Those first rays of sunshine after a storm passes are a welcome sight indeed. There is hope and the promise of better things ahead. Is there any chance that general aviation could be about to fly into clearer weather?
Any discussion of general aviation’s future must include light airplane engines and the fuel they burn. While avionics get a lot of press, it’s the engine technology that really determines how reliable, affordable and useful an airplane is. And trouble is brewing.
One of the most revolutionary devices in aviation right now was never even designed for pilots–the iPad. In our latest Special Report article, ForeFlight’s CEO shares his thoughts on how a consumer device just might help general aviation grow.
Van’s Aircraft, Inc. may be the biggest aircraft manufacturer that nobody mentions when the subject comes up. Over 8,300 completed airplanes – an average of one every other day since Richard VanGrunsven founded the company. Still, being a big fish in a small pond is of little value if the pond’s drying up.
Flying clubs have been around since the beginning of aviation, but they are receiving increased attention lately. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) has spent a lot of time investigating the flying club model, and it seems clear that, when done properly, clubs can reduce the cost and increase the fun of learning to fly.
Much of the blame for general aviation’s current weakness falls on flight schools. But while miracle cures abound, we thought we would check in with a flight school that is successful. Sporty’s Academy President Eric Radtke says his school is busier than ever, and it doesn’t require huge investments or gimmicks.
“GA is dying.” We hear this statement so often that it’s become accepted wisdom among many pilots. But it’s wrong. Our new Special Report will highlight the aviation organizations that are innovating in the face of a declining industry.
In addition to the hundreds of comments, we received some thoughtful letters to the editor about our recent Special Report on the declining pilot population. We’ve published a few of them here, and we invite your comments.
Last week, we launched a special report called Mayday! The declining pilot population. Five authors shared their thoughts on how things got so bad and how to turn them around, each with a unique perspective and interesting suggestions. As always at Air Facts, our readers really drive the conversation, and over 300 comments were written during the week.
It’s time for a radical re-thinking of what general aviation means and who it appeals to. But so much of the talk these days is disappointing. It’s as if the right engine has quit, the vacuum pump has failed and there’s smoke in the cockpit, but we’re running the checklist for a burned out landing light.
Aviation has lost none of its ability to provide incredible, life-enhancing experiences. It’s safer than ever before, and there are millions of people out there with the time and money to fly. We also have an incredibly strong community. Aviation seems to have an uncanny way of attracting some of the finest people in the world, and in this work ahead of us, they are probably our most important asset of all.
Problem? What problem? We’ve been wildly successful in flight training. We’ve been successful despite ourselves. We’ve done a fantastic job of recruiting new customers and maintaining the pilot population at its current level, having essentially only one product to offer.
Modern educational theories have a lot to say about the importance of meaningful experience, personal relevance (aspiration), and “scaffolding” to support and strengthen the process of acquiring new knowledge and skills. I can’t help but think – or at least hope – that a flight training program that uses these principles for training and post-training support could do a lot to get ‘em flying … and keep ‘em flying, too.
The dwindling number of pilots in the U.S.A. has the attention of a lot of people. There are currently far more questions than answers and it is unlikely that those answers will come from one source. To that end Air Facts is working to get a dialogue going.