was first hooked, there were grass strips close to home where I could wander among the planes and dream. When I had my first plane, I used to hang out at Snowhomish Field (S43) eating hamburgers and watching the parade of baloons, skydivers, old taildraggers using the grass runway, and big shiney planes using the paved runway. After my burger, I could wander among the planes in open T hangars and dream some more. That kind of access is extraordinarily rare these days. Young people aren’t exposed to general aviation in seductive ways that can reel them in when they have sufficeint income. As more and more security is added to small airports and as they move farther and farther from population centers, the chances for favorable first impressions dwindle.

    Even the young eagles program (that I admire greatly) doesn’t have a means for interested young people to stay engaged once they’ve had that first magical flight. Busy professionals can’t just pop in to their local airport to see what is going on because “local” and “airport” seldom come together. We’ll never reverse the trend in the pilot population if we can’t create an environment that attracts a new generation of pilots. The trend over the past decade has been to isolate the flying environment from the public and that is contrary to our best interests.

    I now live in Virginia and was lucky enough to spend a day at Eagle’s Nest airpork (W13) last weekend. It was a breath of fresh air. The busy little strip has an active sailplane club, lots of general aviation activity and a spot on the lawn for locals to watch the constant launching a landing of sailplanes. All they need is a small cafe on the field and it could become the perfect incubator for new pilots. We need more places like that to keep the art and science of flying alive.

  • I am Student Pilot , 62 yrs. Doing LSA . Have a Great CFI , 35 Yrs.old , brought up in Avaitaion, he has about 10.000 hrs can Cert. for almost anything up to 737 , I am fortunate. Still his cost is $50.00 hr. 125.00 Hr.for Plane / wet , still to cost $7000 when done . This is lots of Cash for someone my age & on fixed income , even Shut cable T.V. off. Wife working 2 Jobs to help make Old Guys Dream !

  • All are good observations as to contributing factors to the declining GA interest. But, what are some solutions to increase interest? If you increase interest you increase demand which increases competition which decreases costs and makes GA affordable to more. However, there are right now many people who can afford GA but don’t know what we know and thus have no interest in spending their disposable income on GA. How do you find and attract these potential new GA Pilots? The same way you sell them any product or service they either want or need, even if they don’t yet know it. You market and advertise everything great about GA; but you don’t preach to the choir. Don’t waste Harrison Ford speaking at Oskosh or filming a spot for the GA community. Put him in a Super Bowl ad for GA! Retain Justin Bieber to film a campaign for GA(I have no idea if he has any knowledge about GA, but that’s not relevant). The airline companies and manufacturing companies and military and AOPA and EAA and any business or firm which needs aviation for any economic reason will have all the incentive necessary to underwrite the cost. GA can be saved if there is sufficient economic interests worth maintaining and preserving. I bet there are such interests.

  • Folks on this thread have noted the (very real) cost issue. And while Dick’s points are well-founded in comparing GA’s cost to other skill-based occupations, it’s the RELATIVE cost that really hurts GA:

    Compare private GA air travel in 1950s to commercial air travel of the same period. In those regulated times, commercial travel was very expensive, and relatively speaking, private GA had more appeal than today. A flight from New York to San Francisco was $2,880 r/t in today’s dollars. Any bargain shopper can do the same for about $500 today, less than 1/5 the cost. Bad as it is, commercial air travel today is relatively inexpensive, and sometimes down-right cheap, especially in comparison to private GA air travel.

    If a core argument is “come to GA to solve your (business or personal) travel needs,” the “terms of trade” (as an economist might say) have slewed dramatically in favor of commercial air travel. I’m sure in 1950, GA was more expensive than commercial, but today I’d estimate GA to be at least 6x as expensive (piston single) to 8x+ more expensive (twin, and of course much more in a turbo-prop or jet). (True I’m ignoring that the GA flight costs the same with single pilot or pilot plus 2 or 3 pax). Still, it’s not even close. Only when cost is (almost) not an object, and time/convenience/flexibility is more of the object, can GA compete.

    So, it will be a tough sell for GA to convince the general public that GA is a preferred travel alternative (even if it is more exciting, flexible, freeing, and fun). Can we sell it as “recreation” (and here comparisons to golf, skiing, or other expensive recreation are often used)?

    As others have pointed out, except for those (like me) who always burned to fly, most folks just don’t get enough “fun” out of GA for it to be worth the substantial time/money/training/responsibility/risk tolerance required. After all, few folks worry about killing themselves or someone they love on the golf course (though more should worry about killing themselves on the ski slope). Again the RELATIVE cost of alternatives (from high-end video games to European travel to a vacation at Disney World) is more attractive (when compared to median family income) than GA. Saving up for that trip to Paris–the whole family can get behind that. Off season, a family of three should be able to have a great week for about 1/2 the cost of a PPL in my area. Saving up for two years so that Dad (OK, sometimes Mom) can get a PPL–not as compelling.

    The answer is indeed in segmenting out new pilots at training. Business types that can afford it–straight to IFR and the simulators and the aircraft brokers! Recreational pilots–steer them to clubs/group ownership (I fondly remember my club and how it got my all-in cost-per-hour down to about $100 in the expensive Northeast).

    I applaud whole-heartedly AOPA’s recent efforts to identify, address, and propose solutions for the problems and opportunities in pilot training. Simulators, clubs, and creating a “social culture of aviation” are indeed the answers.

    GA will be smaller in the future, but it could be made stable. The GA “bubble” of the 1950-1975 period was fed by unusual factors (GI and GI bill pilots, growth in the then-exploding commercial aviation world, very cheap Avgas [again, in real terms], low [real] labor rates, fewer alternative areas of recreation offering as much challenge/fun–there are more, I could go on. . .), and the 1950-1975 bubble period cannot be the standard by which we measure the health of GA.

  • Somewhere in one of the “why are we disappearing” threads, it was asked, why worry about declining numbers? We should be concerned, because falling pilot numbers and flight hours will make everything worse:

    1. Fewer pilots means fewer airports. Airport owners (mostly counties) are more willing to close an airport if there are almost no operations. Developers stand “in the wings.” AOPA regularly reports on the closing of airports– Blue Ash in OH is a recent, dismaying example.

    2. Fewer manufacturers of aircraft, parts, and accessories. Look at the actual numbers of Bonanzas and 182s sold in a year– it’s not a real business any longer, it’s a cottage industry. Mooney– gone. Piper– dead and resurrected too many times to count. Cessna– making a living on turbines. Van’s Aircraft, kitmaker, is now the leading GA aircraft mfr.

    3. No way to support a training environment without demand. As others have suggested, formerly active airfields now often have no instructors, no rentals, no FBO.

    4. Fewer aircraft and flight hours means no work for mechanics, and that service disappears from the small airfields.

    5. Less demand for avgas means higher prices and lower availability.

    6. Expense of every product related to flying goes up: fewer units sold, profit is maintained by price increases until the business collapses.

    7. Fewer pilots means fewer friends and colleagues to build the social aspects of GA flying.

    I could go on, but clearly, the decline in numbers of pilots and flight hours is transforming GA at its core. Although others have here criticized or belittled LSA aircraft and Sport Pilots, therein may lie the flying-club future of recreational aviation. For everyone else, it may be a Cirrus or a jet.

  • Okay, I know that this thread is getting old, but not for me — I just found it today!

    So I guess that perhaps I’m one of the people that these articles are about: At the age of 52 I was considering earning my PPL and the later CML but have essentially decided not to do so.

    Here’s the context and rationale.

    When I was in Civil Air Patrol at the age of 15-17 circa 1976, I was inspired by people who I knew who were pilots. On my income working part-time at Dairy Queen I got 5 hours in 172’s and 182’s and took a ground school class in high school (imagine!). Cost of air time in a 172 with an instructor was $60/hr. According to the calculator, with inflation that’s equivalent to about $248/hr today.

    Instructors told me that I was pretty good in the air, but as a non-math type person, as a high-schooler I found manually calculating wind triangles challenging.

    Then I joined the Marines and dropped the flying thing.

    Fast-forward about 35 years: Now I advise C-level executives for a living. As an employee of a company I make $205k/year for that work, and as a US citizen the government takes about $6k/month of that from me. And I live in a lower-tax state in the west.

    Background. Exposure to smaller acft since my youth has been as a pax aka cargo. Sometimes through some special work in the military (one flight was to escape cocaine producers and the pilot put 13 of us and lots of cargo in a CASA and we barely cleared the trees off a mud runway in a monsoon in S America), and sometimes when I hired charter acft to take me to bush hunting locations in Alaska and in Tanzania, and to small airports in places like Zanzibar.

    So you may conclude from the above:
    1. I had a material interest in flying
    2. Learned the value of flying — not just something fun but as a tool to get me where I wanted to go to do something I wanted to do.
    3. I have some disposable income but not tons.

    Looking forward, beginning to wonder what to do with the second half or so of my life.

    Obviously as someone who flew at 16 yoa, who has hunted dangerous game in Alaska and especially in Africa, and done cave scuba diving and solo stuff in mountain west wilderness and done counter-drug work in S. America is not unbelievably risk averse. And surviving these things may indicate a combination of luck AND ability to perform risk assessment.

    So why did I consider flying again? As a tool.

    In looking forward, I’m open to doing something like moving to Africa. Permanently. And not to some posh job in an office in Joberg, but to do bush work of some kind to help people.

    But how? What?

    I have many skills and graduate education, so there are lots of thinks I could do. Perhaps.

    Would or should flying be one of them?

    My wife and I are friends with a couple who did just that. She was an executive, he a scheduled-flight commercial jet pilot. They sold everything and moved to sub-Saharan east Africa 2 years ago. She’s creating an orphanage funded by a bakery she started. He is a bush pilot. They are both quite happy.

    So I considered earning the commercial pilot license to add to my skills, and perhaps as a primary occupation there.

    So why not?

    1. It’s not all about money, but money does matter — at least to me. In this economy, I’m able to reliably earn about 5% on my investments. If I spend, say, $30K earning a commercial lic, then compound that interest over 30 years. Value is an important but different equation, but cost is cost. Without inflation the time value of money of $30K at 5% is $129,568 — that’s the cost for me for a commercial license.

    2. From what I’ve learned reading recent commercial bush pilot postings in African aviation forums, it is still hard for a low hour pilot to get a job there, and they often fly in highly suspect acft with highly suspect fuel, especially avgas vs jetfuel in the non-turbo powered acft. And for low pay. And if one complains about maintenance it limits one’s ability to fly for pay. In Dar es Salaam, they are considering not flying the non-turbo acft because of fuel issues, and it’s a pretty good airport as they go in Africa. This is becoming a problem for the hunting safari outfits because not every client wants to hire a Caravan just for himself to fly 150 miles to the bush campsite — and back (4 segments).

    3. General increase in USG and especially DHS-related BS. I used to work in the intelligence community and got a belly full. Nuff said.

    4. Experience of others. I only know 4 people who fly: 3 are CEO’s of large companies who both make several $mil/yr, and a friend and peer in the same position and company I work for. Two fo the CEOs fly their privately owned jets, the other a turbo twin, but he lands in the bush in Alaska and elsewhere to hunt and run his businesses in the US and Mexico. My friend is a 1/3 owner in an single engine low wing acft and will sometimes fly to client meetings; he bills the cost of a cml flight as the expense as permitted by the company, and pays the rest out-of-pocket and deducts the remainder on his taxes as an un-reimbursed business expense. He told me he is flying less and less. Why?

    A. Costs
    B. Based on learning resulting from his analysis of GA accidents, which he has published in journals, he chooses to not fly in IFR conditions for safety reasons.
    C. His back-to-back client appts cannot allow for unscheduled GA-class wx delays.
    D. Not having the time to fly enough to be safe
    E. Death spiral effect of the above.

    4. At my age, how long will I be able to retain a flight medical certificate, and also get value for money (the lifetime value of the license investment).

    So the cost/risk/value proposition for me = juice not worth the squeeze.


  • The only think that really jumped out at me in the above was – ( That guy fell in love with the wrong thing! ) Boy, that says it all.

  • The majority of pilots have argued that COST or better yet RELATIVE COST vs. INCOME is an important factor in the decline of the pilot population. Flying COST is disproportionately offset from income compared to that of the 70s and 80s. Denying this is naive. How can costs be reduced? Flying less or not at all does not fix the dilemma for the pilot nor the industry. I suggest a general awareness and agreement by all to start solving the current General Aviation crisis. Perhaps well established subsidies, private grants and scholarships combined with the cooperation of the GA domain,i.e; flight schools, flight instructors, OEMs and GOVERNMENT. Contributing to stop the decline and give new strength to our nation’s GA industry is critical. We start at 0600 hrs tomorrow morning!

    • It’s not hard to see which side of the aisle Rafael gravitates to- Ha. I always thought the free market was a nice way to go. Granted, in the low end of the aviation world it appears to be lacking. To bad the Ultralight world lost its freedom. Lawyers & Government, & Gov. & lawyers – when you get enough of that involved, cost can only go one way. “UP”! We can’t afford to make any mistakes, whether it’s the legal type or mother natures type. How does the auto industry survive?? NUMBERS – That’s the catch 22 situation we’re in. Come on flight by wire. Certified computers programmed to fly the machine & not allow it or us to make any legal or Mother Nature mistakes. Yea!

  • Richard, says money is not the factor in the pilot decline, fine…he can think what he wants. Running my J3 is getting to be a real issue, considering, the cost of fuel, hanger fees, medical exams, regulation compliance, and the nagging feeling flying is not that much fun anymore. We are getting more and more empty hangers around here, if the FAA thinks the sons of rich people are going to fill that void, good luck with that. Maybe we should get rid of the top management of the FAA….the lawyers… and get new leadership in place who will be willing to bring back the fun of flying, rather than more regulations. Last time I was at one of those FAA refresher courses, they were trying to tell me that it should take three days to do an adequate preflight.

  • Here’s the thing Mr. Collins—when the toilet backs up or the car needs maintenance or the furnace needs repair, we pay high fees—why? Because a toilet and a car is essential to a good quality of life and as a result, we have no choice but to pay the fees.

    An airplane on the other hand is something we may want, but certainly don’t need.

    Spare me the rhetoric of the advantages of aircraft ownership. I’ve been a pilot and have owned 4 airplanes in the last 47 years and can tell you that realistically, there are NO advantages. It’s cheaper to take an airline to travel even in consideration of delays and long lines. I am fortunate to be able to afford aircraft ownership and do it because I CAN and love it. But do I NEED it?—NO.

    The fact is, we need the toilet, the car and the furnace for us to survive in a decent manner and as a result, we reluctantly but do pay the freight. We DON’T need airplanes to achieve the same quality of life and as a result, the cost and requirements for participation is an unnecessary burden for most people and is therefore avoided.

  • In 2001 the crew of an Airbus A-330 crossing the Atlantic noticed that the fuel gauges seemed to be going down faster than normal. At first they suspected the gauges because fuel flows were normal & they knew that they had enough fuel when they departed. They diverted to the Azores but ran out of fuel 65nm from the airport. They managed to glide to the Lajes air base & made a safe landing. The problem was that a service bulletin or AD on the fuel system had not been complied with, which led to fuel being pumped overboard at a high rate through a leak, which didn’t show up on the fuel flow meters.

    It is often said that what keeps airplanes aloft isn’t really Bernoulli’s theorem, it is money. This article basically confirms that. Since money is what keeps us in the air, we need to know what’s happening with our money. If we look at the amount of money going in & out of our bank accounts & things seem normal but we have a big leak of money that’s not showing up on these money gauges, we need to do something about the leak, just like the Airbus crew.

    Collins wrote, “We have just gone through a traumatic economic time, driven largely by the government requiring home loans be made available to more people. Folks took advantage of those sub-prime mortgages to buy houses they couldn’t afford and when the house prices collapsed, so did their financial ability to keep that house. When I saw a story on TV about a person making $45,000 a year buying a $450,000 house, I honestly wondered who ever thought that would work. I would tell you who but then you would think I was trying to start a political argument.”

    The banks weren’t forced to loan money to people who couldn’t afford the houses they were buying. The too big to fail banks lobbied the Democrats & Republicans to repeal the Glass Steagall Act so that they could loan money to people who couldn’t afford the houses they were buying. The bankers knew these people would default on the loans, & their plan was to bundle up the junk mortgages & sell them to unsuspecting investors & then they sold these bundled mortgages short to make even more money when the mortgages failed. This website isn’t normally a place for political discussions, but since our airplanes are kept in the air by money & there seems to be a big money leak, we should know what’s really going on. The people riding in the back of Gulfstreams probably already understand this very well. The rest of need to understand it too:

    Paul Craig Roberts was Reagan’s Asst. Sec. of the Treasury. Here is his explanation of our money leak. You will need to scroll down a few inches on his website to read his explanation:

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