Airline pilots on strike
3 min read

New pilots have been declining for a while, this is nothing new. But why… well if we knew that as pilots we’d change it, wouldn’t we! Here are some ideas though and perhaps that will spark someone else into an idea how to solve it.

Airline pilots on strike

Not the dream job it once was–has it discouraged new pilots?

Remember when flying airplanes first started it was “Those magnificent men in their flying machines.” Pilots were like gods, few could be them and everyone wanted to. Even just flying on an airplane was something worth dressing up for. Passengers through the 1970s felt it was something to wear a dress or shirt and tie if they were just going to go to the airport to pick someone up.

Today again there are lots of things, from 9/11 to President Obama, making flying of any kind not just boring and difficult but downright unpopular.

President Obama made GA unpopular. And it just added insult to injury when the press focused on the big three going to D.C. Let’s face it: it’s become downright unpopular to have money? And while we as pilots know people spend just as much money one other things from kids’ hockey to boats and RVs, aviation is presumed to be a wealthy person’s hobby. Think about it–it used to be that people aspired to wealth, people wanted to become doctors, lawyers, and pilots. Now pilots know they fly because of the love of flying, although the perception by the general public is that flying is expensive and only the wealthy can do it (from a 150 to a GV). We don’t like the wealthy even though we aspire to be it.

Flying for the general public has become boring the same way that riding a bus is boring. So if that’s the perception of the general public, who we use as a pool for future pilots, why would someone like to become a pilot if they think it’s boring? It could be said for money, although again, money has become taboo and as we know commercial pilots relatively speaking do not make bags of money. So why else would someone like to be a pilot?

To me flying is a gift; it is freedom and opens up a bigger world. Flying is like living in a dream, seeing the world in such a amazing way, until you land behind the chain link, barbed wire fence that surrounds our airports. It used to be said, “Join the Navy to see the world,” and the same could be said of pilots although with the world going the way it is do people want to see it? Can they even afford to?

Being a pilot isn’t a tangible thing, like a balance sheet. My one suggestion is to take people up with you, let them sit in the right seat. Even just going around the pattern can be exciting if you’ve never done it before. If you have kids take their friends and family, their sports teams, take your relatives, and take the people you work with. Let them experience what it’s like, and then while we may not grow we will certainly not lose.

Bill Gay
Latest posts by Bill Gay (see all)
48 replies
  1. Paul Lemley
    Paul Lemley says:

    Great op-ed Bill. Couldn’t agree more. Something definitley needs to be done to make flying more accessible to the general public. Continuing to demonize aviation enthusiasts as elitist, money hungry rich folk needs to stop.

  2. David
    David says:

    I don’t think it’s useful to conflate weekend warriors with card-carrying NBAA members like the Big 3.

    And there’s no denying that you need some disposable income to be a private pilot. Flying IS expensive, it’s not merely a “perception” but the general public – in fact a series of posts here on Air Facts have confirmed that pilots themselves know full well how expensive it is. Either you sacrifice vacations, new car, renovations, etc – or you have money.

    However – I agree strongly with your recommendation to take up friends and family – if only so they understand WHY persons of otherwise modest means would give up so much to stay in the air.

    People are angry at people jetting around in Gulfstreams with what they consider ill-gotten gains, not your VFR bug smashers.

    • Dan Porrazzo
      Dan Porrazzo says:


      I ralely respond to posts but your comments prevoked me to do so.

      We have a flying club that has a 1999 Archer that only had 500 hours on it when we purchased it and it is loaded with equiptment not common to it’s breed. It also sits in a hanger when not being used, well protected from the hash conditions in the northeast. For the privlege of being able to access it 24/7’s I pay $130 per month and in over 18 years have only had one conflict getting it when I wanted to. Flight time, based on current fuel prices, is $96/hr. If you fly with a buddie it drops to $48 and as we fly a lot with 3 sharing the flying it is $32/hr. We also have over 35k in reserves waiting for the what ifs and a new engine next year some time.

      Those numbers are less per year than average people spend playing golf and I don’t see the Obama clan bashing golfers!

      • David
        David says:

        I don’t think Obama’s proposal for a user fee on turbines should be construed as bashing on all general aviation, and definitely not the 172 / Archer / recreational part. He signed a Pilot’s Bill of Rights after all.

        Maybe it’s a bash on the NBAA turbine part of general aviation.

        • Stephen
          Stephen says:

          Are you kidding me? If you really believe that the user fees will be confined to turbines, than I am a Nigerian prince that needs your bank account number.

      • Richard Harris
        Richard Harris says:

        All this Obama-bashing is so unbelievable. FIRST: Obama didn’t trash general aviation — EVER. He trashed bizjet millionaires. Using that issue to tag him as “anti-general-aviation” is as juvenile and dishonest as using George Bush’s wars to tag him as “anti-Muslim.”

        Speaking of George Bush — the MOST anti-general-aviation President of the last half-century — where was this author standing on THAT president’s re-election campaign?

        Bush: the president who instituted the myriad of homeland security regulations that made airline flying miserable.

        The president that made general aviation more restricted (and still so, as a result) than ever since World War II.

        The president whose “pop-up” TFRs exploded (often with little or no notice) all over the country like flak fired at GA planes.

        The president who instituted “reforms” in the FARs that narrowed every imaginable option for the general aviation community — trying to force us into tiny LSA’s, and out of the major airports, controlled airspace and airways.

        The president who began the institution of “user fees” (try getting a license lately?)

        Yet the general aviation community, with its knee-jerk right-wing conservatism, overwhelmingly endorsed and backed this most threatening of all presidents.

        The selfishness, wealth, and associated right-wing bigotry, that corrupts the political discourse in general aviation is at the HEART of the problems in general aviation.

        Republicans’ own leaders are confessing widely, today, that they “lost” the election because they were too narrowly focused (e.g.: white/male/above-average income — exactly like 90% of general aviation — in a time when that is NOT the majority of America), and too frosty to other social groups and perspectives to be allowed to win, even against a weak opponent.

        The arch-conservatives’ attempt to blame Obama for everything from acne to zebra shortages has severely polluted the discourse in the aviation community, which is dominated, utterly, by the most conservative in the community: those who HAVE MORE than others.

        Nothing is quite so self-destructive as the aviator’s attitude: “I’ve got mine, you go suck an egg.” Too many aviators I know are interested in only entertaining themselves, and maybe a few family or friends, with flight. And, in an era of declining socialization — with smaller families, more indoor living, more compartmentalized and electronically-isolated work relationships — that circle gets narrower every year.

        As a long-time aviation industry reporter, analyst and historian, it has become sickening to me to interview aviators about their origins, finding these days that nearly all of them got connected to aviation through the family tree, or with money falling from the family tree or family business.

        This closeting of wealth, limiting one’s access to general aviation by an accident of birth, rather than by having EARNED it, is increasingly rotting general aviation’s base — as declining family sizes, and the hoarding of wealth by those who have it (the politically conservative who roar “don’t you dare tax me, nor my heirs”) narrows the number of people with access to general aviation.

        General aviation, by aligning itself with political conservatism, is gradually, firmly strangling itself.

        By limiting one’s access to flight to one’s own kind, one inherently limits the relevance and importance of aviation to EVERYONE.

        Assinine comments like:

        “Today again there are lots of things, from 9/11 to President Obama, making flying of any kind not just boring and difficult but downright unpopular.”


        “President Obama made GA unpopular.”

        …shield our minds from the reality that WE — in our own selfishness, narrow-mindedness, arrogance, and thoughtlessness — have made GA unpopular.

        When was the last time you spent ANY time with a working-class person in the inner city? When was the last time you offered them a ride in your airplane?

        Check the actual demographics of America, today, and you can see they look N-O-T-H-I-N-G like the demographics of the local airport — typically sequestered out in the sparsely-populated lily-white suburbs and rural hinterlands of Republican / Libertarian America.

        It never fails to amaze me how the GA community loves to wave the flag, and blurt out “patriotic” expressions — while deliberately isolating itself from the majority of America. Such indefensible hypocrisy is ensuring the demise of their own narrow interst: general aviation.

        Until we are willing to S-H-A-R-E with others far different, and far-removed, from us — until we are willing to SACRIFICE to serve and empower others we don’t always agree with, and do so IN-PERSON (not just say: “I served in the military, so I’m entitled to endless veterans benefits and the gratitude of the multitude”), by actually reaching out and GIVING some of what we have to those who don’t have it, we will continue to be a dying breed, cut off from the rest of the species, killed off by own own miserly snobbery.

        As the Christmas Season approaches, watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” and Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol” — and ask yourself, honestly, who do you THINK like? Tiny Tim, or Scrooge? George Bailey, or Old Man Potter? Which do you think you look like, in the eyes of the rest of your fellow countrymen, including those far removed from you in geography, culture, race and economics?

        If you get your sense of identity from hanging around with just those who look and think like you, you’re not hanging around with America, and you can’t expect America to hang around with you.

        What goes around…

        • mike
          mike says:

          Glad to see we are not going political but since we are I do blame Obama for tripling the welfare roles and demonizing anyone whose has worked hard and done well. As far as flying and TFR’s I’d bet a years salary Obama has had more ass time on Air Force One than Bush ever hoped to. Give your money to those that don’t want to do anything and move to Colorado or Washington and role you a big fattie and chill out!

          • Eric Woods
            Eric Woods says:

            I could have gone along with your statement if everything was fine when the President took office, implemented policies and then swelled the welfare roles. The truth is when President O took office we were loosing 850,000 jobs a month. Many of those people ended up on the welfare roles. George Bush is clearly to blame for the swell of the welfare roles.

            It never ceases to amaze me how blind hatred of Obama leads people to forget all reason. If I push you down the stairs, then sell my house while you are falling, are you going to blame the new owner when you hit the bottom of the landing?

        • Kurt Nelson
          Kurt Nelson says:

          Mr. Harris,

          When was the last time YOU offered to fly inner city kids or even low income farm kids out in the country? Are you even a pilot?
          Spare us the liberal tirades about how some one has more than you or anyone else. Spare us the racial insults referring to white Americans as “lilly white”. And spare us the insults to we veterans who do not seek endless benefits or gratitude from the multitudes. And who do you believe is “hoarding” wealth? And how do you suppose that can happen? Work hard, invest and save? I support numerous charities with what I can afford to give. Do you give away your income to all who are in need?

          You have no clue how much we’ve sacrificed to fly. I’m not rich by any stretch of the imagination. But I’ve volunteered my services transporting seriously ill patients and picked up donated blood for transport out of our local mountains at night, ON MY DIME. Have you? I doubt it. I did so because there was a need and I enjoyed doing so….and no, there was no tax wrote off.
          You’d rather prostrate yourself and sing the praises of “Barry” and attempt to tell us the answer to our pilot shortage is to take you and your misguided ilk for another free ride.
          If a young person, regardless of ethnicity (I have no bias either way while you seem to) or background makes the effort to stay out of trouble, stay in school, work hard, they’ll find a way like so many have. I’ve seen kids do just that. You might even learn something from them…..

        • Bernie
          Bernie says:

          Mr Harris,
          We all see what side of socialism you fall on. I am 47 and the first person in my family to have a 4 year college degree mostly paid for by myself and a small part by my parents. My parents worked for everything they as have I. My grandmother was briefly on welfare when it consisted of cheese, powdered potatoes, and flour. Today’s welfare recipients wouldn’t even know what to do with that.

          I learned at my aero club that charges $90/hr wet for a 99 172SP and 79 Archer. We have postmen, school teachers and accountants like me in our club. Our 50+ members fly regularly and burn significantly less than our “Green President” does just flying to his talkshow appearances or his vacations. So spare me if I don’t appreciate his condisension, war on wealth, and the accumulation of taxes on everybody that contributes something to society. And yes I have experienced the intercities first hand as a self made landlord starting at age 23 thru the present. Do you know how much government waste happens there? Do you how many people put down social security, ssi, or other government subsidy as their primary income source on an application that can’t even speak English? I didn’t think so! And I live in Pennsylvania. Another case of buying votes by allowing our laws to be broken to buy votes. We have transitioned from the land of opportunity to the land of opportunist.

          Capitalism has been the model of this country for better than 200 years, but the growth in government, unions (particularly public) and lawyers of the last 30 years has polluted the Democratic Party and bankrupted our country.

        • Eric Woods
          Eric Woods says:

          I was going to write a scathing reply to the original post but I don’t think I could have said it better than you just did.

  3. Carl
    Carl says:

    You know this article started as if it was going to be good, then it descended into a sore loser rant against President Obama, and then picked up again at the end.

    Seriously, this article is good if you remove your middle paragraph about President Obama which makes little sense.

    Personally I think the reason there are less pilots is a number of factors:
    1. The cost to become a pilot in the first place
    2. Pay that is too low once you have that license, to get the skills you need to fly for the big boys. Seriously, what kind of person wants to spend $60k plus on a degree and license, to then be offered a $13k job with a regional airline.

    Oh and that has nothing to do with President Obama.

    • Larry C
      Larry C says:

      Speaking of the “Obama paragraph”. While at the AOPA Summit held in Palm Springs, CA last month, I learned of a particular ploy that Obama would like to implement: to the tune of charging ALL GA $100 every time they utilize ATC services. That can’t be very good for GA’s future or the furtherance of flying enthusiasm. If he wants to throw America’s money at something, he should try filtering some of it to build and promote general aviation’s benefits, attractiveness and just plain FUN!

        • Stephen
          Stephen says:

          Forcing someone to pay $100 is what it is, regardless of who is paying. Why is it ok to charge some of the users? Just because they have deeper pockets doesn’t mean that you’re entitled to what’s in those pockets.

      • Richard Harris
        Richard Harris says:

        That user fee wasn’t OBAMA’s idea: It was George BUSH’s (Check the record; I was an aviation industry reporter at the time, and reported on it at length.

        The Bush administration ideas (originating under pressure from his own Budget Director) resulted in a firestorm of condemnation of the FAA — but not Bush, always sheltered from accountability by the severe conservative political bias of the aviation community.

        But let that same proposal be repeated by the FAA, under Obama, and now it’s not the FAA, but Democrat Obama who is demonized.

        Just plain political predjudice, not historical honesty nor clear thinking.

    • Bob Shlafer
      Bob Shlafer says:

      We have radical Islamic terrorism to think about today. Makes a LOT of things/activities way less “user friendly” today whether its Bush, YO or some other. Increasing energy costs (fossil fuel) don’t help.

      Otherwise I pretty much agree with Carl’s “take” on this.

  4. Peter
    Peter says:

    The cheap shots at Obama really weaken this article. This is why editors exist and, unfortunately, are missing from most of the blogging world.

    Carl hit the nail on the head, the cost to become a pilot does not justify the income it provides compared to other paths of study and vocations. The idea of being a pilot is very attractive to many but the path to get there just doesn’t make sense for most people unless you get your training in very early in life. There are a lot of people over 30 that would make great pilots but it’s too late to start on a professional path unless you have zero financial commitments. If the pilot shortage is real, and I’m not sure if it is, it’s the airlines that should be involved with subsidizing the training and getting more people into the system.

    Regarding the characterization of the general aviation community as high net worth individuals. Sure there are exceptions but that’s pretty accurate. Maybe you don’t consider some guy with a mid six figure salary that can afford to spend $500-1000/month on plane rentals or ownership costs but I assure you that you’re in the minority compared to the rest of the country.

  5. Antoni Deighton
    Antoni Deighton says:

    Obama has done nothing to help GA, and has done much to target it. I don’t think it’s a cheap shot.

    • Richard Harris
      Richard Harris says:

      Did you bash Bush for all of HIS restrictions on GA, including

      – homeland security rules?
      – pop-up TFRs?
      – sweeping new licensing restrictions?
      – across-the-board FAR rewrites (begun under him), nearly all more-restrictive to GA
      – pushing GA toward LSAs, and away from the airways and cities?
      – institution of the first user fees? And proposals for more?

      Obama can’t even begin to TOUCH the level of attacks that Bush leveled against GA.

      Did you support Bush?

      Don’t give a pat on the back to the guy who shot you in the back, then howl at the guy who just spit on your shoes.

  6. Bill
    Bill says:

    Hi Carl & Peter,

    Let me just say I do not support Obama (I’ve met him and spent time with him and do not like him). Equally and much more to the point this was written a month ago and no shots were intended at our President. He made the statement in one of the debates that if you make enough money to fly you can pay more. His words not mine. What that says about him having a G450 fly his dog a week in advance of a family vacation last summer to Maine well that’s up to other to decide if it makes since.

    The basic theses of the article is that having money and as you have pointed out flying are considered a wealthy persons activity. And again as the President has stated over and over, he believes the wealthy do not pay enough taxes. Again basic facts no jabs at our President are intended.

    As to cost; owing 39′ Bounder RV will cost about $800 a month not including fuel, insurance, camp site fees, etc. A 20′ runabout boat payment can be that or more without docking or storage and boats burn a lot of fuel, not as much as planes but a lot. One child on a traveling sports team can cost that much and much more.

    I am no advocating RV’s, kids or flying, in that statement. Thank goodness we live in a free country where we get to choose where we spend the money we have. I am just saying it would be great if more people knew flying was an option.

    As to fewer pilots; as other articles have pointed out the numbers so I will not go into them again there are fewer GA pilots. Those are the numbers I am not saying that is good or bad, it is what it is. And I agree if the airlines do not have enough pilots they should fund more training which is about the same as saying if Hospitals do not have enough doctors they should fund more kids going to medical school.

    There are no easy answers my friends. They are points to consider and if the basic idea is to show others how great flying is…

    Have a great night and thank you for the comments, I hope more will have more to say as well!

    Perhaps as our President has pointed out he wanted to increase educational funding that will include pilot training which would be pretty great!

    • Peter
      Peter says:

      Thanks for your thoughtful response.

      When you lay out your points like that, I tend to agree with you, yet come to a different conclusion. Our wealthy pay the least amount of taxes in the civilized world. The fees to support a federal ATC system, at least the way they’re currently proposed, are targeting the kinds of aviation consumers that can afford them. Motor hobbies are all expensive. Hospitals attract employees with higher wages instead of paying for their training. I think these are all external factors, completely independent of our current president, that may or may not contribute to gradual decreases in the number of active pilots.

      Federally subsidized pilot training is a great idea, as is investing in some of the technology that is powering fuel efficiency in aviation. Making flying cheaper to learn and less expensive to utilize on an ongoing basis will get more people engaged and make the pilot population grow and also become more politically relevant.

      It’s important to remember that the median household income in the US is currently around $50k. After taxes, that leaves the average American family with about $3k/month before paying their mortgages, car payments and everything else so even an $800/month activity like flying is still out of reach for all but those in the upper income brackets or those willing to make some pretty legitimate sacrifices.

      I know a lot of people don’t like to hear this in aviation but I don’t see any scenario other than significant reductions in these costs as a viable path to bringing about a recovery in the number of active pilots. When you tell people you’re a pilot, most think it’s cool but when you tell people about the path to becoming a pilot most people are shocked.

    • Larry C
      Larry C says:

      Addressing the P.S. statement: To say it and do it are two completely different things! In other words, talk is cheap!!!

  7. Gary
    Gary says:

    This article may have good intentions behind it, but it seems to confuse a whole lot of separate issues. The passengers of the airlines in the 70s used to get dressed up, because flying was a luxury back then; today, with how fares, it is not so any more. Also, I remember kids wanting to grow up to be doctors and lawyers, not pilots. In my high school, there were many kids aspiring to be one of those, bu it was the only one who wanted to fly airplanes. If you are talking about the freedom of flying, you are right. It does give you that sense. However, you can get that sense being a pirate pilot. That’s where you can get your flying kick. As far as choosing it as a career, why would anyone want to go into it, if he wants to become wealthy? That has never been the case; that person would go into medicine, or law. I try to make sure my kids don’t follow in my footsteps. If they want to learn how to fly, I would support that. They could fly single engine airplanes around for fun, but as you know, it takes disposable income to be able to do that. It is, whether you like it or not, a rich hobby. It has always been, and it will be so in the future. Finally, you can’t compare what a aren’t pays for hockey for her kids, to the CEO of one of the major three’s having at his use the company jet. The cost of the two are just not the same. So why are there not as many pilots? The future of the career is not as bright as it used to be, and people just don’t want to spend money on flying airplanes. If they do, they have disposable become, and I guess that group of people are on the decline.

  8. Todd Price
    Todd Price says:

    I am so tired of the whining about how middle class people cannot afford general aviation flying. C’mon, there are things all of us cannot afford, regardless of income. This reminds me of the same mentality that dicatates everyone should own a home. If you want to fly (or do any expensive thing) you can work your way up to an income level that allows it to happen. I have gone from broke to upper middle class in my adult lifetime – so have millions of others. The mindset of the American population is getting really scary.

    • Mike Spinelli
      Mike Spinelli says:

      You just dont get it, with the lower number of aircraft flying, pilots are continuing to fly are pretty much being worked over the coals with a 4000.00 annual charge, and still have the plane come out with cylinders 3= in the 60’s not very reasurring if you have to fly over open water. This being done so engine now can be a hidden agenda for later repair. Instead of changing the frayed seatbelt, or fireextingusher, or doing 3 wheel bearing when only one was bad the engine should have been addressed. But when they see an aircraft has multiple owners they work them for all they can get. We hear AOPA wanting contribution after contribution to fight airport user fees. Crap I would rather pay for airport control tower support than throw good money to the ripp offs

      • Todd Price
        Todd Price says:

        Mike – I am not defending rip off repair shops or AOPA. I am simply saying that GA flying has been, is and always will be expensive. It sounds like you need to get involved in the maintenance of your own airplane (look up Mike Busch) We need to concentrate on making the GA we have left as good as possible. The glory days are over, forever. It was not that different anyway; yes, a lot more flying in newer airplanes but when I learned to fly in the 70s everyone involved bitched about cost, repair rip offs, the FAA, etc.

  9. Ray Danley
    Ray Danley says:

    Your article draws an absurd perspective. The general public has thought flying is too expensive and only for the rich since the gas crisis in the 1970’s. In 1994 I was 24 years old, working as an AutoCADD drafter for a civil engineering firm in Southern California and taking flying lessons. I told a coworker about my quest to get a pilots license and later found out a rumor had been circulated that I made as much money as a partner in the firm because I could afford flying lessons. If I recall, Bill Clinton was in the White House in 1994 – maybe you can try to blame President Clinton for the public’s misperception. By the way, have you given any thought to the idea that now days so many people cure their boredom with cheep and easy video games to the point that perusing the real thing and spending real money doesn’t seem all that practical or satisfying?

  10. Dave
    Dave says:

    It is truly unfortunate that politics must be included in a discussion like this but the fact is the economy has had a major impact on our ability to fund all aviation activity. Point your finger at your favorite target for the cause, but the truth is we have less disposable income to devote to our avocations. We must get more value from fewer dollars and most people just don’t see the value in General Aviation. The uncertainty in operating costs, especially the price of AVGAS has just made the investment too risky for most, so putting money into camping equipment for family vacations seems much more sensible then embarking on the quest to become a pilot.

    • Richard Harris
      Richard Harris says:

      When over 50% of the wealth of America is hoarded by less than 10% of its people, that doesn’t leave much “disposable” income for the rest of us. Is it any wonder that “normal” Americans can no longer afford to fly? We’ve split America between the Have-too-much and the Have-too-little, and forgotten all serious concepts of a true, WORKING (not commanding) “middle class.”

      Without a rebirth of a centrist America, and the shifting of wealth back to the MAJORITY of Americans, general aviation will continue to dwindle into irrelevance, and the public will (quite rightly) become increasingly hostile to its many federal subsidies (from federally-paved runways, to free ATC, to taxpayer-funded/maintained VORs and ILS’s, to free registration, certification and test rides (already facing user fees), to tax exemptions for what is too-often fraudulently mis-represented as “business” aviation (speaking as a former bizjet industry worker).

      We need to get back a REAL “middle class” — that LABORS for a living — and not dishonestly claim that title for a class that ANGLES and CONTROLS and EXPLOITS for a living. Maybe when TRUE WORK pays, again, the working class will again be lifted into a big middle class that can revive the heady days of the 1950s and 1960s, when many ordinary people (with extraordinary effort and sacrifice) could participate in general aviation.

      Economies of scale could then reduce the cost of GA for EVERYone — rich and poor alike, as they did in the bygone years.

      • mike
        mike says:

        The problem is Richard a lot of people in this country don’t want to work. The government will take care of me.

      • Eric Woods
        Eric Woods says:

        The top 400 people own as much as the bottom 50% of the country (300,000,000). I don’t blame the people, I blame a system that allows that to happen. It is obviously broken and not what the founding fathers intended.

        Remember, nobody is proposing taking any of the money they already have. There are proposals to try to get a little more of the NEW money and they dont want to give up a dime. The top 2% already got 82% of all the new wealth created in the last 12 years.

        The gap between the rich and poor grows every year.

        This country will eventually collapse under the weight of its own greed or stabilize as a third world country with no middle class.

  11. Carl
    Carl says:

    Here’s an article from 2008

    Was this Obamas fault too?

    By the way I didn’t vote for Obama, so don’t think I am some Obama fan boy, I just think the

    I make a very good salary, well above the median income, but the only reason I fly is because the costs of plane ownership are split with 9 other people. If I was paying all the costs myself, then yeah I’d probably be camping.

  12. Ray Danley
    Ray Danley says:


    Your response to Carl and Peter was better than your original article. I want to add, although I don’t agree with your original premise, that Obama is to blame for the lack of interest in General Aviation, I’m glad to see it has spurred so many great responses.

    First off, your original article was written in a way that makes you sound freshly scolded child who is now angry and frustrated and has taken a quick look around the room for someone to inappropriately blame. Secondly, I don’t think anybody is going to criticize you for writing an article about how you hate President Obama. Just do us all a favor and title it correctly. In this article you weekly link one statement said about his rival during a heated election campaign and then tied to 30 years worth of decline in General Aviation.

    This issue involves a lot of factors that have been in play for more than 30 years; blaming one man, no matter how influential, is not going to sit well with anybody who has really studied this problem.

    Nonetheless, to your credit, your article raises a question AOPA and other aviation organizations have been studying and trying to solve for many years: What are we (aviation enthusiast) going to do about this disturbing trend?

    So far the answer is – get involved, stay involved when ever and where ever you can. If active flying is not within your budget there are still things you can do to promote aviation. Keep in mind the cost of General Aviation goes up as the amount of people involved goes down. The move people we have the better off we are.

    • Richard Harris
      Richard Harris says:

      So let’s recap the record on GA and presidents (this time with a bias AGAINST Republicans):

      Richard Nixon:
      – began the (now traditional) practice of impounding/diverting Airport Development Aid Program (ADAP) funds to balance the budget. In modern times, the terms have changed, but the practice remains — ESPECIALLY under REPUBLICAN presidents.

      Ronald Reagan:

      – shifted American wealth and resources from the civilian sector to the military sector. The result: a huge rise in the wealth and power of the military aerospace industry, mirrored rather precisely by a decline in the wealth and power of the general aviation industry.

      – shifted American wealth and resources from the lower-income and middle-income American to the upper-income American. The result: radically declining percentages of Americans able to afford general aviation; and the shift of attention of the industry toward business jets that very few people could afford. Today, Cessna doesn’t make its REAL money with Skyhawks (now shunted off to a small town factory): it makes its money with Citations, trickling out of its vast Wichita factory complex. The same has largely been true for the GA industry, as a whole, ever since “Reaganomics” began to take effect.

      George W. Bush restrictions on GA, including:

      – homeland security rules
      – pop-up TFRs
      – sweeping new licensing restrictions
      – across-the-board FAR rewrites (begun under him), nearly all more-restrictive to GA
      – pushing GA toward LSAs, and away from the airways and cities
      – institution of the first user fees — and initial proposals for more, including those noted here that are mis-blamed on Obama.

      But reckless, short-sighted, bigoted GA will keep voting Republican until we vote ourselves completely out of the sky.


  13. Will Eifert
    Will Eifert says:

    This is a great piece, Bill, and it touches on a lot of things. Here are some thoughts:

    -Commercial aviation in general has gone from luxurious and glamorous to “just another way to get around.” I truly believe that, if they wanted to, commercial airlines could bring that luxury back. Yet, they’re more concerned with packing bodies in than making passengers more comfortable.

    -Modern GA has always seemed to suffer from, essentially, obscurity. It is written of as a rich man’s sport and nothing more. However, that’s really not the case in a lot of places. My instructor in Guthrie, OK has always told me “You’d be hard to find a majority of “rich guys” in general aviation. If you see any, let me know!”

    Involvement is crucial. I don’t believe that people dislike aviation. I believe that a majority of people have not experienced aviation enough to know how truly rewarding the aviation community is.

    In reality, we as pilots have the advantage. We have the wonderful world of aviation right in front of us. All we need to do is spread the word.

  14. Scott Stewart
    Scott Stewart says:

    I work away from home all week. For me it would be the same cost to buy a C172 and fly back and forth to work. It gets the same mileage as my truck, the cost/month would be the same (or less) per month than a new truck. I have two older vehicles I could leave at the destination airports to get me to my house or the motel. I see GA flying as not only seriously fun, but well worth it for me. The Big 3 should have told congress and the media to shut up. Congress spends more on flying than any of the Big 3! And that is at OUR expense. The greatest obstacal to GA flying is the cost of learning. As far as commercial flying, you can keep it. I would rather drive across country than to deal with an airline and the TSA.

  15. Jeff
    Jeff says:

    Pretty good points. I think it is cost, regulation, competition for other activities (motorcycling for me) and yes Obama and his policies have certainly hurt general aviation . The cost of fuel is a direct issue, but his destructive economic policies that continue to cripple our country are going to continue to drag down general aviation.

  16. Rich
    Rich says:

    I think you can divide the flying camp into two parts – those that use flying as part of a business and for which things like deductions, credits, and expenses contribute heavily to the decision to fly, and those for which flying is a fun activity. I think the fun crowd has handled the cost of flying by jumping to experimental aircraft. Vans Aircraft is the largest producer of new planes flying today. Plus with an experimental you can get new toys like glass panels at a fraction of the cost of a “certified” aircraft. Another plus is the ability to do maintenance on your experimental without having to pay an IA to do it for you if you are so inclined. For the business crowd, the total costs will decide whether or not to fly.

    Oh, by the way, I’m not sure I’d lump lawyers into the highly paid profession. Many just out of law school are working for less than average pay, and the bar is starting to limit the numbers in the profession.

  17. Patrick Kelly
    Patrick Kelly says:

    Obama may have inherited Bushs’ crap including his ideas about GA, however continuing to push someone else’s ‘bad’ ideas tells me Obama still wants to hide behind Bush’s coattails, instead of putting forth the effort to steady a nosediving industry with his own ideas. Under Obamas leadership GA will continue to falter.

  18. Ken Walker
    Ken Walker says:

    The sad part is, a lot of pilots aren’t wealthy. I paid for my flight lessons this summer using the money I made delivering pizzas. Despite having little, if any, money left over, I still managed to float my bill at the airport without too much of a tab.

    My dad chipped in a majority of the time during the off-season, and to put it bluntly, we live modest lives. No expensive cars, vacation homes or fancy luxury items to speak of. I think people only think of the money aspect because you hardly see a guy with an airplane parked in his driveway (or where I’m from, a pilot license in general). It’s just what people conceptualize. Sure, GA is expensive, but then again so is boating, classic car restoration ect.

  19. Robert
    Robert says:

    I’d like to add a different perspective. I have been a professional pilot for going on thirty-three years now and have had the opportunity through experience to compare and contrast the general aviation experience in America to the vast majority of the rest of the world. For example, I am a licensed ATP pilot in the UAE, China, India, Thailand and of course the USA. As such, I believe that general aviation in America is a national treasure and everyone who participates in that experience should be proud for their contribution to this wonderful opportunity that can rarely found in other parts of the world. Without our participation (spending money) this treasure will go away and the tens of thousands of other Americans depending on us to continue to ensure its existence will also fade into oblivion. Regardless of the amount of money we spend individually in per suit of this privilege be proud of that and proud of the fact that you participate in the preservation of this amazing treasure we have for ourselves and future generations. I have many colleagues who came to America specifically to do their primary training so that one day they could become airline pilots. America offers them opportunities that they cannot find in their own country and you must believe that because of you and your contributions however small or large, you make it possible for many people to enjoy Americas blessings.

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