Is General Aviation Dying in the USA?

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

  1. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    The thread was necroposted back to life from 2015. The last few posts are in 2018. Stuff changed. Not a lot, but it changed.
     
  2. Sluggo63

    Sluggo63 Line Up and Wait

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    GA is probably dying because it is the most demanding flying there is...
     
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  3. Jeffythequick

    Jeffythequick Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Way to keep ahead of the airplane... err... thread!
     
  4. wayne

    wayne Line Up and Wait

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    Back to the Future! ;)
     
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  5. Ronnie Godfrey

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    I think it's worth discussing, especially given how things have changed since the thread started back in 2011. I spent a good bit of time reading through the thread last night and people seem to be very pessimistic about GA. I think maybe that's part of the issue. I think if we tried to look more positively at our hobby/mode of transportation then we would naturally generate more interest. People still really want to fly. Every time I tell someone what it costs per month to own my plane, they are shocked. Not because of how expensive it is, but because of how affordable it really is. Granted, it's a Cherokee 140, and I co-own it, but it's fun and it gets me places faster and with less stress than driving. GA doesn't have to be a mega-expensive hobby for the rich. It can be accessed by average people if we would just be good ambassadors for the activity.
     
  6. tawood

    tawood Pattern Altitude

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    It's not even the cost, but the cost vs enjoyment or usefulness. I was talking to a co-worker this morning, who mentioned he pays more for his family's phones (per month), then I do for my plane...this co-worker has no problem doing without a plane, but thinks he can't survive for a day without a phone.

    As far as GA dying, as someone who learned to fly in the late 1980's, stopped flying for nearly 20 years, then came back: I was SHOCKED at how few airplanes / flyers there are now, vs 20 years ago. For my first year or two back to flying I'm literally saying to myself, "Where'd everybody go?" I'd now call myself a pessimist, because I believe I'm seeing GA die before my eyes.

    Also, I've noticed something else: when I was a kid, I thought of flying as "magical"...my parents wore/dressed us in our best clothes for a commercial flight. My dad would take us on regular trips to the local airport to watch touch-and-goes, or snoop around parked planes. My brother and I loved these trips. My dad, brother, and I would often make joint trips to the hobby shop, to build plastic models of our favorite planes.

    Now, my kids complain about flying, whether commercial or in our own plane. They dread a trip to the airport, and last time we went to the GA airport within moments of arriving they repeatedly asked, "Can we go yet?". When flying commercial, my kids sleep...when flying in my plane, my kids sleep. My son is 20 now, and I told him he could use my plane for free to get his pilot's license. He looked at me like I was asking him to do the dishes...and I've tried to instill a love of aviation in him (heck, both his first and middle name are airplane names). My daughter, now 18, feels the same about aviation.
     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2017
  7. Tantalum

    Tantalum Pattern Altitude

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    @tawood really said it right. Planes / flying / aviation are no longer seen as cool, exhilarating, or fun/romantic in today's "millennial" (shudder) generation. What contributed to this:

    *the media has really turned against all types of flying. Not fake news either, when was the last time (outside of Sully) that you read anything not incredibly negative and sensationalist about any type of aviation

    *in general we stopped doing a lot of cool things. Tech is taken for granted now and people have lost interest in NASA, oceanography, aviation, astronomy, etc. If you are into these things you're seen as a major dork. Instead you see fully grown adults playing Candy Crush (I can't figure out the point of appeal), Flappy Bird (again, wtf?), and, I **** YOU NOT, even singing poop emojis - society is LITERALLY GOING TO **** and the social media revolution played a huge part in it

    So, it's not a surprise to me at all really that aviation died. Most millennials are milking (mooching?) off their parents, or the government (or some combination of both) and given the choice between something mentally and emotionally challenging (but crazy rewarding, like flying), or sitting in mom and dad's mcmansion and playing with poop emoji's then most of today's losers will take the latter


    PS - there's been a consistent decline in typical "manly" or "masculine" traits as well. Not that flying is reserved for men (not at all the point I'm trying to make, there are plenty of women out there that are far tougher than many men), but that in general we don't really reward "manly" behavior anymore. I know maybe two people that can change a flat tire or jump start a car... and building Ikea furniture (while sure, the instructions can be odd) is seen as some real next level carpenter craftsmen level skill
     
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  8. OkieAviator

    OkieAviator Cleared for Takeoff

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    Are we not including Corporate Flying in the world ending GA discussions?
     
  9. bnt83

    bnt83 Final Approach

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    One scrapped airplane at a time through natural disasters, accidents etc.
     
  10. mscard88

    mscard88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    It's the Russians. They're behind it. Buying up our low time airframes too. Commie bastards.
     
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  11. Bill Jennings

    Bill Jennings Final Approach

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    I'm an anomaly in my neighborhood. Most of the couples are early to mid-30's and all are doing well job/money wise. But, none of them do anything for themselves. Cut their own grass? No, it's hired out. Wash a car? Please, carwash. Cook? Nope, they go out or dinner delivered brings it in. Change the oil or other car MX? Nope. I never see these guys outside working, ever.

    I guess I'm just an old dinosaur, as I still do these things for myself. But hey, I'd rather fly/ride/do real things instead of blowing my cash on dinners out and lawn service. To each zir own.
     
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  12. mscard88

    mscard88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Lawn service pretty thriving here too. I'm one of the few who cuts their own yard, although in my cul-de-sac of 7 homes everyone does it. Ranges from old fart (me) to mid/late 20s couples, most professional type jobs (Secret Ser, teachers, business owner, managers). Oh yeah, still wash the car and truck, but finally quit changing the oil in them. But, I do change the oil in the lawnmower and pressure washer usually 2-3 times a year. Even do maintenance on the pool (repairs, chemicals etc).
     
    Last edited: Nov 28, 2017
  13. Tantalum

    Tantalum Pattern Altitude

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    I think that still generally makes the same point though.. that "manly" desire to do things yourself seem to be going away.

    Same here. I cut my own grass, wash the cars, change the oil in the mower and weedwacker, maintain the pool, etc. Incidentally last time I washed the car in the front yard someone yelled at me that I wasn't being environmentally conscientious. I stopped doing the oil in the car because I think it might help the resale value if I can show them a Toyota/BMW service report showing all the maintenance. For today's buyer that might hold up better than just telling them I did it myself
     
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  14. paflyer

    paflyer Final Approach

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    Not to get Spin Zoney but I am convinced that this is part of the Master Plan by making the society into dependent "users."
     
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  15. mscard88

    mscard88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    It's the Russians behind it I tell ya! ;)
     
  16. Bonchie

    Bonchie Cleared for Takeoff

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    Meh, as long as I can still fly and you can still fly, why sweat it?

    Business GA is booming, so the facilities and ability to own and operate a small plane are not going anywhere.
     
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  17. mscard88

    mscard88 Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Ramp fees are booming! :D
     
  18. Ronnie Godfrey

    Ronnie Godfrey Pre-Flight

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    Man, you're really painting with a broad brush here. I'm a millennial myself, and I haven't asked my parents for anything since I graduated college. My friends are generally of the same mindset. We aren't lazy, entitled moochers who care to do nothing but stare at phone screens. I own a home, cut my own grass, change my own oil, drive paid-off vehicles, use a 3-year old phone, and I make flying a priority by cutting back elsewhere. My wife and I both have regular jobs as well as side-hustles to make extra cash. Every single one of my friends thinks flying is really cool and they all jump at the chance to go for a flight. Look at the guys killing it on Youtube with aviation videos. They're millennials, too. I know you're generalizing and probably aren't talking about all of us, but much of what you're saying is inaccurate, and frankly, it's insulting. I've worked my ass off for everything I have, and I happen to run with a crowd of guys my age who think planes are cool and want to fly. I don't think millennials are the reason aviation is taking a downturn.
     
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  19. azblackbird

    azblackbird Cleared for Takeoff

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    Not "spin zoney" at all. It's the truth! Most people these days have no clue of how/what to do of what was taken for granted 50 years ago.
     
  20. SoonerAviator

    SoonerAviator En-Route

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    He's been listening to Rush Limbaugh too much, lol. I'm (begrudgingly) lumped in with the Millennial generation ('83 model), and feel the same as you. I know some people who still live with parents, but by and large, most of my millennial friends are hard working people who live mostly within their means. I still mow my own lawn, fell my own trees when needed, do almost all repairs/maintenance on mechanical equipment/household. I seriously doubt that the mix of productive citizens to moochers is much different in the millennial generation than it is for the previous one or two generations.
     
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  21. tawood

    tawood Pattern Altitude

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    I'm becoming a dinosaur, because this is EXACTLY what I think of, when I think "millennial":

     
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  22. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    That’s cool... I was just letting folks know, because necroposting happens...
     
  23. Tantalum

    Tantalum Pattern Altitude

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    I'm 31 myself so I'm squarely in the millennial category as well, maybe that's why I painted with such a broad and vocal voice since, being part of it, I felt I the license to do so. I think that's why I'm so vocal about it, because I too have worked my ass off to get where I am. I don't think millennials are the problem with GA, going back to the 90s I bet we could find evidence that it's been slowly on the decline for a very long time. I do however think that the millennial generation, or maybe people in the 20-something age group, are a good representation of today's overall society. And I don't really see classic hobbies as part of that anymore, which would include mowing our own yards, working on our own cars, taking an interest in space and science, aviation, etc. You, me, and others on this board obviously different, but I think we would be the exception and not the norm. The fact that people need to market things to us with poop emojis is pretty sad


    lol, actually don't listen to it. Surprised that it would still be on, he's been on forever it seems (if he's still on the radio). Just my own observations based on what I see from my and slightly younger generations, and what I see on Facebook, social media, at work, marketing, etc. Maybe my perspective is skewed since I grew up to older parents who came here with nothing and I've had to work my ass off to get where I am now, so hearing someone else complain that their $80,000 a year job 2 years out of school is not existentially satisfying or watching somebody squander their parents money on a useless master's degree troubles me
     
  24. SoonerAviator

    SoonerAviator En-Route

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    Problem with building those assumptions on social media is that the people who dominate social media posts are generally more superficial and likely to have shallow personality traits. Selfies and easily offended/angered. Always complaining about how hard life is or having to work at a job that doesn’t “fulfill” them spiritually, etc. I rarely post on FB, and have most of my close friends don’t post much, either, aside from occasional family pics and whatnot. The daily postings I see on FB come from my friends who are generally fit the “millennial” stereotype. Take that for what it’s worth.
     
  25. Ben

    Ben Pre-Flight

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    I think it is just 1. really expensive, 2. pretty hard, and 3. limiting in a medical way. I am definitely a millennial (I am 27).

    I have a lot of friends with pretty good careers. But when you throw that 10,000$ figure around just for the license, it ends a lot of conversations right there. And we all know on this board that you can sacrifice a lot of other things, phones are expensive, nice cars are expensive, etc etc.. However, people use their cars and their phones every day. Those are also safer money sinks than flying (sorry- it is just the truth).

    I love flying so, so much. But it is a hell of an investment, emotionally, physically, and financially. I don't think we should pretend otherwise. When I talk to people about flying, I'm upfront about the cost. And I tell people that it's a choice- you can be a pilot and sacrifice some things, or you can continue on with your life. Kind of like living in a matrix. But I don't pretend that it is not a lot of money.

    I also think millenials (how I hate that label) tend to be pretty busy people (if they are young professionals). There are a lot of competing time requirements for a young professional. Especially with a young family.

    I think people who want to fly will find a way. But I think making general aviation as accessible and easy as popular are the goals to making it "Grow". I'd say reducing the amount of money it takes to earn a PPL would be the number one way to make it grow, but none of us control that. All we can do is continue to be honest and open about flying- about how much it costs, and about how fulfilling it is!

    Also, you would not believe the amount of young men I talk to that have an interest in general aviation. The first reactions I often get are "Cool!" and "Have you heard of Steveo1kinevo or flight chops? I watch all their videos". Happens A LOT.
     
  26. Tantalum

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    So it seems, in relative order, it goes something likes (as the cause of why GA is declining)
    1.) Expensive (40% this)
    2.) Big Time Commitment (30% this)
    3.) Romance of flying gone (20% this)
    4.) Medical Process (10% this)

    A new Cessna 172 in 1956 cost about $9K. The average income in 1956 was $4K.. so a new entry level plane was a little more than double a year of average income. That's really not bad
    A new Cessna 172 in 2012 cost about $300K. The average income in 2012 was about $51K... so about 6 times the yearly income

    So cost definitely seems to be the biggest nail in the coffin. If you could buy a brand new entry level plane today for $150K I think people *could* get behind that... but that would still only be 40% of the equation... you would still have to cross the time commitment, romance issue, and medical issues

    Looking at it this way ICON really may have been onto something. Build a cool, inexpensive plane that doesn't need a huge time and medical investment to get in. But you don't really see ICON taking off... why is that? That leads me to believe that it does come back to the romance of it... people just are less interested in planes and flying. I think even at something absurd like $75K you would have a hard time making GA take off again
     
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  27. exncsurfer

    exncsurfer Pattern Altitude

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    I think you're right, I think like most things it comes down to mostly money. Second to that is time. It takes a lot of both.

    People shouldn't look at that 10K number as a hurdle to get the cert, its a hurdle they'll have to keep jumping to keep flying. That can be looked at two ways, 1) yikes, i'll have to keep paying that to keep flying, i'm out. or 2) ok, so i'm not really spending 10k to get the cert, i'm committing $x/month to a flying lifestyle, i'm in.

    I really didn't consider my training expenses any differently than my expenses now that I have my cert. The CFI %/hr isn't that much of a factor. In a way I had more excuses to fly when I was training than I do now.
     
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  28. exncsurfer

    exncsurfer Pattern Altitude

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    depending on how broke or time constrained you are I'd say 70, 20, 5, 5.
     
  29. Tantalum

    Tantalum Pattern Altitude

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    Funny, I had it almost exactly like that but then changed it before I posted it. Either way. Money is the big one.
     
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  30. CJ Rader

    CJ Rader Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Money is the #1 factor for most, but that's a given. I sold my 2016 sports car (which was my pride and joy) in order to free up the funds to finally get to work on my PPL. I've wanted to learn to fly since I was 13. I'm 43 now, so it's been a 30-year journey to find both the money and the time. The money involved a compromise.. I could have my land-based go-fast toy or I could learn to fly, but I couldn't do both. The time is tricky, but so far, I work for a nice company that thinks it's totally cool that I'm learning to fly and doesn't mind me cutting out early on a Friday afternoon to take a lesson. I WILL finish my training. I'm determined not to fall into that broad category of those who start the process but fail to complete it. But I don't let myself think about what the total bill will be at the end of it all. I'm just making payments on my 'education'.
     
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  31. wayne

    wayne Line Up and Wait

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    Surprising, but true. I'm trying to put together a partnership to buy and fly a used SR22, and it's a struggle. This is $60-80k a person to buy the plane plus start-up costs (sales tax, 1st year insurance, ...) not $150k or $300k. I'm in a city, not rural, so plenty of people. :(
     
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  32. CJ Rader

    CJ Rader Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I will say this... There is a large contingent of people taking lessons at the flight school I'm enrolled with.. The instructors are always busy. When one left, the others were struggling to spread his students around to other CFIs. And if you want to book your instructor and your plane of choice, you have to plan ahead and book your lessons a good month-two months out (then you're at the mercy of the weather).. I can't say how many will complete their schooling and obtain their certificate, but the website is full of the pics of those who already have and the current crop of people seeking their certificate cuts across a wide demographic. One individual I know of is washing the planes at the FBO to help offset some of the costs of training. At least in this area it seems, GA and interest in it is still perking along..
     
  33. Ronbonjovi

    Ronbonjovi Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Lots of 27 year olds posting, I'm 27 myself. I'm a teacher and football coach. Make close to minimum wage after taxes when you factor it hourly. Flying has been a dream of mine for a long time so I pulled the trigger in February. I'm a few hours away from starting to prep for my checkride. Biggest issue has been money and time. I for sure have had to make sacrifices with my budget. I drive an F250 that I quite frankly don't need anymore for towing purposes, and am considering selling to fund my IR and more time building. I had to take 2 months off during football season because I just didn't have the time to commit to flying. When I finish my PPL I see splitting trips with friends being a huge bonus for me, but will still be budgeting similar money to it as I did during training.

    My huge issue that I am approaching is whether or not at this age to make the switch from pursuing my ratings for fun and pleasure, or making the financial commitment to getting my CPL and switching careers. With the latter, I would have to pull out some loans, or quit teaching and work a higher paying job for a little while but I am really considering it.
     
  34. Ronnie Godfrey

    Ronnie Godfrey Pre-Flight

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    Dude, that is awesome! I'm a band director myself, and my wife is an English teacher. It's a strain on the budget, but she's super supportive and really enjoys the travel aspect that flying offers. I'm working on my CPL and IR at the moment because I, too am thinking of a career change.

    My view is this: teaching jobs will always be there, and with experience you can easily get hired. The fact is that there has never been better time to become a professional pilot than right now. The next five years are going to be a hiring wave of tidal proportions and I intend to ride it. If it doesn't work out, I can always go back and teach, but being a pilot has always been my dream.
     
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  35. FloridaPilot

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    Truthfully though, if money was the only issue then why aren't more people buying ultralights? if they really want to fly?
     
  36. FormerHangie

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    What has changed since then? The number of private, sport, and commercial pilots has shrunk, the number of airline transport rated pilots has increased, the amount of avgas sold had declined fairly significantly, and the fleet is smaller and older. Oh yeah, and pilots still complain about the cost of flying.


    It's really not of their generation. I do have a teenage daughter who has asked to skydive for her 18th birthday, and when she found out I was trying to arrange a flight in a light sport trike for myself, asked if she could get one too. Most kids won't be interested, but some still are.

    Duuuude - grumpy cat is not a role model.

    It's not really worth doing your own oil changes, the savings aren't enough. Save the effort for something that will save you something significant. You don't have time to do everything. Also, you have a four stroke weedwhacker?

    I don't know that money is the biggest determinant. Certainly there are lots of people who would like to fly but can't afford it, but if you look at the people who can afford to fly, it's a tiny percentage that actually do. There are probably 400,000 - 450,000 pilots involved in GA, out of almost 250 million adults. There are many millions who can afford to fly but just aren't interested.

    That's still a lot of money, and most of the population doesn't have need to travel regionally on a regular basis, and that's what I'd assume an SR22 would be used for.

    I suspect part of that is there are fewer airports that offer flight instruction than there were prior to the Great Recession. It seems like fewer than half the airports around here still have a flight school.

    I've often thought the same. If cost was what was keeping people out of the air, then why aren't the low cost means of flight more popular? Look at what's happening in the amateur built area, the runaway market leader is not something inexpensive, it's an airplane that quite often approaches $100,000 to build. I really think it's more a matter of no interest.

    Quite honestly, I don't know that renting is much more expensive, in real terms, than it was when I started in the late 70's. I think it's more that the cost of housing, education, and healthcare takes so much bigger of a bite out of the household budget that there's less money left for having fun.
     
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  37. Tantalum

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    Touche, but after clearing a hillside this past spring it needed a fair amount of TLC to get back to ship shape condition. "Oil change" was kind of a catch-all

    It may sound grumpy but it's because todays people just aren't interested

    By the way, here's grumpy cat:
    Screenshot_20171128-183039.png
     
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  38. denverpilot

    denverpilot Taxi to Parking

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    DenverPilot
    Quite a bit of the current crop is chasing the mass airline hiring right now. When I was learning it was the opposite. People would have killed to get a job in a Beech 1900 and stayed there for half a decade just to move on, as long as the place didn’t go bankrupt.

    LOL. I think I’ve met a CFI who did that. :)
     
  39. wayne

    wayne Line Up and Wait

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    wayne
    It's all relative. For hang gliding or light sport trike, yeah, it's a lot of money. For a plane capable of regional travel, not so much. It's a heck of a lot cheaper than buying one solo. Cheaper than a lake house. ;)

    Most of my flying is in the southeast, but in a SR22 or Baron anything east of the Rockies can be reached in pretty good time from Atlanta. Co-workers are shocked when I tell them how fast I get to Cincinnati and back; Angel Flight missions. They thought it would be all day. Nope, back for a late lunch. A plane makes doing weekend trips easy-peasy. Heck, we've done day trips that would have been weekend trips in a car. And hopping around is great, we've done that on several trips.
     
  40. steingar

    steingar Taxi to Parking

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    Hate to date myself, but I was around 50 years ago. No one on my block worked on their cars, and lots hired guys to cut their grass. Most folks hired out people to work on their houses too. And back then you had to tune your car up once a year or it would self-destruct.