Piper's Comanche 400
5 min read

One pilot thinks the late 1960s and early ‘70s. When do you think it was?

What era would you consider general aviation’s golden years? A fellow pilot asked me this question recently and it was quite thought provoking. Today’s glass cockpits, avionics, and electronic charts are wondrous devices that make technology from the 1990s seem positively quaint. But what about the exciting and innovating days of the 1950s and 1960s where manufacturers were churning out new models at an alarming rate and entire new categories of airplanes were birthed? Or what about the early 1970s when gas was still cheap, airplanes were abundant, and the interiors oh so groovy?

During the 1950s and 1960s, while the world was witnessing the dawn of the jet age and the race to space, GA pilots were introduced to new models and new configurations such as light twins. The tailwheel was giving way to the easy-to-use tricycle gear. And turbines were starting to make inroads to the high end of the market making obsolete the surplus-war-era-bomber-as-corporate-barge days. GA’s big three (Beech, Cessna, Piper) were introducing several new models as soon as engine manufacturers came out with a new motor – in itself, a rarity these days.

Piper's Comanche 400

The 1960s and ’70s saw an impressive range of new airplane introductions, including Piper’s Comanche 400.

In the early part of the 1970s, my family took a trip all the way to the west coast and back in our Baron. Gas was cheap and the airlines were regulated and expensive, making private flight cost effective – especially when you filled all the seats as we did. The 1970s brought explosive growth in the population of pilots and airplanes as well. Manufacturers cranked out tens of thousands of GA airplanes and fuel was still cheap until the end of the decade.

By the mid 1980s, the bottom had fallen out. Manufacturers and pilots were spooked by the oil crisis. Airplane production plummeted to a trickle and product-liability lawsuits targeting manufacturers were pushing the price of new airplanes to unattainable levels for most recreational pilots.

Because of the huge price jump in new airplanes, used models began retaining their values quite well in the 1990s and early 2000s. However, the introduction of glass cockpit-equipped airplanes in the mid 2000s forever separated new from used airplanes. No longer could an owner install the same avionics and instruments in his airplane as those being installed at the factory and call your airplane “good as new.” Glass cockpits such as the G1000 system, truly integrate ALL of the airplane’s systems into one. Doing that with a “legacy” airplane would be cost prohibitive.

Given the following eras in GA, I’d peg the Golden Age as the period between the mid 1960s and the mid 1970s. These were the days when the engineers at the major manufacturers would scratch their heads while rummaging through parts bins at their respective plants creating exciting new models. Remember the Piper Comanche 400? Take a single-engine Comanche and drop a massive, eight-cylinder, 400 hp, Lycoming IO-720 in the nose and blast off at 200 knots. Or Beechcraft, which put a pair of turbocharged 380-hp Lycomings on a Baron C55 to create a 300-mph screamer that makes contrails at 30,000 feet? These were just two of many exciting models introduced in that era.

In those days, with no Internet, pilots couldn’t wait for the trade magazines to come in the mail with lots of glossy-picture ads and pilot reports detailing the many new airplanes. When I was a kid, my Dad hardly got to see his magazines what with three young airplane nuts in the house grabbing the latest AOPA Pilot, Flying, or B/CA that arrived. That reminds me – there were a lot more publications back then too. Remember Aero, Air Progress, and the original Air Facts, among many others?

As far as avionics go, this was a heady time as well. Narco and King were constantly innovating and reducing the size of avionics while adding capability. Instead of hundreds of pounds of remotely mounted radio gear taking up valuable baggage space and useful load, tiny, solid-state units were installed right in the instrument panel vastly reducing wiring and unnecessary weight. As a boy, I remember our family’s Baron was in the radio shop getting a new stack of Narco’s latest and my Dad handed me a bundle of wires that was removed from the airplane. I could barely lift it!

While GPS or even a practical loran weren’t even a glimmer on the horizon in the mid 1970s, pilots managed to find their way just fine using VOR and ADF, or just plain pilotage. After all, this was gee-whiz technology compared to the four-course radio range. Airspace was pretty simple too. If you stayed more than five miles from any large airport, you were pretty well safe in nearly all of the U.S., even Washington D.C. Today, pilots have to fly precise paths through or around complicated airspace, sometimes difficult even with a GPS. At least we have moving maps to help us through the maze these days.

I long for the days of cheap gas, bold designs and innovation among the manufacturers, as well as the excitement of getting a stack of aviation magazines in the mailbox. What era do you consider to be GA’s Golden Age?


44 replies
  1. Eric
    Eric says:

    There are probably as many opinions about the golden age as there splinters in the Spruce Goose. It all goes to the “back in my day…” argument.

    As for my splinters worth, I believe we are seeing a new golden age in aviation, or at least the very early stages of one, lead by the affordability of the LSA.

    Light Sport Aircraft are affordable and open a world of aviation to those that thought it to expensive to realize. Many of the Sport Pilots that I talk to are often planning on either buying into an LSA or continuing on to achieve their Private Pilot tickets, or beyond.

    What we need now is a move to improve and repair the smaller GA airports. Make the airfields as much a destination as the towns that surround them.

  2. Richard Collins
    Richard Collins says:

    Hi Pete: I too would go for the 60s and 70s. We had an important actiivity going then: family flying. I am sure you remember Rowland and Julie loading you and your siblings into that ratty old 310 and flying to Little Rock to visit us when you were but a few weeks old. We also made a lot of trips to watering holes together. Six Bedell and five Collins folks in two airplanes. Not as much of that today and few new airplanes will legally lift a family once the kids start getting big. Rowland hit the jackpot when he bought your Baron in 1971 because it had a seat for everyone and he payload to go with it.

  3. tom
    tom says:

    I think today is the golden age. Engines are relatively unchanged but modern fixed-gear composite airframes go as fast as RGs of years gone by. And the electronics revolution has been nothing short of stunning.

    The three most popular stupid pilot tricks are running out of gas, hitting things and flying into weather they cannot handle. Electronic gadgets help avoid all three.

    Running out of gas seems to involve flying too long for the burn rate. Getting lost figures into that. Today, fuel flow meters are part of engine analyzers so we know what is going on inside the engine and how long it will continue. Sadly, pilots still manage to run out of gas, but I think they have to work harder at.

    When was the last time you heard of a pilot getting seriously lost? GPS is so common now that I think it helps a lot in preventing lost pilots who run out of gas or into weather they cannot handle.

    Weather data at the FBO beats the snot out of a phone briefing. Having it on a portable computer and in the cockpit go a long way toward avoiding weather.

    GPS with terrain warning helps avoid flying into terrain. Noise canceling headsets and reliable comm reduce fatigue.

    Reliable single and two-axis autopilots that follow a GPS track are a major factor too: Flying in a straight line is so much more efficient than hand-flying on long trips, which frees up the pilot to avoid getting lost, fuel exhaustion,weather and hitting things.

    Do all these gadgets make us dependent? Somewhat. I think the pilot who learns the nuances of engine monitors and digital engine gauges is a better informed pilot. Engine data loggers make diagnosing engine trends and problems a lot easier.

    Some claim all these gadgets make us dependent on them. Undoubtedly true. These widgets also keep us better informed.

    I suspect the A-N range generation disparaged the ADF; the ADF generation said the same about VORs, and today the VOR generation says the same about GPS. Somewhere a guy with just a mag compass and fancy watch is disparaging them all.

  4. M. Light
    M. Light says:

    I grew up in Aviation. My father taught me to fly in the mid- 50’s (I was quite young-it was unusual then)
    In those days you were thrilled if you had a radio-even more thrilled if it worked. My father worked for a Cessna dealer and FBO-the big big thing then was when the new arrivals had tricycle gear. I fly a 1946 Piper PA12 now (taildragger). It may sound long longing for the “good ole days” but when I was growing up the T-hangars were full-tie downs were full and there were always fly-in breakfasts and air shows somewhere. Gas was cheap and people just stopped by the roadside to watch airplanes shoot landings. Each era has something to say-but like most things it has become a fairly complicated undertaking and really expensive. I’m just saying-if you’re lucky enough to do it these days-enjoy the now-because it will never be even that simple again.

  5. John Zimmerman
    John Zimmerman says:

    Part of the answer depends on what “golden age” means. If we’re talking about the equipment, Tom is right–today is hard to beat. What you can do in a fixed gear single is amazing, and the fancy new avionics are not just gee whiz stuff. There are some real safety enhancements if you know how to use it.

    But if we’re talking about the community of GA–the vibrant airports, the popular media coverage, the pilot groups–then the golden age is long gone. It is still immensely rewarding, but flying has become something you do by yourself or with just a few people, then leave the airport right away.

    I think this latter part is more important, so I’m with Pete Bedell.

    • Peter Temesvary
      Peter Temesvary says:

      I agree with John that the Golden Age is not about the technology but about the spirit of aviation. I’m as much of a tech geek as anyone, and there’s a lot to be said for GPS and 180 kt fixed gear singles, but to me the Golden Age was when you could walk to the edge of the runway, sit in the grass and kick it, soaking in the sunshine and watching the parade of touch n goes and the jackrabbits at the end of the runway. When you could wander up and down the tie down rows peeking into cockpits and admiring paint jobs and noone would bother you. The beginning of the end of the Golden Age was in the mid 80’s when they started putting up fences with coded gates around the airports. It ended for me on a spring evening in 1993 when I wanted to take in a bit of runway air and breath a little fabric and aluminum at the local airport after work, but got gruffly turned away by the security guard. It didn’t matter that I showed him my pilot’s license and knew the code to the gate. If I wasn’t about to be cranking the prop on my airplane in 5 minutes I had no business being there. That’s when it became apparent that airports were being controlled by people who had no connection to, and no interest in, aviation. Needless to say, the nail in the coffin was the paranoia that followed 9/11, and aviation hasn’t been the same in 10 years. In the late 90s I did a cross the country trip, camping under the wing each night – not sure I could do that in many places these days. We have to be more afraid of airport security than walking into a running prop, because we’re not doing much walking around any more. We’re more afraid of a TFR than a midair (see the responses to John’s article on FSS). Sure, there are lots of airports where the spirit of aviation is alive – if you fly in. But those days are gone when a kid could show up at the airport, and look at airplanes up close and dream of the day that Comanche would be in his hangar. For me, I’m glad I got a chance to live in that Golden Age!

  6. Dan
    Dan says:

    For us poor fellows in Europe, the Golden Days were the days before EASA.
    Did you know that the present interpretation of the dimly-written maintenance regulation, pt-M, makes door seal lubrication (by a certified mechanic, mind you) every 30 days mandatory just because a certain manufacturer recommends it? In Europe, Recommendation = Mandatory. Think about it, having to find and pay a mechanic every 30 days to lubricate your door seals.
    I kid you not! And that’s just a small part of our troubles.
    Send a thankful thought to your FAA for just being there. You don’t know how lucky you US guys are.

  7. Dick Sager
    Dick Sager says:

    The ’50s into the early ’70s were the golden age for GA. Gas, airplanes, tie downs and insurance were reasonably priced. Manufactures were building airplanes and there were a miriad of airports where people would go to just hang out and watch take offs and landings. Also,that was before TCAs.

  8. Steve Phoenix
    Steve Phoenix says:

    I’m thinking maybe even back into the 30’s. Airplanes were the new thing then, like electronics today, and even the average person in the soup line was interested. Travel by road or railroad was slow and difficult so the airplane seemed poised to overcome those difficulties. There were also the big exciting events like the Cleveland and Miami air races.
    But, the next century could easily bring a new golden age. If electric propulsion can be perfected and combined with other new features to make flying attractive again to a larger segment of the population, it could happen.

  9. John
    John says:

    Anyone have FACTS about inflation-adjusted costs for things like hangar, insurance, gas, maybe even cost of a C-172 …now vs 1960/1970’s..? Here in Louisville KY (KLOU)the CHEAPEST T-hangar runs $4,000/year and 100LL is $6.15/gln…not a cheap hobby…I remember Collins saying somehwere (maybe 10 yrs ago) that he was ~6k or $7k deep in annual expenses before the first hour…wonder what that figure is now.

  10. Michael
    Michael says:

    I think the golden age of aviation is now. I plan to join the Air Force soon, and am very impressed by its abilities. We are at the point where drones do not yet rule air combat, but our tech is nearing that stage. Basically, you get to feel the rush of adrenaline going mach 2 100 feet off the deck, plus you are in control of the most amazing and up-to-date weapons. When drones rule the air, who knows? Maybe recreational flying will be banned altogether, to be replaced by planes that fly themselves. (Horrible thought I know, but it might happen…)

  11. Bill Campbell
    Bill Campbell says:

    Flying has long passed its Golden Age. Regardless of when it was. Years ago a local mechaninc might well be able to stretch his paycheck and afford a plane and the fuel to fly it. If it was an Arrow or a 172 he could even take the family. The FAA is set to begin to charge handsomely for aviation charts and plates delivered to your IPAD or flight deck. Fuel has passed $7.00 a gallon by a number of swank FBO’s, the cost of a hangar is approaching $1,000/mo in most suburban and city airports. Today flying anything but an LSA is just too expensive even for a person of substantial means. At the very least the cost takes much of the fun out of it.

    Glass is great especially for a newbie pilot but I found few people in my era that didn’t get where they were going with VOR’s and other available aids. Glass has raised the cost of flying by about 20% per year if you really keep your databases up. We have also stopped listening to our engines (and in my instance reading the TSIO520’s a bed time story). Even maintenance costs have skyrocketed chasing false alarms from engine monitors.

    I am not sure that future pilots will ever enjoy the feeleing of just “Slipping the surly bonds of earth…and touching the face of God” as did John Gillespie MacGee and me.

  12. Larry
    Larry says:

    Bill is right that the golden age has long since passed, at least for the private pilot.In the mid 70’s you could buy a new 4-place, well-equipped plane for about 3 to 4 times what an average new car cost. Avgas was 10 cents per gallon higher that car gas. The American manufacturers were building 15,000 to 18,000 new planes per year. The total is less than 1/10th of that.

    Regarding turbine aircraft production, you could argue that the several years prior to ’08 were the golden years. That,of course changed with the great recession along with the president constantly bad-mouthing the “fat cats” and their corporate jets,as he travels the world in the most expensive private jet ever built.

    GPS has greatly enhanced the piloting experience, along with making flying safer. Having said that, the vast majority of accidents are still caused by pilot error. You still have to fly the plane and make the right decisions.

  13. Bob Atkins
    Bob Atkins says:

    No question that it was the 60’s to mid 70’s that were the golden age of GA. While today’s glass cockpits are impressive, with the exception of the SR22 and the Lancair (now Cessna) there hasn’t been any significant new aircraft introduced since the mid 70’s. Most of these glass cockpits are installed in aircraft that were originally designed and certified before 1962!

    Production of piston powered aircraft is so low today as to make GA a cottage industry. There is but a fraction of cross country flight time today compared to back in the 60’s and early 70’s. Sure the $200 hamburger is a treat but in the 60’s and 70’s GA was used by families to travel not just by Dad and his buddies to get a burger.

    In comparison to the new aircraft that were being developed and certified during the 50’s through the mid 70’s, development of new GA aircraft has all but ceased since the mid 70’s – with the efforts of the FAA to promote commercial aviation making the certification process for GA products all but impossible from a financial standpoint.

    Far too many of us have just accepted the status quo today. There is little that we can do about it anyway. There is no interest in funding GA business. Most GA aircraft companies are (and have been) owned by foreign entities. I’ve been flying since 1983 and at the time, GA activity was already a fraction of what they were a decade earlier. Since then I have seen a steady decline to what seem to me to be nothing short of the death throes of GA today.

    Sad to say – but if you look back – not just on GA but on virtually all things related to aviation – including space exploration you will see that we, as a nation peaked in 1968.

  14. tom
    tom says:

    Many feel that the late 60s and early 70’s were a great time in aviation. I won’t disagree, but with a plenitude of cheap airplanes came a swarm of expensive lawsuits that eventually shut Cessna down. In some cases Cessna deserved it.

    I own a ’68 Cessna-177 Cardinal, which was the poster child for grand plans poorly done. It took Cessna three years to get it right with the 1971 180 hp 177B with the right power, prop, trim and control range. R&D at customer expense is nothing new in aviation, but when it kills the test pilot who didn’t know he was a test pilot, well, it didn’t go well for Cessna in court.

    The first 150 hp fixed pitch Cessna 177 cardinal came out in 1968. It was underpowered and had design features that could put the pilot in a high-drag, insufficient power box at high AOA. Then the stab stalled. Wheee!

    The cardinal was intended to replace the C-172 but it was such a disaster that Cessna restarted the C-172 production line and re-engined it by replacing the Continental 6-banger with the Lycoming O-320 4-banger left over from the Cardinal line which begat the O-320-H2AD, a bad idea of another sort.

    By 1971 Cessna fixed all the Cardinal’s ills (except for the ARC radios, vacuum operated wing leveler and Bendix two in one magnetos). With time STCs fixed the three preceding year airframes. Just add money.

    I might add that the ’68 Cardinal came with no CHT gage. Putting a bigger engine under the 150 hp cowl resulted in short cylinder lives. Installing an Engine monitor explained why. No aimless chasing needed.

    Then there’s Cessna’s paint shortcut that lead to skin corrosion. Such fun that.

    I flew ’65 PA24-260B Comanche for about 500 hrs. Nice fast plane, All parts Zinc Chromated, cool running engine, and the twin version is a treasure. But the jackass that designed the instrument panel in the single never worked on it. And there’s the Piper eclectic instrument scan and one door. Ugh.

    I flew many Cessna, Piper and Beech aircraft built in the 60’s,70’s and 80s that had autopilots. Of about 20 airframes only one had an AP that worked – a 1982 Cessna 182. How it worked was a mystery, the POH was not very helpful, and we were never really sure we could trust it, but at least it leveled the wings and had many entertaining push buttons.

    What differs from yesteryear and today? Some argue that it’s cheaper today if you think about it in inflated dollars. Unfortunately most of us are paid in inflated dollars, so regardless how little the dollar is worth, it takes more of them to buy our habits.

    I have a copy of the 1975 FAR/AIM. It is a mere shadow of today’s version, and some claim it is impossible to make a flight today without violating some faa, epa or fcc rule.

    That mentality bleeds over onto the owner who wants to install a widget that enhances situation awareness or safety. The FAA stands ready to disapprove, ensuring we stay in the 1960s unless you can afford to supplement the type certificate. Replacing ancient seat belts with new belts and retractable shoulder harnesses come to mind. Why does that cost $1500 for two seats? The FAA presides over an asinine system that forces broke owners to leave 43 year old belts in place when a better DOT approved lashup can be had at NAPA for $75 per seat.

    And don’t get me started on the suitability of automotive parts. Cardinal door handles sell for about $500 from Cessna. It comes with a FoMoCo part number that cross references to a ’67 mustang door handle for $19.95. Similar observations for the Lycoming alternator belt and for some, the alternator.

    Some economy texts reference the 1967 dollar to describe the buying power of today’s dollar. That was just after Johnson started the Great Society and began to give away benefits we used to work for but before Nixon took us off the gold standard so he could pay for the great society and the Viet Nam war with credit; Before congress found it could spend more than it takes in with credit, paying bills by getting credit from anyone who would give it, hence the deficit and national debt grows to where servicing the debt rivals annual GDP.

    Some prognosticators claim the dollar may regain buying power in the next few years. Their argument goes: The bill for deficit spending in Greece and Italy has come due. It may soon arrive in France and Germany. If that happens it will affect the dollar, forcing banks to write off trillions in loans, deflating the dollar so it will buy more.

    1968 here we come!

    • Terry
      Terry says:

      Finnaly, some good news. Thanks. Maybe my 401K will buy more than cat food. But I have a good recipe for hobo stew cooked under the cowling out of chunky bits. Gota justify flying somehow.

    • Kem Hayes
      Kem Hayes says:

      Well, I discovered your post about 8 years after it was written, but it is more true now than it was then. That post should be posted to every general aviation website and facebook group. Such true words!! Thanks.

  15. tom
    tom says:

    Bill Campbell says; “we are about to pay handsomely for FAA maps and charts.”

    Does anyone know how much that will be? I hear that we taxpayers will no longer be privy to the raw data we’ve already paid for when I don’t recall using it. I get it from NOAA (Print form), or Garmin and Jepp, who format the data into tiff and PDF files my widgets can read.

    Could it be that the FAA paid for data maintenance from print sales, and that revenue is dwindling thanks to the iPad? (I hear you guys in the back of the room hollering that fuel taxes already paid for it. I’m hollering too, but do we know that for a fact?)

    • Bill Campbell
      Bill Campbell says:

      Everything i read says April 2012 the FAA will begin to charge for and severly restict the download of charts and plates. They will only be able to be had from their very few distributors. Much like the canadian system. FYI it took me 5 hours on the phone and 2 weeks of trying to get canadian IFR charts and plates for Prince george BC. Even then a compassionate ATC guy ended up photocopying his own book and faxing them to me. Air Canada is a joke!!! left to Obama and the madmen in congress we are racing pell mell in that direction.

  16. tom
    tom says:

    Someone asked for an inflation calculator. Googling it I found this. One of several hundred. Google it yourself and pick one if you don’t like mine.


    According to the above tool a $4000 hangar in 2010 would have cost $620 in 1967 dollars.

    A $7 gallon of gas in 2010 would have cost $1.08 in ’67 dollars.

    The real answer nobody is asking is this: What is a 1967 dollar worth today? Answer: 15 cents.

    Thank your congressman for a majority of that inflation, not the producer. The delta is the lost buying power of the dollar because there are about 6.5 times more dollars in circulation than in ’67 (Ok, that’s not totally accurate. There are more goods and services out there than in ’67, but I don’t know how to calculate a correction factor for real production. And I’m in a bad mood about congress right now so they get 100% credit).

    An aside: An old miner once told me that a good measure of the dollar’s value is the cost of postage compared to the cost in years past. In 1968 it was 4 cents.

    He said another metric is the cost of gold. In 1967 it was fixed by government fiat to $35/oz. But that isn’t a fair comparison because gov’mint was involved.

    Here’s a source for gold prices so you can make your own calculations. Very depressing.


    Perhaps significant to why 1967 is a fave for comparison is this statement: ‘A two-tiered pricing system was created in 1968, and the market price for gold has been free to fluctuate since then as the table below shows’.

    Do the math of those two metrics and figure out what inflation has been in that service and good. Average the two together for a less scary number.

    • John
      John says:

      did some research.. adjusting for inflation and putting everything in 2011 dollars, AUTO GAS prices were less than $2/gln throughout the 1960’s and into the early 1970’s; by the early 80’s gas had risen to over $2/gln but again fell through the $2 mark by the late 1980’s and remained below $2/gln until early 2000’s. By mid 2008 we were paying over $4/gln. Bottom line, in terms of fuel costs, the Golden Age is definitely not NOW.

  17. Dennis Jones
    Dennis Jones says:

    My opinion is “the Golden Age of Aviation began at the end of World War One and continued until 1958 when the Civil Aeronautics Administration went away and the FAA took its place.” Since that time all aspects of aviation have become more expensive, legalistic, filled with all kinds of political issues, and lawsuits. If AOPA and the EAA ever loose their influence in DC General Aviation will be over. I began flying in 1953 and had five good years during my preceived Golden Age. The Gold was really beginning to tarnish by 1960. I am still an active pilot but the only gold left in aviation is the cost of being there.

  18. Mark C.
    Mark C. says:

    While reading Bob Buck’s Northstar Over My Shoulder, I found myself wishing I’d been around then, when anyone with a sense of adventure could become a pilot with a few hours instruction, the art and science were advancing by leaps and bounds, commercial airliners had tailwheels and airline jobs were expanding faster than the pilot population. But my golden age is now, as I am close to taking my PP checkride and even though gas is expensive, hangars are expensive (not so much in my area), etc., but good used airplanes are CHEAP and I’m going to get me one and enjoy flying it for as many years as I can squeeze out before retirement and a reduced income or a lost medical make me give it up.

    ANGEL OLEA says:

    Definitively late 60´s and 70´s. I simply was born at the right place and time. Learned to fly at 15, my first job as a jump pilot at 17 (father´s plane). First air taxi job as a Cessna 310, 402, 421 captain at 23, I was flying a Cessna 421 when I was offered the opportunity to fly as a Learjet captain at 25, I have flown Lears, Sabreliners, West Wind, Jetstars, Citation VII, Hawker 800, Falcon 2000 & 900E.
    I just love those years.
    Greetings from México-

  20. Scott
    Scott says:

    If we want to return to anything like any “Golden Age of Aviation”, we need to take steps to reign in the FAA. The controllers have performed their tasks very well since the FAA was formed. The regulators, on the other hand, have proceeded to bungle everything up since the very beginning of the agency. Everything is over regulated to the point of stupidity.

    The incorporation of advancing technology is very difficult simply because existing regulations are written so rigidly that change is not considered.

    We do have a rare opportunity to renew based on the emerging new very light designs, but the FAA has worked steadily to suck the life from that concept by discouraging any type of performance enhancement and by limiting weights to impractical numbers. Why does and Er coupe that has only been certified to 1320 pounds eligible for LSA status while one that has EVER been certified to 1400 pounds in not eligible at all. It’s called pure burocratic stupidity.

    The whole concept of making an airplane uneligible for an an LSA because its wheels fold up or ome other made up probem is spreading that stupidity on a lot too thin.

    The idea that after decades of work in upgrading ignition and other electronic technology that we cannot eliminate one magneto from our engines is merely another example of such stupidity.

    We also seem to have regulated ourselves to the point that following one regulation will almost guarentee that we will be violatin anothher.

    The certification process has become so arduous and insanly detailed that Few corporations can afford to certify any new designs.

    It makes no sense anywhere but in the mindless area of CYA and JYJ (Cover Your Ass and Justify Your Job)

    If the FAA had been around in 1903, the airplane might not have been invented.

    • Kem Hayes
      Kem Hayes says:

      Yes! But regarding magentos, and so much of the other antiquated silly things, or rules on aircraft, just remember that line from the Tucker movie. “Isn’t that the idea? To build a better mousetrap?”…….”not if you’re the mouse”. I’m my opinion, the FAA is rife with bribe takers, and hence he so much of this craziness goes go.

  21. Harry Clements
    Harry Clements says:

    I got to this late, but have three widely diverse thoughts.
    I went to a speech by a noted aviation historian, and he claimed the Golden Age was the 1950’s, but he was speaking of all aviation, not just General Aviation, and featured innovation in the planes themselves.But in this wide view I think it started in the forties and maybe matured in the fifties.
    I tend to agree with him, because my period of intense involvement with the industry was in the fifties – but that is a biased opinion. More recently I authored a paper comparing what I thought to be sporty looking GA airplanes starting in the thirties, when I was a kid,to those of more recent vintage – but compared them statistically for basic speed performance. There was no doubt – the later ones performed better.

  22. Ian
    Ian says:

    For GA it was the ’60s to the mid to late ’70s…you had to be there to understand it.
    People from all walks of life learnt to fly, social activities were natural and there was a general air of helpfulness to newcomers…
    It was an exciting time.

  23. Tony
    Tony says:

    Everything up to the late 70s onward was an exiting and glamorous age for aviation. However, for flying as a hobby to be affordable you can’t go beyond the late 60s and early 70s. Prior to the late 60s, flying costs as a percentage of the average wage were very high likewise after the early 70s. I also think the aircraft of that era and before were more interesting and exiting than the “flying video game” machine of today. I fully endorse Ian’s comments above. They were a great time.

  24. Bob Brewer
    Bob Brewer says:

    I guess it depends on ones age and when and how we were involved in aviation…I also go for the 60’s and 70’s and am forever grateful that I was able to participate in such a fun business for so long.

  25. Lloyd
    Lloyd says:

    I earned my PP in the early 70’s and enjoyed the benefits of cheap rentals. After a few years, a commercial pilot told me I either needed to find something to do in GA or quit. So I did, quit. And I dreamed and dreamed of flying. Regretting more and more my decision to seek the safety of a paycheck. Would you believe, that same commercial pilot has helped me return to flying after a 40 year layoff! It’s not the same with all the fancy gizmos. And rentals are almost off the chart. But, about once a month, I can escape Class C airspace and just fly off toward the horizon wistfully thinking of what could have been. The 70’s was the golden era to me. Now is the gold plated era!

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