Is General Aviation Dying in the USA?

Discussion in 'Flight Following' started by Tarheel Pilot, Apr 28, 2011.

  1. Tarheel Pilot

    Tarheel Pilot Line Up and Wait

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    After reading several threads and post on several aviation related message board, about the decreasing numbers of pilots, and the rising cost of flying, do you believe that general aviation in the United States is dying?

    From my own perspective, it really doesn't help that 100LL fuel prices is going up along with Insurance rates. Mogas would be a suitable alternative to the 100LL if it wasn't for the fact that most of them contain ethanol which is harmful to an aircraft engine.

    As for the current pilot pool, what we're seeing are the baby boomers hanging up their headsets, there's less people becoming pilots because there's less people in the subsequent generations after the baby boomers.

    Which doesn't really bode well for GA, less people equal less revenue for FBOs, flight schools, etc. which means higher rate just to stay afloat.

    Is GA dying? Maybe, maybe not, maybe what we're seeing is a paradigm shift in how General Aviation operates in the United States. Only time will tell, but I do know that if the current crops of pilots are willing to be proactive, and reach out to the general public, to educate them on general aviation and to offer flights to get them hook, then maybe everything will be ok.

    Thoughts?
     
  2. cherokeeflyboy

    cherokeeflyboy Line Up and Wait

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    According to the FAA, pilot certificates issued
    Student
    2009 54,876
    2008 61,194
    2007 66,953
    2006 61,448
    2005 53,576
    2004 58,362
    2003 55,446
    2002 65,421
    2001 61,839
    2000 58,042
    Private
    2009 93,861
    2008 100,555
    2007 108,019
    2006 99,792
    2005 91,446
    2004 99,416
    2003 98,643
    2002 113,583
    2001 108,000
    2000 106,517
    Instrument rating
    2009 25,337
     
  3. wabower

    wabower Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Was this post written for an equivocation class?

     
  4. Tarheel Pilot

    Tarheel Pilot Line Up and Wait

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    No, that's how I always type when trying to start a discussion on a message board. I haven't been to any kind of class since 2006.
     
  5. zaitcev

    zaitcev En-Route

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    How do you manage to spend the whole post discussing the costs of flying and propose outreach as a remedy? Nothing short of a drastic tort reform and general economic boom, together with curtailment of safety-obsessed FAA, is going to do anything to break the trends. Certainly not outreah!
     
  6. Tarheel Pilot

    Tarheel Pilot Line Up and Wait

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    Outreach will increase the size of the current pool of pilots, and dispel some of the general public's misconception about general aviation, like it's just rich boys and their rich toys, or that small airplanes are more dangerous than airliners. It's about education.

    However, you are correct that something needs to be done to bring down the cost of flying, and your suggestion may fit the bill.
     
  7. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    My answer's pretty simple. No.

    People still want to fly. Costs are up, flying is down, and the younger generations have a lot of things competing for their free-time.

    But sooner or later, simulators and fighter pilot games don't satisfy anymore. Especially once you've actually flown.

    Just keep taking people up who show interest and the dream won't die.

    Have friends who couldn't afford powered flight and it went against some of their "green" principals. (No judgement there.) They learned to paraglide and travelled to Mexico and Europe to do it.

    Flying may change bit it won't die.
     
  8. Tarheel Pilot

    Tarheel Pilot Line Up and Wait

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    Not to get off of my own topic, but this part is sooooo true. Once I started my flying lessons, Microsoft Flight Simulator lost it appeal to me. I still fire it up once in awhile, but nowadays I'd rather be flying in the real world instead of in FSX.
     
  9. snoopyloopy

    snoopyloopy Filing Flight Plan

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    i was sitting in class today and apparently someone in congress is floating an idea to save the feds money by privatizing the controller side of the faa. if there's one thing that would kill ga for all but the rich boys and their toys, that's definitely up there. a lot of pilots would then either not use controllers and thereby decrease safety or simply just not fly at all. i hope that congressman has a good explanation to the millions of people who would lose their jobs if ga were to collapse. not just the fbos and maintenance, but also the manufacturers. and everyone in the communities that they help support. and we're not even considering the small businesses that would not be able to do business because they lack a decent transport.
     
  10. NotSure

    NotSure Pre-Flight

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    If i believed those numbers, then there are one million recently issued private pilot certs in the last ten years. Thats pretty hard to believe. Can anyone explain these numbers? Foreign Training in US?


     
  11. Bob Noel

    Bob Noel Touchdown! Greaser!

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    I hope they are counting original issues (and not, for example, those issued because of the stupid plastic certificate requirement)
     
  12. Everskyward

    Everskyward Administrator Management Council Member

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    To me, it looks likes the trend follows the economic cycle. But maybe it looks that way to me because it's what I would expect.
     
  13. SkyHog

    SkyHog Touchdown! Greaser!

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    The answer: Make it easier to get a Pilot Certificate.

    1. Take away some of stupid requirements like steep turns and turns about a point.
    2. Reintroduce spins.
    3. Remove anything from the Private Pilot PTS that doesn't involve the basic requirements for getting from point A to point B safely.
    4. Not many private pilots are going to be doing photo shoots, or aerobatics, or even towing, so leave any of that stuff off the private, and leave it for the commercial ticket.

    The commercial ticket is too easy to obtain, the private is too hard. Even it up a little and may err on the side of making the private too easy. That would boost our completion rate.

    Oh, and if we, as a community want to improve our numbers, do the following:

    1. Stop telling pilots that a private pilot is worthless unless he has an instrument rating.
    2. Talk about aviation everywhere you can, in the hopes that someone gets hooked and tries it.
    3. Become a mentor.
    4. Stop believing that we are better than other people, as it just makes us feel exclusive, and it doesn't actually make anyone else believe that we are exclusive. I know a few people that don't want to fly just because they don't want to be one of those "smug pilots," that believe they earned their ticket because they're smarter and more diligent than 98% of Americans.
     
  14. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    Those are basic control of aircraft maneuvers that are important, and not difficult.

    Those are more difficult, scare a lot of people away (stalls themselves scare enough people), and have room for error. Although I do agree in their value.

    That would mean removing #2 from your suggestions.

    Agreed.

    I don't think the private ticket is too hard to obtain, but I do agree with removing unnecessary material.

    Agreed, but private pilots should also understand the limitations that come with that rating.

    Agreed, but I've seen most of us do that already.

    I'll teach you how to fly twins! :D

    I've only seen a small number of pilots who think that we're better than others.

    To answer the question: I'm not sure that GA is dying, but it needs to do better.
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2011
  15. Doggtyred

    Doggtyred En-Route

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    DISAGREE VEHEMENTLY about spins and steep turns.

    More people got killed by spin training(solo and dual) than by spins accidentally.

    Likewise, steep turns are a maneuver that demonstrates control of the plane. All three axes plus power. Ive had rental checkouts that consisted of steep turns and 3 landings. And I'm just a private pilot.
     
  16. dmccormack

    dmccormack Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Exactly right -- within two steep turns you'll know if the pilot has control and understanding of his/her aircraft.
     
  17. SkyHog

    SkyHog Touchdown! Greaser!

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    For a pilot to navigate from point A to point B, do they really matter? Specifically, if a pilot loses more than 100 feet of altitude after banking more than 45 degrees, is it the end of the world to a private pilot?

    I'm having a hard time reconciling "demonstrating control of an airplane" with "needs to be able to fly safely."

    The commercial cert is about mastery of the airplane, not the private.
     
  18. ClimbnSink

    ClimbnSink Ejection Handle Pulled

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    1st problem the majority of flight schools run **** poor miserable operations. That is our fault GA pilots treat the public worse than the TSA treats the public. Don't believe me, leave the leather jacket, aopa cap, and big watch at home and drive to an airport where no one knows you- then try and have a pleasant inspiring conversation with someone, anyone.
    Problem 2. Too many rules. Doesn't matter which ones are necessary for safety, the reality is it takes too much bending over to go fly.
    Money and time are available but won't be spent without the above being fixed. And the above won't be fixed anytime soon.
    Edit: People will still become pilots, but I don't see a boom happening anytime soon.
     
    Last edited: Apr 29, 2011
  19. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    For the private PTS you only need to do a 45 degree turn. However even that can be scary to a lot of students. Similar to stall training, it's not something that the student should ever really need to use, but is useful in certain situations.

    Steep turns are far, far more important than spins.

    To fly safely, one must be able to control the airplane. Yes, the commercial is the mastery of the aircraft. Control < Master
     
  20. steingar

    steingar Taxi to Parking

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    General aviation is over-regulated, insufficiently useful, and too gosh-awful expensive. I haven't seen another aircraft in the pattern in years. I suspect I will be in the last generation of middle class amateur pilots.
     
  21. SkyHog

    SkyHog Touchdown! Greaser!

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    100% true. If I drive from my home to a vacation destination, I have, at most, 3 rules that I need to be aware of: Speed Limit, Insurance requirements, and Registration requirements. There are other rules as well, but they don't require a thorough understanding of federal code to be safe.

    When I fly, I am expected to practically memorize the entire FAR...that is a bit ridiculous.
     
  22. rottydaddy

    rottydaddy En-Route

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    Not really... unless they navigate into a box canyon by mistake, or suddenly realize they're about to penetrate airspace where they are not welcome... and FWIW, my CFIs always explained that those two maneuvers were all about staying safe in the pattern... I learned why the first time I was asked to do a 360 for spacing on final at a towered airport.

    It could be, if, during that turn, they nearly stall the wing... and they happen to be turning base-to-final after overshooting the runway centerline. That's one of the leading causes of PP crashes. I'm a firm believer in the school of "explore the envelope". PP applicants should show competence in all modes of flight that their test airplane can handle.
    Spins I'm not so sure about- they were removed from the reqs because their seemed to be a lack of understanding how to teach them properly, and the philosophy now, which I agree with to some extent, is to make sure applicants know how to avoid them, which is adequate most of the time (generally speaking, you have to really screw up to get a typical flights school airplane to spin).



    I have to disagree, only because PPs have the same opportunities to get into trouble doing maneuvers. To me, the commercial always seemed to be a test to show consistent precision in maneuvers, whereas the PP check ride is more about "Ok, you get the idea, and you're comfortable trying it." Maybe that's not "mastery", or maybe it's just a different level of mastery. At any rate, I think there's a lot more to it than takeoff from A, fly to B, land... and the accident stats support that.

    I didn't have any trouble with any of the maneuvers in the PP syllabus ... for me, the hardest part was paying for it. ;)
     
  23. SkyHog

    SkyHog Touchdown! Greaser!

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    The point is that if you make a mistake, you could spin, and not knowing how to recover would lead to death for sure.

    If you botch a steep turn, what happens? You lose a little altitude?
     
  24. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    While there are a bunch of regulations, it is very useful. The cost depends on what you're comparing it to and what your mission is.

    For most individuals, the benefit is difficult to find. But for certain individuals and many businesses, it's easy.

    You flip the plane over or get into an accelerated stall.
     
  25. SkyHog

    SkyHog Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Who's going to flip a plane over by accident in VMC? I don't see that happening.

    Accellerated stall? Well, they would have done stall and spin training under Nick's FARs, so all's good.
     
  26. rpadula

    rpadula En-Route

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    Oh come on, that's not pilots' fault. For everything that is expensive, there is a denigrating joke about it. To wit:

    Q. What's the difference between a BMW and a porcupine?
    A. A porcupine has the pricks on the outside.


    Well, as Woody Allen said, 90% of life is showing up. It does take more work to get a pilot's license, as opposed to fogging a mirror at the DMV and getting a drivers license.
     
  27. dmccormack

    dmccormack Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Look at the history of driving and compare to aviation.

    Driving became common before the era of regulation. Each new reg was greeted with resistance.

    While there was some GA activity before WW2, the Big Boom came after the war (1950-1970) populated by a bunch of folks who were regulated and regimented or at least were exposed to that secondarily.

    Having served at least a decade in both, this is the same as the difference between the Army and the Air Force, In the Air Force, the default question is "What does it say in the book?" in the Army, "There's a book? oh..."
     
  28. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    Sure it'll happen. Even in VMC pilots can lose the horizon. I've seen people try hard to flip over a plane in VMC when doing a steep turn.

    ...unless the pilot is low to the ground (which he/she probably will be), and doesn't have sufficient altitude for a recovery, and crashes.

    Sorry, Nick, there was good reason for removing it from the syllabus, and the accident statistics back that up.
     
  29. steingar

    steingar Taxi to Parking

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    Apples and oranges. Driving is useful.
     
  30. Ted DuPuis

    Ted DuPuis Administrator Management Council Member

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    The fact that flying is not useful for you does not mean the same is true for the rest of the population.

    Driving is not useful to my mother.
     
  31. kevin7500

    kevin7500 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Agreed. We flew VFR from Michigan to the Bahamas. I was told by many older, more experienced pilots (usually instrument rated) that it wasn't possible. I was also told that flying over water is an IFR situation. :dunno: The only person that really encouraged it was the guy that did my flight examination.
     
  32. dmccormack

    dmccormack Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Now the utility has increased for driving because we've built in a way that require driving.

    Right outside my front door in 1910 a trolley line that led to Uniontown. From there trains rolled to Pittsburgh or points East or South hourly.

    There was no need for a personal car and the population of this area was double.
     
  33. dmccormack

    dmccormack Touchdown! Greaser!

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    There's a difference between flying VFR with time flexibility and trying to make VFR a reliable (i.e. timely) mode of transportation.
     
  34. azure

    azure Final Approach

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    Overregulation is definitely a factor in the decline of GA. But the cost of fuel is what is going to kill it. Sadly, I'm afraid it will be sooner rather than later. As in, within the next 5 years. There will still be a few people with net worth in >=9 figures who will dabble in it, but most of us will be struggling just to make ends meet.

    In 5 years you will not need to fly anywhere to buy a $100 hamburger.
     
  35. azure

    azure Final Approach

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    It can be a fly-by-instruments situation, which doesn't necessarily mean IFR. If you have good instruments skills, you can certainly do it VFR as long as conditions are legally VMC. And sometimes you can do it without those skills, but just because you didn't need them then doesn't mean you can always do it without them.
     
  36. shenanigans

    shenanigans Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Every statistic I've seen tends to support this 'misconception'.

    It might help if pilots learned how to talk to non pilots about flying. My admittedly limited experience shows that a lot of pilots are really bad at this.

    When I wanted to learn to fly, I asked several pilots about it. It took a while to find one who would/could explain the requirements. (I guess unless you're a CFI or recently finished your private, you wouldn't have any reason to remember these.)
    I've seen numerous cases of a pilot taking someone up for the first time without any kind of 'what to expect' briefing and then more or less ignoring them once in the air.
    I recently heard someone explaining the requirements to get certified to some people who were interested in flying. Apart from being wrong, it was completely imcomprehensible to anyone who wasn't already a pilot.
    I invited a CFI to talk to a group of potential pilots. He decided to tell a 'funny' story that started off: 'Let me tell you how I almost died today...'
    I wandered into an FBO that tries to do a lot of flight training and charter flying. They were watching "World's worst Plane Crashes" on the TV in the main lobby. I suggested that maybe it would be better for business if they picked a different show.

    Each one of those is a case where a potential pilot is given a reason to say, 'i think i'll pass on the whole flying thing'. And I could keep going with examples. A lot of us are just poor ambassadors to the flying world.

    Don't know if it's true, but a video I watched at a CAP safety meeting suggested that lack of comfort in making steep turns is considered a reason for many stall stall/spin crashes turning to final. It's not that they lost 100 feet doing the turn, it's that they weren't comfortable making a steeper than normal turn and tried to use the rudder to get lined up ... and stalled in the middle of the skidding turn.
     
  37. EdFred

    EdFred Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Actually small airplanes are no more dangerous than airliners. It's the pilots that are dangerous.

    Airplanes don't crash, pilots wreck them.
     
  38. jsstevens

    jsstevens En-Route

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    So true. Safely tied down they are equally safe!

    John
     
  39. steingar

    steingar Taxi to Parking

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    And the fact that it is for you implies the same.
     
  40. ebacon

    ebacon Line Up and Wait

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    Someone mentioned that flight schools are run poorly or unfriendly. I have to agree with that. If I was on the fence about wanting to learn to fly then the lack of professionalism and/or courtesy and/or conversation skills at the various flight schools I visited would have turned me off.

    IMO flight schools should hire girls from Victorias Secrets to work the front desk. It's mroe than just being hot. Plenty of schools have hotties. The girls from Victorias Secrets are familiar with selling to uncomfortable guys and confident women. Keep the CFIs off of the sales floor until they learn to converse.