5 things general aviation needs right now

A few weeks ago, I made the comment that “general aviation isn’t dying, it’s just changing.” Soon after, a reader wrote me to ask if I really meant that. Isn’t GA in intensive care right now, just another avgas price increase away from death?

In a word, no.

While there’s no doubt the industry is weak (yes, my eyes are open), I think it’s going overboard to say we’re doomed. Much like the US economy as a whole, general aviation is going through a major transition–one we’ve probably put off for too long. The legacy of the 1970s and early 1980s aviation boom is finally starting to fade, and aviation companies are confronting a new reality. This new reality includes a smaller, more niche market and some fundamental technological changes.

Transitions like this have always been challenging, from the automobile replacing horse-drawn carriages to robots replacing manual labor assembly lines. But with smart decisions and good leadership, transitions can also lay the groundwork for a stronger future. Whether you call it new growth after a forest fire or creative destruction, it’s a necessary process.

So what does general aviation need to make it through this time of change? Better politicians and good luck would help a lot. But since we can’t control those things, it’s best to focus on more practical concerns. Here are five areas that need attention:

1. Inspiring industry leadership.

AOPA, EAA, Cessna, Cirrus logos

Certain organizations are general aviation’s unofficial leaders, and they set the agenda.

Five years ago, general aviation was packed with charismatic, well-known leaders, including Phil Boyer at AOPA, Tom Poberezny at EAA, Jack Pelton at Cessna and Alan Klapmeier at Cirrus. While none of these men were perfect, they did offer positive, compelling visions of general aviation’s future. Whether it was championing GPS, creating the Light Sport Aircraft market or pushing the envelope on aircraft design, these leaders knew what pilots wanted and worked to deliver it.

Today all four of those leaders are gone or in new places, and many of their previous roles are in flux: AOPA and EAA are looking for new leaders, while Cessna and Cirrus have chosen more operations-focused executives. Businesses have to do what they have to do, and there’s no doubt that brutal business conditions may dictate a different style of leadership. But many pilots take their cues from the unofficial leaders in aviation, and right now, there isn’t much of a unified voice to help pilots navigate the dizzying changes ahead. Pilots are looking for inspiration, or at the very least hope. Current industry leaders need to offer that.

2. A new approach to certification.

There’s a lot of talk about reforming the Part 23 certification process that seems hopelessly broken. That’s a good start, since the rules’ main effect seems to be to discourage any new airplane designs. But we need a more fundamental review of the whole idea of certification, including type certificates, production certificates and aftermarket STCs. And we need to consider not just airframes, but engines and avionics as well–look at the spread between portable and certified avionics for a glaring example of just how bad things have gotten.

The core question is this: how much safety is enough? Since 100% safety is impossible to achieve, some tradeoff between utility/cost and safety is always required. And since the FAA’s only focus is safety, it’s natural that certification has become more complex and demanding. Now it’s time for industry to pull on the other end of this rope and emphasize the costs of pursuing impossibly high standards. As the Part 23 ARC group has pointed out, a simpler certification process that encourages the rapid adoption of new safety features can both reduce costs and improve safety. This won’t happen overnight, but a cultural change is needed.

3. Straight talk on avgas.

100LL truck

Remember when 100LL was $2.49? It’s not coming back, and it’s time to plan for the future.

Avgas isn’t going away next month or next year (don’t believe the doomsday scenarios). But it’s also foolish to ignore the overwhelming evidence that 100LL will eventually be history–piston airplanes are the last machines left that use this boutique fuel. Obviously, changing something as fundamental as the type of fuel used in airplanes is sure to be a long, difficult process, but the current situation is both confusing and discouraging for the average pilot. Is the future Jet A or high octane unleaded gasoline (or neither)? Will engine modifications be required? Will performance be lost? Should I buy a new airplane now or wait to see what happens? Who’s in charge anyway?

Engine companies, airframe manufacturers and association leaders need to clearly communicate what the plan is for the next 5 and 10 years when it comes to avgas. If that plan involves difficult choices and big expenses for owners, they need to be up front about that. Fuel is one of those critical transition points that could make or break general aviation. Done well, we could end up with a more readily-available, less expensive replacement (look at Jet A  or Mogas prices vs. 100LL right now). Done poorly, this transition could permanently ground a large chunk of airplanes overnight.

4. Clarity about NextGen.

FAA NextGen plan

Pilots are not convinced that NextGen benefits them.

Talk about a transition–the FAA’s massive program to replace the current ground-based radar system with a new national airspace system driven by ADS-B is one of the most sweeping, expensive infrastructure projects ever undertaken. But just like the debate about avgas, there’s a startling lack of clarity when it comes to NextGen. The FAA deserves a lot of blame here, as they’ve combined a number of seemingly separate programs under the NextGen name without telling pilots what it all means. The program is also years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget, which only adds to the sense of confusion. NextGen shouldn’t be abandoned, but it should be slimmed down dramatically and its core message clarified.

Pilots are at least starting to learn about the technology, with the soaring popularity of portable receivers for ADS-B weather. But many are still skeptical of the FAA’s motivations, unclear on what is required and unconvinced that it will be worth it. The history of GPS and WAAS proves that pilots will spend money to upgrade avionics if there’s an easy-to-understand benefit for doing so. That case has not been made–not even close–for NextGen.

5. Less complaining, more encouraging.

It’s not all about industry leaders or the FAA–this final issue is on us as pilots. Sometimes our greatest enemy is our own attitude, as complaining and negative thinking become self-fulfilling prophecies. Charles Lindbergh certainly would not have crossed the Atlantic if he had focused on how long his odds were, but that seems to be the approach that some pilots take toward our current problems. That doesn’t mean we should naively ignore the challenges we face, but it does mean we shouldn’t dwell on them. There are good things happening in aviation today (here’s my short list).

We also need to reconsider our attitude towards those rarest of people–new pilots. To put it bluntly, we need to get over ourselves. Instead of acting like a fraternity where pledges have to prove themselves, we should act like a family where everyone is welcomed as they are. Earning a pilot’s license is a great accomplishment, but that does not give us the right to look down on others.

What do you think? Can any of this be achieved? What’s on your list? Add your comment below.

52 Comments

  1. Mike Barlow says:

    Good post. Your point about leadership is excellent. How about drafting Harrison Ford as our spokesman?

  2. Steve Brandt says:

    Never in my life have I been involved with something that; Acts like they don’t want you involved, or part of the activity. Is ungodly expensive and unaffordable, yet everyone in the chain is bitching about not making money. Has the government trying to impede you, harass you and punish you at nearly every turn and is very difficult academically or intellectually to grasp and to understand, then to boot if and when you do get in – if you haven’t been doing it for decades, your ostracized or otherwise not usually very welcome. So yea, there is room for a little improvement!

    • SamuelW says:

      Glad someone sees it the same way I do. I hear people all the time talk about how friendly people are in GA, but have never found that in reality. Sure, there are friendly folks like there are anywhere, but it’s not a beehive of gregarious, friendly, and ready-to-help folks that I see portrayed everywhere. Maybe it’s my problem….

      Regarding the article, I disagree with the first premise of the article, which is also espoused by Jamie Beckett over at GAN: that GA is merely in a transition, not a decline. If you define GA in Europe as merely “changed” and not destroyed, then yes, I guess we’re just changing. But in my book, and the minds of most rational people, an aviation industry and system like Europe’s is a dead aviation industry. It doesn’t have to be nonexistent to qualify as “dead.”

      Of course, it’s easy to just dismiss me and those who think like me as “part of the problem” and another illustration in support of the author’s points.

      • John Zimmerman says:

        I think it depends on what you view “normal” as. If 1979 is normal then we are dead already. But if you view that as a bubble (as I do), then our current state is weak but not dead. The market for Miami condos is way down from the peak, but that may be a return to reality more than a crash.

        • SamuelW says:

          Good point. I hope you’re right. :)

          I know I want my kids and grandkids to be able to fly.

          On another note, the biggest worry I have about NextGen is the fact that it seems to pave the way for the grounding of vintage and NORDO planes that can’t keep up with the equipment requirements. I sure hope we don’t see regulation creep that spreads the ADS-B requirements to all airspace classes.

      • MarkM says:

        Samuel, I think your attitude is part of the problem. That attitude to me seems to will our USA GA condition forward to European GA. It is in our hands.

        “The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.”
        Charles Swindoll

    • Tony Bruno says:

      Steve, I’ve actually used your quote recently to explain the state of General Aviation to my non-flying friends. It succinctly covers everything that is wrong with the state of the field.

      A word about the unfriendliness of the field: While it is true, the good news is that you can still find the good folks out there. You just have to look for them.

      My story is no different than many others: I got my ticket and flew a fair amount back in the nineties. Then life happened, kids happened, and I just didn’t have the resources to justify flying. I hung up my spurs with the intent of returning “some day,” and settled into grumbling every time I saw a Cessna fly overhead.

      Flash forward to this year. Kids are older, finances are in order (more-or-less) and I realized that I could actually fly again. Even better, if I really wanted to, I could buy that old Ercoupe I’d been eying for $100 Hamburger runs with my wife. Eager to both ease my way back into the flying experience — as well as mark off my Bucket List item of “Own An Airplane” — I dash down to my local FBO to restart my aviation journey.

      It was a disaster.

      Not only was the staff, rude, not only were the planes in a questionable state, but the mention of both my time away from the cockpit and my desired personal purchase got me treated like I’d dropped a deuce in the middle of their swimming pools. My entire face-to-face experience with others in the field was nothing less than dreadful.

      I nearly walked away again. I mean, hell, it had been years since I’d been a PIC already. Why waste the money on a field that clearly didn’t want me as a part of it?

      Fortunately, my wife — raised, as she was, “…in the back seat of a Cessna” as the daughter of a CF II — pressed me to keep looking. We drove to another airport a little further away with the hope that maybe — just maybe — these folks would be better.

      That’s when everything changed.

      I felt like I was on a completely different planet. The folks were friendly and accommodating. The facilities were clean, and the planes were in great shape. I lined up a good instructor and even traded Ercoupe stories with folks who either owned them or flew them regularly. My journey back to the cockpit had finally started.

      Had I not looked further, and instead stuck to the closer airport — infested, it seemed, with people either who were terminally cranky, or were suffering from a non-fatal case of recto-cranial inversion — I would never have flown again.

      The moral of this story is simple: Don’t Give Up! There are decent people still in the field. You just have to go looking for them.

      Just my $1.00.

  3. Charlie Masters says:

    Along with the certification of aircraft, we need to take a long look at propulsion. Most of us still fly behind air-cooled, magneto sparked, push rod engines designed well before any of us were born. I remember back in the seventies having to change points and plugs every 30,000 miles or so in our cars and trucks. Who do you know with a spark plug wrench, timing light or Dwell-Tach Meter today? Who do you know that even knows what these tools are? Modern automotive engines feature electronic ignition systems that last, sequential fuel injection and turbo-charging that has greatly increased both power and gas mileage. These engines are super reliable (when did you ever have trouble with a hot start on your Civic or Fusion or seen a Camry along side the road with the hood up) and have the advantage, from true mass production, of being affordable. Today’s aircraft engines are still hand built and cost more than most of our entire cars, and are not nearly as reliable! I know, I know, car engines are not run as “hard” as aircraft engines, but even if they needed to be replaced every 10 years or 1500 hours (no overhauls)it would still be a positive cash equation AND they run on regular unleaded gas.

  4. Mary Light says:

    I’m a 2nd generation CFI who never took it up full time because it was already starting to change drastically. My father was a 15,000+ hr CFI, A&P etc. who believed flying should be within reach for anyone who wanted to do it. I grew up in a world of weekend fly-in breakfasts, large mfg. displays at air shows, “penny a pound” airplane rides etc. When you could go into a nearby flight service and talk to a real person etc. But that was then. Over my flying career it has become astronomically expensive and out of reach for most. I have ratings I cannot afford to keep current because I frankly cannot afford it even if I had the opportunity. Frankly I don’t know where the next generation of general aviation pilots will come from because we are fast being legislated out of existence. Just my opinion.

    • Karl Wilhelm says:

      As an engineer from the Automotive industry, Pilot and CFI who has worked in Engineering for more than 30 years, I got Last Year the opportunity to Visite One aircraftmanufacturer in Europe and One in the US. I was shocked about the very low Productivity at both sides. The US One may be produktive 20 years ago, but missend totally to adapt to lower Volume by using more flexible and easier adaptable Production eqipmant. The hole production was museum style! The European could not stay for theire good products and establish a cost saving production but is creating expansive new developmants every year. What GA Neefs are save, reliable, Easy to maintain, fuel efficiant products produced in much more efficiant way.

  5. Hunter Heath says:

    John,

    I can’t disagree with your list of “needs” and your other list of good things in GA. As in sports, business, and life in general, it’s all about execution: how do we meet these needs? As for leadership, our two greatest GA organizations, EAA and AOPA, have stumbled and are not providing inspiring leadership. Who will step forward? Perhaps the working group studying certification will provide answers, but such efforts generally take years, if not decades (look at how long it took to get the rules for LSAs and Sport Pilot certification). My 1946 Aeronca 11AC is still flying nearly 70 years since its birth under the old, far simpler certification rules, and the ASTM rules for LSAs seem to be working. How can we light a fire under the government to change the certification rules? As for less complaining, I sometimes wonder if a pouty and negative attitude comes with the airman certificate! That is really up to us as individuals; we will be what we choose to be.

    John listed elsewhere the good things happening in GA, and pointed esp. to avionics. I smiled to think of my no-electrical-system Chief and the possibility of adding to my excellent handheld radio (w/ VOR) and King AV8OR GPS the new Dynon portable EFIS– adding up to more capability in an ancient fabric-covered airplane than most airliners had 20 years ago! Now, that is PROGRESS.

    • John Zimmerman says:

      I completely agree–execution is the key. But I actually think sometimes in aviation we don’t even admit the problem.

  6. Jim McDuffie says:

    What general aviation needs, in a word, is “innovation” and lots of it. As one management expert puts it: “There’s a way to improve innovation. There’s a way to become a serial innovator. And that is totally different than being productive. Accountants are productive, but they’re not innovators. And they will probably actually hurt your company.” What I see happening at all too many aerospace companies is the bean counters coming in to make things more “productive” and in the process killing the innovation the company, the industry, has to have to not only flourish but to even survive.

    See this IEEE podcast/article for a few concrete reasons by innovation is the key to the survival of so much we take for granted: http://spectrum.ieee.org/podcast/at-work/tech-careers/telecommuting-and-yahoos-desperate-need-for-innovation

  7. Reuben says:

    I agree, less complaining is needed. When I was learning how to fly (just eight years ago) it seemed at almost every turn was someone, a pilot usually, telling me how expensive it was, how it wasn’t worth it, etc., etc. If I didn’t have the drive to do it, if it was just a passing interest, there would have been a ton of people who could have talked me out of it.

    I mean, you get to take a machine into the air! There is something magical and amazing about that! Let’s not ignore that there are challenges, but focusing on the positive is a good first start to embracing the coming change.

    I heard a great quote: “If you don’t like change, you’ll like irrelevance even less.”

    • Brandon Freeman says:

      Reuben,

      Well said! I can’t get over how many of us bemoan the state of GA, yet will – at every turn – take the time to complain to anyone how bad it is, then wonder why no one is doing it. Seems like a catch-22 to me.

      Case-in-point: I was involved with a field trip a few weekends ago to a warbird restoration center at our local field. This was a group of Middle School and High School students who were there because they were interested and wanted to get into aviation. One of the (elderly) volunteers was just getting finished talking about how they needed new blood at the center, then proceeded to tell the student he was talking to how much gas is now, and how he’d “missed the boat” in regards to fuel prices. It sounded to me like he was saying “Good luck with that.”

      I continue to say that anyone who grew up after the 70s has little idea of the “good old days”, and continuing to remind everyone how much “better” the past was does little but sabotage the future.

  8. Paul says:

    Completely agree that we need a few more enigmatic leaders in the aviation industry. I can think of a few other industries that have enthusiastic, sometimes controversial leaders that not only push the envelope in their business but cross over and influence other industries.
    Aviation is ripe for the picking in regards to young, enthusiastic, and engaging individuals to shake things up. We can only hope that it’s sooner rather than later.

  9. Stan Comer says:

    I don’t like the term ‘General Aviation’. What is General Aviation? As it is right now general aviation is all aviation activity that is not airlines or military. How about Business Aviation, Recreation Aviation, Agricultural Aviation, ect.? I’m not speaking of pilot rating here, just the many types of flying now that is called General Aviation.

    • John Zimmerman says:

      I like personal aviation–you have military, commercial, business and personal. Whether it’s for fun or family transportation, it’s a much more descriptive term.

      • Gaylon Pugh says:

        Aye!! Personal aviation…it’s got just the right sound to it. We come and take our machines to the runway and into the air and do what we love so much….fly! We get to enjoy all the aspects of flight itself, all the things we can do with our birds, then look around ….and see the world as no one but a pilot can. For any the negatives involved there is nothing to keep us from the air but our own selves. Finaces?..sure, but that’s true everywhere….housing, boating, marriage. Nothing stays the same. What’s that saying?…the one thing I can guarantee you will happen is change.

  10. Doyle Frost says:

    There are many negatives creating these problems for us. As John says, there sre solutions to solving them. A good, creative mind, in the personality of a good, young, leader, is what is needed to wake up the entire aviation community. But, we all need to do our part to get the ball rolling. Talk up aviation every way you can, get involved outside the airport environs, go to local community events and talk it up, get involved with youth groups to get their interest up, contact your local media, and write “Letters to the editor,” and, last but not least, talk to your local, state, and national polticians. (Agreed, you may have to actually talk down to them at first, as they probably won’t have any idea regarding the discussion, and they definitely will not have any commitment or give anything positive to you, except many empty promises, but try anyway.)

  11. Jon S says:

    I think GA is geared now towards younger people who are doing it for a career getting the training through GA.

  12. SkyGuy says:

    - Real simple.

    - Affordable flying.

    - The cost is why GA is on it’s knees,

  13. Todd says:

    Great post. I strongly believe #5 is the most important one and most easily addressed.

  14. DS says:

    There are amazing, fascinating things happening and there is going to be a huge upsurgence of “personal flying” — very apt phrase, btw — over the next 10-15 years.

    Next Gen is a huge part.

  15. Don’t forget to fight hard against user fees. Don’t let them set up a new bureaucracy to collect a fee that costs more than the fee draws in, thus opening the door for a whole new collection of fees down the track to ensure the bureaucracy pays its own way.

    You guys have no idea how lucky you are with your current system. User fees are killing us in Australia and have already all but destroyed GA in Europe :(

  16. Jerry Heller says:

    I am a sailor in addition to an instrument rated private pilot and there is a world of difference between the attitude of sailors and pilots to their “sport”. Sailors are more relaxed and accepting of all types of sailors and “vessels”. However, the main thing that makes the sailing community successful is involving their families. Just pick up any sailing magazine and you will find tons of articles about families enjoying their boats and their cruises. Pilots have to get over this “rugged individual” attitude and encourage their families to enjoy this wonderful opportunity to fly.

    • John Zimmerman says:

      Great point, Jerry. I’ve always felt that the whole idea of “I’m going to the airport, see you in 6 hours” just doesn’t work in 2013. Flying should be a family thing–if the whole family supports an activity it’s a lot more likely to be a long term commitment.

  17. Dave F. Ryan says:

    GA has slipped backwards and is becoming again, a unique club for the elite few members who are closing it off to the general public once again. Flying schools don’t want to advertise through multi media because of the expense. (Many adds are through trade magazines for a handshake deal). The fencing and signage turns many away and the invitation to the local airport has long gone. Those already involved find it a challenge with restrictions, user fees and increasing new regulations, that they don’t have time to share their fun with non-aviation people anymore. The GA changes are breeding a very closed shop for those who are operating in their field on a commercial basis.

    • Hunter Heath says:

      Regarding Dave Ryan’s message: So, Dave, what are you doing about these problems? We’ve heard all this before, and the ritual recitation of dismal news has become part of the problem. Have you started a flying school that advertises in major media? Have you been steadily inviting people to your airport to go for rides? Have you sought out an airfield that is friendly, welcoming, holds open houses for the general public? What is the alternative to “operating [a] field on a commercial basis?” If you have one, let’s put it into practice. I am not trying to be snide or sarcastic– seriously, endlessly chewing our bitter cud about how good things used to be is just not productive.

  18. gary says:

    ADS-B will only be required in airspaces where a transporter is now required. It can be as simple as the portable you put on the glare shield and use an iPad or other tablet. The gps is much better then of most on the market and you also get subscription free weather. I don’t think it will ground vintage aircraft.

    • John Zimmerman says:

      Gary, ADS-B won’t be mandatory for all airplanes but that portable won’t count. That’s ADS-B In. For Out, it must be panel-installed.

  19. DS says:

    Btw, slightly off-topic (but possibly related once I have done the research) –

    Can someone point me to a history of IFR? When did it start? What was the process? Did it cover only certain heavily-trafficked areas? Etc etc

    I’ve Googled “IFR history” (with various permutations) and not much comes up to explain the history. FAA’s own “Instrument Pricedures Handbook” has an interesting discussion but I don’t see any explanation of when IFR ratings came about. It appears to have been part of development of the National Airspace System but the timeframe of when pilots could or had to fly IFR isn’t obvious.

    Your suggestions will be much appreciated.

    • Doyle Frost says:

      DS – Look up G.C.A., ground controlled approach, what the military used, along with their sextants for navigation between points, back way before IFR was even really considered, and it was the C.A.A., before the FAA. That should give you a point to start from.

      • DS says:

        Thanks very much, Doyle.

        I’ve been looking into the history a bit further and told by an authoritative source that “Eligibility to take the test for Instrument Rating or Airline Pilot Rating is determined by the Civil Air Regulations which became effective May 31, 1938. This 1938 date is the earliest mention of instrument ratings in the regulations.”

        That is is an excellent benchmark — now I have to figure out what having such a rating actually meant i.e. what was required by way of learning/experience? what privileges offered? what did the National Airspace System look like at that point? and so forth.

        Just FWIW, the following titles were offered for further research:

        Zweng, Charles A. and Zweng, Allan C.
        Radio and Instrument Flying,
        Pan American Navigation Service, North Hollywood, CA

        Dailey, Franklyn E. Jr.
        The Triumph of Instrument Flight
        Dailey International Publishers, Wilbraham, MA 2004

        Larson, George C.
        Fly on Instruments,
        Doubleday and Company, Garden City, NY 1980

        Thompson, S.
        Flight Check! The Story of FAA Flight Inspection,
        U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 2002

        Tuccio, Bill
        Safety Aspects of Instrument Flight Procedure Development,
        Embry Riddle Aeronautical University undated

    • Hunter Heath says:

      DS,
      I recommend a good novel about Ground Controlled Approach and its development during WWII. It is “Glide Path,” by famous sci-fi writer Arthur C. Clarke. I lucked into a pristine copy of the Dell paperback, copyright 1963. In the dedication, Clarke says, “…many of the events in this book are based upon real events [although]…a few are…unadorned reminiscence…. All the characters…(except the Mark I) are imaginary. They are not in any way based upon, or intended to depict, the men who developed and perfected the radar talk-down system, known in real life as GCA (Ground Controlled Approach). The sequence of events also departs completely from historical facts, which seldom arrange themselves for the convenience of storytellers. Nevertheless, I hope that this novel does justice to the skill, enthusiasm, and devotion of those to whom it is dedicated.” So this book is not to be used in your research directly, but provides a compelling look back into the earliest days of instrument approaches. I remember fondly from the 1980s the eagerness of the controllers at KRST to grant my requests for a GCA; they needed them to keep their own currency, despite ILS, VOR, and NDB approaches.
      P.S. I’d be happy to send you the book if you can’t find it anywhere else.

      • DS says:

        Very very kind of you, Hunter.

        In fact Glide Path does look very interesting (how could it not be from Arthur C. Clarke!) and is currently available from Amazon — in ebook format to boot!

        I have just ordered a copy.

  20. Hopper says:

    Hangers!!!! Can’t fly much without a airport to land at!

  21. Hopper says:

    Hangers!! Can’t fly much without a airport to land at!

  22. Joe says:

    Reading all of the comments from those of you who have been around GA for a while is very discouraging for me. I’m just now starting to fly. There are still people out there who dream of flying… I just see negativity everywhere from those of you dreaming of going back and flying in the 70s. It’s a different world and we all need to learn to adapt.

    • Hunter Heath says:

      Joe,
      Please don’t let us grumpy old guys discourage you from taking part in personal– or professional– aviation. Flying has always been expensive in the dollars of the time, it has always required training, discipline, self-knowledge, skill, and judgment. The heavy hand of the gov’t has always been there. But the joys of mastering an airplane, the miracles of the takeoff and the squeaker landing, the sights only airmen see, have also always been there. Please associate yourself with flyers who are positive, upbeat, creative, helpful, and joyous about what they do. Those traits will rub off on you and get you through the tough spots.

      • Joe says:

        Thanks for your words of encouragement. I appreciate it!

        • Brandon Freeman says:

          Joe,

          As Hunter said, please do not let the negativity get to you. I also started flying only recently (6 years ago), and I cannot imagine my life without it. Yes, it is an expensive hobby, but like any other expensive hobby, if it means enough to you, then you figure out how to pay for it.

          Admittedly, the negative comments affect me as well. As John Z. has said repeatedly, we can often be our own worst enemy, railing on to anyone about how GA is going down the tubes, then wondering why those very people we complained to decide not to do it.

          To me, there is nothing better in life than to fly around my home base with my wife, and I hope you keep on going. Your “Good Old Days” are just ahead!

          Safe Flying!

  23. Tom says:

    I agree that new centralized leadership is needed in the manufacturing companies and the alphabet orgs as well. However, there need s to be leadership at the local level as well ie: flying clubs, local EAA chapters, and FBO’s. I helped out at a Young Eagle rally last weekend and my heart went out to those kids who got so exited when they were able to experience flight and to actually handle the flight controls of my bird. My prayer for those kids is that they will all find a way to afford their trainig in the years to come. I am an optimistic. Why, because I choose to be! I believe that advances in technology and an overhaul of the regulatory system (pt 23) will eventually lower the cost of training, ownership, and rental costs for our future generation of pilots. I believe personal aviation will never die as long as there are young eagles out there that have the passion that I saw last weekend – the same passion I had as a kid.

  24. Stephen Phoenix says:

    I dunno, I’ve been flying for 46 years now and still get the giggles every time I launch. So it’s not real clear what you’re talking about.
    Phil Boyer or other “inspired” leaders don’t cause me to pull the plane out of the hangar. A part 23 re-write won’t do anything because those rules are not the log jam in a certification project; it’s the FAA Orders and procedures. Fuel availability will take care of itself between buyers and sellers without the alphabet groups or the FAA getting their little camel noses in it. Next-Gen may work out, or not, but it doesn’t matter, planes will still fly.

    The truth is, if you really want to learn to fly, you can; if you really want to own an airplane, you can; if you just want to fly across the country with a map and a compass, you can. And yes, if you just have to fly across the country at 35,000 feet with a flat panel display, you can (You will need to make some serious money first however; or buy an airline ticket). So what’s to complain about?

    • Tom says:

      Point taken. However, an overhaul of pt 23 regs is a step in the right direction if it changes not only the requirements, but the procedures that must be followed for certification and for obtaining an STC. I agree that the leaders of the alphabet orgs don’t have any impact on me personally but hopefully they could have an impact on Washington through their support of the GA caucus. I’ll be making those $100 hamburger runs regardless of what happens.

      • Steve Phoenix says:

        Tom:
        My point on the regs is that the procedures are not in Part 23. Examples:
        1st you need a cert plan – FAA doesn’t allow anyone else to approve those. FAA doesn’t promise anything in less than 30 days; usually a lot longer. If they are busy and your project isn’t big or percieved to be important, you’re thrown in a que that just as well be a black hole.

        Test Plans – Nope, only the FAA can approve those; minimum 30 days; usually a lot longer. And there can be a lot of those on a complete program. Mind you, there are thousands of DERs out there with more knowledge than 90% of the FAA personnel, but the Feds retain the approval rights for test plans.

        Amount of data needed to show compliance. I have had programs with over 7000 pages of data to show compliance for the…..position lights and wingtip strobes. None of this is in the regs.

  25. Ed Seaton says:

    I think that there is people in positions in Aviation that could get things done,that don’t realize what help to Aviation it would be if the FAA would pass the amendment AOPA/EAA is trying to get pass.It would put more Airplanes and Pilots in the air.And help some of these young people in to Flyingthat can’t afford to now.I’m a Flight Instructor with a Cessna 150.if it was a Light Sport Aircraft I could get a number of young people started in Aviation. And it would add jobs in Aviation.

  26. Gary Dell says:

    How about getting some positive advertisement going not just in magazines but also on tv. A family goal of flying to visit family etc. Piper, Cessna and the rest should put a positive spin on GA to the viewers so that the thought of getting a pilots license isnt an impossible dream. There was a channel on cable that was all about GA but it went Military. National Geographic had ‘Flying Alaska’ which may have stimulated an interest in GA. Something has to be done quickly to reach the interest of the people to keep GA alive.

    • DS says:

      If you would like to read something to chill private/recreational flying, please take a look at a blog post by James Fallows:
      http://tinyurl.com/pq4mlo6

      • Hunter Heath says:

        Oh my God! My heart is pounding and my hands shaking after reading Mr. Fallows’ article in The Atlantic. Note that The Atlantic is no mouthpiece for right-wing fanatics, and Mr. Fallows is a highly respected journalist (and pilot, BTW). The stories told there represent the actions of a police state, and if they are not stopped, will indeed “chill GA.” I am going to forward this story to my neighbor, US Representative Todd Rokita (also a pilot) and ask that the GA Caucus get involved. If flying VFR “from west to east” is enough to bring “Homeland Security” down on an airman, the game is over. Maybe America as a country of free travelers is over, too.

  27. Rick says:

    The answer is obvious. General Aviation needs to be MORE AFFORDABLE!

    The way to do this is not exactly easy, but it is doable. There needs to be far less regulation and lawsuites. I bet you could set up a manufacturing system in China to build the Original Piper Cub with the exact same quality as when it was offered in 1940′s for less than $10k.

    Attorneys and the FAA have overregulated so only the upper upper class can afford this hobby. At this rate, it will continue to decline.

    • Doyle Frost says:

      Rick, I agree, in general, with your comments. But, I believe it is more than just the FAA and lawyers. It goes all the way up the chain to the very top, the “elected” leaders of our nation. When we have a president that insists aviation, in general, is for “rich” people, and as such, needs to be taxed to the heavens, yet he flies around the country, and the entire world, on a whim, and all those that sit in those elevated halls of congress expect us to support their every idea, with no real concern for the actual costs, we happen to be the most “quiet” taxpayers, thus the least noisemakers for them to concern themselves with.
      We need to raise such a racket, they HAVE to pay attention to us. The only way to do that is get the general public so interested in the advantages of general aviation, they can no longer avoid paying attention to us. The “how” is up to every aviation enthusiast in the country to get as many friends, relatives, and acquaintances interested in their local airport and environs. Halt the closing down of local GA airports just because some politician’s best friend is a developer that claims he can do better for the community than aviation. Get local people involved in the issues, instead of “somebody else will deal with it.” “It isn’t a concern of mine. I have more pressing needs, like feeding my family.” All of these are concerns, real issues, affecting us all, not just the aviation community.
      Until aviation gets back to the days of “anybody can do it,” we’re going to keep losing ground.

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