GA Popularity Contest—Why isn't flying cooler?

What do you think we can do to bring more people into the aviation fold? Please share your thoughts, ideas, comments here.


Anonymous said...

I think it is two or three fold. The price is prohibitive,for one.Up to 4 or 6 grand,which is too much for many of us. I doubt in the "Golden Age" of flight people paid the equivalent of this. A second thing would be way too many rules,regulations,etc. Again, if Orville and Wilbur had to put up with the FAA,they'd have never got off the ground. Third,many people just want to fly and have fun. Yet when I enquire about a recreational pilot license, I was discouraged. Again, all of this is off-putting to many people. I have loved aviation my whole life,and still yearn to learn to fly. I just wish we could go back to the days of Tiger Moths,504k's and Stearmans;keeping it simple and fun,which is what aviating should be.

Rob in PA said...

The answer is so obvious that I find myself shocked to even see the question.

I'm a 500+ hour commercial pilot (fly for fun and some business). I earn six figures a year, but struggle justifying the partnership expense of a well-maintained Cherokee 140! A 140!!

I don't mind rules; we should have them. Costs charged by private airports including high hangar fees, combined with poor service and limited hours add frustration to the hobby. And, when we finally land, there isn't a courtesy car to be found.

Flying is a dream come true for me. However, as I build hours and finish ratings I realize there is not a lot of use for my ticket.

The Marketing "Guru's" of the flying industry need to find ways for pilots to become mobile on the ground when they arrive, service needs to improve, and costs should be controlled. With a little marketing savvy the aviation industry COULD draw a whole new crowd. However, if we stay the course of FBO's catering only to the big boys with deep pockets and ample local corporate transportation I expect things will pretty much stay the same.

precisionwindsports said...

There are still ways to get into flying relatively cheaply with the emphasis on fun but most of the flying magazines, including Plane & Pilot ignore these other, less expensive flying machines. I'm talking about weight-shift control and powered-parachute aircraft (WSC & PPC respectively). Plane & Pilot ignores these affordable flying machines and yet continues to bemoan the dwindling numbers of pilots. I would be willing to bet that most of the new pilots minted over the last two years have been ultralight pilots moving into the GA ranks via Sport Pilot.

Even Sport Pilot has failed to live up to the promise of affordable aviation. Most of the fixed-wing LSAs are priced between $80-120k -- how many non-pilots (or even pilots) can afford or are willing to spend that kind of money. WSC & PPC aircraft are literally 1/3 to 1/2 that cost, are easier to fly, easy to store, easier/cheaper to maintain, and are pure flying pleasure. They don't pretend to be transportation machines. Many of these pilots become hooked on aviation and then move up to fixed-wing.

If you are serious about growing the ranks of pilots you need to embrace ALL of aviation.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more. Who can afford to buy and airplane, when a thirty year old Cessna costs more than a new corvette. I quit flying for twenty-seven years. That is how long it took me to raise a family. Now that I have a little money left over each month, I can afford the $85 an hour to fly a beat up old 172 with 14,00 hours on it a couple of hours a month, so I got my license current again. I love to fly, but it is a rich man's sport.

Al Sayre said...

If you want to bring people into aviation, start them early. Join and support your local Civil Air Patrol Squadron. The Civil Air Patrol Cadet Program teaches young people from ages 12-21 about Leadership and Aerospace. Cadets are given the opportunity for structured orientation flights in both gliders and powered aircraft, and have the opportunity to attend many aviation oriented National Cadet Special Activities. For more information about CAP and the Cadet Program, see the Civil Air Patrol National Headquarters website at

Anonymous said...

the reason people arent flocking to ga is the MONEY if every person had the money it takes to fly they would be flying. it boils down to simple economics. you cant buy a plane you can aford to fly and you cant fly rentals for long without going broke. very simple . a plane that cost $3500 dollars in the 50's now costs $35000 throw in the costs of ownership and hangar rent and its beyond what is reasonable.You suggested flying 6 people a year to introduce them to fly , did you consider that it would cost $600 to do that?I think sometimes people at magazines get disconnected from the communties they represent simply because they deal with the new , or latest planes comeing out all the time. Reviews and such are always a good thing but I stop reading when I see that its priced so high that Ill never see one. If a plane that cost $3500 in the 50's is 10X AS MUCH NOW FIGURE WHAT A $250000 cessna will cost in 30 or 40 years.There is no future in personal aircraft ownership, there is only hanging on as long as you can, and flying 30 and 40 year old aircraft . eventually these old planes will dissapear and we will be left with nothing to fly. Alot has been said about the lsa catagory and I suppose thats where we'll all end up someday, but even a Lsa aircraft run $100,000 PLUS. Lsa is just for recreation flying and quite frankly I dont have that kind of money for a hobby. I got into flying for the thrill of going places, and meeting different people.

Stuart Buchanan said...

I think my own experience is indicative of the pilot shortage and whether flying is still considered cool.

I'm 28, and have always been interested in aviation, from going to museums, to reading books, and playing with flight simulators.

I have been an international subscriber to P&P for a couple of years, dreaming of getting my license. Despite the fact I am young, fairly well off and have no dependents, I couldn't justify the £8,000 (yup, $16,000) to get my license here in the UK, and then the ongoing cost of rental at approx £100 per hour wet (yup, $200). The ongoing cost of remaining current was simply too high.

I eventually discovered weight-shift microlights at a local airshow, which turned out to be exactly what I was looking for. I was able to get my license in 9 months over the winter, and buy my own aircraft for far less than a GA license would have cost me. The aircraft is simple enough that I can do my own maintenance, fast enough to allow me to travel (though Scotland is a bit smaller than the USA!), carries two people and can happily land in a field.

As others have said, this area of aviation is rarely mentioned by the mainstream flying press (though the article on Aero-trekking was very good). Widening our view of "flying" to include all forms of personal aviation, rather than concentrating on the narrow 172 definition might help to encourage more people to take part in some form of aviation.

Apart from the cost issue, I think there is also a problem that people want instant gratification. The level of commitment required to get a license, as opposed to other leisure activities is quite high. I'm not sure there is much that can be done about this, other than to convince people that it is worth the effort.

One final thought. The popularity of flight simulation software shows that flying is still cool, but that people are getting their kicks virtually rather than in reality. I think convincing that market that the reality is so much richer and more rewarding than anything depicted on the screen would go a long way to addressing the pilot shortage.

A number of people that I know from a flight simulation group have gone on to get their licenses, so some people are making the step up. I think that encouraging more people to do so would make a big impact on pilot numbers.


Anonymous said...

So many have already hit the nail on the head by referencing the high cost of flying. Not only is it keeping that 50% of men you reference out of the game but it is also keeping the younger set from entering the field as well. I read so often about mentor programs and how we should introduce a kid to flying and just have to laugh. How do you take a kid up and get them excited about flying then tell them "for only 10k you can get YOUR ticket to fly!" and then only another $3-4k+ annually just to stay current. Where is that money supposed to come from? That same set of parents who would like to fly themselves but don't have the money!

Bigger aviation companies need to take on some of the responsibility of helping to produce more pilots by introducing programs that make flying more affordable.

Perhaps a solution could be relaxing some of the commercial regulations for private pilots by allowing them to receive more money from passengers to offset costs.

I suggest more articles be written describing how a private pilot can initiate nonprofit programs and utilize grants to bring flying to all.

Money issues aside, we need instructors who are TEACHERS and work to inspire those who venture into flying. Way too many instructors I have seen are merely building hours and just don't seem to care. It's not unusual for pilots in training to go through several instructors on the way to a license or rating. Another question you should ask is how many have ventured into the world of flying but quit after becoming discouraged by poor instruction.

Anonymous said...

Cost is certainly a factor and hopefully the light sport pilot certificate and LSAs will make it more affordable to get kids young and old involved with flying in the coming months/years. However, light sport aircraft still seem a tad too expensive for the average joe. Hopefully, we will see more creative ways in the near future for people to share in the cost of flying and owning LSAs so kids and adults alike can start to fly for the first time and enjoy the thrill and exhilaration of flying. Likewise, hopefully those who have flown in the past, and found it too expensive to keep up, can once again fall in love with this awesome sport/hobby, even if years have gone by - rather than staying away due to the frustration and sadness of not being able to do it due to the high costs. Usually, human nature tells us to put it out of our minds when we can't have it! I'm sure there are a lot of frustrated pilots out there who have stayed away for years rather than being reminded of what they can't have.

In fact, I'm a classic example of a frustrated pilot (grounded for years due to high costs) who has been cautiously watching the LSA market in recent months - and still not sure if I can afford it, even at the new proclaimed "lower" cost of entry. Unfortunately, as noted in an earlier comment by another, these fixed wing aircraft are still expensive in relative terms - more equivalent to buying a high-end Mercedes Benz. It's still pretty tough to swallow for the average joe unless new and creative ways are found to make it "realistically" and not artifically affordable.

All that to say my response so far has not addressed the real question at hand - the issue regarding getting kids involved with aviation. So forget us old kids for now...

The idea of current pilots giving rides is great, but I still believe very limited, considering the cost and proximity of airports and the plain lack of knowledge about local general aviation. I would venture to say that there really aren't that many active pilots out there anyway that could find the time or foot the bill for such an endeavor. So, there has got to be another way - another means to educate our kids and turn the tide.

Look, kids need a way to learn about the virtues of flying, and not just the thrill of it, but also the many great educational aspects. What I mean is that flying provides an awesome opportunity for kids to apply what they learn in school in a practical sense through aviation and flying. Having been a private pilot and also having aspired to become a commercial pilot in my youth (took all the ground school classes through commercial), I realized how aviation and flying truly pulled together many learning disciplines - math, science (meterology/weather/geography), communication skills and even history. Pretty cool! But kids need to be educated on these virtues and also have the opportunity to be exposed to the "whole" experience. Once they do, they will have a new found appreciation for aviation and flying and hopefully get that aviation fuel running through their veins just like the rest of us pilots (current and grounded) have experienced.

So how do we do this. Well, I know that outfits like the Young Eagles and others are making strides. However, I can't say that I've ever heard of them reaching out to the masses of middle schools and high schools. If they have, I've never seen anything come home with my kids from school describing the opporunity to learn more about the virtues of aviation and flying and how it can help your student apply the everyday concepts they learn in the classroom, not to mention expose them to the many career opportunities in aviation. If we are going to get kids engaged with the virtues of flying and knowledgeable and excited about the many career opportunities as professional pilots, then there has got to be a much larger tsunami of exposure.

Stay with me because I'm starting to zero in how that might take place. I believe it may have to fall within the realm of large-scale, non-profit government and private sector funded support. Look, airlines (i.e. American, United, other), airshippers (i.e. FedEx, UPS), military (i.e. Airforce, Navy), aviation organizations (i.e. EAA, AOPA, NBAA, GAMA, ALPA), aircraft manufacturers (i.e. Cessna, Cirrus, Gulfstream, Boeing), Universities (i.e. Embry-Riddle) and even flying magazines (i.e. Plane&Pilot) need to come together and pool resources to develop educational facilities and programs strategically placed across this great country of ours to get schools and kids informed and excited about aviation and flying, and attending training programs, etc. Everyone has a vested interest here! Lack of demand and lack of pilots negatively impacts everyone in the industry (a no brainer).

We all know that the airlines are quickly approaching a critical mass. They will soon need highly trained and skilled resources to fill the seats of their older and soon-to-be retired pilots. Also, the military can always benefit from improved PR around military aviation careers paths. And so on. The entities listed above need to step forward and put some real skin in the game here to stop the decline and turn the tide.

So, what programs might these non-profit facilities (funded by the likes of airlines to manufacturers to government) offer to local communities and kids? Well, for starters, the programs (probably multi-day training camps and outreach to local schools) should, I believe, offer something like the following introduction/basic training:

- Classroom instruction - a basic introduction to aerodynamics, flying manuevers, weather, navigation, flight planning, ATC, weight & balance, engines and instrumentation -- with the goal of correlating how math, science and communication work in harmony in the world of aviation and flying (real application of academics).
- Simulator time - in private, corporate, airline and military simulators, yes, donated by those respective entities - get the kids truly excited by being in real live simulators with full-fledged instrumentation - deliver a basic introduction to the world of flying through full-motion simulators. Some prep time could be deliverd through static Microsoft Simulator sessions prior to sitting in and flying the real deal.
- Complement these experiences with facinating and compelling aviation and flight videos in an auditorium setting - like an I-MAX theatre experience - get them intrigued and excited.
- Next, go to the flight line and let them touch and feel and experience actual aircraft of multiple shapes and sizes (kind of like sitting in the seat of a new sports car on the display floor and dreaming of the possibilities) - again, from private to airliner to military aircraft (of course, some could be out of service aircraft pulled from storage, but with fully intact cockpits and all) - in fact, I remember the first time I got excited as a kid about flying - it was when my step-dad (a United pilot) took me on board a brand spanking new DC-8 and I got a chance to sit in the pilot's seat and marvel over all the instrumentation - boy, I'll never forget that day! It's what got me initially hooked.
- Real flight time - have kids break into small groups to learn the benefits of teamwork and plan out a pre-defined flight plan, and then actually go up in an aircraft and fly it (of course, with a qualified pilot/program instructor) - a fleet of aircraft could be donated by select manufacturers (yes donated - sometimes you have to provide product for free to gain benefit downstream - a common business practice, no doubt).
- Career opportunties - have sponsors introduce students to the many pilot career opportunities within their respective worlds to increase knowledge and interest - i.e. airline pilot, freight pilot, corporate pilot, military pilot, manufacturer's pilot, etc.
- Leverage retired airline pilots and military pilots by having them volunteer their time in support of these programs, if possible - they can act as mentors to these young people.
- Again, it would probably be best to target middle school and high school age kids.

I know I've written alot, and it may seem a bit rough in spots, but I hope you see that this could be a solution. Of course, it would need to be flushed out more. Bottomline - we need the industry to "belly up to the bar" and think outside the box on this one if we are to see the tide change. That also includes somehow making flying much more affordable overall whether private, recreational, sport or professional. In fact, if more adults could afford to fly again, then I believe they would naturally get their kids involved, just like families who are into dirt bikes (motorcycling) or quads or other extreme sports/hobbies. It needs to somehow be more affordable and attainable.

It is sad to think that we've come to a point where kids young and old are grounded because of plain and simple high costs. This shouldn't be something that only the wealthy can afford. We need the industry to step up to the plate and inject some hope, especially for our young people. Flying is an exhilaration that everyone should be able to experience, average joe and kid alike, and have the hope and reasonable financial means of taking to the next level, professional pilot, if desired.

By the way, another idea I'd like to throw out on the table is around improving local general aviation knowledge. It revolves around developing regional networks of tower and non-tower airports that provide a safe and easy haven for those learning to fly and/or wanting to build proficiency. Ideally, these would be local/regional networks of airports in less congested and restricted airspace so newer pilots young and old could fly without the stress of heavy traffic and ATC communications. Yes, smells a little like something advantageous to light sport pilots in particular. These airports and quasi-FBOs could be additionally funded via the same resources as the training facilities in support of furthering local general aviation and flying across the country.

Keep in mind that most people have no idea about the local general aviation community. As they learn to fly, they also need to be informed on where they can go to fly - that there is a network of airports and airspace out there that is available and not so intimidating. More to come on this topic later.

Hope you enjoyed the read!

Anonymous said...

Mr. Berlin:

My thoughts why general aviation isn't more popular:

1. Prohibitively expensive. New airplanes costing more then $255,000 is out of the financial reach of the middle class. Fuel and maintenance costs is not helping the situation. It can be quite discouraging to pick up an aviation magazine and read about all the new aircraft which are not attendable.

2. Liability/litigation. There is a risk of a law suit that has the potential to devastate a life time of hard earn assets.

3. Available time: Dual income families don't have a lot of time for personal pleasures. After work, the priority shifts to kids and other domestic duties.

4. Perception of high risk:
Almost every aviation magazine I read has an article(s) on accidents avoidance and risk mitigation. Which is good, but it does leave a perception of high risk to the potential future pilot. I don't read the same volume of articles or books in boating, sailing, jogging, motorcycle, or other magazines.

5. Romance: Aviation seemed to have lost some of its romance and its seems more of a technological journey and regulatory experience. The pleasure of flight doesn't seem to be stressed enough....

6. Complexity: For the general aviation pilot who takes his/her vocation seriously, it is a hobby that requires continuous dedicated study and training to maintain proficiency; not only in the mechanical skills of flying the aircraft, but more importantly in the knowledge of the various subjects: airspace, regulations, aeromedical, aircraft systems, aerodynamics, weather, etc....


A general aviation pilot

Phil said...

For myself, raised in the '50s & '60s, the interest and excitement of aviation came from the my father. At 13, a J-3 flight sold me on the fun and ultimately on my 35 year aero engineering career. I worked to fly, and found active flight schools with many new students and new aircraft. After college, I stopped flying due to costs and family.
I recently achieved an instrument rating in a part 141 school. Today, the cost impact is the same as when I was single which had little responsibility. Flight schools are still flying the same 30 year old aircraft that I learned to fly. My expereince is most flight school are operating 1 to 3 aircraft and barely making a profit. To fly a Diamond 40 is 30% more costly. Besides the internet is the favorite place to spend money, time and ultimately make your Billions. Aviation is fun but not as attractive as the technology boom of the 30s to 50s.
Good luck to those who want a career making less money for longer hours.

Ben Mitchell said...

The EXPENSE of flying is prohibitive!!! The arrogant, elitist, attitude of GA with their extensive list of micro-managing requirements also hasn't helped.

For many years now, I have been an avaition enthusiast. However, even with a 6 figure salary, I cannot afford to purchase an airplane and fly it. Why is it that ANYTHING labeled "aircraft" costs 10 to 50 times more than a the exact same thing without the label? And the new LSA aircraft.... what a revolution this has been!! It is truly amazing how the cost of these new little planes, cute, sexy, and technologically advanced as they are, began in the $60K range, has now RACED over the $100K mark. I thought this was supposed to be a new low cost way to get into the GA world.

And then there's the new "Sport Pilot License". Wow, has that helped! I know personally that it has helped more that a few in the ultra-light, and experimental world OUT of flying.

Let's not leave out the ridiculously outdated technology that powers airplanes. When was this engine / carburator design originally completed? Woefully antiquated.

I understand that the tone of my comment (rant) is sarcastic, perhaps even cynical. However, these thoughts are thoughts shared by a great many of people who would LOVE to fly, who would LOVE to persue the joy of GA, but who are continually rebuffed by GA itself, both private, and govermental (FAA).

I sure am glad that this was not the situation when Orville and Wilbur were developing their LOVE and passion for flying!!!

msandorf said...

Obviously, money is a huge barrier to young people entering into general aviation. That's a given, but it's more than that. Groups like AOPA have tried to institute programs like “Young Eagles” and the "Six in Twelve" program in order to try to demystify flying, and make the concept of becoming a pilot more approachable to our nation's youth. That’s all well and good, but a 15 year old sitting in the back of my Super Cub doesn’t learn the most important lesson to the future of aviation, that he (or she) can learn to do it too! I have felt for years that private pilot ground school should be taught as a high school elective course. Rather than continuing to offer course favorites such as "Upside-down basket weaving" and "Underwater Wallaby Beating" in our schools, wouldn't it be cool to teach our kids everything they need to know to pass their private and commercial written tests, then on to their instrument and multi-engine courses. Even if the majority of them never set butt in an airplane think about the advantages they get in taking the courses. The meteorology portion of the knowledge base alone is a vital skill they can use their entire lives. Physics, medical factors, applied scientific principles, even time-speed and distance calculations are all skills that I use every day of my life, whether I am in an airplane or not. How many times in your own schooling did you ask “How does this pertain to me ?” In Aviation Ground School 101” that question is answered every single day. It is very simple and easy to do too. AOPA makes a national call for volunteers to get their ground school instructors permits. It's fairly easy and inexpensive to do. AOPA takes care of approaching each state’s school board to get the course approved and accredited, and then the volunteers step in and teach the course over a semester. The course is taught in depth at the high school level, and the final exam is the FAA written. Once flying has become demystified, we end up with thousands upon thousands of kids that not only have useful information in their heads, but are also capable of determining if a career in aviation is for them or not. Maybe even more importantly, even if the majority decide not to fly in their immediate futures, they still will think of themselves as connected to the aviation community. Talk about a great way to smooth the way for future general aviation issues like demands for airport closures, noise abatement, etc. It is no longer an issue of “us against them”, but “all of us in this together” !

Anonymous said...


I had a private IFR pilot license. I flew for 3.5 years. I am no longer flying because of cost.

I love to fly but the simple fact is this hobby is for the very rich. I consider myself middleclass. Presently all my earning goes to saving for a house, retirement and paying for my student loan. There is simply nothing left for hobby such as flying.

I wish something could be done to bring down the cost but pretty much I think in the near future there will no longer be a market for private pilot. The whole pilot industry will be gear toward commercial pilot.

It is a sad thing to see this industry disappearing. My advice to all those people that will love to one day learn to fly. Just let it go, you are holding onto a dream that is unattainable in today’s market.

wireless10 said...

One of the reasons flying is so unattractive to so many people is so many FBO’s are unattractive to prospective customers. I have been a corporate gypsy for many years and I can count on one hand in 30 years the number of FBO’s that presented a welcoming, open for business front office. I have gone to 10 FBO’s in a row at one well known airport, before I had even one CFI ask me even one question.

That is a disgrace and although not the only problem, surely one of the easiest to fix.

FBO Owner/CFI – look at your business – if you went into a restaurant that looked like your shop would you eat there?

Are you building relationships with potential customers or just providing grudging answers to questions asked?

The best way to overcome costs is to build the customer base and allow some economy of scale. You will never do that unless you start looking at your FBO as a regular business and not some specialty niche business where the normal rules don’t apply – because they do. When you do that the customer count will go up, your financial reports will improve and you’ll have a lot more friendly neighbors supporting the airport.

Wireless 10

Anonymous said...

Another problem is increasing urbanization. I live in Chicgao, own a plane but it takes me 2 hours to get to it. Airports where a person can just "hang out" have been thoughtlessly (Meigs Field) banished from the cities.
Even if you get to the airport, security no longer lets you wander on the field.

Anonymous said...

When I got my SEL back in 86 the cost for a 2 seater was around $35 and hour, add the instructor and that went to $45. I recently went back to the same school to look into getting back into flying. The rental fee for the same plane is now $78 and the instructor gets another $30. How can you justify this kind of cost. I am now looking into building a plane to make it affordable. But even that is going to cost me more a month than a luxury car. If you really want to raise the interset in flying lower the cost!

Anonymous said...

GA can be affordable, consider this article in the New York Times. (open full article once in the link).


Anonymous said...

Like everyone else has already stated - MONEY! Things are way too expensive and only the rich can really afford to own aircraft. It's hard to attract a younger crowd with 30-40 year old aircraft and when they finally see a Cirrus, Columbia or new Cessna its all for not once they see the price tag. Even if a person can afford an aircraft, the insurance, maintenance, FBO fees and fuel will put a person in the poor house. The only way to fix this is to cut costs and make things more affordable. If it was expensive yet affordable, it could still attract the younger generation.

Anonymous said...

Fix the technology, and stop putting the shortfall on the shoulders of pilots. In the course of a single flight, a pilot may take tens or hundreds of actions and decisions, small and large, failure of any one of which may have dire consequences. People are not that perfect; they make mistakes, they forget things, they overlook things, they miss important signs of trouble until it's too late. Many "pilot error" accidents are really failure of the technology to warn the pilot or aid in conducting the flight. Affordable master flight manager systems are needed to monitor all aspects of the flight, draw high level conclusions, and advise and aid the pilot (e.g. Rather than information overload of multiple screens of weather info, nearby traffic, charts of restricted airspace and terrain, and oh yes the desired route, it should be optionally boiled down to an arrow: "Go that way!"). When the reams of instruction to become a pilot can be reduced to something more manageable, and pilots no longer have to make a heavy ongoing commitment to flying for the sake of maintaining near-impossibly high skill levels, more people will fly.

After all, when was the last time you heard of a "pilot error" accident in that other great aerial transportation device, the elevator? For that matter, how often is there an elevator accident? The goal of one button flying may be unachievable in the foreseeable future, and is probably anathema to most existing pilots, but I think we need to move in that direction at least a little before the number of GA pilots is likely to increase.

Anonymous said...

Lets not forget the medical requirements. If you do not pass, it does not matter how much $ you have to spend. I for one have been denied a medical card because of past use of ADHD medication. If a person has ever taken any ADHD medication, they will be required to have a psycologist evaluation to prove they no longer need it. The cost of this evaluation is not covered by insurance & will cost ~$1500.00. These drugs were prescribed to millions of kids early in life and, as in my case, will present another obstical for an aspiring pilot.

Gil said...

The price of flying has gone up, and continues to climb with no end in sight.

I started primary flight training when I was in high school, and I had to stop several months afterward because of the cost. It has, literally, priced me out of becoming a pilot (not that I have given up, but it has become a lot more difficult to fly nowadays). I have yet to get my license.

The Cessna 152 that I was renting initially cost $65/hour back in 2004. That same aircraft at the same flight school now costs an insane $80/hour. Why? They say fuel.

On top of that, light sport aircraft rentals in my area have been near $80-$100/hour. Cheaper to fly a non-light-sport airplane with more performance? What happened to all the talk that LSAs would be cheaper?

And true, the airlines are also entering a period of hiring pilots en-masse, and are reducing minimums to get people in the right seat. Yet, I don't see any of these airlines putting up schools that guarantee a position, at a reduced cost (I met one pilot recently who flies for Colgan Air, who has student loans exceeding $200,000). And those who have flying academies that are affiliated still have excessively high tuitions (student loans would still be very high).

There are many young people who would get into flying (if given the introduction), but the cost of flying is what is keeping people out. If it were cheaper, we would have more pilots, and a younger generation of aviators who can access aviation, without having to give up a dream because of lack of funds. It's not so much that flying should be only for the rich; flying should be for everyone. Why not make it that way?

Pgusa said...

Two things: do you really want to make an American Idol commodity out of aviation? Isn't there any perceived value in the natural birth control of high costs and extensive training?

First of all, if you get more pilots in the sky, fuel prices will NOT go down. When's the last time you saw a rate cut in any commodity? Second of all, if the marketing departments of airframe manufacturers get to make the rules, we'll all pay for it through regulation. Oversight will be oppressive, flight tracking will be standard, taxation will have to pay for an enlarged enforcement arm of the FAA, and the parasites who live off the fringes of aviation, its media, will be the only beneficiaries.

Anonymous said...

"Fix the technology, and stop putting the shortfall on the shoulders of pilots. In the course of a single flight, a pilot may take tens or hundreds of actions and decisions, small and large, failure of any one of which may have dire consequences. People are not that perfect; they make mistakes, they forget things, they overlook things, they miss important signs of trouble until it's too late. Many "pilot error" accidents are really failure of the technology to warn the pilot or aid in conducting the flight. Affordable master flight manager systems are needed to monitor all aspects of the flight, draw high level conclusions, and advise and aid the pilot (e.g. Rather than information overload of multiple screens of weather info, nearby traffic, charts of restricted airspace and terrain, and oh yes the desired route, it should be optionally boiled down to an arrow: "Go that way!"). When the reams of instruction to become a pilot can be reduced to something more manageable, and pilots no longer have to make a heavy ongoing commitment to flying for the sake of maintaining near-impossibly high skill levels, more people will fly.

After all, when was the last time you heard of a "pilot error" accident in that other great aerial transportation device, the elevator? For that matter, how often is there an elevator accident? The goal of one button flying may be unachievable in the foreseeable future, and is probably anathema to most existing pilots, but I think we need to move in that direction at least a little before the number of GA pilots is likely to increase."

January 22, 2008 12:51 PM"
Responding to the above post, I agree that the technology has to be improved, and it is. I've often said that it seems easier to fly an airliner than it is to fly a 172.

I am not a pilot, but I am an aircraft mechanic that is taxi qualified in several airliners. I've had the opportunity to "fly" the A320 full motion simulator and the 747-400 sim as well. SFO to LAX. Of course it was done with a "co-pilot", my mechanic co-worker who seems as good as an ATP, although he is not a licensed pilot either.

He's made dozens of flights in the full motion sims and never a scary (virtual) moment. However, I've seen this same excellent 777 sim pilot, become saturated when sitting next to our pilot friend in a real 172.

All kidding aside, I think the GA pilots have a much heavier pilot work load than a pilot does in an airliner.

For instance, on one flight alone with our friend the GA pilot in a 172, we passed very close to a sky-diver at our altitude who was jumping in an un-authorized area, and we passed a bunch of balloons, again at our altitude, probably from a local car dealership, they came from out of nowhere instantly and it was hard to tell exactly what they were until it was "too late". And then we were overtaken from behind by a much faster private aircraft passing realtively close to us. Whether he saw us before we saw him, who knows.

I've done hundreds of virtual airline flights and never a crash, (but no other traffic either). I did run low on fuel once and had to divert into Oakland on a flight from Salt Lake to SFO. Yeah, it was that close. I MIGHT have made it into SFO....but by the hair stood up on the back of my neck, and I configured my approach for Oakland. But never a crash. Virtual ATC made an error once and told me to descend into the Rocky Mountains outside of Denver, but I maintained altitude and descended after the mountains and continued my approach into Denver Stapelton. (haven't simmed in a while.)

But again, on vectors, with FADEC engine controls and flying using the heading bug of a reliable autopilot, anyone could do it with proper flight planning.....which is long as you learn to program the box, learn your modes, Heading mode, VNAV, LNAV, approach. Even that is becoming too easy. They have "company routes" which go into the box really quick and easy. The "box" MCDU (Multipurpose Control and Display Unit)is already VERY user friendly and becoming more so with each new generation. (I can do it!) Of course, they fly the same routes all the time, with minor variations for weather....but even seasonal weather is somewhat predictable.

But like I said, I think we've seen evidence of movement in the right direction on the part of small airplane manufacturers. Things like GPS fed, glass cockpits, Full Authority Digital Engine Control, (FADEC). Shoot, with FADEC engines and GPS guided autopilot controlled glass cockpits in any aircraft, all you have to do is literally move the control wheel where you want the plane to go on the map display. Set it and forget it. It's getting THAT easy.

It's a natural progression that is happening. Soon, aviation won't just be for those with ninja like reflexes, LOL. However, I would never want to see it boiled down to "one button flying" and neither would you from your comments. What would be the point? Just like I would NEVER ride on any future airliner that didn't have a human pilot at the controls. Again, not that it can't be done safely autonomously, but what would be the point? Where's the glory?

Jorge said...

For those of us who live in a big city Flying has become more and more difficult. I learned to fly in Teterboro, NJ long ago. Today there are no space for piston engines there. If one is lucky enough to have a single piston engine has to drive two hours to fly one hour then two more to come home. So four hours driving and one flying.

Capitalist System said...

Perhaps it is because aircraft pricing is all over the board. No one knows if they are getting a good deal or getting ripped off. There can be significant price differences (see stats: over a two or three years. Sometimes this makes no sense.

Before I would spend $620,000 I would look at the used market
( but even then - how do you know you're not getting ripped off?

Capitalist System said...

Mention was made in a prior comment about the educational aspect of the situation. I think that over the years our politicians have decimated the math and science segment of our student population. Every President I can remember has talked about the importance of math and science education. However, since the Apollo program we've been moving away from a math science orientation. That is unless you call adding and subtraction at Walmart a good use of a mathematical mind.

We need to get a higher percentage of our population employed in math and science. This time, we need to make sure that they are involved as non-governmental employees. Government organizations just get jerked around based on politics.

The question is how do you duplicate "Burt Rutan"-like organizations a thousand fold?

Anonymous said...

I personaly think that ultralights is the way to go.I think the population would be more intrested if more people showed people that flying can be for less money.

Anonymous said...

I think the pouplation whould be more intrested if we justed showed kids and young people the wonders of flying

Anonymous said...

So why is rental rates so HIGH for GA? Consider that many planes just sit on the ground. If owners could increase the volume of use on their planes for less money, then maybe prices for rental will come down. At the moment, GAS prices (taxes, availability, demand) are high. Insurance is way too high. I would love to hear an informed insurance agent weigh in on this. Maintenance is too high. This is attributed to low volume, high costs of mechanic certification and the high costs of parts.

Reduce taxes on aviation GAS. Put some limits on lawsuites for GA pilots that fly safe but make a mistake. Invite more insurance companies to compete the market of aviation insurance and drive rates down. Support more local discounted seminars and other forms education for mechanics to stay current and reduce hanger fees, thus reducing mechanics operating costs.

Introduce rental organizations where GA pilots can prepay usage of a plane for a period of time (in days and months) similar to a rental car rather than by HOBBS and TACH. Pilots return plane wet and return plane full of gas. I would fly more if I could by 6 months of time by paying $1200 for unlimited use. This does not include the gas. This just covers insurance and maintenance costs. It still seems fair. If I am unable to get minimum use (based on a hourly rate times hobbs or tach), then take apply the amount to the hourly rate, leaving a balance in the account.

Anonymous said...

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