Graph of private pilots
6 min read

Special Report Introduction

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.

It will take a collective effort to reverse this trend, if indeed it is reversible. To that end Air Facts is working to get a dialogue going. We will be posting five essays to begin, one a day for five days.

We urge you to read these and add your comments. You can add them to the end of each essay or you can wait until all five are posted and then sound off.

The authors of these are coming from different directions so there will be a good diversity of thought. It will be up to you to expand on that.

Richard Collins’ Thoughts

Graph of private pilots

The number of active private pilots is in a steady decline.

It is no secret that there are fewer and fewer active general aviation pilots every year. Why is that true? Can we arrest the decline? Will the activity ever grow again?

The factors most commonly cited when discussing the decline are money and time. Those are excuses, though, not factors. Flying has always been expensive and learning how to use an airplane has always taken a lot of time.

One reason there are fewer pilots is because the mood in our country has changed. There is more of a tendency today for people to be needy and dependent and risk-averse. That is not a good demographic for flight training or for flying.

The only real way to increase interest in flying is to appeal to people who have a strong sense of independent individualism. The risks can’t be minimized. In fact, flying is something that takes a good mix of intelligence and coordination, both physical and mental. Lacking that, flying can be downright hazardous to your health. In other words, wimps are not good prospects for flying.

The aircraft manufacturers delivered 17,811 airplanes in 1978 and a few less in 1979. Then production fell off the proverbial cliff. One reason for that is the fact that the legions of World War Two and GI-Bill pilots peaked in their earning years at that time. No more built-in pilot population so things started to trail off. The numbers don’t show it but I have always thought that every measure of general aviation activity started to decline after 1979.

We have to acknowledge, too, that general aviation flying in piston airplanes is reaching a historic low level at this time. I am writing this on Labor Day. There used to be a lot of flight activity as people traveled on holidays. I just looked at FlightAware and there are a grand total of 159 piston airplanes flying on IFR flight plans in the whole country. That is just over three per state. VFR flights would make the number a lot bigger but nobody counts those.

The low and declining level of activity means that if we don’t arrest the decrease, at some point there won’t be anything left.

Historically, aircraft manufacturers were the main cheerleaders for learning to fly. It was good business. I have forgotten the numbers, but Cessna once did research that showed how many piston singles they sold for every 100 pilots  who got a certificate, and how many of those went on to buy a twin, then a turboprop, then a jet.

General aviation used to be a domestic cottage industry, run by the people whose name was on the product. Now ownership is either by a conglomerate or is offshore. There is little “feel” for general aviation in the corporate offices or in the boardroom.

EAA and AOPA have programs to promote aviation and we can only hope that these will gain some traction. They are motivated because fewer pilots mean fewer members. Of all the involved entities they are probably the most directly affected by the decreasing pilot population.

Some feel that a reduction in the cost of learning to fly would help. I have been watching this for a long time, though, and most schemes to reduce cost have been false promises. The same goes for schemes to make it easier to learn to fly.

I think there are only three possible ways to have a shot at increasing the personal and business use of light (under 6,000 pound maximum takeoff weight) airplanes.

Cessna 172

Even a Cessna 172 can be a legitimate tool for travel.

Rather than raw cost, the value of flying has to be the emphasis. Nobody uses airplanes to save money. But for people who have traps to run in a state, or a couple of states, there is nothing more useful and valuable than a general aviation airplane and it doesn’t have to be a jet. A piston single or twin will enable day trips over a wide area.

Some years ago I experimented with using a Cessna 172 with top-line IFR avionics as a business airplane. I lived in Little Rock at the time and routinely made day trips to Wichita, Oklahoma City, Fort Worth and even San Antonio which was at the outer limits on distance when flying at 120 knots. It might have been a short paddle but it worked for me for two years and was quite economical.

The airplane builders need to address a shortage of utility in the current crop of airplanes. The payload/range number on many airplanes is pretty pathetic.

There was once a time when the number of seats outlined the carrying capability of our airplanes, within limits. The four seat airplanes would fly with more than two people, some baggage, and enough fuel to fly for a decent length or fly for at least a little while with four on board.  The folks who build airliners have to design the ability to fill all the seats and then fly halfway around the world nonstop. That needs to be at least partially emulated in piston singles.

For lack of a better word, we need to appeal to the sense of adventure that some people still have. Put the “right stuff,” or the romance, back into flying. Let’s be honest and tell the public that this isn’t for everyone, it is for above average people who want to stand out by doing something special.

Back in the good old days, when people found out you were a pilot they often said that they always wanted to do that. Now they are more likely to ask why you would want to do that. That needs to change.

Your thoughts.

Richard Collins
268 replies
  1. Edward Todd
    Edward Todd says:

    That chart is depressing enough, but it only goes back 12 years. Show the same chart with numbers back to 1970 or so, if you really want to see the decline.

    • Eugene P. Letter
      Eugene P. Letter says:

      Florida flight schools are full, the airports are full of flight students from all over the world. Waiting 15 minutes to take off or
      enter the pattern is normal. Flight publications all advertise new
      aircraft at prices higher than my lifetime income. Yet I hear that
      flying has declined ?

      Where y’all from?
      OK, I learned to fly at MPV (Vermont) in 1953.when i know at times was the only airplane in 50 miles in the air. At 76 am happy to be flying and love the action.
      happy flying!, Gene

    • David Albright
      David Albright says:

      $ Yes cost is a problem. It is because of what’s left over when you pay all the bills. Now day’s people are going with out let alone have any left over for flying.
      I started flying in 1961 and loved it. After 43 yrs and 22,000 hrs I walked out the door.
      With all the regs. I felt there is no way I can’t keep from braking a reg. sooner or later. I have a clean record and want to keep it that way. P.S. training every 6 mo. keep you sharp,BUT ! It’s time for the next generation if there is any.

    • Jim Guida
      Jim Guida says:

      It’s all about the economy. It will go down in history as the “lost decade”. Until the unemployment goes down, disposable income will not be available for people to fly. Food and shelter come first. Not be poltical, but the country needs a change from the path we have going down the last 10-years. With that in mind, go vote.

      • John Zimmerman
        John Zimmerman says:

        Jim, I agree that the economy right now is dismal. But the scary part (to me) is that most of the rot in general aviation pre-dates the recession. Why didn’t GA grow at all during previous booms?

      • Timothy Ettridge
        Timothy Ettridge says:

        I agree. Though it may not necessarily be about the money overall, it certainly is about the money right now. When you see how empty the parking lots in shopping malls right now, it’s hard to imagine someone who isn’t already a pilot willing to spend $10K to become one.

        Once a normal economy fully returns, then we can focus on the other points to restore pilots numbers.

    • Miles
      Miles says:

      As a European Hanglider (Rigid & Flex) & occasional Paraglider pilot, I would be most interested to see if this downward trend in Piston powered aviation is countered by the apparent incredible rise in free flying numbers, no idea where you source such data though USHGA might be a starting point . . .

      • Timothy Ettridge
        Timothy Ettridge says:

        Miles, we hang glider pilots over here in the States are in a decline. Having flown hang gliders on both sides of the water (and in Oz, too), I envy some aspects of hang gliding over in Europe. Specifically, the availability of inexpensive rides on cable cars to high launches encourages one to learn, not to mention the free publicity earned just by flying around all the tourists. Here, in the States, liability concerns rule most business’ emotions and so in the very, very few places where such a cable car might exist, using it is out of the question. So you in Europe will outgrow us many times over.

        • Miles
          Miles says:

          Geez guys That’s sooo depressing to hear, we seem to manage to keep a constant number here, esp down here in the south east, were we even have a rigid wing revival.
          I’d lose the camper, the holidays, even the mountain bike at a push to keep my gliders.
          b’cause there IS no better way to spend your free time than chasing angels

          Carpe Ventum


          Atos VR, Listespeed, Ozone & lucky

    • Nate D'Anna
      Nate D'Anna says:

      And of course, now we have been notified that the cost of flying and owning an airplane will go up even more. How? We will have to install ADSB equipment in our airplanes in 2020. An article I just read indicates that an ADSB out setup will cost $5,000.00 plus installation.(Garmin)

      I’m all for safety and obviously ADSB will improve that, but how can the guy that is barely flying right now afford a $5k addition to his airplane? The economics don’t even make sense because if you’re the guy with a 1960’s model Cessna 150 that is worth $15 to $20k, it is unaffordable for that class of owner and in addition, throwing over $5k into a 15K 50 year old airplane is NOT a good investment.

      Depsite the safety advantages, see and avoid and weather info as it stands has worked very well in GA. As a result, I say to protest ADSB unless a manufacturer of the equipment is willing to price it in the $750.00 to $1,000.00 range. Of course, the gears and installation are already in motion, so ADSB WILL be a reality, but I think AOPA and EAA should fight for exemption of the requirement for single engine airplanes. If not, I believe Trade A Plane will be the size of The Yellow Pages in 2020 due to the number of sales ads that will be in print submitted by owners who just can’t handle the expensive last straw.

      This is just another thing folks—more expense and hassles. And you really think we can attract new pilots let alone hold on to the ones we have now with this kind of requirement? Ga is dying and we can say RIP in 2020 if ADSB is enforced as required equipment in the simple single engine airplane.

      I can say that I will definitely sell my Grumman AA1A before 2020 if this expensive requirement is not exempt or the equipment is not available at a reasonable price.

    • Jon Sharpe
      Jon Sharpe says:

      I received my commercial in 1975. I quit flying in 1980 because it was very impractical. It is a rich mans sport. I enjoyed it because I learned on the bill. What are you supposed to do with it? Getting married, having a family, making payments take the place of it too. It is very dangerous even with a instruement rating. I went out with about 850 hours I think before I grew up.

      • Kevin
        Kevin says:

        “It is very dangerous even with a instruement rating. I went out with about 850 hours I think before I grew up.”

        I am not sure what to say about that comment. It does nto need to be “very dangerous”, but you can make it so by your attitude and approach to it.

        “850 hours…before I grew up” Sounds like your ‘growing up’ has nothing at all to do with your participation in aviation – more like you just don’t have a passion for flying like most of us do. That’s fine. It’s probably better you gave up this ‘rich man’s’ sport before you became another statistic.

      • Bill
        Bill says:

        I know several pilots who likewise, in their declining years lost their interest for flying out of fear and paranoia. Some doctors attribute it to lower brain levels of dopamine and testosterone. The need to insult those still capable of the adventure is a rationalization for their fears and compensates for their diminished competence.

    • gene
      gene says:

      i have a light sport Skyranger 2 in Gorham N.H.i’m learning to fly with my own plane, the book work is tough for a 53 year old. the price is high but putting the rent into my own plane made sense in the long term .the government seems to be the biggest problem .the town of Gorham wants to close the airport where i own the hanger. the state never sends the registration and worst of all the FAA always has new hoops to jump through, my first year they sent back the registration 3 times. they want my parents death certificates my birth certificate all to prove im a US citizen.I’m not alone , many other pilots told me similar storys .

  2. Edward Todd
    Edward Todd says:

    “… VFR flights would make the number a lot bigger but nobody counts those….”

    Please don’t say that too loudly. We really don’t want to have to start filing Flight Plans, or registering a flight with Homeland Security, for practicing touch and goes, or that fun flight over the city with the kids.

    • Jim Rodgers
      Jim Rodgers says:

      WEll….DOING that would keep us safer right? If it keeps me safe from the “boogy men” that are apparently hiding in every bush, and are around every corner, then I’m all for it- I have NOTHING to hide. Heck…It wouldn’t bother me one bit if one of our alphabet protectors, that obviously only care about our safety and nothing else, stared putting naked-body-scanners in the small, 13 plane flight school I work out of. Wouldn’t mind if they also started doing pat downs every time a CFI left with a student through out the day…CFI’s do four flights a day typically, so four pat-downs, five days a week is the perfect amount to keep us safe from the boogy-men that “hate us because of our freedoms”! Think about it….The amount of freedoms we are allotted grows everyday…so wouldn’t it stand to reason that the more freedoms our “leaders” graciously hand out to us, the more we would be hated? Yes sir it does…So in that case, I think WE (ALL PILOTS) should start having to fly naked at all times when training a student or when learning to fly (but still keep the pat-downs too cause ya never know)

  3. Dave
    Dave says:

    “There used to be a lot of flight activity as people traveled on holidays. I just looked at FlightAware and there are a grand total of 159 piston airplanes flying on IFR flight plans in the whole country.” Aviation HAS always been expensive, but the percentage of disposable income it takes today to pay for a simple 300 mile flight on a long holiday weekend is dramatically higher than it was in the early ’80s.

    • Colin
      Colin says:

      Could not agree more Dave. As much as I agree with all that’s been said here, I really think the raw cost IS an important factor. Getting more value from flying is important. However, if we want those people to say “I’ve always wanted to do that” to go do it, we have to make raw cost more in line with disposable income. Economical is only so if its also affordable. Economy that is not affordable is something else that is out of reach for the average person.

  4. Edward Todd
    Edward Todd says:

    And for renters (where one usually starts), having to pay for 2-3 hours each day, to have a plane sit at a destination airport, swells the rate to where weekend getaways are out of reach for many. We can’t blame the FBO for needing get get paid for a plane that is taken off the line. But its all part of the equation for new pilots trying to keep flying after getting their certificate.

  5. MikePrevost
    MikePrevost says:

    Dick, I’m glad you shared your thoughts on this subject. My first reaction, as a student pilot at age 51, that you are not giving the economic factors enough weighting, not by a long shot.

    I really like the point you made about the payload of current single pistons with respect to the number of seats. I look at the $750K Cessna Corvalis that offers only a 388 lb payload with full fuel. The new JT-A 182 offers far more utility here.

    You also wrote ” There is more of a tendency today for people to be needy and dependent and risk-averse. That is not a good demographic for flight training or for flying.” That is a pretty depressing and even offense assessment of Americans, but I’m glad you put it out there if that’s how you feel. I disagree in principal, but ask you to consider something…

    … a non-pilot adult between the ages of 30 and 50 walks up to a school and takes an intro flight. S/he is put into a 30 or 40 year old aircraft with obvious wear and tear evident every place the eye falls. Even the windshield is hazed so badly the would-be student struggles to spot traffic even when the instructor points it out. There are rattles, and air leaks and cracks and maybe even inop instruments…

    So having survived to be an adult and learning to identify and manage risks of various types, don’t you think it’s reasonable and prudent for that adult to have very serious doubts as to the safety of this whole GA thing from that intro flight? Is that a person being timid or is that a person doing a good job at assessing a situation with the information readily available?

    • Lee Simkins
      Lee Simkins says:

      Increased costs, reduced payload, and restrictions (I fly near the DC SFRA) were / are all negative factors for me. I do fly, and was able to find a used 182 with enough payload to actually take four adults aloft- with minimal baggage, and some fuel.

      I doubt that GA will return to the levels of 20-30 years ago; but some increased, positive reporting might mitigate the decline. Few people get exposed to the opportunity, and perhaps some are turned off by aviation given experience with commercial carriers (security, parking, wait times).

      Maybe getting some local, small town news reporters to go to the local airport for an interview or two, and a free flight…..

      • Steve Brandt
        Steve Brandt says:

        Mike, great comments. I too am a seasoned citizen just entering GA. 57 yo and over 60 hours and $11,000.00 still no PPC in-hand. Close but no cigar yet. Amazed at the costs. All costs. Amazed at the age and aesthetic conditions of the A/C. I will get there but barriers to entrance (to a PPC) are rough. Expensive, CFIs that are difficult to work with and safe, but fugly A/C. I truly am pumped and excited but the environment is less than attractive!

    • Philip Hughes
      Philip Hughes says:

      My wife and I took 10 hours of lessons in 1969 in a new-looking Piper Cherokee. When I went back to get my private pilot license in 2012 it was in a pathetic- looking 1968 Cessna 172. The economics have changed but this discourages prospective students.

  6. Edward Todd
    Edward Todd says:

    The answer to Mike’s comment is the industry trying to ramp up Sport Piloting. Put the new candidate int a glass cockpit Cessna 162 or similar for that intro flight to get them hooked. Then give them options as to older planes for actual lessons depending on their needs. Yes, its all about marketing and first impressions.

    Speaking of which …. even before they see the plane … first impressions of FBOs and the CFIs happen. Not all folks walk into an actual flight school with full time instructors who look and act the part. I would dare say that MOST folks walk into an FBO and meet up with a part time CFI that looks like he just jumped off his farm tractor. OK … before you flame me … really … stop and think about it.

    • John Zimmerman
      John Zimmerman says:

      Cessna Skycatchers rent for $99/hour. I don’t think that’s dramatically higher than a 172 in the 70s (adjusted for inflation).

      • Dave
        Dave says:

        LSA availability is a real issue. Many Flight Schools simply don’t support the concept. Lot’s of misinformation about restrictions, insurance requirements, etc. And for full size Americans, the 1320 MTOW restriction is a deal breaker.

    • Peter T
      Peter T says:

      Couldn’t agree more about the instructors … if I recall my last 5 BFR/checkouts, I was impressed by one instructor out of the 5 (and he came highly recommended from the best instructor I’ve ever had). The other 4 ranged from boring to duds, all of them just passing time for that elusive right seat job on a commuter, not one of them truly interested in taking 2 hours to make me a 1% better pilot.

  7. Barbara Callaghan
    Barbara Callaghan says:

    The data suggested by the scale on the graph is alarming, yet the drop is actually around 16% and not about 50% as suggested. The decade shown covers a period of economic extremes, and I wish the data spanned a longer period. I do hope that the trend toward light sport aircraft – newer training aircraft – will appeal to a new generation of pilots who need visual reassurance beyond being told that, despite its aged and ugly appearance, their training aircraft is actually airworthy. I’m too old to be a Pollyanna, but after decades of little change in design of aircraft available to weekend aviation enthusiasts, I feel that newer aircraft made possible by contemporary and emerging technology may appeal to a new generation of pilots.

  8. Brian Crozier
    Brian Crozier says:

    For me it was medical. I got a few kidney stones. I was up to soloing in a helicopter when it just got too overwhelming to continue fighting to get a medical. I then got so depressed about it I went on an antidepressant. Another no-no. Which bothers me knowing there are likely commercial pilots out there with depression issues that can’t take medicine for it. I’d rather have a happy medicated pilot than a depressed suicidal one.

  9. MikePrevost
    MikePrevost says:

    And LSAs sounded good to me too Ed until I looked at the payload limitations.

    To continue picking on Cessna by way of example, the 162 has a full fuel payload of 337 lbs. I’m 6’3″ and weigh 255 lbs, leaving only 87 lbs for a CFI. That is one damned slender CFI! ;-)

    LSAs are about 200 lbs short on max gross to be the products that the industry wants them to be.

      • MikePrevost
        MikePrevost says:

        I’m 20 lb overweight max. Regardless, this is the weight that I *am* and the aircraft has to be practical for me…

        Fly on half tanks and I buy myself an extra 72 lbs in the 162. So the other occupant now can weigh 159 lbs and I’d still be flying at max gross.

        Could I find a CFI who weighs less than 159? Maybe, but the limitations imposed by the payload and range make this a very impractical aircraft for me. Not worth a $150K investment.

    • GDaddyT
      GDaddyT says:

      With full fuel, I have 518 pounds available for people and cargo in my Allegro LSA – which was a major factor in my buying decision. Yeah, not sure what the Cessna design folks were thinking with the -162 numbers….?

  10. John Green
    John Green says:

    I’ll have to mimic Brian. I stopped training two years ago, trying to get my prior medical issues resolved to the satisfaction of the FAA. Just re-applied for my medical three weeks ago. Hopefully I’ll restart training soon. The overwhelming comment I hear from others is “the cost”.

  11. George R Kern
    George R Kern says:

    I disagree with Richard’s statement that the cost of obtaining a license is an excuse rather than a reason. 25 years ago, it cost me $1800, including the check ride, to get my private license. Today the average cost is 3 times that but incomes have not increased nearly that much. People do not have the extra cash to lay out for a license. As to the cost, I own a Bellanca Super Viking and know how much money is required to operate and maintain it. I can understand why flying lessons have gone up over the years.

    To most people, flying looks like a dangerous sport. Many have said they’d never “get in one of those little planes”. I have explained that it is statistically safer than driving and about the many cross country flights I make in my 36 year old aircraft. I explain all the training that goes into being a pilot. I have taken several people on their first flight and though some were uneasy taking off, after the igh they had a changed attitude about flying. As pilots, we need to inform the public and prove through our experience that flying is safe.

  12. Doyle Frost
    Doyle Frost says:

    Now, I’m utterly depressed. Major life goal for me, was to get my PPL. Had to wait until I got some disposable income, but then, after I started, 9/11 happened, which set me back a year. @002, 15 days after my 57th birthday, I finally made it. (And I have to go with a special issuance class III medical, because of oral medicine for type 2 diabetes.)
    But finally, I’m in the process of giving up flying altogether, because of several factors, not the least of which is cost. Can’t afford to own my own plane, couldn’t afford the hangar rental at the local airport because the local politicians want GA out of it, so they raise the GA hangar rentals to exorbitant prices, and don’t allow a person to hire their own A&P/IA mechanic, can’t find one to rent, can’t even afford the cost of a CFI with a plane, if I can find one within a reasonable distance, and the local FBO has absolutely no interest in providing rental aircraft because of several factors, not the least being liability. To top it off, the cost of the fuel alone is ridiculous.
    The federal government is a big contributor to the overall problem, as they don’t really care for the “low end GA pilot” that just wants to fly for fun and personal satisfaction.

  13. Dave
    Dave says:

    The number of rounds of golf being played in the US is declining. The number of people skiing is declining. There is a decline in the number of new boat sales. Not sure, but I think it just may have something to do with the economy.

  14. Robert Lee
    Robert Lee says:

    When one starts out to become a pilot, they are taken up in a nice clean plane and when lessons begin they are put in a old plane. This is the point were you find out the cost for different planes. Next you get some young person looking mainly to increase his/her time in flight, or you get some exmilitary pilot looking to make a buck and keep up his/her rating. Half of the instructord are not qualified to teach and the FAA examination is a nightmare.
    Most agents, AOPA and Sporty’s, need to go undercover and check out some of the schools and trainers. Cost to purchase an airplane has gone up to much for what you get. Four place planes with no cargo spacefor luggage.
    I went to a school for IFR training and the first thing they did was ask me to read these books and after an hour in the air, the instructor could not explain the holding procedure and how to setup the various approaches. And this is the type training out there.

    • Philip Hughes
      Philip Hughes says:

      I got my private pilot license for a total cost of $8000. I consider that a bargain for a “dream come true!”

      • A Diggs
        A Diggs says:

        What year did you receive your Private Pilot Certificate? $8000 sounds good. I’ve just paid out-of-pocket for Ground School training for the Airman’s Knowledge Exam, plus the required fee just to take the exam, for a grand total of $540.97. Today in 2012 for a 2-hour block of flight instrution which includes $50/hour for the instuctor, 129.00/hour for a Cessna 172p, and $60.00 for AV fuel, this leaves us with a grand total $418 for a 2-hr block of instruction. Who can afford this?

  15. Lawrence
    Lawrence says:

    I am a retired male student pilot that finally has the time and money to learn to fly. Now at my age, my reaction time and inability to multitask is low and I do not think I would be a safe pilot. Learning in life now that I should have done things when young, not wait to do them when retired and not have the ability then.

  16. Roy Henderson
    Roy Henderson says:

    I suspect the situation is bleaker than feared….consider the number of pilots as a percentage of the population over the last 20 years. There are may reasons, but government regulation has to be high on the list as a contributor to the problem….stifled advances in GA aircraft, grounded pilots for medical reasons that had little if any effect on flight safety, etc. Is there really a good justification for a Third Class Medical? The recent initiative to allow pilots to fly based upon their drivers license and self assessment limited it to among other things non retractable gear aircraft. What in the world does the type of gear have to do with a medical certificate? Any wonder why most folks give up and decide to buy a Harley or a boat!! General Aviation needs a clean sheet of paper restart!

    • Don T.
      Don T. says:

      You are right on the numbers! Airspace restrictions, fear of the FAA, grounded because of unreailistic medical reasons, high costs. I have been flying for almost 47 years and still fly about 180 hrs a year, am directly responsible for many new pilots and hope to continue to introduce more, but the aforementioned obstacles are making it more and more difficult to bring new people into the game! I also agree that as whole, we lack the spirit that we had to be individuals 30 or 40 yrs. ago.

  17. Nick S
    Nick S says:

    Cost is certainly a factor, but as Richard opines, that’s probably not the main thing. It’s always been expensive, equipment has looked tired for a long time now (my intro flight in ’92 was preceded by my first glimpse of would-be instructor/owner on a step ladder with duct tape re-affixing the tail beacon! And yes, I stuck with him), and fancy FBOs are not the norm around here.
    I submit some additional causes for decline:
    1 – 24/7 information overload including media reporting of EVERYTHING bad, and whether you believe it or not it plants a seed of discouragement and fear
    2 – Same media reporting and sensationalizing of aircraft accidents
    3 – The same litigation that shut down small aircraft manufacturing for several years is just as alive to those FBOs that as a result have ceased ownership of rental aircraft. They just don’t want the risk.
    4 – It is sadly too true that many FBOs not only aren’t openly friendly to an aspiring student, they can be cold and indifferent, if not down right rude. If there is only one FBO in the county and they display that, well that pretty well discourages a 30 – 50 mile radius of potential pilots right there.
    My nickel – Thanks!

  18. Stan Monger
    Stan Monger says:

    I certainly don’t have the answer on how to increase student starts or even to retain the active pilots we currently see, but I do see economics as playing a major role. In my small town in Montana the only consistent flyers I see are either the government or business owners who have a legitimate use and benefit from an aircraft. There just seems to be very few recreational aviators that fly for the pure joy of it. Why has that changed? Again, economics play a role for sure, but I feel that there are just so many different activities/interests pulling people away.
    My daughter shows an interest in learning to fly, but whether or not she takes that all important first step and starts is yet to be seen. Many other interests compete for her attention and ultimately I feel this is hurting general aviation. What can be done? I think Richard hit it on the head by saying that we need to stop focusing on the cost and promote the “value” of flying.

  19. Edward Todd
    Edward Todd says:

    I’ll add another. I grew up in the 1960s when nearly every young man was glued to the TV watching astronauts and dreaming of being one. Now …. Kids in the last few years didn’t even bother watching Shuttle launches. But they are glued to reality TV shows or iPod games. Pilots and astronauts are not the idols of young kids like they were 50 years ago. A shame. :(

    • Dave
      Dave says:

      I learned to fly in the ’60s. A part time job at a fast food joint supported a junker to get me to/from the airport, lessons with an instructor in a 5 year old Cherokee, and a date on Friday or Saturday night. I don’t think that could happen today.

    • Peter T
      Peter T says:

      Edward, I was waiting for someone to raise this point. Even flying an airplane doesn’t get the adrenaline going for the Nintendo generation. All you need to do these days is download some amazing-graphics race simulator to your iPad for $4.99 and you get all the adrenaline you want without leaving the couch. Who needs airplanes??

  20. Edward Todd
    Edward Todd says:

    But I really applaud the EAA who tries very hard with the Young Eagles program to generate interest.

  21. Rich
    Rich says:

    I’d have to say the government is responsible in two way, policies and cost of new aircraft.

    In my case, I had a bout with prostate cancer. Had it removed in late March and was out doing heavy work in the yard within two weeks. Could drive and do anything I wanted except fly. AOPA, and my AME said I’d have to wait 6 months to even submit the paperwork to get my medical back. I fly as a private pilot so it’s not like I’m flying people for hire or doing any type of commercial work. I am seriously thinking that a “fight” with the FAA about my medical state is just not worth it anymore.

    Another along the policies part is prohibiting LSA from flying on instrument flight plans. LSA do have some desirable traits, but with the restrictions imposed on them by the FAA, those traits are negated.

    The FAA has also contributed to costs through their aircraft and equipment certification procedures. Why can I buy an LSA with a modern attitude and heading reference system, up to date engine control and instrumentation systems, and new light weight materials, all at a cost of $150K, when an entry level Cessna 172 or Piper Archer costs twice as much. And if you throw in Experimentals, you can get the same thing for less than $100K. Look at how far autos have advanced in 50 years compared to the almost negligible advance in GA airplanes.

    I think the way they do things in Alaska has some validity – my grandpappy taught my daddy, my daddy taught me, and I don’t need no stinkin’ government agent telling me what to do.

  22. Donnie La Marca
    Donnie La Marca says:

    My dad bought a new 182 in 1974, with those wonderful 300-series ARC radios – full IFR – for $38,000. His flight training through IFR didn’t exceed $2500. I just read about the new Jet-A Skylane for estimated to cost a bit north of a cool half-million bucks. Four seats, no de-ice, etc….and the average cost of a PPL these days is trending toward ten grand. And that’s if you can get a medical, which is another subject entirely.

    We don’t have to look far to see the problem here. For as long as I’ve been gratefully reading every word I can get my hands on about Flying – especially coming from you – the message has always been clear – personal flying is a luxury. Yes, we love it, and yes – advantage after advantage – for sure – but at these prices and with avgas per gallon where it’s at or whatever you send through your pipes – it’s not even believable now. Product liability, then reform, but far fewer buyers for far more sophisticated toys have all but destroyed GA. LSA – sure, fine, but the restrictions are a huge trade off as a way to get around a medical. No disrespect to LSA drivers meant at all – but in my mind, that’s really a big reason for what it exists for. FAA could have just put night and Class B endorsements on a PPL with passenger restrictions, etc…in other words, more privilege with more demostrated ability – such as in the case of a high performance aircraft endorsement, etc.

    We have never had access to more wonderful and safe ways to enjoy GA. Who would have ever dreamed we’d have more sophisiticated GLASS available to GA before the airliners did! But if one can’t afford it, then it is what it is – out of reach. Unless a business foots the bill – we are talking after-tax dollars here. I have two out of five daughters in college at the same time right now. No way in the world for me back into the air until I get out from under that. But every time I hear the sound of an aircraft from LSA to jumbo fly over – my neck cranes. I’ll never stop. My point – the passion never leaves once you’ve been bitten by that flying bug. If I can get there again – I will. You wrote in your book “The Next Hour” about how in your last years of active flying your hours were steadily dropping per year and you viewed that as a serious safety concern. I’m with you completely. So if instead of swirling the pattern in a C-152 for $80/hr wet like I did in 1984 I am looking at close to $200 an hour for a C-172R – I’ll do half or less of that same flying. There’s the rub. Less hours for more money – higher risk. There has got to be some kind of a plan to make real entry into PPL in safe aircraft and enough practice to remain current within reach. Very best regards.

    • Patrick
      Patrick says:

      Donnie, where do you live? “Trending toward ten grand?” Tell me where, I’ll rent a room there for a few months.

      Try 15k to 19k all in. That’s assuming the commonly mentioned 70 hrs rental and instruction. It ain’t cheap. But then again, for the same money you could have half a time share at, I don’t know, Clearwater or Jupiter.

      I know which I’d rather have. Also, who wants half of a time share?

      • Donnie La Marca
        Donnie La Marca says:

        Eden Prairie MN by Flying Cloud Airport. Min req 40 hrs for PPL but avg hours for most is 50-60

      • Donnie La Marca
        Donnie La Marca says:

        Eden Prairie MN by Flying Cloud Airport. Min req 40 hrs for PPL but avg hours for most is 50-60. For the record…IMHO…pilot all the way here so Ill skip the time share if in trade I can get some air under me safely.

  23. Keith Bumsted
    Keith Bumsted says:

    Richard’s analysis and insight is, as usual, right on! A declining pilot population is only one of many symptoms of an ailing and endangered segment of general aviation, the business and personal group. At today’s prices for everything having to do with airplanes, if the bills are being paid with after-tax disposable income, it would take a substantial pre-tax income to afford even entry level flying. Heading the list is fuel cost that is now north of $6.00 per gallon. When I sold my P-Baron a few years ago, 100LL was available at my FBO for $2.40 per gallon. Now, to top off the tanks after a 4-hour trip would ruin a $1,000 bill, and that’s just for fuel. How many trips would you like to take at that price, Sir? People who say that aviation has always been expensive and if you have to ask the price then you probably can’t afford it are also the ones who are quietly dropping out as evidenced by the declining pilot population and reduction in hours flown. Unless you have an airplane that is used for the production of income (i.e., business travel) where costs are pre-tax, it is a heavy price to pay for anyone, and that assumes most other living expenses are adequately covered. If one factors in opportunity costs, personal aviation loses every time and will continue to do so until the cost structure of the industry is revised.

    If you want to see how totally whacked out airplane prices are, compare the cost of a shiny new Cessna 162 with an Airstream Interstate RV, or a new Cessna 172 with a Bentley. If lined up side by side, the Cessna products elicit a “you’ve got to be kidding” response. Yes, I know the automotive and aviation markets are different, but the comparisons above both involve limited production machines that require similar inputs of materials, labor and overhead. The old joke about airplane parts pricing, that you simply put a dollar sign in front of the part number, still seems relevant.

    In my view, general aviation is simply roadkill on the financial highway that has been engineered by Wall Street banks, Big Oil, and the politicians who have been bought off to the detriment of the American people and the public interest. If we insist on treating the symptoms such as the declining pilot population or high fuel costs as singular issues, then we’ll never address the underlying issues and market forces will eventually decide the fate of the industry much to everyone’s chagrin.

    As Einstein once said, “We cannot solve our current problems unless we change the thought processes that led to the creation of those problems!” Keep that in mind as you step into the ballot box in November.

    • Jason
      Jason says:

      I’m sorry, how did Wall St. cause this? Wall Street didn’t cause any of this. Extreme federal regulation and legal precedence have driven the cost of aviation to these insane levels. I’m sorry, but the problem with price in aviation isn’t $6 gas, it’s $500,000 trainers and $10,000/year insurance. None of these things are attributable to Wall St, my friend. Free Market Capitalism has lowered the price of pretty much everything on the planet. Regulation and liability are the prime culprits. The goods you compare above – which ones have to go through federal certification and ongoing AD compliance? What is your car or RV insurance compared to you aircraft? Now we have user fees in Obama’s sights – that will be the death knell. Please remember this when you enter the voting booth this November.

      • Edward Todd
        Edward Todd says:

        “….Now we have user fees in Obama’s sights – that will be the death knell. Please remember this when you enter the voting booth this November….”

        Worth repeating.

      • John
        John says:

        Jason, I can tell you first hand that “Wall St” and banks are not free markets; they are heavily regulated; that is the problem–too many regulations everywhere we turn in society now.

  24. Nicole
    Nicole says:

    I was lucky enough to experience and fall in love with piloting in 6th grade at camp but 5 grand for a license was and still is out of the question.

  25. Dan Baxter
    Dan Baxter says:

    Just today I reached agreement to sell my 1946 Stinson and end my years of flying. I have read FLYING since 1959, started lessons in 1970 and resumed in 1981 to receive my license. Over the years, I have owned seven airplanes and flown only for personal transportation.
    When I retired, I left my Stinson where it was while I moved to another state. There were no available hangars where I moved, the medical issues became for and more of a hassle, and the costs were always climbing.
    I miss it, and I miss seeing airplanes in the air above me. I am outside frequently, and I could count the general aviation flyovers each day on my fingers. In my last six years of flying, I made sure that I always took someone along who was not a flyer in order to introduce them to the joys. The uniformly enjoyed the experience, but no one was the least interested in pursuing it for themselves.
    Our general aviation experience in endangered. I mourn its decline.

  26. Justin B
    Justin B says:

    I prepared myself for the cost of attaining my PPL so that was no surprise. I did however mislead myself into thinking that once I had my certificate that I could economically gain some hours. I thought I could find a less expensive plane or maybe a flying club or a reasonalbe rental. Living in a city of approx 100,000 people, an Air Force Base, and three three airports you would think this within reason. I now have the ONE rental that I trained in available to me at $125/hr wet. One of our local CFI’s has made effort to start a club but is having trouble getting people and plane to get it started. We all know that flying will never be “economical” but for those of us that really want to stay proficient and enjoy flying we can make “reasonalble” work.

  27. C Umphlette
    C Umphlette says:

    If you really want to fly you find a way, I flew a recreational flight Sunday for 4 hours and a direct cost of $18.00 dollars. Gas for a towplane to launch a 78 Schweizer sailplane. My wife and I are both pilots and own two sailplanes. She started lessons while working at a 7-11 and I was a city shift worker. And, we drive old cars, have a small paid for house, bicycle to work, and don’t have silly cable and phone bills. I have had visitors stop at our home field and right off say they always wanted to fly but couldn’t afford to, and I look over at a 50K plus car while the “wished they were pilots” list why they are not flying! As most other posters had noted, there are a multitude of reasons and problems that limit the pilot numbers, but if you really burn to fly, you can find a way.

  28. Edward Todd
    Edward Todd says:

    I’m driving a 1999 car with no payments. The average car payment is probably equal to two hours a month of flying a rental. I will always drive a used junk car I pay cash for. Flying is the priority. :)

  29. Jason
    Jason says:

    My generation doesn’t do anything hard. Why? Everything else is easy to use, some assembly required and delivered in 30 minutes or it’s free. Getting your PP cert is hard work, takes a lot of studying and, mainly, it takes a lot of failing and humble pie. It’s math. It’s science. Then tell them that you will be stuck in Evansville, IN for 3 days unless you get your Instrument. What’s that? Not fun at all – pretty much the worst parts of PP training, rolled into one long segment.

    I don’t see a realistic solution, I really don’t. The gov keeps getting bigger, JFK JR is still the face of GA and American’s don’t heed his father’s advice of ‘not doing things because they are easy, but because they are hard.’ We used to be a country of adventurers, not adventure comes with free lessons at a Harley dealership. Rebellious is now drinking light beer on a weekday.

  30. Phil
    Phil says:

    “The factors most commonly cited when discussing the decline are money and time. Those are excuses, though, not factors. Flying has always been expensive and learning how to use an airplane has always taken a lot of time.”

    That statement is about the most ridiculous one I have heard in quite some time! I see it as there are several items that are contributing factors to this issue and expense is being one of them. Both of my brothers have received their PPL in the late 80’s and cost them around #2,800.00. I am currently a student at a community college that offers a professional pilot degree program and to receive my PPL cost me right about $10,500 (thank goodness for Federal Student Loans). I’m lucky in the fact my airplane rentals from the school are a “wet” rate and I don’t have to fork out the cash for the fuel on top of $122.00/hr for 172 and $40.00/hr for instructor. Other people have mentioned in previous posts that the disposable income for the middle class have pretty much remain stagnant for the past 20 years but everything else has gone up. I agree with that statement as well. There are not many people this day and age that can afford 10,5K extra for what is basically a luxury. In my PPL class when I started there were about 30 people that started, graduation day only about 3 of us actually graduated! That’s one heck of a dropout rate. Many people that dropped out said they just could not afford to go on.

    I just spent 10,5K on a PPL. “Now what am I going to do with it?” If I am planning on advancing through the entire ratings, you will fork over about $40,000 minimum to get all your ratings, then good luck trying to find somebody that will hire a low time pilot. With the new “pilot improvement act” what was pasted, good luck trying to fly for an airline as a new pilot without having tones of hours and no easy way to get those hours. If you go that route the LOW wages for a pilot does not match the return on your investment, and trust me, allot of young people look at that as ask themselves “why would I want to do that, when I can do this career for triple the income and lower cost of training?”

    Also, buying an airplane is not really a feasible option for many either due to the cost of an airplane, plus all the maintenance to go along with it, then 6.00 – 7.00 in gas per gallon to fill the tanks. Not the average person can afford that cost. It’s cheaper to fly commercial or drive for that price because the average person just can’t afford to get in an airplane anymore. GA has and is continuing to become a luxury that the average person just cannot afford anymore.

    • Peter T
      Peter T says:

      Phil, I believe you are underlining Richard’s point exactly. It took just as much disposable cost and sacrifice when I got my PPL in 1984. The average person has never been able to afford flying (or sailing for that matter). If I think back on the guys that my Dad partnered with in his first few airplanes, they were all successful engineers, computer geeks and business owners. But back then flying was an adventure, and a larger % of the population saw a value in making that sacrifice. Today, kids get enough adventure behind the computer screen, and adults just don’t have the same sense of value. If I tried to add up the economics of keeping our Archer in the air today, I’d never fly again. But to me there is magic in seeing the farmland from 1,000 AGL and dropping into the small town strip to do a few touch n go’s, mixing it up with the AgCat’s and Air Tractors. And then I turn the other way when the fuel pump rings up $100.

  31. Mike Barlow
    Mike Barlow says:

    Hi Richard, I respect you as a pilot, but as a communicator you need a proficiency review. I am a pilot and I am the proud dad of two student pilots. Richard, as a parent, I can tell you categorically that your approach to the problem is wrong-headed and doomed to fail.

    Your tone is negative, judgemental and self-defeating. My kids and all the other kids who fly will only laugh at your self-indulgent and genuinely mean assertion: “One reason there are fewer pilots is because the mood in our country has changed. There is more of a tendency today for people to be needy and dependent and risk-averse. That is not a good demographic for flight training or for flying.”

    Your next paragraph is even worse: “The only real way to increase interest in flying is to appeal to people who have a strong sense of independent individualism. The risks can’t be minimized. In fact, flying is something that takes a good mix of intelligence and coordination, both physical and mental. Lacking that, flying can be downright hazardous to your health. In other words, wimps are not good prospects for flying.”

    Do you really think that by insulting an entire demographic segment of the population you will inspire more of them to become pilots?

    Yes, the culture has changed. But no, young Americans are not wimps, as you suggest. And they are certainly not risk-averse. What they lack are inspirational role models. If you provide the role model, the kids will follow your example. Ranting about the sorry state of today’s “culture” is unproductive and unhelpful. If we really want to create more pilots, we need to inspire people and help them appreciate the incredible sense of excitement and wonder that draws people like us into the skies.

    • Edward Todd
      Edward Todd says:

      I’ll agree on that one. Look at the young folks who will travel far to hang glide or base jump off mountains, or snow board to the extremes. Rock climbing all over the world in dangerous place and so much more.

      Yes, we still have adventure. But as you say, its role models. Which goes back to my post above about growing up in the 60s with astronauts and test pilots as role models. The role models now are in the olympics with snow boards.

      Its a different world.

      • Peter T
        Peter T says:

        Edward, Mike, I agree that we cannot categorize a society as being all wimpy, but putting Richard’s argument in another light, I do believe the adventurer/wimp ratio has decreased in America. I didn’t interpret his statements to be blanket generalizations, but rather trend indicatory.

  32. Charles Lilly
    Charles Lilly says:

    I love reading all of these notams. Yeah I was an active little flyer from 14 y.o. in the Civil Air Patrol, got my license for single engine land, flew well into the 80’s and then Kids came along and they kind’ve curbed my favorite adventures. Unless you fly at least 5 hours a month, you are looking for an accident. I have gone out with an Instructor and my Kids on several occassions, just to feel that crosswind and sink rate for landing. I was so fortunate to fly a glider in San Jose with Instructor and my 3 year old Daughter as we swooped down along the San Gabriel Mountains, scaring the horses below. I really respect old Collins Guy, he’s done more flying than a sack of 100 of us. My bucket list includes some instruction in a float plane in Alaska. Whoopie.

  33. Peter Cassidy
    Peter Cassidy says:

    I agree with Richard’s argument that the core problem with GA is the lack of value it provides today. We each have our sense of value and it depends on what our primary use of aircraft is; business or pleasure; transortation or sport. For me it’s always been about transportation. I like the fun of flying, but the main reason I fly is so I can get somewhere faster and easier than the alternatives. In my 50 plus years of flying and three airplanes, I’ve seen the value of going by GA decline considerably versus the alternatives of take the car or take the airline. I fly a Bonanza whose performance has not changed materially since I got my license in 1959. The refinements made in the last 50 years like in avionics have made flying easier, but have not helped the value gap. In the meantine , the road system has improved, cars go much faster and are more comfortable, the airlines offer more flights that are cheaper in much more comfortable planes.

    If GA is to be revived, the transportation value proposition must get significantly better. When this happens, people will want to learn to fly again in significant numbers. I believe this will happen one day. New technology and the same kind of creativity, foresight, and entrepreneurial spirit that guys like Walter Beech and Clyde Cessna created GA with in the first place, will one day figure this out. I hope I’m around to see it. In the meantime we can expect the market to decline along with the number of pilots, except for the airlines.

    • Charles Lilly
      Charles Lilly says:

      Thanks Peter Cassidy for helping me open my eyes and dusting off my wings to give GA another shot, my Kids are out of College, now I can afford to buy a used 747, well, maybe just rent an old 172. I didn’t mention that all of these GPS navigation took out a little risk from flying VFR…I should know, I was a fool for getting myself into IFR conditions stupid stupid stupid, but I simply told the Tower humbly that I was going to squawk 7700, and they always got me to safety.

  34. SkyMachines
    SkyMachines says:

    I recently flew all over the Kansas City area on beautiful Thursday at around lunch time. I visited 4 airports, and I was the only piston single operating at ANY of them, except for one Cessna in the pattern at MKC. I really questioned the need for a tower at OJC after that, which used to be 2nd busiest airport, after MKC. When I last flew there, 25 years ago, the patterns at all these airports were full of trainees. MKC had at least 2 flight schools, if not 3. Now there is one with a couple of old Cessnas. Not a good sign.

    I am also an active, part-time CFI in Santa Fe, NM. Early in 2010, I did a bunch of advertising for my mountain flying and IFR refresher courses in the classifieds in the back of AOPA Pilot, Plane & Pilot and EAA. Also advertised private and sport pilot in the local newspaper. I got so much business from those ads that I had to pull them. In 2012, I put the exact same ads in the same publications and had to pull them after a few months because there were no calls coming in to justify them. I got zero students from them. 2012 seems like a better year overall in the non-aviation economy, but that doesn’t appear to be true in the light plane aviation economy. Local FBOs tell me 100LL sales are down every year vs. the previous.

    • Charles Lilly
      Charles Lilly says:

      Thanks SkyMachines for helping me open my eyes and dusting off my wings to give GA another shot, my Kids are out of College, now I can afford to buy a used 747, well, maybe just rent an old 172. I didn’t mention that all of these GPS navigation took out a little risk from flying VFR…I should know, I was a fool for getting myself into IFR conditions stupid stupid stupid, but I simply told the Tower humbly that I was going to squawk 7700, and they always got me to safety.

    • Raul Sandoval
      Raul Sandoval says:

      Hi. I read a lot of your posts, but in particular, your post interested me in that I went through all of my training, but my checkride in itself was the worst nightmare of my life. But I want to return to aviation, and noticing that you run a flight school, i was wondering what are the prices in New Mexico in contrast to Southern California, I just need to be up to speed to re-take a checkride, any information would be very helpful in terms of time and cost to finish up, thanks.

  35. M. Gillis
    M. Gillis says:

    I’ve followed Richard Collins for years through my FLYING magazine subscription. Richard’s articles have always been informative, thought provoking, and even humorous. However, I strongly disagree with his statement “Flying has always been expensive and learning how to use an airplane has always taken a lot of time”

    Having just turned 58 years old and finding myself with a little extra time and money I decided to live my dream and acquire my PPL. The flight school outlines a variety of choices and options to suit the needs of any wanna be pilot.

    I recall as a youngster my older brother obtaining his PPL… dual was $18.00/hr. solo was $12.00/hr. and if I remember correctly the entire cost to get his licence 35Hrs. was $600.00 and he got $400.00 back from the Government.

    To be fair this was 1965, but do the math. I have over 46Hrs in a 172, which has taken me over 12 months(I still have to work a 9 to 5) I’m currently north of $9000.00 and ballooning. I’m told that I’ll probably have to complete 80Hrs.

    Before you dismiss me as a slow learner, this is an average time commitment at our club. If somebody had sat me down and explained the real cost in “time and money” I’d probably still be gazing skyward wishing someday to slip the surly bonds of earth.

    In my humble opinion it’s all about “time and money” the average Jill or Joe ie. GA pilot does not have enough of either.

    • Charles Lilly
      Charles Lilly says:

      Thanks M. Gillis for helping me open my eyes and dusting off my wings to give GA another shot, my Kids are out of College, now I can afford to buy a used 747, well, maybe just rent an old 172. I didn’t mention that all of these GPS navigation took out a little risk from flying VFR…I should know, I was a fool for getting myself into IFR conditions stupid stupid stupid, but I simply told the Tower humbly that I was going to squawk 7700, and they always got me to safety.
      I was pushing my luck. I still like that smell of avgas and propwash coming over the cowl.

  36. SkyMachines
    SkyMachines says:

    It costs about $7000 to get a Sport Pilot Certificate in the 2010 Remos GX we have for rent at our airport for $103. Instruction is $54. It costs roughly $10,000 for a private. To that, I tell prospects they need to spend at least $5,000 per YEAR to stay current, more if they really want to travel anywhere. With a pinched middle class, I think there are just fewer and fewer people who want or can pay that for a hobby.

    And, as another poster said above, golf is down, tennis is down, horseback riding is down, dinner parties are down…EVERYTHING is down. All people want to do now is look at screens all day and all night. It’s a lot easier to watch Flying Wild Alaska and fly a cool plane in X-Plane than learning to fly the real thing. And far, far less expensive.

    • Charles Lilly
      Charles Lilly says:

      Well Sir, you are right. costs are keeping us all down, except for the Banks that we bailed out. I have discovered a way to fill my joy of Aviation by joining a Sailplane Club. We have 3 Club gliders, and 25 privately owned ones. Some dual, some single seat high performance. It’s an alternative until I can navigate through my Nations status on the economy. If we get off to a good start, I’m going after my Instrument, multiengine, and CFI, if however the U.S. sinks back into another recession, I have nothing to lose except my $700 initiation fee. Still a Club glider costs $15 an hour plus $30 for a tow to 2500 to 3000 feet and you can ride those ridgewaves and thermals until you have to go pee really bad. Where is SkyMachines?

  37. Todd
    Todd says:

    Great start to the series. I look forward to the next four posts. I agree with MikePrevost that not enough weight was put on the economic factors. When I learned to fly in 2004 I did it for under $5K. I think few now earn their PPL for less than $10K and I don’t think people are making significantly more now compared to 2004.

    I love your closing quote “Back in the good old days, when people found out you were a pilot they often said that they always wanted to do that. Now they are more likely to ask why you would want to do that. That needs to change.” I have been asked “why” I fly countless times and you are right years ago know one would have asked that question but instead asked about how they might do it.

    • Charles Lilly
      Charles Lilly says:

      Well Todd, you are right. costs are keeping us all down, except for the Banks that we bailed out. I have discovered a way to fill my joy of Aviation by joining a Sailplane Club. We have 3 Club gliders, and 25 privately owned ones. Some dual, some single seat high performance. It’s an alternative until I can navigate through my Nations status on the economy. If we get off to a good start, I’m going after my Instrument, multiengine, and CFI, if however the U.S. sinks back into another recession, I have nothing to lose except my $700 initiation fee. Still a Club glider costs $15 an hour plus $30 for a tow to 2500 to 3000 feet and you can ride those ridgewaves and thermals until you have to go pee really bad.

  38. SkyMachines
    SkyMachines says:

    At my local pilots group, we meet for coffee every week, but no one can afford to go flying (or they don’t have a BFR or a medical.) When we put on a FAAst Team Wings seminar, we get a good turnout, but all of the hair is gray…add 10 years to the current group of active pilots and we will have about 1/2 as many. That’s scary.

    Flying has gotten more complicated, more regulated, and more expensive. I seriously wonder why anyone who doesn’t have a lot of money, a desire to fly for a career, a business reason, or a 2nd home 12 car-hours away would want to go through it.

    I think AOPA has it right that the secret is flying clubs. When I was learning, I was able to rent a 172 from my flying club for about 25% less than the local flight school could afford to offer. We also had fly-outs to interesting places and interesting speakers. If we can’t afford to fly 50 hrs. a year at $100, a flying club probably won’t help much, but if we can, it could provide us with more airplane than we could otherwise rent.

  39. Bill Gerhard
    Bill Gerhard says:

    I consider myself fortunate to fly a modern S-LSA at < 5 gph when the fuel cost has risen to $ 6.75 at my airport. Imagine paying twice as much for a rented tired C172 that does not perform better than the LSA except for an additional seat (the 4th one cannot be filled anyway).
    The other day I fell in love with a DA40 on the ramp (in leaseback to the flight school). After enjoying it greatly for 1.1 hrs, with the instructor in the right seat, I wrote a check for about $ 300.00.
    I had a hard time explaining this to my wife (AND justifying the expense to myself).
    The dream of flying will remain with every generation, but at the moment IT'S THE ECONOMY of it all; it' quickly becoming unaffordable for the average guy and gal.

  40. Keith Bogut
    Keith Bogut says:

    I’m a 57 year old student pilot, working towards a Light Sport certificate. Here are my thoughts.

    Cost IS a factor. Not only the cost of getting your ticket, but figuring out how to take advantage of it once you do. It costs me $150/hr for an LSA and a CFI. As a renter, that cost would go down to $100/hr (wet) for the airplane alone. At that rate, cross country trips are out of the question. I’ve got a pilot friend that lives 250 miles away. Visiting him out and back would cost a minimum of $400, and more if he wanted to fly once I got there. That’s a lot of money for a few hours of fun. I’ll do it once or twice a year, but it’s just not practical on a frequent basis. As bad as that sounds, they say that when you include all the costs of ownership, renting is still the cheapest flying you can do. For me, flying a small kit plane (like a Quad City Challenger) is where I’ll probably end up, and ideally, I’d like to have one or two partners to share even those costs. LSA’s and SP hasn’t done anything to lower the cost of flying.

    On LSA’s and Sport Pilot. The reason I’m getting the SP is because I know the kind of flying I want to do fits that license (day VFR, one passenger, short trips). I don’t need to carry 3 passengers and 300lbs of cargo, and I don’t want to fly a plane that burns 8-10 gallons of 100LL per hour. One problem with LSA is there aren’t many old ones around, and finding one to rent can be a problem. New LSA’s cost between $100K-150K. That’s more than most can afford, and that doesn’t include the annual costs of registration, hangar, insurance, or annuals.

    The weight capacity of LSA’s is an issue. You talk about safety perceptions, telling someone you could take them up but you’d have to drain half your fuel first, is a bucket of cold water. They should allow 400-500 pounds with full fuel (IMO), but that’s another discussion.

    On older airplanes. Students know that 40 year old airplanes are safe, that’s not the issue. Old planes are cramped, they look their age, they’re full of outdated equipment, and the windows are small. Compared to LSA’s, 172’s are gas hogs. People complain about LSA weight limits, but flying a 172 at 8-10 gph by yourself is expensive. The industry needs to address fuel economy, but that’s hard to do with 40 year old airplanes.

    To be honest, I still don’t know that I’ll ever do much flying, but I’ve decided to get my ticket and see where I can go from there. From a student perspective, being able to see a path to having access to reasonably cost aircraft AFTER you get your license would help more people pull the trigger on lessons.

  41. Jeff
    Jeff says:

    I got my license back in 2001. In fact, I took my written on 9/11/2001… What a day to remember.

    I no longer fly. I still have the desire, but with a terrible economy, and ever rising cost’s, I can no longer afford to fly.

    The club that I flew out of is no longer in business, and the new owners say that because I’ve not flown for more than 5 years that they’re requiring at least 10 hours with their CFI to cover their insurance requirments. So, a wet plane @ $150 p/hr, + their CFI @ $50 p/hr, plus any other fees and training to become current again…
    The cost’s go on and on. I can’t see spending another $3k-$4k just to fly again.

    Maybe, just maybe there are others out there in the same boat. It would be really nice to find a mentor that would allow someone such as myself to use their plane and help more people become current again so that we can keep the sport, hobby, way of life from dwindling down to a very few people.

    • Keith Bogut
      Keith Bogut says:

      Jeff raised a good point. So many privately owned airplanes sit in their hangars 360 days per year. It would be great if owners would take students flying. With the owner as PIC, and the student paying for gas, it would be win-win. The owner gets to fly for free (he’s already paying all the other costs) and the student gets practice. It wouldn’t count towards his PPL, but it would improve his skills and lower the number of CFI/rental hours he need.

  42. SkyMachines
    SkyMachines says:

    Most years, as a part-time aircraft broker, I would have sold 4-6 airplanes by this time of year. This year, I sold one in Feb. and that’s it. Granted, the planes I’ve had listed since then have been 1970s, in average condition and equipment, and needed some kind of updating. But they were priced right and had attractive total times in most cases. Normally, they would have sold. But it’s really hard to convince a young person that what they need to buy is a 35-year-old plane…they’d rather share the cost of a 10 year old plane with two others, and I don’t blame them. Why 1970s airframe prices aren’t showing the results of this baffles me. I have a new rule: I’m declining listings earlier than 1980 unless they have recent paint, interior and avionics.

  43. SkyMachines
    SkyMachines says:

    Flying just isn’t “cool” anymore. Kids don’t fantasize about doing it or look up at the sky when they hear a plane. They would rather fly Flight Simulator’s F22 Raptor than a real Cessna. They also don’t have the stick-to-ed-ness that is required. (I tell students a private license is about as much work as taking 3 college classes.) If it’s not for a career, today’s young people don’t want to invest the money and time, if they have it.

    The public only thinks about small planes and their pilots when they crash. The rest of the time, they think of pilots as airline drivers who they have read have a crappy job.

  44. Dale Olsen
    Dale Olsen says:

    1. Cost. It isn’t just the cost itself, flying has always been somewhat expensive, but it seems that the cost/benefit ratio has gotten way out of whack, unless one has a good business use for an airplane. An airplane can be an outstanding business tool and easily justified, but for just pleasure use, it is difficult to justify the expense.

    2. Airspace/regulations complexity. It isn’t just the complexity of airspace and regulations, it is also the draconian consequences of violations of the same. Sharing the airspace with others is serious business, and demands a “professional” diligence.
    Though I spent my entire working career as a professional pilot, I now find myself somewhat intimidated any time I am nearing “sophisticated” airspace, especially VFR!

    3. Onerous medical requirements. Except for commercial operations, there is little requirement for FAA medicals.

    So, if you have a “need” for an airplane, go for it! If you are doing for just “fun”, it probably isn’t worth the trouble and cost, unless you are wealthy.


  45. tom
    tom says:

    Wimps and priorities: I remember when horsepower sold cars. Now it’s the number of airbags. Perhaps a single data point, but I think it is in agreement with Dick’s assessment that we have bred a race of risk-averse people. Have a flat tire? Call AAA. Ditto if you run out of gas. Or throw an engine belt. Read the glove box manual? Not a clue. Self sufficient? Not a chance.

    I too drive an old car and use it to tanker mogas to my old plane and do as much maintenance as possible on both. But I grew up on a farm, did missile maintenance in the USAF, know how to read a repair manual and which end of a screwdriver to use as a chisel.

    And I’ve given wide berth to gizmos that cost more than the hull is worth and annual database update costs that exceed the cost of the gizmo. I deeply thank Mike Busch at, the guys at and for their advice on maintenance, operation and cutting cost to what’s necessary rather than what ‘experts’ think.

    I rented for years. Taught in them too. Then i taught in my plane until 9/11 made insurance cost more than I grossed instructing, so I quit instructing and insurance altogether.

    Civil Air Patrol is a way to get a foot in the door as either a pilot or observer. If you don’t mind rules up the wazoo look into CAP. Becoming an observer/scanner/gadget operator is a way to learn and experience a lot of aviation without the responsibility and flight checks the pilots suffer. We used to have five C-182s and 20 ‘qualified’ CAP pilots with the goal of at least 200 hrs/tail/year. Sometimes I logged up to 450 hrs/year doing SAR, training and cadet orientation rides. I did it for 17 years until the taxpayers bought them new ‘glass’ toys that few qualify to fly and they threw away perfectly good legacy aircraft anyone could fly. Such is bureaucracy.

  46. Alan Harper
    Alan Harper says:

    I have been retired 6 years and have owned my 182 , 27 years. It seems that Aviation is becomming more and more restrictive and expensive. The new Next Generation stuff is nice but at what price. We are now forced to buy expensive WASS radios, keep data bases current and our VOR radios are now junk. In my area they are shutting all VOR’s within a 50 mile radius of my Home Airport. We will soon not be able to fly VFR anywhere.

  47. Charles Lilly
    Charles Lilly says:

    Well Sir, you are right. costs are keeping us all down, except for the Banks that we bailed out. I have discovered a way to fill my joy of Aviation by joining a Sailplane Club. We have 3 Club gliders, and 25 privately owned ones. Some dual, some single seat high performance. It’s an alternative until I can navigate through my Nations status on the economy. If we get off to a good start, I’m going after my Instrument, multiengine, and CFI, if however the U.S. sinks back into another recession, I have nothing to lose except my $700 initiation fee. Still a Club glider costs $15 an hour plus $30 for a tow to 2500 to 3000 feet and you can ride those ridgewaves and thermals until you have to go pee really bad.

  48. Brent Dalrymple
    Brent Dalrymple says:

    Here is a bit of perspective on cost. I got my PPL in 1959 and, at the time, could rent a Piper Tripacer wet for $14/hour from the local FBO. The cost of living index has increased by a factor of 7.8 since 1959, so that $14/hour would be equivalent to $109/hour today. My flying club rents a 1976 Cessna 172, GPS-equipped and nicely maintained, for $100/hour wet and a 2005 Cessna 172SP with G1000 and autopilot for $125/hour wet, both far more capable airplanes than the Tripacer was in 1959. So the cost of renting an aircraft hasn’t gone up a lot for those of us fortunate enough to belong to an economical and well-managed non-profit flying club. It has gone up a bit more for those who must rent from a FBO. What has more than doubled is the time and resulting cost it takes to earn a PPL. I got mine after 38 hours (only 35 hours was required then), which was not all that unusual then, but now it takes most student pilots nearly double that or more. This has greatly increased the entry price and time required to be come a pilot. The reason for the increased learning time is that airplanes, airspace, and regulations are much more complex than they were 60 years ago.
    My take is that flying has always been expensive, is not a whole lot more expensive than it was 60 years ago considering inflation, and that other factors causing the decline in the pilot population, many of which are discussed above and in Richard’s blog, are more significant. Certainly, reducing the learning time to PPL would help a lot.

    • John
      John says:

      where did you get your factor of 7.8? that equates to 4% inflation per year every year for the last 53 years. you think incomes have increased that much?

  49. cowznbullz
    cowznbullz says:

    After reading these posts, it seems the cost of obtaining a PPL is one of the big reasons. Since when does it take 80 hrs. What has changed and why??? Yes it was awhile back that I got mine “69”. Took the check ride with 41 hrs. It appears to me that CFI’s have forgot how teach people how to FLY. Yes there are some more things going on now,but 80 hrs GET REAL!!! $10,000 for a PPL is out reach for most people.

  50. Mike Ellis
    Mike Ellis says:

    I wonder if it would be helpfull, if us Pilots wore hats or shirts that identified us as pilots. We are the best advertisement for GA. We need to be available to anyone with questions and to encourage those that show interest. We can explain that Flying does not have to be super expensive, there are clubs that make it relatively cheap.

    Right now, with airports looking like armed camps, a lot of folks who might be interested are not willing to cross the fence to ask questions.

    We need to sell GA.

  51. Edward Todd
    Edward Todd says:

    1976 in a Part 141 small school. Got my PPL in just 36 hours over 6 months. I don’t understand his talk of 60-80 hours unless its Schools making up for the fewer number of students by getting more $$$ from the remaining ones. :(

  52. Kayak Jack
    Kayak Jack says:

    Not to oversimplify, but all of Life is choices. We each have our own value system and priorities. We “don’t have enough time/money/etc. to do the things we would only like to do”. But we can find enough time/money/etc. to do the things we really want to.

    Whether we believe we can, or we believe we can’t – we’re right. We can choose to let something stop us, and blame it. Or, we can choose to overcome that hurdle. It’s a personal choice. Ya gotta wanna.

    Or, ya don’t.

  53. Jim
    Jim says:

    I believe the number one reason for pilot decline in the last forty years has been the huge decline in middle class disposable income due to it’s redirection to the One Percent. Your basic middle class young or old type of guy or girl just can’t afford to fly whether they have a license or not. Also, very few have the 25,000 to 50,000 or 150,000 to buy a plane especially since many are loaded down with school loan debt of the same amount for that education everyone tells them that they can’t live without. Too much of the disposable income has been sucked in to stratosphere to pay for corporate jets and $500,000 Cirrus’s. There is nothing left for the dreamers and little guys and there are a lot of them. If nothing is done about changing the flow of cash in this country I can’t see how this decline can be turned around. Perhaps our next election will make a difference?

    • Edward Todd
      Edward Todd says:

      Geez. Don’t even try the One Percent talk and act like a victim.

      As I said above, I drive a 1999 used car. My neighbor buys a new car as soon as he pays off the current one. His car payment would easily get him a couple hours of flying rentals each month. Add in he 4 wheeler and bass boat … And he easily spends more on his hobbies than I do on mine. Folks with RV campers spend more on their hobby than I do flying. Those guns and the hunting club membership … same there.

      Don’t blame politics. It’s all about personal choices for most people. Many like fishing more than flying.

      • Jim
        Jim says:

        Edward, The discussion was about the declining pilot population, not your used car or its political ramifications. As a current pilot I simply offered my opinion which I have a right to do on this forum concerning why this decline in new pilot starts situation has happened. I’ve noticed it as real estate developers eat up airports all over the country. Hopefully something can be done and if the government got involved in helping I think that would help.

  54. Ian
    Ian says:

    I have just turned 60 and I am practicing for my check ride for a sport pilot license.
    My view is that the most economical way to get into flying is as a sport pilot. There are so many advantages to Flying a LSA that the majority of the general public don’t know about. They should be the target demographic to grow this, dare I say “sport”!!!!

    These are some of the advantages that I never knew about before I got started:

    1) Brand spanking new aircraft like the Sportcruiser (Piper sport)
    2) the latest avionics i.e. full glass cockpits
    3) Total 20 hrs training is all that is needed ( if you are good enough!)
    4) Considerably lower costs to learn and fly
    5) Drivers license instead of a stringent medical
    6) The most important of all, is that I believe these aircraft are a lot safer……. let me explain before someone blows their top. Most of the LSA’s have a Balistic parachute. The modern glass avionics
    “Talk” to the PIC with verbal and audible warnings. Wind direction and terrain are also clearly shown. These avionics are a lot simpler to read.
    7) The rules for operating as a Sport pilot are pretty restrictive in a good way; that favors light winds, good weather, not flying through clouds and no night flying.

    I believe that this is the kind of imformation that should be marketed to the general public.
    I guarantee that they have never heard of a Sport pilot license. I believe that marketing should be directed to Car, boating, off road, radio control magazines etc.

    Flying IS still a very exiting experience. Remove the perception of 30 year old tattered and torn aircraft and high costs with educating the general public about the excitement of modern aviation as a fun sport.

    I got the bug!

  55. paul whitaker
    paul whitaker says:

    Many people are passionate about flying but we lack the tools to pass that passion on to our friends. I’ve told a hundred people that I would take them flying but when the opportunity arises, it’s just too hard to remember everyone I ever made that promise to and I just go by myself. That’s a missed opportunity to hook a new potential pilot.

    Long story short, I have been building YALLDO Flying to fix that problem. It works, I fly more for less money because I never fly with an empty seat, and I’ve introduced a lot of new people to flying some of which I’m helping to find a place to start taking lessons.

    It’s totally free, it’s a facebook app and you get get to it through yalldo dot com

  56. Jerplane
    Jerplane says:

    “The factors most commonly cited when discussing the decline are money and time. Those are excuses, though, not factors. Flying has always been expensive and learning how to use an airplane has always taken a lot of time”

    Well, cost ‘IS’ the issue for me. I am making a bit more money now than when I learned to fly but the cost of renting airplanes has more than doubled in the 12 years I have been flying. My income has not doubled. It is no longer practical or affordable to travel to Wichita from Denver by renting 172’s at the flight school/club. Sad but true. I have two boys’ ages 11 and 13 that love to fly with me and love aviation in general. Unfortunately, I will not be able to afford to get them through flight training due to COST. Two less student start-ups. I understand the flight schools need to make money, but when I am renting the exact same airplanes (tail numbers) and paying double what I paid when I learned, how can that be justified? I know I fly way less now and no longer use GA for cross country flights. It’s sad. It’s a dying industry.

  57. Greg
    Greg says:

    Ok, i’ve browsed thru the responses, but here’s the deal…

    We live in a drive thru, microwave ready world. People want things as easy and convenient for them as possible. Work is simply something that gets in the way of thier free time. More and more people want incomes, not jobs. Therefore according to society, travel and eating and everthing should be simple, cheap and easy.

    Gone are the days of the “getting there is part of the adventure”. We’re all engrossed in our phones/ipods/facebook to stop and smell the roses. We’re an overstimulated group of humans that is so busy that we can even take a look around to appreciate what is going on, let alone take the time and expense of something so politically incorrect as flying ones own airplane! I mean, that must be for the rich! They are the scum of the earth according to the media and the current administration. Why would we do anything like that as we’d be in thier “club” of fortuntate ones. We need to whine and be the victims…

    When Southwest Airlines (which I love) can provide quick and cheap flights between cities for $59-$99 each way, it doesn’t make the GA aircraft a viable travel option from an economic standpoint. Most people can write off air travel with their companies and execs that they work for. They don’t understand how GA works for corporate travel…

    I received my PPL last Thanksgiving and now use GA to travel for business and travel. While it’s certainly more expensive for certain locations, it provides unparalleled options for what I need to do. Need to get to Aspen and back in a day and still have time for a meeting in the afternoon? GA can do that…..

    To further the point of Mr. Collins, I was asked several times by my friends and neighbors “why are you getting your pilots license?”. My wife was asked repeatedly about the safety of the whole endeavor. My friends look at me like i’m nuts to pursue flying. I’m also judged because that must be a rich mans hobby…. I’m flying C172’s by the way… not like i’m firing up the most expensive planes on the field…

    Most people dont get it when it comes to the reasons why we fly. We’re all too consumed as a nation with our Facebook and our “we-need-it-now” gratification to pursue anything that would be hard.
    Furthermore, we need to have some sort of financial return on a time investment these days. If you’re going to spend thousands of dollars for a PPL, what is the financial return?

    People don’t understand or realize the beauty and freedom of flying, much like many other lost art forms of our culture. We need to make flying sexy and easy and fun. We need to make flying acceptable and cool again. Awareness and ease is the key. Maybe we should make an app for that??

  58. Douglas
    Douglas says:

    Richard- you’re comment about the lack of certified aircraft without modern range, speed, fuel burn is huge. I had not thought specifically about it in those terms but just yesterday I decided to take the plunge and build a plane primarily because Vans now has a couple of aircraft that meet my requirements in load/speed/fuel burn. I guarantee that the added value vs my trusty Cessna will mean I fly significantly more.

    Related comment- I wonder if this was the conversation the buggy whip manufacturers were having a century ago or the recording studios are having today. Probably better analogies than these but you get the idea. The fundamentals are changing and the industry needs to get ahead of it. Utility is the key.

  59. AirShowFan
    AirShowFan says:

    I think gas is just too expensive. The rising price of oil has elevated recreational flying from “kinda expensive” to “ridiculously expensive”. The only people who are going to spend thousands and thousands of dollars to fly for fun are people who REALLY want to, people who have been dreaming of flying since they were little kids.

    But wait, you might say. There are so many airplanes out there that burn like 4gph, such as most LSAs. Indeed, LSA rental and flight-training is a lot cheaper than most people realize. One could easily become a certificated pilot for around $3K, definitely less than $4K. However, most flight schools don’t have LSAs. A nice LSA is a heck of a lot more expensive than a used 172. And cheaper, used, “vintage” LSAs – like an Ercoupe or a Champ – are relatively flimsy, slow, unappealing, some don’t have electrical systems, some have tailwheels… so I can see why flight schools stick with all-metal tri-gear Cessnas and Pipers, even though they cost more to fly.

    Bottom line: The only way to get more pilots is to reduce the cost, and the only way to do that is for smaller, lighter airplanes (not just Cessnas and Pipers) to be made available to student pilots.

    If only flight schools (or some organization of individual flight instructors, with a website that listed them all) could develop a “Become a Sport Pilot for $3K” package, advertise it really heavily, instruct in airplanes like Ercoupes or Zodiacs (which are cheap to acquire and cheap to operate), emphasize how fun it is to fly around (not how “practical” it is to fly places)… I can see a broader population getting interested. Until then – until there’s a real coordinated effort to make it cheap and get the word out – flying will just be just for airplane geeks and rich people.

    Don’t doubt the power of marketing. Look at the impact that Icon (the A5 amphib LSA people who are all about great design) and Cirrus (taking their airplanes to Audi dealerships, emphasizing the luxury interior and the safety parachute) have had getting more people interested in flying. Now if only we could invest in that kind of campaign, but aimed at not-super-rich people, for training in old (but just as fun!!!) airplanes…

  60. Michael Gates
    Michael Gates says:

    Enjoyed reading all these blogs. All so true. I started out taking lessons in Western New York, then because of jobs moved to Florida. I began flying again. A high volume fligh school. All kinds of instructors, no regulation on safety, old planes, lucky to be able to bring the plane back to the field. Then after getting my license, was economically forced to join a flying club. Still high prices, insurance, fuel, inspections, and difficult trying to get the plane. It just wasn’t worth it! There isn’t a day goes by that I don’t think of flying. I miss it! To those of you out there, do your very best to keep flying. I’m 65 years old! Living in North Carolina missing those VFR Days, and those take offs and landings. I keep pushing my nieces and nephews to think about flying. The look at me like I’m from outer space. They have no idea of its beauty and wonder.

  61. Brent
    Brent says:

    I applaud you guys for tackling this subject. There are many reasons, some you have mentioned and some you will in future installments.

    For me the list is as follows:
    1) competing priorities
    2) cost
    3) lack of support/accessibility (Airports, FBOs, Flt Schools)
    4) no romance / sex appeal

  62. Charles Lilly
    Charles Lilly says:

    I never much cared for night flying, because, GOD help us if you have an engine outage, your VFR night vision eyeballs are gambling that you won’t end up in a waster treatment plant or worse a Nuclear Power Plant. I like to see potential obstructions, like power lines. Now that my flying time is dedicated to sailplanes I never stray more than 11 or 12 miles from the airstrip because winds aloft can always turn into lift vesus glide slope ratio. Have you ever been in a glider? Man they are so quiet you can hear a mosquito fart inside the cabin. There is a lot of fun gliding. I’d offer Santa a day off, but he too is a night flyer. I was comfortable dual, but not solo cross countries at night. I wasn’t particularly interested in flying through snow clouds, thunderstorms with rain coming down so thick you couln’t see your canopy. In the ARMY some 40 years ago, I had the all time opportunity of my life, when I was appointed to become a Helicopter Pilot, I was 21 and a hot dog. Got through WOC School, then to Ft. Wolters for basic helicopter flight training in Trainers that sounded like a ton of Bumblebeas, then on to Ft Rucker for Huey training. There was a significat washout, but that’s okay, you would just be rolled into Infantry, oh yeah! So all of my PPL training was nowhere near what it takes to fly cyclic and collective, I won’t write a book about it. But I hope it makes you appreciate dihedral, rotating the nose, not a full joy ride down for autoration, lead / lag of rotor blades over-reving the transmission and turbine. Flying those beasts, you always had to calculate your fuel, your maximum distance is 1.5 ours out and 1.5 hours back, rotors seem to empty those tanks. So General Aviation is not dead. Only the Government can afford helicopters. Well dang it I am enjoying this Psychtherapy session with the finest Pilots of the bunch. Keep your speed up, down let your flaps fall down and DON’T pee on electric fences. Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

  63. Lance
    Lance says:

    Why do the two most popular GA magazines, Flying and Plane & Pilot, insist on publishing summary NTSB reports? Why do we allow these publications, which are the only ones readily available to the non-pilot public, to recount how many injuries and deaths occured over the last month? Sure there are risks to flying, and we shouldn’t minimize or gloss over those risks, but why do we lead with bad news? Why do we air our dirty laundry in public? Frankly, I’d be surprised if any pilot has learned much from the prefunctory explanation provided in the NTSB recaps. All they serve to do is to discourage potential pilots by maginfiying the threat of death or injury. Yes, learning from other’s mistakes is important, but let’s hold those discussions in an appropriate forum, like AOPA Pilot or this excellent e-zine.

    • Edward Todd
      Edward Todd says:

      “Why do we allow these publications….” Why do we allow? Really? I understand your intent. You mean well. But really? You’re ready to censor?

  64. Mike
    Mike says:

    There are tens of thousands of single-engine-piston aircraft available for purchase that cost less than the price of a late model pickup truck. I don’t play golf, I don’t ski, I don’t raise horses, I don’t go to casinos, I don’t drive new cars. I’ve owned a Piper or Cessna continuouslay since 1983 because I love to fly.

    • Edward Todd
      Edward Todd says:

      Yeppers. I know folks who spend enough on lottery tickets each month that they could rent a Skyhawk for 2-3 hours a month, if they wanted it. Yep. Its not cheap, but those who really want it, can find a way. IF its a priority.

  65. Frank
    Frank says:

    The bigist problem is that no one can afford a $350,000 airplane. Why should a craft made from 1940s technologies cost as much as 2 brand new houses. Until you solve that problem aviation will die. A few extra miles or pounds of useful load is like putting paint on a car with no engine.

    • tom
      tom says:

      Buy a used plane! This is a buyer’s market for single engine fixed wing aircraft, and there are lots to choose from. Want cheaper? Get an ugly used plane, with hail damage or rotten paint. As long as there are no gotchas like hidden corrosion or an ignored AD, the odds are in your favor. Decide which make and model you want and there are users groups out there who have pre-purchase inspection checklists to keep you and the seller honest. As far as avionics go, a Garmin hand held does far more than most panel mounts, so that plus one good com/nav radio will get you from coast to coast, Canada and Alaska.

      Everyone wants a Cessna 172 or 182. that drives the price up. Why not a Cessna Cardinal? Fast, sleek, out of favor because they are ‘different.’ So be different and get one cheap. Ditto the Piper Comanche: It’s an Rg and damn fast, forgiving CG, great load hauler. I could go on but you get the idea: There is no need to spend half a mil on a glass cockpit, imron paint and leather interior when $20k will accomplish the same thing.

  66. Jeff
    Jeff says:

    I have read Mr.Collins work since I was a student pilot, and have nothing but the greatest respect for him and his opinions. But here is my two cents. It isn’t just one or two things killing the small general aviation crowd. We are dying by a thousand cuts, that cumulatively are doing us in. I am 57 years old and have been flying for a little over twenty years. I am instrument rated, and with a partner own a Piper Warrior. I’m not a wealthy guy, but have a good job. I fly very little anymore, and am constantly debating whether I should sell out. The cost of fuel, hanger, insurance, maintenance sucks the fun out of flying for me. I can ride my motorcycle all day for $50.00 and that includes lunch. Landing fees, at airports, $6.00 gas ( if I’m lucky ). I only have a handheld GPS, the local VOR is out of service and not coming back, as is the NDB, so without a IFR capable GPS I can’t use the IFR system to get into my airport, and I don’ really have the money to upgrade to one. The economy has hurt my investments, I worry about losing my job due to the economy, and I am getting close to retirement. I am barely hanging on as an active pilot..

  67. Martin
    Martin says:

    I have been a pilot since 1978. My kids are now all grown and last one off to college. My wife started ground school today and I am also attending for support and as a refresher. The cost I feel is the big reason. My kids generation are making less than the boomers. We would like to purchase a modest plane but have you looked at the prices. It is way above what they are worth. Cost per hour for lessons and plane at at $150. How can the middle income person/family do it?


  68. Mike F
    Mike F says:

    Many factors for sure… but I’d agree COST is #1.
    Overall cost, not just the price of fuel or planes or rentals, etc. etc.

    And the 3rd Class Medical has been mentioned by several… I’d definately agree with that. I’m on an SI, according to my doctors I’m medically very safe to fly, drive, or about anything… but each & every year I have to jump thru hoops and take expensive tests to satisfy the FAA – and that’s more serious cost. To top it off, I submit everything they ask for weeks ahead of my medical expiration and they take so long to approve it I’m effectively grounded for 6 weeks or so!

    My flying is about 75 hrs. yr., a few cross-countries with the wife and various sight seeing for the joy of flying…. but the various costs, and especially the SI hassle, are making me think about hanging it up.

  69. Eric Marsh
    Eric Marsh says:

    Reading the previous comments I see that most people have cited the same thing I always cite – cost. I’m a new pilot this year at age 58. I had to put my lessons on hold twice when money got tight.

    When some extra money came along I purchased a 50+ year old Piper. Even though it is inexpensive by aviation standards the cost of having it worked on is prohibitive for me and of course the cost to run it is also significant. I have a good mechanical background so I’m building an experimental to cut my expenses further by allowing me to do my own work on my aircraft, not to mention achieving greater performance for each of my dollars spent on fuel.

    I guess that in the final analaysis there are a lot of guys who would take up flying if they could afford it. You can see a lot of them with their hot motorcycles and race cars. I know because that’s my background. One of my motivators is that I like new challenges as well as adventure. I’m not alone in that regard. I simply decided to take the next step and move in a new direction: up. So it’s not like there aren’t plenty of good candidates who could become aviators, it is that they are unable to cross the financial hurtles necessary to achieve that status.

    Those with the interest and the ability to purchase a certified aircraft are fewer yet. But for those of us who like hot-rods and have the skills to build and maintain them I think that experimentals are the place where many of these prospective pilots will go. Of course the certified aircraft manufacturers may not find it in their interest to encourage that segment but the rest of us who want to see GA grow might want to do so or at least present it as an option to prospective pilots.

    Just something to think about.

  70. Mike W
    Mike W says:

    I love to fly. My day job is not in aviation, but I got my CFII just because of the love. However, that love is limiting with our current aircraft fleet. As a family of 5 and flying out of Tucson, Arizona. I cannot find a plane to rent for family trips at any of the region airports. Those that might, won’t rent anything over a C172 unless you take their CFI with you on every flight. REALLY?!?!?!?!? Do I also have to pay for their admission to Disneyland also? :)

    So my question is how do I get my kids really interested in aviation, when we cannot go places as a family in an airplane? The four seaters just don’t cut it.

  71. bill
    bill says:

    I think that people will find the money to pay for things that they value. I don’t think that it is a complete reason. If the dominant mood of most people is that flying is financially and safety-wise frivolous then the crowd will make anyone who expresses the desire to fly to feel like an idiot. That is a big emotional headwind to overcome.

  72. Bill Robinson
    Bill Robinson says:

    It is no doubt that the expense of flying has reached or exceeded the cost for most young people. I soloed a J3 cub in 1966 and a year later began a professional pilot career. The airport where I began my flight career was small and the cost per hour was $7 for the aircraft and $2 for the instructor who owned the flying service. I made $35 per week sweeping at the local textile mill. (A Sumer job). I don’t believe a student can earn 3.5 hours of flying in a week now. 80 octane fuel was $.35 per gal.
    There are other reasons for the rising cost of flying. The airport comission of some airports thought the FBO were making too much money so they took away the fuel sales and all the small operations went broke and now most small airports have been taken over by the city or county and the people who run the airports do not have the same intensity for the airport to succeed. They have set hours and don’t seem to care if you are there or not. You are definitely not welcome if it time for them to go home. I have been told on many occasion to wait outside for my passengers.
    Most flight instructors don’t “hang around” the airports unless they have a student. Therefore, there is no one to talk to the perspective student and to encourage him or her to start training. I believe if a prospective student finds no one at the airport he probably will not come back. Security (which is needed) discourages people. No one can get close to the airplanes like they could when I was learning to fly. Finally, after you have spent a tremendous amount of money for you training. Entry level jobs pay less the most fast food restaurant .
    The rising cost of liability Insurance has not only made training cost higher but the cost of airplanes higher. I really believe that if we could pass a law that if a law suit was unsuccessful the person who brought the law suit should bare the total cost plus damages then we could make flying affordable again.
    Despite all these problems, a career in flying is still worth the sacrifices

  73. J. Hancock
    J. Hancock says:

    I’ve read through this list of responses and what’s missing is marketing. Everyone that is posting a reply to the essay is somehow tied to aviation. As aviation people we tend to sell our passion to those that already have the passion. We need to sell our passion to those those that aren’t already sold on it. These common themes I read about (cost, regulations, time, priorities, and so forth) are not the actual problems they are symptoms. Symptoms of an industry that we have let slide and now it’s going to potentially impact us as the primary users. What happens when you get the right people involved is you get problems addressed. This is America folks. You know…the free market system. Sell the passion to new people and the problems get addressed and the symptoms fix themselves. We want cheaper gas and we get cheaper gas by getting that kid who is now 7 years old and knows more about running your blu ray player than you sold on the passion. That kids goes on to MIT and gets into the aviation fuel business and finds us a cheaper alternative. How about that other kid that is 6 years old and negotiating taking the trash out with you. We need to sell that kid on the passion. That kid goes on to negotiate in congress for regulations more favorable to the industry he or she is passionate about. They don’t all have to be kids. We can get older people involved too. People that know the ropes already…people who can use their successes in other industries to help ours. The truth is people don’t understand what makes aviation tick. The way we sound cheap gas makes it tick, less expensive planes make it tick. What really makes it tick is the passion and selling that passion to people not driven by the economics of it right off the bat. So marketing it is. Ask yourself this question…the last fly-in you went to…would you have known about it if you weren’t a pilot? Not the last one I went to…or any of them for that matter. Not even the greatest fly-in in he world, Airventure. Sure I have a good time at those fly-ins catching up with friends and eating pancakes but I did all that with fellow pilots. How can this be any good for an industry needing more people involved? Maybe the Boy Scouts even came out for some Young Eagle flights but that’s pretty small population. We need to market our passion to those that don’t already have it.

  74. Doug Beck
    Doug Beck says:

    I am a member of a flying club based in Naperville, outside of Chicago. We have 45 pilots and three airplanes, two 172s and one 182. The buy-in is $4,250, which you get back when you leave the club, and the dues are $91 per month. At current fuel prices, we pay wet rates of $100 per hour for the 172s and $125 per hour for the 182. That’s not cheap but it’s a good bit better than most of the pricing I’ve seen in these comments. It’s also close to $100 per hour cheaper than the commercial FBOs around here. Of the 45 pilots, 15 fly a lot, 15 fly occasionally and nobody has seen the other 15 in years, but they keep paying their dues, God bless ’em.

    Airplane availability is good and so long as nobody else has reserved the airplane, we can take it on a trip for as long as we like. Members have taken two week trips in club airplanes. Costs are lower because we aren’t paying a profit to an FBO. Many of us pitch in to maintain the planes, and it’s great to have 44 co-owners when equipment breaks or an engine needs to be overhauled. Many of us are friends, and it’s great to connect with and learn from such a great group of pilots. We have several instructors and airline pilots as members, as well as a lot of regular joes who just love to fly.

    For anyone in the Chicago area, we fly out of Naper Aero, LL10, and our website is

    If more pilots and people thinking about becoming pilots had access to flying clubs like ours, I think there would be more pilots flying as well as more people learning to fly.

  75. Rich
    Rich says:

    I have a few observations about how we got into this sad state.
    1. A lot of pilots learned for free, courtesy of the government, but only for military purposes. After that, GA support resembled VA support. The result was thousands of small planes underemployed.
    2. Flying is serious. It is unforgiving. You commit to flight.
    3. Flying is expensive. Families come first. By the time it’s not cost-prohibitive, it’s often age-prohibitive.
    4. Airport real estate is cost prohibitive in areas where there is a population to support fun flying. Small urban airfields have been swept into the dustbin of history. Meig’s Field in Chicago, and the small airport in College Point, Queens, not far from LGA — these are gone forever. There were two huge airfields in Nassau County on Long Island: Roosevelt and Mitchel Fields, and there’s still great swaths of usable land in the area, but not for an airfield — for 3 shopping malls, a private university, a public community college, an athletic complex, a racetrack (now condos), and a huge park with 4 golf courses–but not a small airfield. If you live where most people now live, an hour in the air is a 5 hour affair.
    5. Airports are user-unfriendly. Everyone’s usual experience at an airport makes people want to avoid flying. The FAA and Homeland Security make flying akin to drinking vinegar.
    6. Accidents are spectacular.
    7. FAR Part 103 was 50 pounds too restrictive, though it is still as close as we will ever get to a constitutional right to fly. Thanks Paul.
    8. I wish that Sport Pilot would marry the Cessna guys and the MaxAir guys, but I do not see that happening.
    Sooo… not to be too overly negative, IMHO we need the following:
    A) Small recreational airfields with “G” airspace near urban areas — “fun-flying fields.” (Example: Jones Beach on Long Island, Parking Lot #6, from Labor Day until Memorial Day.)
    B) Flying clubs to offer (relatively) idiot-proof powered-parachute /trike /ultralight instruction at reasonable costs.
    C) Something that resembles encouragement from our government, including insurance and tort protection.
    These might yet be achievable goals, but it’s hard to know where to start.

    • Steve Ayres
      Steve Ayres says:

      Rich – You have outlined a very good summation of the situation. I am 64 years old and have been flying off and on since I was licensed in 1978 and several years before that as a student pilot. I have seen a lot of changes over the years and most of them have not been too good in my opinion.

      In order to learn to fly my Dad (also a pilot) and I bought a 1946 Ercoupe for $1,200 a piece or $2,400 total. I had to learn to hand prop it often due to a dead battery and hired a flight instructor from the local crop dusting operation for $35 per hour. My operating cost for fuel at 4.5 gph was pretty cheap in those days. After 5 hours I soloed and then I could fly pretty much whenever I wanted to work on my license. After a year or so and one forced landing on my student long solo cross country and three days (where I fixed my own airplane – stuck valve) I completed my work, took my check ride and EARNED my license. I immediately took off on a celebratory trip to Florida, and it has been great every since. Now after a number of airplanes and a good bit of travel I am still flying and restoring vintage aircraft.

      Flying is Complicated – Expensive – Intimidating and Inconvenient
      More so today than ever before. What we will have to do to turn this situation around is to make it:

      1. Inexpensive 2. Fun 3. Easy 4. Accessible

      Flying today is ridiculously expensive, difficult, complex and hard to get to most airports with reasonable proximity to population areas and grass roots aviaiton is on the decline for sure.

      Maybe, if we all keep trying there might be a fighting chance to turn it all around!

      Happy Landings!

  76. Patrick Kelly
    Patrick Kelly says:

    When’s the last time anyone saw an ad on tv, during a popular sporting event or a national news broadcast, that advertised an aircraft from a GA manufacturer, or from a national FBO chain, or flight school or college, promoting their flight training programs?
    If we’re going to try to appeal to a select group of consumers we still have to put our message out there and compete against the ads for the latest, hottest sports car or motorcycle, or the cruise lines, or myriad vacation destinations hyped by the airlines and hotels.
    If GA, and all it entails isn’t willing to compete for consumers discretionary spending dollars on the biggest marketing stage of all, then I believe all of our other less obvious marketing efforts will provide only minimal results, at best.
    It’s time to be bold with our marketing efforts; but only if we’re serious about growing GA.

    • Greg
      Greg says:

      Great point and great idea! I’m not sure why Cessna, Cirrus, Piper, etc. wouldn’t want to do that!

  77. Christopher Nguyen
    Christopher Nguyen says:

    Unfortunately, I can qualify that there is a lack of interest in the teenage population. I’m a 17 year-old student in a high school of about 4000 students. My flight training cost my family around $9000 (in part because I failed my checkride on my 17th birthday that was in the middle of the school year due to time management issues), and I am lucky enough that my parents found the resources to pay for the cost and the time to drive me 30 minutes (I don’t have a driver’s license or even a permit yet) to my flight school every time I fly. Eventually I got my PPL in July of this year, roughly after one year since I started flying and almost within the anniversary of my solo flight.

    Out of all the friends I know, I am the only one with a PPC and only 3 others I know are interested in aviation; their stories attest to the evidence of an economic issue and internal conflicts. A friend of mine, 16 years of age, finds it difficult to schedule flight lessons due to the state of his family; his mother and father are divorced and his father is the one who supports his flight training. Another friend, 14 years old, really wants to take flight lessons but his family lacks the economic support. Otherwise, I do not really see any other of my peers that are interested in flying.

    “There is more of a tendency today for people to be needy and dependent and risk-averse. That is not a good demographic for flight training or for flying.” This is something that I completely agree with. Of my friends that I invite to go fly with me, their parents wouldn’t let them unless they are one of my 3 friends who already fly. Other than the parents, the majority of my teenage peers frankly do not really display a drive to be independent and individual. The parents are scared witless at the prospect that they might lose their children, and my peers frankly see nothing that interests them in aviation.

    Of the peers (in my college level classes) who “stand out and do something special”, this would fall under the basis of a sports team or a fine arts program such as band, art, orchestra, and chorus. They are individualistic, and I can attest to that, but the faceless aspect of aviation does not appeal to them. When they find out that I am a pilot, they are mostly indifferent as it doesn’t pertain to their own interests.

    “Back in the good old days, when people found out you were a pilot they often said that they always wanted to do that. Now they are more likely to ask why you would want to do that. That needs to change.” I completely agree with this. As Collins states, there really isn’t a sense of adventure in aviation that appeals to my peers. They don’t see the romance in aviation, and their parents only see the accidents and incidents that occur in our field. The parents don’t want to take risks, and my peers don’t see a reason to fly other than as a means of travel. However, if I can change a few of their opinions and inform them a little more of general aviation, I believe that there would be more of an interest from the teenage population.

    I am working with and flying for the EAA Young Eagles program to help foster interest in the younger generation and their parents. From what I’ve seen, interest in aviation has to start small and be kept through the teenage years. Reading the comments below, I see that older generations tend to find issues with either medical certification, government restrictions, and cost. If the appeal can be made to younger generations and their parents, I believe that interest can be fostered to the point where the younger folks will understand certification (as they would hopefully try to get a license within their teenage years) and would later understand some of the issues with the government and the economy. I hope that the parents would then see this interest and would find ways to divert resources into the passion of their child.

    • tom
      tom says:


      Thanks for taking the time to reply and share your experiences and observations. Very insightful. Did you look at Civil Air Patrol as a way to expand your knowledge or did you do this all on your own?

      • Christopher Nguyen
        Christopher Nguyen says:


        I am looking into joining CAP as a senior member later this year or next when I become 18. I am currently in my school’s AFJROTC program, but I am currently trying to work with the Young Eagles program on my own accord.

        • tom
          tom says:

          Good on ya. Google ‘capr 60-1 for a pdf and guidance from other states on how to become a CAP pilot. If you live in a mountain state they might not have any low perf acft, and the cost of admission to high perf acft is – well – higher. Some states jack it up even higher than national requires So a look at 60-1 and any supps your state might have published will minimize disappointment. Starting out as an observer is worthwhile, and I will tell you that having an observer who is also a real pilot is a dream, cap qualified or not.

        • Charles Lilly
          Charles Lilly says:

          Excellent young Lad, that’s where I started out with CAP over 40 years ago and my Flight Instrutor was a retired Air Force Captain who had a passion for flying and safety. You can inexpensively get your PPL by age 18, then you might consider transfer your experience to the AF Academy in Colorado, where eventually fly jets.
          I did what you are doing and when my draft board had me pony up, I joined the ARMY WOC warrant officer candidate training school and you couldn’t fly until you passed all of the requirements to be an Officer, there was about a 50% washout rate, so if you didn’t follow the program, you got rolled over into Infantry. Now that will keep you alert and busting your butt to pass eveything. Ft. Wolters for basic helicopter flight, then Ft. Rucker, AL for Huey transition. Vietnam was hot and the graduating class all had orders to go fly Tactical, Rescue, observation, Chinooks for transporting everything from artillery, troops, food, whatever it took was vital. They are also big slow targets. The dream machine was the Huey Cobra, a hauling butt across the tree tops war craft, but I didn’t get to fly one of those. Instead we were rescue with big red crosses painted across the snout and on the side doors. The rest is history, you don’t need to know the grueling details of landing zones, etc. Good luck to you, there are many good flying opportunities for the next generation of Pilots. Keep your airspeed up and your landing soft.

  78. Greg
    Greg says:

    I agree with those concerned about LSA gross weight. I’m 42 years old with commercial ASEL and ASES tickets. However I also have 4 kids to raise so my flying budget is limited. I could afford to fly a lot more in an LSA since almost all of my flying is day VFR. However I am 6’4″ and 218lbs. That makes most LSAs impractical. As a result I am paying over $2 per minute to rent an airplane that is almost as old as I am!

    My friends who have boats, sports cars, etc. are not paying anywhere $2 per minute to enjoy their passions, and I know that keeps many of them from pursuing aviation. Most folks I know that want to fly cite the cost and a need to wait until their kidsaregrown before they an learn to fly.

  79. Stephen Phoenix
    Stephen Phoenix says:

    Wow, it takes a long time to read all that; must be like a record length.

    I suspect that in the end, the pilot population is just naturally adjusting down to the correct number of people that actually want to fly for the sensation of it or for utilitarian reasons in this time period. If airplanes were given away for free, there would not be a significant change.

    For the younger generations, it may be that they are actually subliminally preparing for a future which requires long periods of time in a confined space and being focused on an intelligent machine. Maybe a long trip to the stars, maybe living in an underground bunker operating a UAV. Who knows, but nature seems to have a way getting us prepared for the next change. Airplanes definitely do not seem to be in that mix.

  80. Peter Lovett
    Peter Lovett says:

    I am now 61 and live in Australia. The comments here are related to Australia. I started learning to fly when I was 17. When I told people then that I was learning to fly they were enthusiastic. Flying commercially was expensive and limited to a minority of the population so for someone to learn to fly it was a huge thing. Most of my fellow students were a similar age.

    Now, just about everyone has flown at some stage. Cheap flights abound and overseas holidays are the norm. Flying has lost the aura of glamour and now is just another means of travel. Learning to fly takes time and commitment, something which a lot of younger people don’t have. Thats not a criticism, just an observation and a generalisation at that as I have met some very committed younger people carving out a career in aviation.

    Some years ago I met a lawyer involved in aviation. He told me that for every person who had started learning to fly there were 10 who did parachute training. Basically in a month you would know if you liked it or not without a huge commitment of cash. Compare that to learning to fly where by the time you have equipped yourself, done the medical and bought the theory books and undertaken the first lesson there would be little change out of $1,000.

    I am pessimistic about the future of GA and as a consequence, the airline industry but there the operators have been shooting themselves in the foot for years. I don’t think things will change.

  81. Bob Reinaker
    Bob Reinaker says:

    Cost, Convenience and Crashes-

    COST–As Richard notes the flying falloff (late 70s) coincided with the decrease in earning power of GI bill funded pilots. Another major factor that occurred at the same time was airline deregulation. According to Google in 1974 the cheapest round-trip New York-Los Angeles flight (in inflation-adjusted dollars) that regulators would allow: $1,442. Today one can fly that same route for $369. In the same time period that airline tickets have dropped 4X the price of avgas has increased by at least that much. One can certainly claim that flying has always been expensive but the increased costs compared to equivalent means of transport made general aviation costs seem all the more higher.

    I learned to fly in the late 60s. I rented a J3 Cub for $8 an hour which allowed even a struggling college student an hour or so a week. After I was checked out I filled the nose gas tank myself and wrote the amount in a notebook next to the pump. I hand propped the plane myself, flew way without any radio call, soared, dove and chandelled myself with the tires scraping the treetops, stalled, wheeled bounced on a selection of the strips in the local area, the lower door down and the window up; I logged the tach time in a notebook kept under the seat cushion; No fences, no gates, no liability release forms. Convenient? You bet! I wonder if one could ever recreate that experience any where these days?


    Seems to me we are ambivalent about risk. We hunger for adventure/risk- Just look at the popularity of reality based TV shows including the ones of Alaska flying. On the other hand we demand ever higher levels of safety and expect the government/ service providers to deliver it.
    Removing the risks from flying has certainly made it safer but that drive has sucked the adventure out. I see that simulator operators are setting up business in shopping centers. Is this the way to bring back the adventure of flying?

  82. Johannes J Siewertsen
    Johannes J Siewertsen says:

    For me, being a man of poor beginnings, it is a great joy to study aviation in general. I’d be more than happy to take, say, 20 hours of instruction-flight.. The future of GA, in my opinion, is electric & collective, for example, 225 pilots owning 15 aeroplanes.. THX, John

  83. Bernard Schiffl
    Bernard Schiffl says:

    I wrote into “Australian Flying” Magazine last year about the declining interest in aviation with youth. I think it trying to arrest this decline starts with the younger generation as well, introducing more programs into schools, especially here in AUS. I’m not sure of the situation in the USA, but I would think that it’s quite the same, not many high schools are embracing aviation. I’ll be starting at Sharp Airlines (AUS regional airline) next year where the start of my RPT journey begins. No one is more crazy about aviation than myself in my school and I wish more youth felt the same.

  84. Richard Ewing
    Richard Ewing says:

    The scene in Australia is currently worst than in the US. One of the reasons for that is User Fees. Whatever you do, don’t give up the fight against these fees. They have proved to be on of the great GA killers in this country. Almost every aircraft movement in this country has some agency (Government or private – or both) with their hand in the pocket of the pilot. I have currently started to build a Sonex homebuilt. Part of the reason is my great love of aviation and the desire to own an aeroplane, but part of the reason is to get out from the incredibly over-regulated and over taxed GA stream. I have two good friends who have surrendered their licenses. Both work in good paying professions, but site cost as the reason for their quitting flying. It is not just an excuse, it is a very legitimate reason. Me I have a good gig flying skydivers. I wish I had an answer folks.

  85. T Pearson
    T Pearson says:

    When Joe Blow is attempting to figure out ways to put fuel in his car, and food on the table there’s not much left over for flying, “even if he is already a pilot”. A friend of mine lives in a community where the smallest house is worth half a million dollars, and they go up in value to two million. The people in this community have not been shielded from the present economic crisis. People within the community right and left were losing their homes to foreclosure. For many of them my friend said, their stock market portfolio collapsed in one day, and they went from being millionaires to paupers. Many of the homes in that community are empty. The people just walked out. Their assets had vanished. How do they explain to a five year old why they had to move from a 2 million dollar home to an apartment? The point here is there is currently an economic crisis in the USA, and people are on an escalator. Those going up are holding on to what they have. And might be putting off the dream of becoming pilots. Those going down don’t have the means to fly, or become pilots. 20 years ago Billy Jones who worked at GM would send little Timmy off to flight school. This is where we found many pilots coming from t’was within the middle class. But now there is a reduction in the USA of middle class job availability, and Billy Jones can’t send Timmy to flight school. The gap between the haves and the have-not’s have increased due to declining job salaries.

    It will turn around. It will get better. We will see pilot numbers increase again. It’s just going to take time…

  86. Charles Lilly
    Charles Lilly says:

    Costs are keeping us all down, except for the Banks that we bailed out. I have discovered a way to fill my joy of Aviation by joining a Sailplane Club. We have 3 Club gliders, and 25 privately owned ones. Some dual, some single seat high performance. It’s an alternative until I can navigate through my Nations status on the economy. If we get off to a good start, I’m going after my Instrument, multiengine, and CFI, if however the U.S. sinks back into another recession, I have nothing to lose except my $700 initiation fee. Still a Club glider costs $15 an hour plus $30 for a tow to 2500 to 3000 feet and you can ride those ridgewaves and thermals until you have to go pee really bad. The thing is the landing, you practically have to force a Glider down with spoilers and crabbing. If you don’t hit the sweet spot on your airstrip, there is no power to do a go-around. You have to pay detailed attention to your Trainer and not go into the cornfield.

    Flying a glider is seasonal, so when the rains and mud of Spring lessen, you have but just a few months until icing comes back. I admit it, once flying gets into your blood, you’re addicted to it. I am 61 and have flown or flown in just about everything, including the old PT-17’s NAVY Trainers bi-wing Kite with a 260 horse, they still give you rides or put you in charge with Instructor doing live dogfights with videos rolling, no no real bullets, though that would make it more exciting, you simply grind up your opponents tail streamer for Victory. All of the rolling, hammerheads, spiralling and G’s in an open cockpit with a wood prop has you forever captured.

    Win or lose, you felt the pucker power of the old days. Wind in your face in an old tail dragger and you’ll want one of your own. But see that’s just the trick, you make 3 or 4 trips to Bealton Virginia, camp out on the grounds, and they have a fun show every weekend, including some long grey bearded dude who can set a Piper Cub on it’s edge less than 50 feet AGL. I have never been to New York’s Reinstatt air plane patch where they do pretty much the same. And last, when Bede jet came out, I wanted the kit. That deal bombed like DeLorean. But can you imagine the speed, the ceiling and the pleasure of owning your own jet for under $75,000. My time will come soon to jump back into the seat of a 172 or a Baron. Okay Fellas, I hope to see you out there among the friendly skies, we can YAP while doing something worthwhile.

    I just read a book “The rights of the People” by David K. Shipler, winner of the Pulitzer Prize, How the search for our safety invades our liberties. Thank GOD for AOPA for stopping these Snake looking Lawers from grounding all of us. I just read also that there will be a shortage of Airline Pilots, so get your game on, unless you are an old fart like me. You can drive one of those big Beasts weighing in at 250,000, 550 knots ground speed, 40,000 pound thrusters, but you still have to wear a tie, a name tag and fly around the clock. NAAAA, I’ll leave that to the young bucks who need loggable time.

    Keep your airspeed up and say the word dihedral to every stranger, just to watch their faces. I haven’t flown a helicopter in 40 years, but you don’t forget those kind of things. The controls felt second nature, even when we were under heavy enemy fire. You figure a bullet can go through one of your gear boxes, either one of your fuel tanks, and as Flight Officers, we both kept our hands on the controls, in case one of us get shot. I often woke up with what little down time we had and have nightmares about getting hit. And you ask why 5000 helicopter pilots were shot down and high probability of being KIA. So when I transitioned back into fixed wing State side, trim wheels, flaps and a lot of other factors were welcomed. In ARMY Flight training, if you have your private ticket already, like I did, you will be way far in advance to the other Students, while they are learning basic flight, navigation, radio procedures, meteorology, flight maneuvers and elementary instrument training, you will be ready for cyclic and collective (and your counter-torque rudder) Helicopters don’t really want to fly, and until you have mastered the constant minor adjustments, your going to be all over the sky. Well at least you don’t use runway, so long as you don’t call transitional lift, nose down, rotors biting into the air a runway. Transition was a welcomed feeling.

  87. Charles Lilly
    Charles Lilly says:

    Sorry it’s Reinbeck in New York

    Coming up on SAT-SUN September 29-30, a weekend featuring the construction and completion of our Spirit of St. Louis replica. You will get an up-close look at the airplane, speak with the restoration experts, and learn about the life of Charles Lindbergh.

    Don’t miss SAT-SUN October 6-7, our fall festival. Nothing compares to colorful antique Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome flying machines performing against the splendor of the Hudson River Valley’s fall foliage. The kids will enjoy watching pumpkins being dropped in target bombing demonstrations, face painting, decorating pumpkins and Halloween arts and crafts. Please consider dressing in period costume … prizes will be given for best costume of the WWI/ barnstorming period. Make sure to meet at the rides booth by 1:30 to enter the contest. The grand prize will be a ride in the aerodrome’s 1929 D-25 New Standard Biplane. Biplane foliage tours will be available for others on a first come-first served basis … so sign up early. Pumpkins and Apple Cider will be for sale.


  88. Sharyn
    Sharyn says:

    Among the 117 comments above mine are so many thoughtful reasons given for the decline in general aviation. If my scan is accurate there’s one previous comment from a woman pilot and none that addresses a subtle discouragement of half the population from earning their wings in GA. Too often women are treated as accessories to our male pilot counterparts or as a novelty not taken seriously. It doesn’t have to be overt or mean-spirited to be a disincentive.

    I earned my license (ASEL) at the age of 65 and treasure every hour I’ve flown as PIC. Our daughter is close to solo. It took a lot of pieces to come together over a long life to finally fulfill the dream. Yes, we all face the same daunting costs and regulatory challenges, but when 50% of the population is discouraged from participation, we’re losing half our potential to grow. Buying into culture bias women themselves too often limit their own horizons.

    There’s a lot being done on many fronts to address this obvious way to grow GA including becoming proactively welcoming of women. The next time you see a woman on the ramp don’t assume she’s a passenger. If she tells you she isn’t a pilot, ask her why not. And don’t look through her to the male companion at her side. We need everyone we can persuade, invite and encourage!

    • Steve D.
      Steve D. says:

      Sharyn I couldn’t agree more. My wife became a pilot after meeting me. We always talk about the fact that there are so few women in aviation. Getting more women interested aviation would make a difference for sure.

  89. Tim Percarpio
    Tim Percarpio says:

    I wonder if aircraft manufactures and the FAA are reading these responses? If not, they should. The overwhelming complaint is the high cost of flying, and I concur. I simply don’t understand why the price of airplanes has far exceeded the cost of inflation. I know, some is liability, some is regulation and some is manufacturing, but it still seems way too high.
    If we could use the same instruments as the experimental guys do, just think of the savings.
    Have the manufactures ever done any market research as to what the average pilot wants or could afford? Are they even interested?
    I co-own a 34 year old airplane that we keep in a hanger and try to very good care of. I have a great partner, and it’s the only way I could afford this airplane. I will continue to fly as long as I’m healthy and can afford it!

  90. Charles Lilly
    Charles Lilly says:

    Yeah and why do ladders cost so much, everytime an airplane gets twisted on a fence, the Lawyers come running faster than Poperazzi to seal a deal with the Families, thus driving the cost up on insurance at our expense. Lawyers run the price up on everything. Although I don’t smoke them, cigarettes are what $4.00 or more a pack. You can bet Lawyers are there every time someone (who Chooses to smoke) a Lawyer is ready to leap in to action or should I say slither? It would be an absolute miracle if Lawyers were regulated. They are unstoppable in su-ing everybody for everything and getting the maximum amount of compensation and adding in their own 33% to keep the Firm alive. I would like to fly one of those P51’s chasing down running Lawyers with no escape from my 50 cals. Airplanes don’t kill people, people do dumb things while flying, and the Lawyers however hungry are ready to tack on fees (their fees) to Aircraft Manufactures and Pilots. Do you know the difference between a Lawyer and a skunk? There are skid marks in front of the skunk. The economy is in sad shape, but we the few, must continue flying our hearts out.

  91. Clark
    Clark says:

    It was about the money, it is about the money, it will always be about the money. A free private pilot certificate, 50 cent Avgas and a $60,000 four place day VFR airplane. There wil be no shortage of pilots in my world.

    • Charles Lilly
      Charles Lilly says:

      Whoa Clark! What Planet do you live on? Well of course I don’t have to buy avgas to fly my Glider, and I rent it for a mere $15 and hour, $30 for a tow to 3000 AGL, no annual engine rebuilds, still I have to get Certification and a student permit from the Check ride Person or Flight Surgeon on an appointment basis.

      You know the Air Force Cadets in Colorado fly sail planes? I guess some go to Jet School shortly after they graduate and are highly displined to following procedures, tactics, machines that go Mach 2.5 and get to send some people up to 72 virgins quickly, however, they miss that transition middle place of piston driven, VFR aircraft that the rest of us grew up on. It will be a great day when the Air Force has to have a bake sale to buy a Bomber or Fighter, costing nearly $1 Billion a copy. And what do they do with the old ones? Oh it is so depressing to see F-15’s, F-16’s, F-117 skunkworks in that HUGE bone yard in Tucson Arizona.

      Then you hear this shtuff from the Candidates that we will have a Sequestrian on the Military. Open up that boneyard and hire some machinists to make parts to revitalize these hand crafted birds of beast. Have Chuck Yeager give you a checkride. Is he still alive you ask? A lot of Movie Actors own their own planes, including, Clint Eastwood who owns a helicopter and a DeHavelland Beaver, next is John Travolta who owns three private jets, and my favorite, Morgan Freman who flys his own plane at 82, I wish that I knew what he flew, but he has a lot of Fans out here. So if, Chuck Yeager is still around, what is his favorite beast?

      So….a note to Mr. Collins, we need to form up AOPA, all of it’s members, the following statements on this BLOG and hire one of those damn fool Lawyers and counter this user fee. You run up a National debt and the way you get a trickle amount back is to jerk Private Pilots on their leash, back to the Stone Age.

      Who is paying for Air Force One, and do they have to pay a user fee? If you want to sequester to save some money, then send Air Force One to the boneyard.

      How many Aircraft Carriers do we have as a Nation? 13 active, Costing a bit more than $10 Billion each, just for the hull? I witnessed NNS SOLE PROPRIATOR and SUPPLIER scanning 40 year old Reactor drawings into an antiquated Computer Aided Design Program and electronically put new borders and title blocks on the antique drawings. It’s amazing what BIG Corporations do to cheat the Government out of zillions and now we have to pay user fees? Who will the user fees bailout? The Israelis? Korea after we’ve been there for 60 years? How about the $800 Billion we left in Iraq? The list just goes on. It doesn’t matter which Candidate will serve in the Oval Office, they talk the talk, but when you ask them for help in stopping 18 young Soldiers commit suicide EVERY DAY, they just wave and smile. So, FAA, will you downsize like all of the rest of the American people have been? That’s what I thought. I think I would like to pull a banner behind a rusty old Cessna 150 that reads we are coming to pull your heads out of your **ses, around the nice plush Senators and Congressmens homes, making sure that Fox 4 or Poperazzi is close by.

  92. Steve D.
    Steve D. says:

    It’s all about the cost and time. I have friends that would love to learn to fly, when I tell them what it would cost they just say they cannot afford it. I don’t blame them. Fuel and the cost of aircraft plus maintenance is too much for even upper middle class earners today. Time is another issue, I am 50 and when I was growing up my father was always home by 5:30 and never worked a weekend. I am in the same line of work and I don’t get home before 7pm and work many Saturdays as well.

    Times have changed and not for the better.

  93. Patrick S. Collins
    Patrick S. Collins says:

    I am a disabled veteran utilizing the VA Vocational Rehabilitation Program to attain my flying credentials. In just over two years I have 330 total hours, IFR and Commercial rated working on my CFI @ 56 years old. The cost of instruction is so high that we cannot get new younger students interested in becoming pilots. Let’s not even go into the cost of fuel, insurance, maintanence, hanger fees, landing fees, rental fees, and or purchasing an airplane (which is my next dream). We need inexpensive trainers(Cessna 150’s), reasonable instructor fees, ($15.00/hr) and then we might see more folks getting into aviation…And this is my plan for the future.

    • Jeff
      Jeff says:

      Amen to Patrick… Please move to Arizona. We’re like the Marines, we can always use A FEW GOOD MEN

  94. tom
    tom says:

    I’m a bit mystified by the folks complaining that LSAs can’t haul their ‘full size’ bodies aloft, or that LSA cannot fly at night in the weather etc. If an LSA doesn’t do the job there are plenty of affordable legacy airframes that will. They might not be creampuffs but this is a buyer’s market for single engine fixed wing aircraft, and there are lots to choose from.

    Want cheaper? Get an ugly used plane, with hail damage, shot interior or rotten paint. As long as there are no gotchas like hidden corrosion or an ignored AD, the odds are in your favor and age is probably irrelevant unless the plane was used for aerial combat training or other high-G activity or has corrosion. Let the current C210 wing spar cap inspection be your guide for ‘aged aircraft’ purchases.

    Decide which make and model you want and there are users groups out there who have pre-purchase inspection checklists to keep you and the seller honest. As far as avionics go, a Garmin hand held does far more than most panel mounts, so a handheld plus one good com/nav radio will get you from coast to coast, Canada and Alaska just fine VFR or IFR.

    I have a few hundred hours flying ‘glass.’ Once you get past the wow factor it does little more than steam gages plus a handheld Garmin. The sad part about glass is repair parts for a G1000 system are simply stunning, and database updates only slightly less so.
    TAS and wind vectors a G1000 provides are handy but GPS groundspeed, fuel flow, time remaining to waypoint and destination are what you really need to know to avoid fuel exhaustion, the number one stupid pilot trick. Cockpit weather helps solve #2. Any handheld Garmin that talks to an engine monitor with fuel flow will do the same for tens of thou$ands less than a G1000.

    Autopilots are nice for single pilot stuff. Heck, they are handy if the vacuum pump dies or on long trips too. So put that on your buyers list, but it should be a tie breaker not a must have. You can always add it later, and IMHO an S-tec-30 does almost as much as the King CAP 140 that Cessna bundled with the G1000 that will leave you wondering what it is up to . S-tec has a better user interface by far.

    A little secret about avionics upgrades: Most of it is interior work such as removing the headliner, seats and side panels for new antennas and cables. Why pay an avionics shop $120/hour to do what an owner and his kids can do? And why pay an avionics shop to do what an AP can do for $60/hour? They can install GPS/nav/com just as legally as an avionics shop, and you can still help. The sheet metal work of removing the old and installing the new can take as much time and thought as the wiring, and one can either build and test a wire harness on the kitchen table or buy one pre-fabricated for your plane. Either results in plug and play. Those options can easily knock the install price of a Garmin 430W with GPSS from $18000 to $8500. And that includes a used 430W, antennas, cables and special tools called out in the installation manual. Not cheap, but now both you and the A&P know a lot about GPS/Com/nav installs. And you can certify it for IFR too. It’s all in the manual.

    Everyone wants a Cessna 172 or 182. that drives the price up. Why not a Cessna Cardinal? Fast, sleek, out of favor because they are ‘different.’ So be different and get one cheap along with the parts and repair manuals. Then read them. Ditto the Piper Comanche: It’s an RG but compared to any RG Cessna the Comanche landing gear is as simple and reliable as it gets. Comanches come in many engine sizes from 180 to 260 HP (they even build a few eight cylinder beasts) damn fast, forgiving CG, great load haulers. I could go on but you get the idea: There is no need to spend half a mil on a glass cockpit, imron paint and leather interior when $20k, rattle cans and seat covers will accomplish the same thing.

    Economics: Here’s something to ponder: If you get a good ‘run out’ airframe all else is easily replaceable: Engines, radios, upholstery and avionics are all accessories one can replace as the need and bank account align. I have seen people buy a ‘run out’ C-185 and over time put a field overhauled engine, IRAN prop, paint and interior in it and the total tab was less than $100k. When you consider there is nothing like that plane and that it can fit skis, floats and haul a monster load, $100k is a steal. Better yet, fly it for a few years and sell for more than you put in it. There are always buyers for certain airframes that work for a living.

    Many people look for a factory reman engine. That’s good for the factory, and in rare cases they give a better deal on cranks and cases than field overhualers, but not normally. The exceptions are older cranks and cases the builder wants out of circulation so they will replace them far cheaper than a field overhauler can do.

    A ‘zero time’ engine is a joke because it can consist of all used parts that you pay a premium for over a ‘time continued’ overhaul, so why do that? Used parts that meet new limits and pass inspection are just fine for most parts except cams and followers. A field overhauler who sends the parts out for inspection and mods to bring them up to current status is just as ‘safe’ as a factory reman for a fraction of the price.

    Authors like Mike Busch will teach aircraft owners your rights, the law and will even do it for you – for a fee. And save you thousands.

    The bottom line is that if you want to be a ‘hands off’ airplane owner who tosses the keys to the FBO for an annual has no recourse when they present astounding bills. But a ‘hands on’ owner can manage it so the bill is a fraction of a hands off owner. It’s just a matter of getting educated and understanding what ‘airworthy’ really means.

    And for me it’s a lot of fun.

    • Dave
      Dave says:

      Its fear of “The Money Pit”. Too many stories about pilots buying a dream airplane only to find a nightmare of maintenance issues. I don’t have the talent or inclination to fix an airplane. (or a car or most mechanical or electronic machines). I love to fly but can’t afford the unexpected costs of fixing the ‘left handed widget’. “Just a matter of getting educated” is a mouthful considering the variety of topics to get educated about.

      • tom
        tom says:

        For every money pit story are the thousands of owners getting by. The pre-purchase checklist and inspections are important to avoid the money pit at the starting gate. Along the way there are a lot of ‘mandatory’ items that aren’t, such as TBO. But shops will sell it as such and if you don’t know your rights you’ll get sucked in. Here is a great free eaa webinar on the topic hosted by Mike Busch.

        There are twenty pages of these webinars. Cycle thru to hear ones that interest you: Magnetos? Engines? Annuals? You don’t have to do the work. But managing it and declining unnecessary work will save a lot. And Mike Busch is a phone call away to offer counsel or speak with the shop on your behalf if it gets to that. Mike also writes for avweb and There are also others who have the same ‘not gonna be a victim’ mindset.

  95. Nate D'Anna
    Nate D'Anna says:

    Unless you’re a guy named Mitt, you will realize that flying IS too expensive for the average middle class person.

    A married couple with 2 kids, both working, and making $60k a year while paying a mortgage, 1 or 2 car payments and the kids’ needs cannot afford to fly.Period.

    Light sport?—Even an RV12 will cost you $65K. Buy used? A Cessna 150 for $15k? Okay—for a while. In 2 years you will need $18k for an engine overhaul, $10k for a paint job, $5k for an interior and $14K for avionics. There’s no free lunch in flying. Pay me now, or pay me later. No way the middle class guy that CAN afford a boat, a sports car or motorcycle afford an airplane. $8.00 per gallon in some areas? Insane. Even with my 6 gallon per hour burning Grumman AA1A, that figures to $48.00 per hour. So figure over $100.00 per day with fixed costs—not while little Suzy needs braces on her teeth.

    Then there is the arrogance of the FAA. I could just picture a boat guy interested in and abiding by some of their rules. When you are boating, driving or motorcycling, you are relaxed and enjoying it. Flying? Not so much by trying to avoid or work in Class A & B airspace (what’s left of it since the military keeps eating it up). And God forbid you should accidentally wind up in a TFR!!Off with your head! Then the FAA thinks it cute to have a double standard. Some 80 year old decrepit guy who has had a heart attack,and diabetes will be allowed to fly just because he says he’s healthy and has a drivers license. But a guy with 2,000 hours who beat cancer twice is denied a medical even though his doctors, surgeons and nurses say he is in perfect health.Why? because a group of geniuses in Oklahoma City who claim to be doctors say so. These FAA people MUST be superdoctors as they are able to diagnose a person they have never even met.If anything, they should be sued on the basis of discrimination and enforcing a double standard.

    The bottom line is, aviation as we know it IS dying and will not recover as long as the average middle income guy can’t afford the price and upkeep of an airplane and especially have to endure ridiculous regulations and standards imposed by the FAA.

    It’s cheaper, more fun and big brother isn’t watching over you and threatening you when you are driving that inexpensive sports car, motorcycle or boat. Aviation has become a burden rather than a pleasure. Take it from me–a pilot for 41 years who has owned 4 airplanes,and was addicted to flying. I’ve had enough. Too much hassle and too much money. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to drive my nice new Camaro to a car show, enjoy the free admission, and not have to worry about a ramp check from some FAA flunky.

  96. Edward Todd
    Edward Todd says:

    I think many keep talking about economics of ownership of a plane as a reason for the declining pilot population. Sure, I would love to own, but I’m a 500 hour pilot who still rents. So YES …. I can fly 3 or 4 hours a month for fun on nice days … take a weekend XC a couple times a year ….. and spend less than my neighbor with his year ’round sports like fishing, hunting and more.

    Don’t discourage potential pilots with too much negative talk about plane ownership economics. You can be a renter, let the FBO worry about maintenance, and just have fun. :)

  97. Joseph
    Joseph says:

    Many of my friends reaction is oh you can’t buy new piston singles and I don’t want to fly a 40 year old airplane. Where I know a 40 year old airplane properly maintained is (just about) equally likely to have in flight emergency mechanical issues as a newer one with the same number of hours on the engine. Obviously cost is an issue the 1970’s planes are affordable to buy (182 or pa32) but burn what 16-17gph so that’s $102 an hour in just fuel. Ok, I can’t really afford to go up 2-3 hours each week at that rate so I look at the 172 which burns what 9-12 gph so that’s $54 an hour flying very economically which I can afford but then I loose utility. And then I think should just fly a Kitfox or something but that is even less payload.

    The sweet spot for me would be a 4 seat plane that could actually hold 4 adults + 4 hours fuel + some baggage and fly at around 12gph around 140kts. Right now there is no plane that will provide for weekend “$100 bugger runs” and still provide enough useful load and range to be used on family vacations. You either have to rent both or own one and rent the other when needed, there is no plane that you can fly economically (below 10gph) and still be able to load it up and fly on vacation and burn 12-15gph fully loaded that I know of (Pipistrel seems to be working on one).

    The best solution to date is to join a flying club that has a Saratoga size airplane and a 172 size airplane and possibly a LSA, of course a club with three airplanes is going to require more than 3 members and then insurance rates go way up.

    It also would take a lot of flight time to cover the cost difference between a mid 80’s airplane and a new one that was fuel efficient but people tend to ignore that fact.

    • Joseph
      Joseph says:

      Forgot to make the point on the first sentence, many people don’t know you can buy new piston singles so there is a advertising problem there. Guess where aircraft manufactures advertise, yep to pilots (flying magazines) I’ve never seen a learn to fly or buy a airplane ad that wasn’t in a aviation related venue (airshow, flying mag, etc).

    • tom
      tom says:

      That Comanche 260B I spoke of yesterday is the perfect blend of HP and economy: 22gph for takeoff and climb at 1200 fpm, then at level off bring the power back to 8gph and 115 TAS at 12000 ft. A big engine is like having a turbo but without the hassle.

      My observation is most people operate a plane wide open for a whole trip, fail to lean or even learn to lean properly let alone lean of peak, then bellyache about high fuel consumption and cost. There are ways to save money. Going 150 kts ain’t one of them.

      • Joseph
        Joseph says:

        Never looked at the Comanche, and yes we all want to fly them as fast as possible and many don’t lean correctly. The new materials and aerodynamic research and eventually new engines should get us to a more respectable speed,payload,cost matrix. But even the Comanche seems to be 30k more than say a pa32 of the same year that’s allot of fuel to recover on a marginal decrease in gph. I don’t really know how low the gph can get on a six if flown slower than cruise and lop but its heaver empty so its probably not quite as efficient.

        • tom
          tom says:

          If you fly a plane as fast as possible then I think you forgo the right to complain about burn rates.

          Your comparison of the Comanche to the C6 lacks specifics, like RG vs FG, engine size etc, but both are proven aircraft. Getting excited about new engines and airframes seems like a long shot. Cirrus and Cessna Columbia are probably as far out on the bleeding edge of technology as most spam cans go, and the costs are stupifying. If you read Aviation Consumer’s used aircraft guide, new designs are certified under new rules that require life limits. Stuff like new wing spars at some idiotic time in service or new parachutes and rocket packs set owners back tens of thousands of dollars. Yes, they are sleek and a FG can go fast as a legacy RG but the hidden cost of newer airplanes is insane. Better to stick with the legacy birds certified under the old CAR23 rules where there’s none of that life limit crap going on.

          Diesel may be the next big thing. Diamond and now Cessna are plowing new ground here. I wish them well as 100LL falls to misguided eco-freakers. Which suggests that an airplane that can burn high-test mogas is going to be more desirable as time goes by.

          As far as lowest fuel consumption, remember the L/D chart. Cut me some slack for taking these numbers from memory, but the Comanche stalls at 67 kts clean at max gross. 1.3 x Vs = 87 kts, which is usually a good place to start for max endurance, and you can go slower at lower weights. At those speeds you can throttle back to 45% or less, which I calculate is about an 8gph burn rate ((260hpx0.45)/14.9g/hp/hr= 7.8 gph LOP). The plane carries 90 gallons, so that’s 11.5 hrs and 1000 miles to empty. Crank the speed up to 160 kts and you’l burn 20gph ROP. That’s 4.5 hrs to empty and 720 miles covered, plus that extra gas stop you had to make because you were burning so much gas.

          Reality is somewhere in between, but you get the idea.

      • Nate D'Anna
        Nate D'Anna says:

        Intelligent operation of that Comanche 260 is one thing, but what about the surprises? Just this week an AD was introduced reagrding cracks in the Comanche elevator horns. Cost just to inspect? Over $1,000.00 for each repetitous inspection. Cost to replace? Another $1,500.00 from what I’ve heard. You can lean the mixture all you want and slow down to 60% power to save SOME money. But the everyday guy can’t face a couple of thousand dollars in mandatory maintenance when it crops up out of nowhere. And will Piper foot the bill the way GM Ford and Chrysler do when they create a faulty part? Hell no. There will be no recalls from Piper with a commitment to make things right for free or at minimal cost. Great customer service no? THAT’S one big reason pilots are dropping out or new prospects are not interested in flying.The insdustry itself does not back up its products and is therefore contributing to its own demise.

        • tom
          tom says:

          I agree, that would take the unaware by surprise. However, Piper issued a service Instruction on this back in Apr 2010 so it’s not like we didn’t know it was coming, and some Comanche owners pushed for the AD for reasons I don’t understand. If you read it you’ll see the FAA went overboard and made it either a periodic inspection or replace every ten years. One would think an enterprising individual will come up with a better built stab horn that will be terminating action for the AD.

          • Rogers
            Rogers says:

            Comanches are great airplanes but they do get really expensive when some inordinate maintenance is required. I remember one that we were asked to evaluate for repair of excessive looseness in the left main landing gear. I disassembled the gear and found that all the bushings and bolts were worn and in need of replacement. The price for all these bushings, bolts, and other hardware was over $6000.00!! That doesn’t include the labor to rework the gear which was going to easily exceed $2000.00. And that was for just one main gear as the other had been rebuilt a few years earlier under an insurance claim.
            I like the Bellanca Super Viking. Available with either a 300hp Continental or Lycoming engine it is well supported by it’s current Type Certificate holder Alexandria Aircraft. Very fast and easily obtainable in IFR trim for around $40-$70K. The wood wing scares people but it is fine as long as it hasn’t been parked outdoors in the weather for years or kept in a desert environment. Long-term water soakage can lead to decay and extremely low humidity can cause splitting. But these are extreme situations. Aluminum corrodes and fatigues at a much greater rate than properly varnished and preserved aircraft spruce and mahogany. Wood is the best thing to make an airplane out of. Did you ever see a tree trunk suffer a “fatigue failure” from swaying in the wind for years?

        • Richard Ward
          Richard Ward says:

          Lawyers are a big problem. They get blamed for being hired guns in a relatively high risk recreation. But they’re hired guns no matter what. Sooo… Tort Reform is a needed legal advancement, not just in aviation, but in a lot of other high risk endeavors. When’s the last time you saw a diving board on a swimming pool? Next time your wife goes to the OBGYN, find out how much the doctor pays for insurance? Ditto the radiologist. Ditto the anesthesiologist. Ditto the surgeon. Tort reform in medicine is a Holy Grail of sorts. Do you really think that the new $150,000 airplane has to cost that much? No, but it does, because the manufacturer has to cover his behind for the next 30 years. The PIC will always face the risk, but IMHO, the manufacturer is entitled to some relief after a reasonable period of time. One thing about hired guns; they play by the rules made by people above them. If you want to get rid of the lawyers, change the laws. When you think about it, the Homebuilt movement is, at least in part, an outgrowth of the need for Tort Reform. That’s something we can all write to our Representatives about.

  98. Dave
    Dave says:

    A “Potential” pilot candidate: Mid to late 20’s, no kids, starting to make some money, drives a late model BMW, has had his ride in a sailplane, has done his skydive and now is thinking about General Aviation. Where does he start?

  99. Matthew
    Matthew says:

    Well I am trying to increase that number by 1. I found everything I need to start was in my local community college. You are right about taking risks, and I believe that is what has held me back. I love the challenge that aviation brings, and I should get my certificate in March. I just turned 30 and I am looking forward to my second career.

  100. lee
    lee says:

    Cost is only a part of the issue. Looking backwards a few decades to the 80’s, It costs roughly the same now as it did then to earn a private license in constant dollars…plane rental costs have actually decreased, and instructor time has slightly increased, and things are about even.

    Buying an older aircraft is less expensive in constant dollars now than back then. Avgas is only slightly more expensive in constant dollars since that time as well. Insurance rose sharply for a time, and has been decreasing, largely due to the underlying financing environment.

    A much larger change than costs has been that for the middle class, disposable income has plummeted. As incomes stagnate or go down as they have been for decades, the costs of higher priority items for raising families and buying homes and cars has demanded a much larger piece of the family budget.

    What is needed more than anything is a way to put aviation costs back in line with what they were for an average family in the 70’s if we want to see GA grow again. A $150,000 LSA simply doesn’t make sense to a lot of would-be aircraft owners when a $30k SUV that gets used every day is difficult to justify for many families.

      • tom
        tom says:

        What kind of Cessna? Twin or single? FG or RG? Cash or credit.

        Credit is what’s taken this country down the tubes. Those who pay cash get better deals and are not slave to the 8th wonder of the world: Compound interest.

  101. Jeff
    Jeff says:

    Dave, you missed the point…. He said a daily driver, not a hanger queen that get’s flown once a month.

    My income has dropped signigcantly. I was making $135k per year, and my wife was making $50k per year, then the economy tanked. I had to take a pay cut of $75k.

    I’m sure that there are others out there in the same boat. And I struggle to stay afloat. I guess that I could let Obama and his Czars pay my bills and feed me, but I’m not the type to claim bank ruptcy and burden the government for my meals and clothing.

    Each person has their own set of circumstances. Each has to justify what he can and cannot afford.

    For me, I’ve not flown since 2007. And yes, I want to.

    • Dave
      Dave says:

      I’m sorry to hear of your difficult situation, unfortunately too many of us must sacrifice our dreams during these difficult economic times. I agree that most people can not afford to buy a $150k airplane, be it an LSA or otherwise. The decision then is whether you can even afford to rent and stay current. $10K/year?

  102. Chris
    Chris says:

    My observation is wealth and legal related. The long term decline is related to the erosion of wealth, and this has squeezed the average guy from learning to fly. Much of this is inflation related. Example is 20 years ago wife used to stay home and now needs to work to make ends meet.

    Those that fly commercially and have the money and a need to fly, can’t due to restrictions and rules corporate attorneys have established for their employers. Corporations don’t want to take the risk. Everyone is afraid of getting sued.

    Imagine if we could convert just 1% of the daily traffic that goes through the nations major airport to flying a general aviation aircraft on business travel?

  103. Robert Gould
    Robert Gould says:

    1. Follow the middle-class disposable income. The middle class income has not kept pace with economic growth, and the middle class has too many other daily expenses, college expenses, medical expenses etc. There is very little money, if any, left for what is seen as an expensive hobby. LSA was going to be our savior until a new LSA is $100k and more! Today’s flying is too expensive, the average single engine only getting the equivalent of about 13-15 mpg. As someone previously said, I can get into my other hobby (sports car), go to the local car show for free, and spend only about $1000 per year for maintenance and insurance AND have fun too.
    2. Family time is also a big issue. I watch as family time together is very important and flying is competing with soccer, baseball, football, and all those after-school activities. Every little extra time is devoted to being together, mostly due to our 60 hr work-weeks to maintain middle-class status!
    3. I believe the solution may be the European style flying clubs that bring costs down and bring in the social aspect of pilot camaraderie amongst pilots and families and bring the fun back into the sport.

  104. Daniel
    Daniel says:

    I’m a licensed pilot, and I have plenty of money. I like to fly, but I don’t fly PIC much, and here’s why.

    1. There are a lot of other exciting things to do that are cheaper and safer. In the 1950’s, one of the most interesting things a human being could do — and one of the most economically valuable — was be part of a nonlinear control system (driver, pilot, etc.). Now, I can write a great iPhone app, or learn things on Google and write a blog post that might be read by thousands of people, or spend a few days putting together a YouTube mashup video that might go viral. In the 20th Century, it was hard to get access to an audience, you needed a lot of costly help from other people like editors and publishers, so unless you were a professional author/artist/engineer you could tinker for yourself but that was all. The decline of aviation goes hand-in-hand with the rise of other creative activities. (I do NOT mean that creative people aren’t pilots, just that everyone has competing interests, and now there are more creative interests that can compete with flying.)

    2. If I’m not PIC for 5 hours a month, I’m not safe by my own standards. That’s a big commitment: every weekend plan a trip, schedule a plane, drive to the airport, preflight, FLY AN HOUR, refuel, drive back from the airport. If the weather’s bad, make an alternate plan. By the time I’m holding short for a takeoff clearance, I could be halfway to writing a great blog post, and I haven’t even gotten off the ground.

    3. In 1950, if you were going to drive 100 miles, you likely needed to “preflight” your car: check the oil, tires, etc. I haven’t done that in 20 years… cars are that much simpler to use now. In 1950, driving a car used to require a complicated high-speed maneuver: overtaking on a two-lane road; many drivers almost never do that today. Starting a car when it was cold required using the choke… manual transmissions were commonplace. Today, cars are simpler in those respects but also better. Yet I’m supposed to know from memory the TKS anti-ice reservoir capacity in an SR-22. Think about it.

    4. My most common airline trip is transcontinental. Personal aviation can’t compete with airlines on trips like that, even with TSA madness. As our world gets larger, more trips are beyond the capability of personal aviation.

    Before the internet, aviation was one of very few ways to broaden your horizons. Richard Collins sees a trend towards people being “needy, dependent, and risk-averse.” I think those adjectives describe the aviation community as much, and maybe moreso, than others. The new creative class of coders, authors, musicians, bloggers, vloggers, … do not interact with subsidized weather and ATC services. Many take huge risks. In fact a common complaint is that there’s too much bad music/blogging/videos which comes from people taking poorly thought out risks, because they can. And they fail. If pilots did that they’d be dead.

    Bottom line: personal aviation is a fun hobby for a few people, and useful for fewer. Many people find creative hobbies more interesting, even if they have money and skill. Those hobbies weren’t available 50 years ago, so of course interest in aviation will decline in relative terms.

    • John Zimmerman
      John Zimmerman says:

      You make some excellent points here, especially about the competition for our free time and money. The answer to me is to step up our game and make aviation more competitive. We can’t admit defeat–we have to react. As the old quote says, “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”

    • Eugene P. Letter
      Eugene P. Letter says:

      Great comment but if the guy loves flying that much he might think about using his skills to teach.

  105. paul
    paul says:

    Hello all
    South African perspective – poor economy where it is becoming increasingly difficult to afford being able to start learning to fly or to keep a license current. Apathy with many people only interested in whats in it for them.An indifferent Civil Aviation Authority…………….

  106. Thomas Boyle
    Thomas Boyle says:

    Daniel at 7:14pm is saying something very much like I’ve been thinking.

    As Richard Collins says, flying is not all that much more expensive now, relative to incomes, than it ever was – BUT most other things are much cheaper than they were 60 years ago, AND there are many, many new uses for time and money that compete with flying (and driving, and ham radio, and other antique passtimes).

    If flying wants to survive at all, it has to deliver on at least one side, preferably both sides of the equation: it has to become MUCH more useful, and/or MUCH cheaper.

    In terms of MUCH more useful, think of a regular person, who flies a handful of times a year, being able to rent an airplane, sit in, and fly to a destination with only minimal weather limitations (anything except icing conditions, thunderstorms, very strong winds, and severe turbulence conditions, say). Think something more like Google’s car, not a Beech Bonanza with tip tanks and 50 systems to memorize.

    In terms of MUCH cheaper, think of purchase price below $100k for a 4-seater and below $50k for a sporty-looking 2-seater. No, I mean that. Preferably, it would be 40% lower still.

    We’re way past time to stop it with the excuses and reasons why it “can’t be done”. The challenge is out there, and old-fashioned rag-and-tube or plate-and-rivet methods won’t meet it, but it must be done. If it truly can’t be done, personal flying is dead; we’ll be among the last to bother with it.

  107. N550JA
    N550JA says:

    We only have about 200,000 active planes and about the same number of pilots. The average mean age of a pilot is 55+ and in the next ten years 1/3 will not have a medical, that’s about 60,000 pilots. This could mean in the next ten years 60,000 planes would be looking for a pilot and a home. Planes will get so cheap the value would be the time left on the engines. We would need to create about 500,000 new pilots in the next ten years for GA to survive. I do not think this is possible and with user fees gas prices and supply issues that GA will last much longer than ten years in it’s present form. I would like to know your opinion.

    I have been in aviation for 50 years and own 250 hangars in California. My father built the local airport and my father in law owned 36 news papers in California. I own a 1980 421C and a Colemill President two Baron.

    • tom
      tom says:


      I just looked up ktpf – thanks for the brain teaser. Knowing that your plane is based in Tampa FL, the corrosion capital of the world, I assume you are replacing engine cylinders with ECI Cerminil coated cylinders so they cannot rust, and treating the airframe with Corrosion-X to stop airframe corrosion. If not, why not?

  108. Mike
    Mike says:

    I have a little input if I may, I hear from groups I belong to that send money we need to fight user fee’s constantly the biggest is AOPA. When in reality The 100.00 dollar fee is a drop in tha bucket when compared to the abuse we receive as pilots at the repair facility’s. I have a Cessna 172 it’s owned by 4 of us. We give red carpet treatment to our plane, oil changes, additives, so forth. We have encountered this situation which I am sure is prevalent at other airports. Every year it seems we have to hand out thousands of dollars for our annual. Last year it was 2 cylinders, 2 years before that it was 2 cylinders, this year we have 3 cylinders in low 60’s and 3in low 70’s. With metal in the oil chrome, steel, aluminum , so forth cylinders being eaten up. But this year they hit us with 4,000 dollars for misc. seat belt replaced, one wheel bearing was making noise so they replaced all 3, battery, so forth, but let the engine go out dying knowing that we fly over water. We have had the plane in between annual’s for mysterious electrical outages many many times, one of their lineman shoved the planes areolons into a hanger door then tried to get 2000 dollars for a repair when it was a 15 min repair with a crimper. The engine hours are only half way between TBO. I have flown this plane as well as the other pilots and never had an experience with low power or climb, or rpm or manifold pressure before any cylinder changes, I believe that with the less amount of pilots that are flying these shops have to get more aggressive in their repairs. The main point being with all this money spent, we still have a engine that I feel is not trust worthy, but not one of these organizations would look into this as, This is not critical to the, let’s face it they can write off their repairs as it is a corporate expense. We just all pay for it. This practice the shops are doing will kill aviation for GA long before any 100.00 flight fee. Thank you and keep up the good work. By the way my hone airport is KTPF.

    • tom
      tom says:


      You are a poster child for the hands off owner. One of you need to get smart on your rights as owners. Airplanes are after all, private property, and having a shop dictate how you manage its maintenance is unnecessary victimhood. If you don’t want to be DM then hire one like Mike Busch at

      How to get smart? Buy a copy of the engine and airframe maintenance and parts manuals for a start, Read Mike’s articles on avweb, at the owner mag or He puts on seminars for a fee around the USA and I highly recommend it. He’s also generous and tells most of what he knows for free in his articles and eaa webinars.

      His procedure for managing cost is simple: Recognize the shop’s liability: Like doctors they are under the scrutiny of lawyers for any misstep. If the owner signs a waiver for things they recommend, they are off the hook.

      An annual is an inspection. Nothing more. No repairs, no fixing, no putting the kid thru college. They disassemble the plane enough to do that, test the engine cylinders, inspect the oil screens/filter, and make a list of discrepancies. That’s it.

      This is where an annual ends and you should have total control of any maintenance done to get a signoff for return to service. To do that you must make the shop agree that they are your employee performing a service before they even see the plane, and that you have final say on any maintenance done and its cost, in writing. If they refuse, find another shop. Many owners defer maintenance until the annual. That’s not always a good idea. Some owners toss the keys to the shop and ask to be called when the annual is done. That’s a license for financial disaster.

      Rule #1 is to get an agreement with the shop before the annual is due that they will inspect, document squawks and present them to the owner with a cost estimate and a thought as to airworthiness, nice to have or owner approved Mx. The owner either approves or declines each item, both sigh the document and each gets a copy. Only then do they fix anything.

      Shops that inspect a little, fix a little, inspect a little, fix a little hate this because you have control.

      Lets say the shop holds you hostage claiming they will not sign the annual off unless they repair something. For example, the engine is at 4300 hours, has good compression, not making metal and you’ve been keeping up on accessory overhauls, like mags and such. But he’s ‘uncomfortable’ signing off an engine that is twice past TBO for both calendar and hours.

      The IA can sign off the annual ‘with discrepancies, a list given to the owner.’ Nothing more goes into the logbook. You then take the plane to another A&P, have the engine inspected and if he is satisfied an A&P can sign off the engine as airworthy.

      Airworthiness is a confusing thing and ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. You are concerned first about being safe, but you have been doing that all along right? If you defer ‘safety’ items until annual then you are not really so concerned about safety.

      The mechanic is concerned about being legal per the type certificate as well as liability and the bottom line. The latter are negotiable, because they can be vague. Even safety items are vague. You mentioned flying over water as a concern. So? The plane doesn’t know that its over water, mountains, at night or in the weather.

      FAR 43 specifies what the shop has to inspect at annual. Note that they are free to develop their own checklist and ignore any checklist in the maintenance manual. But if they decide to do a repair, then it has to be per the manual. Read FAR-43. It’s a very simple and direct part of the FARS. Sadly it leads to a lot of consternation and cost.

      TBO is a chimera under part 91. Only an AD or limitations section in the maintenance manual can spell out when a repair must be done. Otherwise, nobody can say when to do a repair. Read Mike’s discussion on the topic: Old engines have proven themselves so don’t mess with them if running properly.

      If your engine is a Continental read their service bulletin on cylinder pressure tests: It is very lenient about low compressions, essentially saying if compression is above 40 psi go fly it some more, then retest before pulling jugs. The leak could be a crack, rings or valves.

      A borescope inspection of the cylinder and especially exhaust valve is a requirement. Ask to see the shop’s borescope if they condemn a cylinder. If they don’t have one they are not following the SB and have no basis for pulling jugs. Ask to see the borescope pictures or look yourself. If there is no evidence of a burned valve, corrosion or crack, they were messing with you. Read the SB.

      You mentioned red carpets. Does your carpet include an oil filter cutter? Battery capacity test per the battery owner’s manual, which is free on the web? circuit cleaning and maintenance per the maintenance manual? Minor repairs? Wheel bearings, brakes, fairings, lights, batteries, side windows etc as spelled out as owner maintenance in part 43? If you don’t do at least some of that you’re not trying very hard to keep cost down.

      I used to manage Mx on five C182s, and before the owners delivered the plane for annual, they were to give me the list of discrepancies they had been building and fixing along the way. Then fly it and change the oil, send a sample out for analysis, saving the rest for the shop to drag a magnet thru. They cut the filter for a preliminary inspection for surprises (there never were any because we cut the filter at every oil change, so we knew what was going on inside the engine). For the Lycoming powered planes they inspected the oil suction screen to. Most shops never touch it. Then they washed the engine with solvent and refilled it with oil, installed and safety wired a new filter and made appropriate scratches in the engine logs.

      They also have a copy of the Cessna seat AD, and know to inspect the seat rails, rollers and retainers per the AD and report their findings so I can order parts.

      If the shop has agreed to discount for owner prep, then hen they removed the lower cowl if able (some are harder than others) washed the engine and cowls with solvent, removed the seats, carpet, inspection plates, fairings etc. A call to the shop arranged for a compression test as soon as it arrived, and the owner taxied it to the shop and watched the compression test, which should only be done on a warm engine. If there were any oddball readings they called me and I discussed it with the shop.

      I tracked ADs, SBs, SIs and discrepanes so I knew what had to be done. I maintained spreadsheets on each plane so I knew how old the attitude indicator was, the make an model, time installed and who touched it last. Ditto ‘consumables’ like engine start battery, spark plugs, vacuum pumps etc. We kept the batteries plugged into VDC BatteryMinders as much as possible to keep them desulfated and properly charged, and we had Reiff cylinder and battery heaters installed for winter starts. It took time, but there were few surprises, and when they came, it was often an over-reaction to a finding that later proved to be nothing or something the owner could do.

      Cessna, and probably others, are currently writing Mandatory compliance addendums to the Mx manuals spelling out additional inspections to be done when a plane is 20 years or older. Expect this to become a cash cow for shops. Don’t be spooked by ‘mandatory compliance.’ That’s the lawyers talking. If you are a part 91 operator you can ignore it. But, if your plane was used for pipeline patrol, is based on a saltwater coast or did aerial combat, some of the additional inspections might be worthwhile. Stay tooned as details become available.

      There are a lot of old wives tales out there about maintenance. Most are baloney, and it takes a while to get educated. Mike Busch has done a marvelous job of education those who want to be educated. If not, then hire him to manage maintenance for you. You won’t regret it.

      • Rogers
        Rogers says:

        Airworthiness is not an IA’s opinion. An IA has guidelines he is supposed to use in order to determine whether or not and aircraft is actually airworthy. And airworthiness is a legal term meaning “in condition for safe operation AND in conformance with approved Type Design”.
        An IA who refuses to sign an annual solely on the basis of high engine time is not doing so because of airworthiness guideline issues. He is personally refusing to sign it because he doesn’t want the liability. After paying hangar rent, utilities, supplies, etc., most independant IAs cannot afford to pay $700.00+ every month for Liability Insurance.
        If such an aircraft is still in annual it can be flown somewhere else. But if it is out of annual or if the IA finds other problems immediately affecting the safety of the aircraft then he MAY NOT sign it off for flight. The proper signoff would that he “has inspected this aircraft in accordance with an Annual Inspection and a list of unairworthy items dated xx/xx/xx has been provided to the aircraft owner”. This entry means that the aircraft may not be flown until these discrepancies have been repaired and properly signed off by an appropriatly rated mechanic or Repair Station. The only other way to move the aircraft to another field would be under a one-time ferry permit which may require repairs and another mechanic’s inspection as well.

        • tom
          tom says:

          Rogers, I disagree. First, a guidline is just that, a guide, not a rule. If you are referring to part 43 as that guidline it gets even murkier because shops can devise their own inspection checklist and ignore that of the manufacturer. Sounds fairly squishy to me.

          An annual inspection is precisely what you say it is not: Opinion. An annual is based on a lot of assumptions. Otherwise we’d be pulling and measuring cams and cranks for wear, props for NDI, skins to see what lurks beneath, disassemble to see if all ADs have been complied with etc. In fact the best definition of an annual inspection I’m aware of is that it’s a snapshot of the aircraft that says “In the IAs opinion, at that moment in time, the aircraft is airworthy.”

          While I agree with some of what you say, a few APs and IAs throw ‘airworthiness’ around to intimidate the owner. The more ignorant the owner is the more susceptible they are to undue pressure. I’ve heard it, succumbed to it, fought it, learned from it and now won’t let anyone touch my planes unless I or a representative is present.

          The best antidote to claims of ‘something mandatory’ is ‘show me the reference or criteria.’ If its there I learn. If not, they learn. There are a lot of old wives tales and opinions masquerading as fact, law and rule when they are none of the above. There is also misinterpretation. ‘Mandatory’ vacuum pump replacements, magneto replacements and others come to mind. As I said earlier, there is very little ‘mandatory for part 91 operators. But I’ve had shops try.

          A great example is an IA who condemned the carry through spar on a C177 for corrosion. Replacement would cost $5000 for a spar and $15000 to install. We asked for photos, how they determined airworthiness etc but got no photos and screwy answers. When the shop began to claim it was inter-granular corrosion we really got excited because to our knowledge nobody had ever seen it in the c177 or C210 spars.

          The owner was not helping by timidly saying they would “feel better” with a new spar installed. First off, there are no new spars to install, they all come from a salvage yard. Second: If its inter-granular its a production problem and could affect that salvage spar too, and third: what are the criteria used to condemn the spar? Answer: ‘It looked bad.’

          Wrong answer. We contacted Cessna for criteria, and they had it, for a fee. We suggested the owner buy the info and have an independent AP clean the spar and measure the pits and confer with the IA. It passed just fine, so they fixed what was causing it, treated the spar and returned to service. If we hadn’t gotten involved the shop would have made a tidy sum doing unnecessary work and held the plane hostage until they had their way.

          Again, I’m mystified by the owner’s attitude that that was Ok based on a gut feeling, but for the more financially responsible cardinal owners it was an important learning experience.

          Was the episode driven by airworthiness, ignorance, fear or greed? I suspect a bit of each. It’s easy to think the shop was taking advantage of a timid, ignorant person, but she described her predicament to more aggressive types who are data driven and forced the shop’s hand.

          Airworthiness is not all its cracked up to be. There’s a fair amount of Kentucky windage and negotiating room available if you know how to negotiate it. Just read some of Mike Busch’s experiences for examples.

  109. Gennaro Bruno
    Gennaro Bruno says:

    I’ve been and still am in aircraft maintenance first. My private pilot license came way, way later. So I’ve seen quite a bit in the industry. The world did not change, and time don’t change people do. The expense of gas is the first catalyst for the decline of pilots which goes to the expense of per hour rate. So unless their is some extra means, cash, whatever you want to call it it fits. Now if someone was to sponsor or a club can get special rates for student pilots with some potential and I mean a radical drop in the price of gas. Just last week I got re-qualified ti fly the citabria tail wheel with the instructor it was about 475 for just under 3 hours with the instructor.Alone its 125 an hour. Same plane ten years ago was 70 an hour with instructor.
    Again young pilots with the intent of making a career out of it should be able to come in a a way lower price then today.
    So whoever this is going to and if you have any muscle get into some politicans ear and say go into you budget and get rid of the freloaders and put the money to good use. Support a pilot.
    Thanks for your ear
    Jerry Bruno

  110. Dan Cullman
    Dan Cullman says:

    It’s a matter of priorities. Where do you want to spend your money?
    I earned my private license in May of ’65, before high school graduation. I paid for every bit of my flying with summer jobs that paid $1.25/1.50 an hour. Avgas 80 was $.43/gal. The airplane with instructor was $14.00.
    I spent money on nothing else. I didn’t own a car, have a girlfriend or any fancy stereo equipment. Today, young adults seem to have new cars, Iphones, Ipads, computers, a selection of credit cards, etc. That’s where the money is going. These are easy to get and don’t involve all the work and demands of obtaining an airman certificate.
    No check rides, dealing with maintenance, the FAA,FARs TFRs,TSA and medical exams.
    The money is there…just going elsewhere.
    Dan C

  111. Steve Wilson
    Steve Wilson says:

    Look at the history of growth in GA. With the exception of WWII, the largest growth in aviation has been when new airplane prices were not much more than the price of a luxury car. Examples, mid-1930’s, 1945-1955, again in the mid-1960’s. Since then there has been a dramatic rise the cost of airplanes. I had hoped that the Ultra-Lights would cause a peak in the number of new pilots, and of late the LSA’s; however, the price of an LSA is still well above the price of a luxury car. I’m not convenienced that there will be a turn-around. My wife and I are pilots and we have two sons who have followed through, with one son-in-law who is a helicopter pilot, if that counts ;-) Our family will probably continue to fly because it is our passion, but I’m sorry, I just don’t get that feeling with the new generations…

  112. SteveHulse
    SteveHulse says:

    The biggest problem is cost. I took ground school in 2006. After the class was finished, the FBO dropped flight training leaving only one flight training outfit in town. I walked in their door, told the lady I had finished ground school and wanted to begin flight training. I asked what their projected cost would be. Her reply: “Our insurance requires 20 hours minimum to solo and 100 hours for check ride. If you don’t have fourteen thousand dollars, you might as well walk”. I turned around and walked out the door without another word.
    I couldn’t let flying go though. I love flying and have wanted my PPC since I was a little kid in the late 60’s. A couple of years later I drove up to Tehachapi California, took a glider ride and loved it. I soloed recently, check ride is coming soon and I’m looking for my own glider.

  113. James Cordes
    James Cordes says:

    What a great dialogue this is. Its also an important one. The confidence of a country lies in its citizen’s asserting their right to travel, to explore, to be heroic even if its symbolic, to challenge their abilities. There’s some truth to your comment about risk aversion. Lawyers have been ruining the landscape of American freedoms and self-expression to do big things. Post 9-11 high school students were forbidden to travel out of state or to visit a museum in a city. Is this how we educate our future leaders?

    We do have men and women working out in gyms, getting abs in shape, but they don’t do anything with it. Flying is a great personal freedom and accomplishment, it is a great challenge to acquire the skills and knowledge base, its worth the effort. Every pilot knows its an accomplishment that carries into all parts of one’s life. It creates confidence and adds to good decision making.

    The list of what we need to do is short. First make flying affordable, cheaper and safe planes. They don’t have to be perfect. Cars aren’t perfect yet we drive them in crowded corridors at 70 mph with the radio on drinking a cup of coffee. How can that seem OK when in order to get a pilots license you have to spend a small fortune, know more about your plane’s engine than you’ll ever be are allowed to put a wrench on. What does it matter that a pilot know there are horizontally opposed pistons? A car might have a turbine or not, yet we don’t test drivers on how they work. That same driver goes out on a highway passing fuel trucks, busses, and tractor trailers.

    No, I don’t want any yahoo flying a plane, but we raise barriers to flying that at a practical and statistical level don’t improve pilot quality or flight safety.

    Why can’t we make an aircraft that is safe, reliable, has some instrumentation, and sells for less than $50,000.00? If a tenth of the people who buy new BMW’s were to buy a plane the GA problem would be solved.

    We need to back off the fear mongering about security and small aircraft. They aren’t useful for that purpose, it hasn’t happened, and there are probably better choices. The aviation community is very self-watchful, very conscious of unusual activity, very supportive of each other, and especially conservative in maintaining local safety and good neighbor policies.

    Throw away the iPad, the gaming console XBox and all the other synthetic reality toys. Teach your child to fly, they will be the better for it.

  114. Richard Warner
    Richard Warner says:

    One thing that drives the cost of flying up is still the lawsuit problem. A lawyer gets up in front of a non-aviation jury and blames the manufacturer, the pilot’s old flight instructor, The A&P/IA that signed off the last airworthiness inspection, etc., when the guy flew into instrument conditions and ran into a mountain. At least make it so that the NTSB probable cause can be used in defense. I can’t, for the life of me, understand why it is not allowed in court. At least, some of the non-aviation jurors with some common sense would see a possible different reason for an accident other than what a slick lawyer can make them believe. The FAA needs to back off on some of their restrictive regulations too.

    • James Cordes
      James Cordes says:

      I agree Richard, the problem with lawyers mucking up the system is that everyone agrees they are mucking up many systems. The pot of gold at the end of a lawsuit shouldn’t be how statute and fairness are decided. Doing so only corrupts the system. Tort reform would help.

      Regarding the admissibility of NTSB accident reports you may have read this paper:

      The last page summarizes the logic, which I personally find illogical. If justice is to be found for liability in an accident, an impartial report by the best experts should be available. If not, it seems to be equivalent to withholding evidence. The rationale that it might taint the NTSB is absurd as I’m sure there are many parties always trying very hard to persuade them of causes and blame.

  115. Dave
    Dave says:

    “needy, dependent and risk adverse” Sorry, but I do not think human kind has changed. Look at the extreme sports, still very active participation. I know many, many teens, 20s and 30s who rock climb,winter and summer mountaineer as well as back country ski. I have not even mentioned our service members who do these thinks in a more structured environment.
    No, I think you must blame less pilots on something else!
    I am not planning on stopping flying until I have to. I also rock climb, back country ski and rock climb and I am in my 5th decade.

  116. Robin Rebhan
    Robin Rebhan says:

    One would do well to view “The Blame Game” by Grant Cardone on
    About 5 minutes long. He is a motivational speaker, but indirectly addresses the problem of declineing enrollments of pilots in flight schools.
    Just a footnote: He did a couple programs on the National Geographic Channel as the Turn Around King which were very good, but I find his books and stuff on his website to be Ho-Hum. So outside of the above save your money and time for flying.

    Robin Rebhan
    Albany, NY

  117. tom
    tom says:

    Morris Massey was a motivational speaker who presented ‘you are where you were when.’ The USAF and major corporations used his stuff in the 70s and 80s for race and sex relations matters as well as how to understand their people and the generational conflicts that naturally arise. He broke society loosely into groups born into the depression ‘have nots,’ the WWII ‘can do’s, and the ‘boomers’with great job opportunities. Then came the beatnick, hippie years of the late 50s and early 60s and finally the Gen=x and Y groups confused by a rapidly changing society from a social, sexual, racial and authority points of view. I won’t go into detail because his tapes are for sale on Amazon and are probably languishing in many a corporate HR office or public library. But I will give an example. Please cut me some slack here. The theory lumps people into groups, and people aren’t really amenable to that. This is just a way of thinking about who you are dealing with:

    WWII vets accept authority figures. They promoted racism, sexism and anything military, especially flying, were thankful for a job and stayed with it until retirement. Many grew up on farms, were in the trades and self reliant out of necessity. The baby bommers also had it good, got paid trips to Korea and respected the military.

    The anti-authority hippies of the 60s are now in power or retiring, and began to give consideration to retirement about the time we went into what I consider an economic depression in 1999 when the tech wreck and subsequent bubbles hit. Savings have dwindled along with discretionary income. That segment sees government as their savior from their own bad judgement while still trying to save the world from over population and DDT while lobbying for more air and water quality regs. The VietNam vets flew, but many seem to connect flying with the military/authority, which they hate. Lots of conflict in that bunch.

    The generation that followed the hippies are tech savvy, read about womens’s lib, racial equality and know how the system works. Conflicted by their hippie parents flipping off their grandparents, they aren’t as messed up as the hippies, but they probably don’t share their grandparent’s respect for authority and few have the vested retirement programs.

    Skipping ahead to the present generation, there seems to be little loyalty either direction between employer and employee. One would think job hopping results in a wildly varying income. Add the depression and it’s amazing anyone in that generation can afford to fly.

  118. Jim
    Jim says:

    There are just so many things wrong with this article, I don’t know where to begin. Without a shred of evidence, and even acknowledging that “the numbers don’t support it”, Richard proceeds to offer some truly silly opinions.

    Dismissing the most repeated reasons for not flying as an “excuse” is convenient, but does nothing to address the problem. As James Carville said, “It’s the economy, stupid.” In the last 10 years, our 70 year-old flying club has been reduced from 30+ members to 5. People didn’t drop out because they suddenly became “wimps”, “risk-averse”, or “needy”. Their businesses tanked and they lost their jobs. According to the BLS, there were fewer people employed at the end of 2009 than at the beginning of 2000 — the period covered in Richard’s graph. Some of our members had to decide between continuing to fly, and sending their children to college — the costs of which have increased more than 30% in constant dollars over the last 10 years. And the price of the largest contributor to the variable costs of operating a small plane — fuel — has tripled in the last 10 years. Dismiss these facts as “excuses”, and you’ll never fix the problem.

    I also vehemently disagree that “the risks [of flying] can’t be minimized.” Richard made his writing career by showing us how to minimize risks. Is he now saying that he made up all that stuff? Our culture is full of risk-takers, and I don’t want to fly with any of them. The people whom I consider to be good pilots are those who *are* risk averse. They have the discipline and intellectual curiosity to understand and control all aspects of the activity they are undertaking, whether it’s low level aerobatics or a long cross country flight in IMC. How will we ever change the public’s perception of flying (“why would you do that” vs. “I always wanted to do that”) if we perpetuate the myth that flying is only for risk-takers and hairy-chested individualists?

    Finally, I see no evidence that there is “more of a tendency today for people to be needy and dependent and risk-averse”. Yes, there are lots of lawyers suing people for just about every ridiculous thing they can think of. That’s called “greed”, and it has contributed greatly to the high costs of aircraft certification and manufacturing. And there will always those misguided few who would trade their freedoms (or those of others) for security — can you say “SFRA”? But by and large, people are no different than they’ve ever been. Today’s young people — tomorrow’s pilots — are just as adventurous as ever. When they aren’t fighting our wars for us, they travel the world rock-climbing, rafting, studying art and architecture, building schools, etc. They do these things in increasingly large numbers because they have lots of opportunities to do so — much more so than 30 years ago. Now compare the number of general aviation airports today to that of 30 years ago. How about flight schools? Where are the observation decks in today’s modern airports? Where does a parent park their car to let the kids watch airplanes land at their local airport? Many of today’s general aviation airports literally scream, “Keep Out!” No wonder nobody goes there anymore. We’re doing ourselves in with our 8 foot fences, our $150 “intro” flight lessons, and our “right stuff” mentality. And people simply invest their time and money elsewhere.

  119. Terry
    Terry says:

    It’s ALL THE ABOVE. Why is there a shortage of long haul truck drivers? The pay or lack of, government regulations and the general attitude of the population when they find out what you do. The left wing educated media and the crap they present doesn’t help. There were only a small percentage of anti war protesters but it taught the general mindless population how to treat military personal that took decades to fix. The coverage of any flight accident. The trotting out all the folks who said Bush stole the election and not explaining how laws work and how they can’t be changed after the fact. And the next reporter that calls it tarmac will earn getting dragged down the concrete runway. Sadly I don’t feel better.

    • James Cordes
      James Cordes says:

      Tarmac is official FAA lingo. As in

      “TARMAC DELAY- The holding of an aircraft on the ground either before departure or after landing with no opportunity for its passengers to deplane.

      TARMAC DELAY AIRCRAFT- An aircraft whose pilot-in-command has requested to taxi to the ramp, gate, or alternate deplaning area to comply with the Three-hour Tarmac Rule.

      TARMAC DELAY REQUEST- A request by the pilot-in-command to taxi to the ramp, gate, or alternate deplaning location to comply with the Three-hour Tarmac Rule.”

      Truckers and pilot shortage? Bush stole the election! Left wing educated reporters! Wow… time for an annual.

      Flying needs to be marketed to the public again, especially younger people. We need to encourage a Model T equivalent, under $30,000 new plane. It doesn’t have to fly long distance or be faster than a C-150, just cheaper. Enough demand would make a great fiberglass molded local sport plane. They do it with boats that include the engine.,0

  120. Luc
    Luc says:

    I disagree with most of, but not all points, Mr. Collins makes.

    1) I do believe cost is a big issue. Yes, flying was always expensive, but there are still degrees of “expensiveness”. Flying used to be affordable by average middle class family, despite high cost, but the middle class is bleeding. Affordability of flying has been moved towards the upper middle class. The average middle class barely can’t afford it anymore. That makes a huge difference due to the sheer number of middle class house holds. The decline of the middle class has been going on before the recession started.

    2) There is more risk-averseness on broader level (large institutional level), but not more risk averseness on an individual level.

    3) Flying always learning, and skill, but flying is more complex, due to more regulations.

  121. Dave
    Dave says:

    If we want more pilot’s we need to find a way to reduce training costs and increase starting wages. Nobody is going to incur $100K of flight training costs so they can start out at $23K a year and instead of staying in a comfortable hotel be stuck in a crash pad overnight. There is nothing cheap about flying and corporate, thanks to deregulation has managed all this in the name of selling you cheaper tickets. Most Pilots don’t get paid until the cabin door closes and pushback/engine start up begins. They don’t get paid for the commute across the country on another jet and standing in long lines. When you’re a new pilot, corporate sadly likes to lable this as “paying your dues.”

    Go to Youtube and watch Frontline: Flying Cheap

  122. D gill
    D gill says:

    Wow. What a depressing string of thoughts

    I am 55 years old and have always wanted to fly an airplane. To be a PILOT!!! Didn’t matter how fast it flew or how high. Just wanted to say I can do that — I can fly an airplane. Solo.

    So exactly one year ago yesterday, I completed my checkride for a SPORT PILOT LICENSE. And in June of this year my wife who ALSO HAS ALWAYS WANTED TO FLY, completed her PRIVATE PILOT checkride

    And in July, my wife and I flew from Dallas to OSHKOSH!!! First time there for either of us. An awesome experience worth every bit of the expense paying for TWO PILOT TRAINING COSTS.

    The best advice I got from a non Pilot no less was don’t try to rationalize it. (the cost) If you want to do it and have fun doing it JUST DO IT. Yes it is expensive but my buddies are
    Buying $600k houses and fast cars. Lots of people could afford it if the wanted to do it. We aren’t “rich” and neither are my friends. We just prioritize our spending on what we want. They have a big house and we have an airplane.

    Yes flying is (Very) expensive.

    But the feeling of accomplishment and the views of sunsets, sunrises, clouds, weather (avoiding storms), country terrain, big city skylines at night, small towns, new airstrips on the way to Oshkosh,

    All from the inside of YOUR AIRPLANE

    are worth it!!! Every dime.

    I am not sure why my friends are “afraid” of flying. They take all manner of risks with mountain biking, scuba diving, crotch rocket motorcycles, extreme sports, etc but they see my little LSA as too risky. Yet I fly cross country with my wife every weekend and THEY are The ones arriving Monday morning with broken arms from the mountain bike crashes

    We bought a fully equipped LSA with glass panel, autopilot, 696 garmin with XM weather, ballistic parachute and added portable iPad GPS and ADS-B in traffic and weather. We liked the new LSA with glass cockpit and tight control feel better than the alternative flight schools with fourty year old ugly 172s. And we fly out of an airport in Dallas that is class delta airspace underneath class bravo. A difficult place to learn to fly. But glad we did because now even me, a SPORT PILOT with a bravo endorsement can go about anywhere in the US in daytime. Add my wife’s PRIVATE Pilot certificate and we can go night VFR anywhere we want

    We fly because we love it. The feeling of freedom. The ability to fly OVER car
    Traffic jams. To get there faster than a car. Sometimes a LOT faster. But always more fun and more rewarding. Sure you have to manage risk but I feel safer in our airplane than heavy fast Dallas traffic.

    We Pilots need to emphasize the fun part and the rewarding accomplishments achieved with commitment to getting a license and flying an airplane.

    It’s not about the money. Lots of folks can afford it. It’s about the adventure and the accomplishment and the memories

    Go get the movie ONE SIX RIGHT

    watch it

    And then loan it out to everyone you know that has ever said they want to be a Pilot.

    People used to “flying” (in) an airliner
    As a passenger think that is all there is to FLYING. You go up, you read a book, you come down and you wait in long lines at security

    They need to experience the thrill of a GREAT
    CROSSWIND landing or your first landing at OSHKOSH or a night trip to a new airport or the views of the clouds and terrain below

    Once more folks understand that THIS IS WHAT FLYING IS ABOUT, they will be hooked

    And they will find a way to pay for it. Might be a used 9000 hour Piper Warrior or a new LSA or even a Cirrus. But if folks learn that it is





    And even practical to get from point A to B faster than a car

    They will find a way to make it happen.

    And I agree that we need to encourage aspiring women Pilots to learn all of the above also. My wife is as good a Pilot as any and there is no reason that we are such a male oriented club now.

    It’s not the money. It takes money to fly an airplane. Sure. But most folks don’t know how much fun, how rewarding, how challenging, and how practical (yes, even on a 110 kt LSA with limited payload) flying can be.

    Let’s stop accentuating the negatives about flying and advertise the positives!!!

  123. D G
    D G says:

    Wow. What a depressing string of thoughts. Some good ideas in there for sure, but mostly depressing and focused on negatives and the HIGH COST of flying.

    I am 55 years old and have always wanted to fly an airplane. To be a PILOT!!!

    Didn’t matter how fast it flew or how high. Just wanted to be able to say I can do that — I can fly an airplane. Solo.

    So exactly one year ago yesterday, I completed my checkride for a SPORT PILOT LICENSE. And in June of this year my wife who ALSO HAS ALWAYS WANTED TO FLY, completed her PRIVATE PILOT checkride

    And in July, my wife and I flew from Dallas in our LSA to OSHKOSH!!! First time there for either of us. An awesome experience worth every bit of the expense paying for TWO PILOT TRAINING COSTS.

    The best advice I got —from a non Pilot no less— was “don’t try to rationalize it”. (the cost of training or buying an airplane)

    This non Pilot said
    “If you want to do it and have fun doing it JUST DO IT.”

    Yes it is expensive but my buddies are Buying $250k houses and fast cars. We chose to live in a $120K house and own a $130K airplane.

    Lots of people could afford it if they wanted to do it.

    Of course we have good jobs and college educations, but we aren’t “rich” and neither are our friends.

    We just prioritize our spending on what we want. They have a big house and we have a small house and an airplane. I have a buddy with a small house and three (old) airplanes.

    Yes flying is (Very) expensive. And you are going to need to have some smarts to learn how to be a good Pilot and pass the tests.

    But the feeling of accomplishment and the views of sunsets, sunrises, clouds, weather (avoiding storms), country terrain, big city skylines at night, small towns, rivers, lakes, new airstrips on the way to Oshkosh,

    All these views from looking out the window of YOUR AIRPLANE

    are worth it!!! Every dime.

    I am not sure why my friends are “afraid” of flying. They take all manner of risks with mountain biking, scuba diving, crotch rocket motorcycles, extreme sports, etc but they see my little LSA as too “risky”.

    Yet I fly cross country with my wife every weekend and THEY are the ones arriving Monday morning with broken arms from the mountain bike crashes

    We bought a fully equipped LSA with glass panel, autopilot, 696 garmin with XM weather, ballistic parachute and added portable iPad GPS and ADS-B in traffic and weather.

    We liked the new LSA with glass cockpit and tight control feel
    better than the alternative flight schools with fourty year old worn out 172s. And we fly out of an airport in Dallas that is class delta airspace underneath class bravo. A difficult place to learn to fly. But glad we did because now even me, a 210 hour SPORT PILOT with a bravo endorsement can go about anywhere in the US in VFR
    daytime. Add my wife’s PRIVATE Pilot certificate and we can go night VFR just about anywhere we want

    We fly because we love it.

    The feeling of freedom. The ability to fly OVER
    car Traffic jams. To get there faster than a car.
    Sometimes a LOT faster.

    But always more fun and more rewarding.

    Sure you have to manage risk but I feel
    safer in our airplane than heavy fast Dallas traffic.

    We Pilots need to emphasize the FUN part and the rewarding accomplishments achieved with commitment to getting a Pilot license and flying an airplane.

    It’s not about the money. It is certainly not cheap, but Lots of folks can afford it. Its about the VALUE (as Mr Collins and others pointed out) of Flying an airplane.

    It’s about the adventure and the accomplishment and the memories

    My recommendation to any Pilot that hasn’t seen it yet, or anyone thinking about becoming a Pilot–

    Go get the movie ONE SIX RIGHT

    watch it

    And then loan it out to everyone you know that has ever said they want to be a Pilot.

    People used to “flying” in an airliner as a passenger think that is all there is to FLYING. You go up, you read a book, you come down and you wait in long lines at security or to pick up your bags, or you fight crowds to go get a rent car. Why would anyone want to learn how to do that ?

    They need to experience the thrill of a GREAT CROSSWIND landing or your first landing at OSHKOSH or a night trip to a new airport or the views of the clouds above and terrain below on a perfect smooth day

    Once more folks understand that


    IS WHAT FLYING IS ABOUT, they will be hooked

    And they will find a way to pay for it.
    Might be a used 9000 hour Piper Warrior or a new LSA
    or even a Cirrus.

    But if folks learn that it is





    And even practical to get from point A to B faster than a car

    They will find a way to make it happen.

    And I agree that we need to encourage aspiring women Pilots to learn all of the above also. My wife is as good a Pilot as any and there is no reason that we are such a male oriented club now.

    It’s not the money. It takes money to fly an airplane. Sure.

    But most folks don’t realize or understand how much fun, how rewarding, how challenging, and how practical(yes, even with a 115 kt LSA with limited payload but only 5 gph fuel usage) flying can be.

    Maybe the “problem” is US ? Flying is a serious business. And we should take aircraft control, airspace, ATC, see and avoid, weather, etc., all very seriously. And it costs money to fly.

    But maybe we don’t talk enough about the FUN that comes with flying. Maybe us old crusty PILOTS are scaring off the new folks with how dang serious and how expensive it is ?

    My flight school has a GREAT success rate in graduating new Pilots. LOTS OF THEM. And the folks at the flight school all think that FLYING IS FUN !!!

    Let’s stop accentuating the negatives about flying and advertise the

  124. tom
    tom says:

    Years ago Michael Chrichton wrote ‘State of Fear.’ He made a convincing case that the environmental movement started in Oct 1989 when the Berlin Wall came down and federal bureaus who had been ‘fighting’ the cold war suddenly found themselves without a purpose. Rather than go away, they adapted.

    The timing was good. Enter Al Gore and Jim Hanson at NCAR spewing malarkey about the last gasp of a dying planet and other things we should fear but were always 20-30 years down the road. We bought it and here we are convincing ourselves we can ‘save the planet’ from stuff that used to reflect perfect combustion: CO2. Nevermind that Mt Pinotubo in the PI put out more CO2 in one eruption than humans have ever produced, or that if we were to stop burning all fossil fuels today there would be no net change in the earth’s temp for the next 50 years (according to their ‘models.’ Yeah, the same ones that cannot predict the Wx a week out and ignore the effect of oceans on their theories)).

    Despite the gaping holes in the logic & suspension of many physical and thermodynamic laws, we succumb by giving control of our lives to HLS, DEA. ICE, EPA, OSHA and NGOs.

    What does that have to do with flying you ask? Silly things like worry about ‘carbon footprints,’ & ‘saving the planet’ vs a seemingly fuel hungry airplane (nevermind that we are talking direct vs roads measured in NM not SM). There is the feeling of loss of control: As many have stated here, they feel they have no control of the maintenance costs (untrue), Fuel (mogas anyone?) The machine is seemingly and expensively controlled by others. Now there is ATC: Friend and assistant or cop?

    Consider the effects of demographics and the success of ‘zero population growth.’ 30 years ago the Military personnel centers were preparing for what was obvious to them: A declining population of qualified volunteers of the right age group to draw from: “. . . a Ritalin-taking, overweight, Generation Y couch potato with a tattoo are grounds for rejection.” How many of them care to fly or could pass an FAA medical?

    http://www dot military dot com/NewsContent/0,13319,90736,00.html

    An interesting note is expectations: For the last 30 years we have rewarded kids for ‘showing up’ to activities where there were no losers and little judgement on quality or performance. How well does that marry into the FAA training paradigm?

    • JC
      JC says:

      Wow an interesting theory. A tougher warrior society from the cold war days generated more pilots than we have today. Environmentalism and the phony threat of a planet in peril from co2 emissions took over the nuclear arms threat as what people angst over. Drug companies and TV have debilitated the current generation of potential “men” who might have taken to the skies in small planes.

      Wasn’t it fluoride in the water in the movie Dr Strangelove that crippled the American warrior spirit? All this begs the question whether testosterone levels shouldn’t be part of the physical exam, or if a hairy palm makes for good stick and rudder. Doubtful that’s what the problem is, but it is an interesting social commentary.

      We are polluting ourselves, there are greater than 580 chemicals being applied to our food sources. Cancer, ADDHT, allergies, and developmental disorders are on the rise. Even if its found co2 isn’t the primary cause of warming, better, less polluting engines and better aircraft designs are a good thing of themselves and should be built.

      We can manufacture a plane, a good plane, for less than 35 thousand. It doesn’t need a Garmin panel, only a good radio, for local VFR flying to begin with. We can get those high testosterone BMX and X games kids flying, get insurance that’s cheaper, and integrate flying with high school programs and college.

      • tom
        tom says:


        “Gentlemen, you can’t fight in here! This is the War Room!”
        President Merkin Muffley, who probably had fluoride in his fluids or > 580 chemicals on his grits.

        Actually, I think the >580 chemicals is testimony to our ability to detect stuff in quantities as small as parts per trillion. That others make an issue of stuff that has probably always been there is part of the problem.

        Could you please point to a new aircraft that sells for under $35k. Preferably something more substantial than flying lawn furniture and has room for an overweight, Ritalin addled instructor.

  125. Bill
    Bill says:

    I’m one that believes the cost of flying is high, even though I bartered A&P maintenance for flight instruction using a stagnant, borrowed airplane. But the decline in pilots graph is reciprocal with the spending habits and elevated standard of living of “the middle class” over the same period. I’d wager if more people detailed a balance sheet to see where their income goes each month you’d see the issue is competition for their spendable income that makes flying “unaffordable.” Cable, internet, racks of electronics and all the latest handheld devices and data plans, 50″ flat screens in every room, Lexus payments, each kid has a car in the driveway, jet skis, bass boats, Mcmansion mortgages, sports tickets, take out/eating out 90% of the meals, multiple vacations, etc. Not everyone does all this, but many do some. There’s not much left, so Collins could be right that the “value” of flying pales in comparison to everything else.

  126. Bill
    Bill says:

    One of the most significant revelations derived from learning spins is they either loom somewhat or very close to the way you fly or they demonstrate the opposite. I’m fortunate to tolerate and love aerobatics. Among other “stunts” I regularly practice spins and am always amazed how deliberate I have to be to induce one. I also frequently explore the alleged pattern stall/spin scenario (at altitude) to try and appreciate how they happen and I’m mystified how poor the training and flying skill there must be that this is a too-common occurrence, especially considering the more docile stall characteristics of the aircraft most often involved compared with my Super Decathlon. Once you’re familiar with a spin it’s like the old joke about the stone sculptor who is asked how he does it. “I remove all the parts that don’t look like the (spin)”
    Of course, if a lot of students and pilots are fearful of practicing stalls, spins must be terrifying, so training ought to accommodate the student’s preference.

  127. Kevin
    Kevin says:

    I am new to Air Facts and to this series of articles, but certainly not new to this topic of discussion. My take, as a PPL-Glider and ASEL student, is multi-faceted but two things stand out as the killer factors:

    1. It’s just too damn expensive.

    And fuel costs are out of control. Friends who show a little bit of interest are just completely turned off once they get a reality check and find out how much it costs – even just to continue flying after you have your certificate. It has always taken commitment to become a pilot, but now it seems that one must have a single-minded-ness and willingness to exchange other expenditures for flying.

    2. Kids are not drawn to it anymore.

    It used to be aviation was one of the cool adventurous things a kid could dream about and act upon. They could go to the local airport and stand at the fence and watch. Or hop the fence and walk around and look at planes and talk to pilots. Now there is so much competition for attention, most kids don’t even consider aviation as adventurous or cool. Even if they did, they are not welcome at most GA airports.

    So, what to do? To be honest I have no idea what to do about cost. But getting kids interested, that is something I can speak to. I have two daughters who started flying gliders when they were 13 and 15. Now the younger is 18 and is working on her commercial glider ticket and the elder is working on her instrument rating for power. Ask them why they fly and you don’t get the standard answer you hear from most pilots. They’ll say, “because it’s fun”, “it’s awesome”, “it’s amazing”, “it’s so cool”.

    We need that kind of enthusiasm out there, having kids talk up their flying experiences on Facebook and Tumblr to all their friends. We need flying clubs that cater to teens. One of the missions at our soaring club is to make it inviting and affordable to teens to learn how to fly gliders and make it enjoyable to just hang out at the airport. If we can make it once again cool to hang around airplanes, we might be able to stop the bleeding.

    • Evans l
      Evans l says:

      Kevin I could not agree more. It’s in our hand to turn around the situation with whatever idea that can work.

  128. Evans l
    Evans l says:

    All the point mention are very true. To give a global perspective, am a student pilot in Africa that is faced with economic struggles and skyrocketing fuel prices which makes training very expensive. In addition the coolness is lost. I called a friend in South Africa and was excited to tell her my progress and all she said was ” Do you really have be a pilot? ” what a dumper.
    Secondly the African skies is full of airlines that have wound up or are struggling to stay afloat. This has also lead to airlines preferring foreign pilots on contracts , leaving a bleak future for local trained pilot.
    I am glad that little initiatives like flying eagles clubs do exist for the young one, Kudos.
    Of critical importance is can we all pilots and trainees join hand to support and share material and books and even blogs across the globe? In Africa lack of basic training materials eg flight calculators manuals, which are averagely for a out of pocket paying private pilots, unavailable.
    Thanks for this forum

  129. Ed
    Ed says:

    A particularly noteworthy project has recently been fully funded for the development and flight test of a well engineered, highly sophisticated, practical, and quite affordable two seat side-by-side road drivable aircraft.

    I would like to suggest that anyone who’s interested follow the final stages of development leading up to the first public flight at First Flight Field in Kitty Hawk, NC early next year. The inventor/developer’s web site is For additional information, view the detail at the Samson Motorworks Switchblade link on the aeronautical engineering firm DAR Corporation’s web site at:

    • tom
      tom says:

      Has anyone looked at the cost to insure this well engineered, highly sophisticated, practical, and quite affordable two seat side-by-side road drivable aircraft? Car v aircar is going to be an interesting problem.

  130. Rick Evans
    Rick Evans says:

    “The aircraft manufacturers delivered 17,811 airplanes in 1978 and a few less in 1979. Then production fell off the proverbial cliff. One reason for that is the fact that the legions of World War Two and GI-Bill pilots peaked in their earning years at that time. No more built-in pilot population so things started to trail off. The numbers don’t show it but I have always thought that every measure of general aviation activity started to decline after 1979.”

    Collins neglects to mention all the tax and lease back gimmicks manufacturers and flight schools used to boost this aircraft sales bubble. At least one school in MA sold quite a few planes to gullible student pilots who thought they could pay for their new toy by renting out out only to find out how much those 100hr checks and annual inspections added up when the lessee was the flight school’s FBO.

  131. DC
    DC says:

    The guy who wrote is article doesn’t have a clue. A culture of needy, dependant, risk adverse people? How about the simple fact that wages, the money workers make, has been stagnant since the 70s. People would flock to flying, scuba, boating, you name it if tey could afford it.

    • tom
      tom says:

      DC – To use your words, you don’t have a clue.

      First, a wage that has kept up with government counterfeiting – er – inflation – might be stagnant, but it at least has the same buying power when you factor in inflation. And when you factor in technology, that wage is far ahead. In the 70s a car tire might get 10,000 miles. A car battery might last two years, and a car engine needed major work at 50,000 miles. Today those numbers have improved 2x-8x. In the case of Cellphones, microwave ovens and computers, they were unobtanium in the 70s. Today they are dirt cheap. At the moment, money is also dirt cheap if you qualify. That isn’t across the board, but there are certainly ways to economize if one wanted to shift the savings to flying. But most don’t. There’s more afoot than economics.

      One would think that most people who join the USAF want to fly. Not so. According to USAF personnel data, about 12% volunteered for flying jobs in the 70s. Today, safety has improved immensely, yet less than 4% are volunteers for a flying job. Some billets like AWACS battle managers have become so hard to fill that USAF has declared them rated slots with additional bennies. Anybody wonder why? I think it is as Mr. Collins stated: We have bred a generation of risk averse people. The can-do attitude has been replaced with decision matrices that, when done per the designer’s rules always lead to staying in bed. Why?

      Lawyers, hand wringers and government agencies thrive on special interest threats that Michael Crichton wrote about in his book ‘State of Fear.’ The list of things some fear is long: AGW, GMOs, pistols, Fluoridated water, fracking, vaccines, aviation, cars, carbon, mercury,asbestos, lead, fertilizer, missing warning labels, cell phone radiation and many more are the playground of the fearful. The herd focuses on red herrings as life threatening while ignoring the fact that lifespan and quality of life continues to improve.

      Crichton maintained the fearful populace began to multiply en-masse when the Warsaw pact dissolved in 1989 and government agencies had to create new reasons to exist. Accurate or not there is a clear focus on safety without responsibility, shallow thinking and a gross inability to analyze claims. Lacking physics, chemistry and math and the ability to analyze critically, people become easy victims to people and agencies using innuendo as fact.

      40 years ago cars sold based on HP. Today it’s number of airbags. Docs require extra testing before minor procedures because they fear lawsuit. The last 20 years of aviation law is loaded with suits that demonstrate near-zero personal responsibility while grieving lawyers punished the innocent.

      A great example is the Missouri Governor Carnahan crash civil suit that awarded $40+M from Parker Hannifin, builder of vacuum pumps. The pilot launched into IMC with a known bad AI,lost control and all died. Pilot error you say? So did the NTSB, who also said the vacuum pump was working upon impact. Yet the grieving lawyers convinced a jury P-H could afford it.

      After GARA, small repair shops became the target of such lawsuits. So like the doc, the threat of grieving lawyers forces shops to opt for the safe and often more expensive repair. A mag with worn points becomes a new mag. Ditto worn alternator brushes. Mike Busch makes a living teaching owners how to avoid nasty surprises like an engine swap because a perfectly good engine is ‘too old’ on a calendar. Part of that is clearly greed, but Mike spends a lot of time teaching how to absolve the shop of liability. So the grieving lawyers may be a greater threat.

      Thus I maintain that Mr. Collins has it right: Risk aversion is a major factor.

  132. A
    A says:

    As a pilot with 2500hrs, sitting here unemployed in New Zealand, with 1 heavy turboprop rating, and 2 jet ratings, and a Degree, I can tell you with the advent of media, and the sharing of information, people are much more aware of entitlements, what other companies offer, and a sense of self worth. People are realising that being a Pilot is now down the list of attractive professions.
    Why spend all that money to earn very little as a pilot when I can spend nothing and earn more?
    Why get treated poorly and abused by aviation companies? Many pilots do because they love flying, and tolerate the inefficiencies all around them and put up with rude manager types who see Pilots as nothing more than check out operators in a supermarket. Sure we hear about the lifestyle and riches of the pilots at the top of the profession, but people are no longer prepared to endure the swamp it takes to wade through to get to the otherside.
    Expense and working conditions sum it up. O and nearly forgot, the actual ease of getting the next job!!

    If it was Risk Aversion you would see similar percentage declines in everything else that presented a risk, racing car driving, Sports with high rates of injury etc, infinitum.

  133. Rick Evans
    Rick Evans says:

    “There is more of a tendency today for people to be needy and dependent and risk-averse.”

    Sigh …

    I’m 63 so I’m not defending MY 20 something generation. Broadly popular flying is an activity that developed post WW-II with real rising incomes. Sales of small planes peaked in the late 1970s with all the loony tax breaks and gimmicks that encouraged dubious investments including student pilots buying leaseback Cessna 152s.

    That rug was pulled out by tax reform leaving a glut of Cessnas and Pipers. Meanwhile real incomes have been flat or declining since the 1980s while the cost of aircraft ownership has been rising.

    Now about “risk averse”? I doubt young people would have, on their own, invented the variety of extreme sports that have turned into a major industry and have even made it into the Olympics. It takes quite a bit of gumption to do a 720 in a half pipe on a skateboard. But a skateboard is a lot cheaper than a airplane and comes without seat belts.

  134. tom
    tom says:

    The article is a bunch of conservative rant BS. “people are dependent and needy”. My god what an arrogant ass.

    Pilots besides Collins have a clue what the struggle is and how much 9/11 increased the cost of flying. Add on the doubling of healthcare premiums over the last 12 years, Avgas at $5 a gallon, stagnant wages for everyone except the investor class and you have a pinch on the ability to pay for airplanes except those investors that are buying the hell out of jets.

    The fastest growing segment of aviation WAS powered parachuting. They proved to be safe, fun and affordable until the FAA and EAA decided they had a great idea in Sport Pilot to revitalize the aviation industry that if you had counted fat ultralights in the first place was already vigorous. Morons. The people wanted nothing to do with the FAA BS.

    Man I hate Richard Collins.

    • Larry Horton
      Larry Horton says:

      Tom nailed it I was thinking the same thing. As soon as I read needy and dependent I thought: conservative pick yourself up by the bootstraps “crap”. I love to fly, am instrument rated and have 400 hours and as of today instrument current. But I decided last month to hang up my headset for a number of reasons
      1. I don’t like renting planes from flight schools. They are only geared toward students not private pilots and not private pilot friendly. Try renting one overnight and you’ll see what I mean.
      2. There is no end-game for private pilots unless you’ve got a good 100K to kick out for a plane. Unfortunately, I’ve got to think about retirement and as Tom stated above wages are stagnant. So stagnant in fact, I’ve achieved 2 master’s degrees since 2000, one in Computer Science and another an MBA; I’m making less money now than I did in 2005.
      3.The price of planes are just exorbitant. I don’t believe that if I take present day dollars back to 1970 pilots were paying the equivalent of $300K for a cessna 172. I just don’t buy it. So save the conservative commentary. There are a whole lot of motivated, capable people that would get into the game if there was more to the game, Like a way I can use this training as reliable transportation. A method that my family can participate in the passion. People are not stupid and no one wants to throw down $14-15K on flight training just to buzz around the local airport on Saturday mornings indefinitely. As long as the industry is only interested in renting planes and providing hours to flight instructors it will continue to decline. A little vision and customer service might take the industry a long way….GA Customer Service what is that…

      • Bill
        Bill says:

        New aircraft cost is definitely a non-starter for most of us but there is an abundance of great used aircraft at better than reasonable prices for those interested in ownership. Partnerships have always been an even more affordable and sociable means to own aircraft. Renting was and will never be convenient like Avis or Enterprise. But cost of flying is not the only issue contributing to the decline. GA has always been an intensely interactive pastime and as such, requires an amicable personality. Larry Horton’s needlessly belligerent and hostile opinions are emblematic of a society increasingly unable to play well together in both business and recreation.

        • Peter T
          Peter T says:

          Yes, cost is a factor, but remember that even in the 1970s a new airplane cost the same as a new house (at least, my dad paid the same for his airplane and the house I grew up in). So in fact, it was equivalent to $300k in today’s dollars. And Bill is absolutely right: if you really want to *fly* then there is a whole market of decent used airplanes and thousands of nice, practically abandoned airports well outside Class B’s and C’s. You don’t have to have a Bonanza and G1000 to *fly*

          At the same time I agree that the state of customer service at most FBOs is appalling. They are ghost towns staffed by a grumpy receptionist and a couple of 28 year old know it all “instructors”. And, yes, forget about renting an airplane on a whim (though if you are a regular renter I’m sure most FBOs will treat you like a customer). There are, of course, plenty of exceptions, but for the most part the local FBO isn’t a place you want to hang out, like it was when I was a student pilot where you would always find someone lounging around waiting to trade war stories. In today’s world we have too many other things competing for our time and attention. Noone just kicks it out at the FBO after a few rounds in the pattern on a Saturday morning (myself included). It’s a vicious cycle: if pilots aren’t hanging around the airport, then why should the instructors, and there is no community anymore. Unfortunately, no matter how low the price of gas and insurance and airplanes, that is one clock that isn’t going to turn back.

  135. Tony Beal
    Tony Beal says:

    I agree that “cost and time” are excuses but to many they are legitimate excuses. Trying to get time and money together at the same time has always been an obstacle for me in the past and even now. My nephew wants to become a helicopter pilot but he doesn’t want to have to deal with a huge debt at the end of his training. I see that as good financial management. He’s trying to figure out how to come up with the funds for flight school so he can pay it off up front. I, on the other hand, have bills to pay and live on a pretty strict budget. In this economy it is just that much more difficult to pay for flight lessons/plane rental and hold down a full time job.

  136. phil
    phil says:

    There are several factors in the decline general aviation.

    Real wages are static, that’s why the cost of avgas is such a big issue. Cars, household goods, most items a consumer buys these days are mass produced by robots or in low labour countries. The only way to fly cheaply is to go homebuilt where your labor is free.

    Decline of participation of men over 45y/o in labor market is another issue. Loss of good paying jobs (mostly unionised) that those men used to do is a significant issue. Hard to consider flying when you are working a low wage job, either due to low hourly pay or part time hours worked. And of course job security is another issue. This explains the general decline in aviation numbers.

    Hangars being full is another issue. Lots of new pilots have no options of hangaring a plane close by. that rules out the “going for a quick flight” option on weekends. Combine that with most of those planes being barely used also contributes to the ghost town feel most GA airports have.

    The list goes on and on. The only thing that really matters is what the aviation community is doing to fix its own issues.

    • Larry Horton
      Larry Horton says:

      they aren’t doing anything to address it. The customer service sucks at most GA airports. Getting a filled up plane, or a quart of oil, it is on you the customer to do all of that stuff. For what you’re spending you’d think you’d at least be able to get a plane prepped before flight and it is only geared towards getting you up with a flight instructor trying to build hours.
      Nothing setup for private pilots to use a plane for travel. that is avoided because fbo’s want to protect their investment for flight lessons alone. so once you get your license then what are you supposed to do. How do you justify the expense to your family when you can’t even rent a plane to take them somewhere.

      I know in my 400 hours I’ve spent probably 50K+ on this “hobby” and never really got to use it as a vehicle to transport me and my family anywhere but maybe a couple of times.
      I’ve gotten really jaded towards it because it is only geared towards making the fbo’s money…period

  137. phil
    phil says:

    Another issue you need to address with your articles is the growing urbanisation of society. Industrial agricultural process have removed a lot of the work force from rural areas which supported a lot of the regional areas.

    You could also expand into how the economy has changed with the rise of the corporate raiders also swallowed up a lot of smaller regional businesses where the management would travel around via GA planes. This affected a lot of industries like retail and agriculture.

    There is a lot of scope for the decline in general aviation.

  138. dallas
    dallas says:

    My plane today reminds me of the reliability and economy of my cars in the 1970’s (not good).

    My current car is wildly reliable and economical. Not so much for planes.

    LSA is the only hope, but they are too limited.

    MORT MASON says:

    I guess that I have to give a lot of the decline to today’s passion for “instant gratification”. Working toward a pilot license is still a lot of work, and currently much harder than in the “old days”. I took my private pilot written exam during one-hour lunch period, and that one hour included driving time to and from the airport. Questions centered mostly around light signals, since radios weren’t all that common to light aircraft and General Aviation. Many light aircraft had no radios, starters, nor generators. While finally being awarded a flier’s license, the relatively time getting there hardly classified as instant gratification. The true reward may have been owning your own aircraft and being to fly it whenever and wherever you wanted. That took a long long time, usually. I think that today, that goal seems too far away for many young wannabees.

  140. Terry Moore
    Terry Moore says:

    I agree with the reasons for the declining pilot population, but we do have more tools we can use to get the non-pilot population involved and show them how to make money from pilots when they fly. In addition there is a way for flight schools, aviation businesses, and people in general to invest in flight training and specifically flight schools without having to fly and to earn money for future flight training. Also when some schools all but shutdown in the winter they can still earn revenue from other schools that do fly during the winter months. I would be happy to show AOPA and others how it works. This would be an application of a business idea specifically designed for ecommerce but will work just as well in the aviation community.

  141. Bob Lemke
    Bob Lemke says:

    Foe me, it is the cost, period. For us that love to fly and don’t use it as an expensive transportation tool for business and can thus write it off, cost per hour matters. Now I’m a glass 1/2 full kind of guy, and since I’m entering retirement where I can fly for fun, this decline of pilots has made airpark homes more affordable and I plan to take advantage of that. Living at the airstrip with your hanger at your house reduces flying costs. Most GA aircraft run $100 per hour to fly while LSA runs about $50 per hour. LSA costs per hour could be further reduced by using light weight diesels. A huge reduction in hourly costs would be electric propulsion, and these are the two routes I plan to pursue in retirement. Diesel in a STOL SLA for longer trips and back country flying/camping and an electric in a ultralight for many hours of local flying. Current advances in lithium batteries make it possible for 2 hours of flight @ 50 mph per charge, costing about $0.50 per hour in electricity. Hard to beat that.

    To date, I still have more hours in hang gliders than GA aircraft and I quit flying hang gliders almost 30 years ago.

  142. Jon Brooks
    Jon Brooks says:

    I am 74 … and … “soloed ” … not long ago ….. I fly a trike … a motorized hang glider ….. I take off … fly around … and … land …..

    I fly a 103 legal ultralight … pretty much totally off the FAA radar screen ….. I have a landing strip on my farm … and … hanger my trike in my barn ….. I enjoy my dawn/dusk flights around my neighborhood … lovely way to keep up on local happenings …..

    The thrill of flight can happen at any age … and … relatively speaking … on the cheap …..


  143. Don
    Don says:

    It is very rewarding to know that at least some aviators can recognize the element of versatility sport and recreational flying can provide. There are quite a few reliable light aircraft available and the transition to fly them is quite easy and fun. Check out the websites,
    find an instructor and have some affordable fun.

  144. gary t. o'toole
    gary t. o'toole says:

    The two big reasons I see for the declining pilot population are: Way too much government interference by people who don’t fly and $7.00 for a gallon of fuel. Kids don’t want to get into flying for a career because of the cost involved and getting paid nothing for probably 3-6 years. Also, coming out of these aviation schools with $100,000.00 worth of student loans doesn’t make sense. These people are brained washed by thinking if they got to these aeronautical schools, they have a better chance of getting hired. With the event of cell phone bills, internet bills, cable bills, there goes your flying money for the month. Kids can’t get on to the airport because the government thinks the terrorists will break in the field and bomb everything. Sounds like back in the day when the communists were going to attack. The government screwed it up, and the general public does not want GA around.

  145. jerry bruno
    jerry bruno says:

    go and see how Lufthansa gets their plots. United States carriers should have done this 50 years ago and their would be no pilot shortage. Works for them why not here in the States.

  146. Reynold Conger
    Reynold Conger says:

    Like the author, I made use of my C-182 for business and found it economical.

    In the early 1990’s I quit my job and became a technical consultant to the paper industry and a broker for used paper machine equipment. I already had a private license and instrument rating. From my base in western Massachusetts, I found it economical to fly myself around New England and to western New York. For example, a business trip to northern Maine would require an 8 hour drive each way. That is two days driving and part of a day doing business plus two overnight motel bills. If I flew, I could be there in 3.5 hours. It was only a short taxi ride from the airport to the paper mill. I would spend most of the day doing business. A short taxi ride back to my plane and I was off. I usually was home in time for a late supper. Cost of that flight (fuel and pro rated fixed costs) was less than the car trip partly because flight distance was about 30% less than ground travel. The cost of two taxi rides was a lot cheaper than two nights in a motel.

    This does not include training costs, but then my wife and I wanted to fly for recreation.

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  1. […] Mayday! The declining pilot population […]

  2. […] of independent individualism and to those who could afford the time and money to do it. With a decline of pilots since the early 2000s it makes sense that there are only 5 flight schools in Orange County; […]

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  6. […] of flying, especially the non-pilot spouse or business partner. Richard Collins said it well in his article: there is simply less appetite for risk-taking today than there was 30 years ago. If you had been […]

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