New pilots have been declining for a while, this is nothing new. But why… well if we knew that as pilots we’d change it, wouldn’t we! Here are some ideas though and perhaps that will spark someone else into an idea how to solve it.
Remember when flying airplanes first started it was “Those magnificent men in their flying machines.” Pilots were like gods, few could be them and everyone wanted to. Even just flying on an airplane was something worth dressing up for. Passengers through the 1970s felt it was something to wear a dress or shirt and tie if they were just going to go to the airport to pick someone up.
Today again there are lots of things, from 9/11 to President Obama, making flying of any kind not just boring and difficult but downright unpopular.
President Obama made GA unpopular. And it just added insult to injury when the press focused on the big three going to D.C. Let’s face it: it’s become downright unpopular to have money? And while we as pilots know people spend just as much money one other things from kids’ hockey to boats and RVs, aviation is presumed to be a wealthy person’s hobby. Think about it–it used to be that people aspired to wealth, people wanted to become doctors, lawyers, and pilots. Now pilots know they fly because of the love of flying, although the perception by the general public is that flying is expensive and only the wealthy can do it (from a 150 to a GV). We don’t like the wealthy even though we aspire to be it.
Flying for the general public has become boring the same way that riding a bus is boring. So if that’s the perception of the general public, who we use as a pool for future pilots, why would someone like to become a pilot if they think it’s boring? It could be said for money, although again, money has become taboo and as we know commercial pilots relatively speaking do not make bags of money. So why else would someone like to be a pilot?
To me flying is a gift; it is freedom and opens up a bigger world. Flying is like living in a dream, seeing the world in such a amazing way, until you land behind the chain link, barbed wire fence that surrounds our airports. It used to be said, “Join the Navy to see the world,” and the same could be said of pilots although with the world going the way it is do people want to see it? Can they even afford to?
Being a pilot isn’t a tangible thing, like a balance sheet. My one suggestion is to take people up with you, let them sit in the right seat. Even just going around the pattern can be exciting if you’ve never done it before. If you have kids take their friends and family, their sports teams, take your relatives, and take the people you work with. Let them experience what it’s like, and then while we may not grow we will certainly not lose.