Good Next Step: Advancing Pilot Community

By Scott Spangler on September 24th, 2012

aopaCertainly more details about its new Center to Advance the Pilot Community will be broadcast during October’s AOPA Aviation Summit in Palm Springs, but that doesn’t satisfy my need to know now. Ah, curiosity is an impatient task master, so I sat down with my buddy Google.

Having worked with him during my tenure at EAA, Adam Smith is an excellent choice to lead the new program. Attuned to pilots of every interest, he’s passionate and knowledgeable about not only aviation, but ferreting out the tangible and intangible things that lift their wings.

But the announcements of Adam’s appointment didn’t tell me a lot about how the new entity was going to Advance the Pilot Community. That I found further down Google’s list, in the position description of the now expired help wanted ad. By adding new initiatives to those already in place, the center stands a better chance of success than any previous effort I can think of thanks to its multifaceted approach.

clip_image001Past efforts to sustain and increase the population of pilots has focused, for the most part, on prospective pilots. While they are an important pool, AOPA rightly realizes that they aren’t the only pool. Pilots now flying and those who used to fly are just as important, if not more so because they have already made the cut by earning their pilot certificates.

Return to the Sky is a new AOPA initiative, and I can’t describe it any more concisely than the position description: “Too many able, medically certified pilots are not flying. A major focus of the Center will be to assist the community in reigniting non-flying pilots’ passion for flying and getting them back in the left seat.”

This works in harmonious concert with the Flight Training Initiative that AOPA launched in 2010. It’s now entering the third phase of programs and activities designed to increase the number of students who being—and complete—flight training.

Perhaps the Center’s greatest challenge will be creating the sense of community among pilots that AOPA’s research revealed as important to them. One of the Center’s priorities is creating virtual and face-to-face opportunities that are a catalyst motivating pilots to engage with their colleagues “in ways that are collaborative and reaffirming.”

That’s a tall order for a group known for its independent ways. This is probably why the position description’s first item “Consumer: The underlying theme of the Center is ‘we take a pilot’s point of view’. This includes probing the user community to gather intelligence (specifically about the experience of being a pilot), creating expectation for the flight training experience, awarding excellence, providing guidance on evaluating products, and influencing the marketplace.”

Given this, the Center to Advance the Pilot Community will include a research and technical assistance component that ensures new efforts are based on qualitative and quantitative research and to evaluate their effectiveness. With what seems to be all the necessary pieces in place, I can’t wait to see the Center begin its work. – Scott

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23 Responses to “Good Next Step: Advancing Pilot Community”

  1. @williamAirways Says:

    I cannot wait to see how AOPA is going to stimulate the economy, bring more disposable and discretionary income to pilots, and reduce the crap out of the cost of flying.

    Most people have left flying because of cost. Gas prices have skyrocketed. Hourly rates on flying have been increasing. Just to stay current costs a pretty penny, never mind trying to stay current AND proficient.

    Yup. I cannot wait to see the silver bullet in action.

  2. Ron Says:

    I love the way they blame lack of community, high medical standards, the CFI (always my favorite), and everything else under the sun, but always ignore the cost. In fact they come right out in one of their studies and specifically say that cost is not a major factor. Unbelievable.

    People stop flying because of money, period. When fuel prices are rising and the incomes are down year after year, people will stop flying so they can pay for food, housing, car, education, medical care, and so on. It’s not rocket science.

  3. Len Assante Says:

    William makes a good point. AOPA did a great job reviewing the state of the training industry last year at Summit, but they paid very little attention to the cost issue, the huge 900lb gorilla in every room where the sad state of the pilot population is discussed. In addition, the new “Center” will be under the Foundation, a non-profit, under-staffed bunch with plenty to do.
    The solution cried out for is to REDUCE COSTS AND BARRIERS TO OWNERSHIP. Ownership puts “skin in the game,” and results in a more positive aviation experience, with -if done right- reduced costs. How to do this? Well, you use proven educational success and retention strategies to reduce student pilot drop out rates, you create a “community of aviators” at local airports to build a sense of family, and you create fractional ownership opportunities in a variety of aircraft. Not clubs, not renting, but equity ownership. Fractional ownership makes sense for little-used assets like airplanes, assets unreasonably expensive due to basic laws of supply and demand. JetWhine guys know my friend Rick Matthews down in Huntsville. He’s proven the model works and has a business plan and network set up waiting for investment. Give that guy an airplane and watch him transform an industry! It can be done, and done right it can save our industry!

  4. David Carroll Says:

    Good news: the new Cessna 182 JT-A saves fuel. Bad news: the new Cessna 182 JT-A costs $515,000. Av gas at my local field (co-op) is heading for $6.50. Of course, it’s about money. I concluded long ago (somewhere around 1968) that general aviation exists because there are a bunch of people who have more money than I. Still true and I’m not exactly poor folk. After the mortgage, college for the kids, and replacing my ground vehicles (150,000 miles plus)guess I’ll put in that order for the new C-182.

  5. Glenn Hake Says:

    If the cost of flying increased with the CPI like most other assets aviation would be booming. Instead, in real dollars it cost 3 times as much to purchase a plane and twice as much to operate compared to the aviation hay days of the 70s and 80s. Triple the price of anything with minimal added value and demand will crash. Cost of regulation, mandates, fees, and taxes killed a proud industry. This must be reversed and is the root cause of Aviation’s slow death.

  6. B.M. DeVandry Says:

    Here we go again …more of the same (and tired) ongoing “discussions” within our “Industry” on “what to do?” …about the graveyard spiral General Aviation finds herself in. And again, for whatever reason, the overwhelming impression continues to be that “they” …the “Industry” …our “Associations”, groups, clubs, memberships etc. …the “Feds”, you, me, us …”we” … just don’t seem to get it !

    Please forgive the following re-cap and redundancy of a couple previous rants, in previous “comment sections” …but I just can’t seem to put this in any other way;

    The original purpose …the “concept” of, if you will, for the birth and growth of the experimental aircraft community, over the last several decades, which later evolved into the “Light Sport” genera and “Industry” of the present, was to allow for the “Average Joe” with a wife and kids to be able to, over a period of about a year or so, build himself a nice, simple (with at least 2 seats as flight is a thing that’s got to be shared!) airplane at a reasonably (resd: sane!) monetary expense that would allow said “Joe” and family & friends to both proliferate and enjoy the wonderful world of Flight! But! …let’s take a hard look at what “we” (US General Aviation) have allowed to happen…

    Let’s see …the “new & improved” C-172-SP, recently reviewed in Flying magazine: a basic, single engine, 4 place, fixed gear, fixed prop, simple low HP “Light Airplane”. One whose basic airframe has been around for over half a century and whose R & D, tooling and most all other initial development costs have long since been paid for many times over, decades ago (essentially a (very) old airframe design with a few tweaks, and upgraded to some modern avionics (which should also cost substantially less than their steam gauge, analog counterparts) …all this for ONLY $300,000+ ?!?!?

    Oh, but you can get the venerable old “new & improved” Piper Archer for about the same price! But wait! …you can get a shiny new Cub Crafters Carbon Cub; an even simpler TWO place, basic, fixed gear, fixed prop, low HP “LIGHT SPORT” airplane” with a basic avionics package for the bargain price of just under 200K!!

    Of course, Cessna has finally (sort of) thrown a bone to the fledgling new “Mom & Pop” Flight School in the form of a 21st. Century “Trainer”; the C-162 Skycatcher! … available for the much more REASONABLE? “base price” (just recently increased!) of 150K! …which means they should be able to afford at least 3 or 4 of em! The C-172 was available, in 1980, IFR equipped, for the low 30′s (aprox. 90K in today’s dollars) In 1979 the C-152 went for just under 20K (55K today).

    Now, throw in the over inflated (and ever increasing) costs of hanger, fuel, insurance, maintenance and all those other “miscellaneous” operating expenses and ask yourself; How can even an “Upper” Middle Class, “Above” average Joe afford/justify such a purchase (especially after tacking on all those actual operating expenses) How can such a sums for such airplanes ever be (reasonably) justified?? And we (and APOPA) wonder why new pilot certification is half what it was just two decades ago?? Why (aircraft) rental rates have gotten beyond the reach of most would be Sunday Flyers? What could possibly be causing this decline in our beloved activity?!?

    Most of Europe and all of present day Asia have no such thing as “General Aviation” …solely because of the prohibitably expensive costs. Their citizens have been coming here to pursue that dream we’ve all been taking for granted! (but even that may change …read: practically grind to a halt, now that the new draconian EASA Flight Crew licensing regs have kicked in) Active participation in our wonderful world of “Flight” here in the USA has always been (relatively) on the expensive side, and up until now has remained the best (and only) place on the planet to do so. But take another really honest look at the math. Even if we allow for an additional 50% (a very conservative/generous estimate) to account for the uncontrolled explosion of all the greed laden “Product Liability” lawsuits many (airplane manufacturers) have had to endure these last couple of decades (the ONLY thing Cessna, Piper etc. can legitimately claim to have been “victimized” by) …we should, at most, be looking at somewhere around $130 – 140,000 for our present day (fully equipped) C-172. …hmm.

    In the late 70′s, I struggled to put myself through school (let’s not even get started on the costs of a college degree these days!) and pay for my flight training (mostly through loans) to pursue a dream of being a Professional Pilot. Now 35 years later, after having been fortunate to have flown everything from parachutes to 747′s, this subject has been a particular heartbreak for me, as I seriously doubt I could succeed in that endeavor today …and wonder how any of today’s young folks (of even “above average” means) ever could as well.

    I’m afraid these greedy times we’re a livin’ and the exponential rate at which that expense is accelerating, will only serve to hasten the time when the final nails are driven. We’re rapidly destroying “General Aviation” in this country …making it solely a “Rich Mans sport”. “Why” …the rapidly decreasing pilot population? …the rapidly downward spiral of total logged hours? …a Pilot shortage?? …”sluggish sales” factors?? …very, very sad indeed.

  7. Tom B Says:

    Here is the thing that just cannot be escaped. If AOPA really is going to impact the declining pilot community by now addressing current pilots and former pilots (as opposed to only prospective pilots), how can they do this without a silver bullet that addresses the high cost of flying?

    AOPA might be able to convince a prospective pilot of the value of getting their license and spending the money, but once they have completed that goal, that’s when they are leaving. Getting the license, although a lengthy mission, the mission is now over. What to do now? I budgeted $5,000 to get my sport license, but I didn’t budget enough for the next 50 years of flying.

  8. Ben Says:

    Cost is a big factor, but not the only one. Much of the cost barrier is more perceived than actual. Many people don’t realize that it is still possible (for now) to keep a fun and useful airplane with a modest budget. People just don’t know what’s possible. They read the magazines, see a half million dollar buy in threshold, and give up. Even the “affordable flying” articles seem to emphasize the “if you don’t want to do anything useful” aspect of low cost flying.
    AOPA is sometimes part of the problem IMHO. They’re support for ADS-B is toxic to GA and they seem to accept that it’s OK to exclude anyone who hasn’t big bucks from the ATC system. They give us articles implying that we’re stupid and dangerous if we’re still flying IFR without $100k of glass. Tell us what a good deal that new single is for half million dollars, or that $150k LSA is so cheap you can afford 2. A lot of would be aviators give up after a few copies of AOPA Pilot. But then in other areas AOPA seems sensitive to costs. They do bitch loudly user fees (fee to use what we paid for already), sometimes fight ridiculous ADs, etc.
    EAA does is often better aligned with reasonable cost flying, but we can do better. Generally EAAers are open, friendly and inclusive. Still we could do better explaining how to start out with a modest budget and how we incrementally learned how to keep going, and how YOU can do the same without committing half your time and money to the airplane.
    There is more to it than cost. When I talk to non-aviators, they just don’t have a clue. They think we spend millions (see above), they think it’s dangerous, noisy and meaningless. They think all kinds of things that aren’t true, but mostly they think it’s out of their reach. The perceptual barrier to entry is taller than the new security fences we’re putting up at every airport to make it look like an unfriendly place.
    Old hands are getting out for reasons other than cost too. Some guys I know are tired of meaningless medical exams (“don’t tell the AME anything….”), especially as we get older. The resent being told they should be satisfied with doing less, and resent how much harder it seems to do the things we’ve done safely and efficiently for decades, resent being told what they’ve done safely and efficiently for decades is wrong. Fear of th ever-encroaching FAA, the misguided “security” requirements, talk about Avgas going away or the perceived threat of the next cumbersome regulation, it all adds up to take away the fun. There’s always someone willing to tell you everything you do is wrong, breaking some rule, that the FAA will get you if God doesn’t first. It makes it easy to say “you know, I just can’t afford this anymore” when you really mean “it just isn’t worth the hassle anymore”.
    Bottom line – flying can be fun and affordable, still. We need to (a) spread the word effectively, and make it perceived as possible to more people, and (b) fight like hell to keep it that way, before we ARE just like everywhere else on earth and all the things people THINK about aviation becomes true.

  9. Robert Booth Says:

    There is a way to capture non pilots whose numbers are far greater than the number of inactive pilots.

    If we give the public a way to enjoy what pilots enjoy, (without trying to sell everybody flying lessons) we could increase the number of people who want to learn by at least ten fold. This might be the way to capture their interest. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LRqgUG-rqYI

  10. Rene V W Says:

    The way i see it is fairly simple # 1: cost #: 2 cost # 3: cost # 4: everything else related to GA. I flew to Sandpoint from Eugene 3 weeks ago in my V35A and my fuel cost was $ 420.00 for the 5 hour roundtrip including run-up etc. If we add to this hangar rental, insurance and maintenance plus medical and occasional training it becomes VERY expensive not to say totaly out of reach for even the ” upper class ” ( do not like that word ) I started flying in 1959 at 18 years old and have flown just about everything that has wings from J 3′s, tiger moth, and F 104 air force aircraft and i truly enjoy flying but it really becomes rapidely too expensive. Just a few years back( 1980′s )it was not uncommen to be no 5 or 6 for take-off, i haven’t had to wait for clearance in a long time except in PDX or so and that’s only because of commercial flights. I’m afraid there is no going back to the good old days and GA has seen it’s best times. Not only the cost of flying but now we also face the fact that avgas may be a thing of the past leaving us with no choice but to park our planes or convert to diesel ( i would love to have a diesel in my Bonanza ) and i don’t see that happen in my lifetime the way the FAA goes about approving STC’s. We are in a sad state of affairs to say the least and i don’t see how AOPA is going to fix this. Sad it is indeed.

  11. Russell Turner Says:

    We have addressed almost all of the issues except teaching persons how use their aircraft profitably enough to offset the costs of ownership and avoid reducing the quality of life for their families. Why not teach persons to use aircraft profitably?

    How many of us know airplane owners who do mot use their personally or business owned aircraft?

    Address this issue and the truth that there is just so much disposable income for each family to use no matter what their favorite use is? flying, photography, travel, etc. ?

  12. Jim Hackman Says:

    I’ve pointed out that there is a large pool of inactive pilots who could become ambassadors aviation for TWO bucks! Likely thousands who elected not to pay the FAA fee of $2. to convert their cardboard certificate. I know the FAA is working on a photo solution but meanwhile we should encourage the use of the TWO buck option! Publicize the fact they are still “Pilots”. They might actually go back to the airport, try an LSA or just talk to their friends about flying! Let’s do the cheap stuff!
    Jim Hackman – 1467895 CFII/ATP

  13. A Scheirer Says:

    To read these comments, you’d think AOPA should close its doors. Part of its function is to assist in the attraction and retention of the pilot community, although this initiative will face the same challenges as past efforts. I happen to disagree that if we “drive down cost” that will solely get people flying. The goal should be to focus on value: for those that have the money, how does AOPA promote the best use of that money? Rather than focusing on the pilot community, create a training and reward system for flight schools/FBOs will have a greater impact.

    Russel Turner’s point is also a good one — and something that can be addressed also through the local community.

  14. james l. hibbert Says:

    I took the advice of an aviation magazine and tried something new. I went for my tail dragger endorsement. After about 20 hours @ 200 to 300 dollars per hour, I received my
    endorsement. My only disappointment was “I could have paid down on an airplane for that much money.”

    I agree with other writers, there must be a way to reduce cost.

    AOPA refuses to accept the fact that cost is killing general aviation.

    James L. Hibbert

  15. B.M. DeVandry Says:

    I rarely comment once …let alone twice in any forum, but the last post by Mr. Hibbert really got my goat!

    Another quintessential example of how (and why) we’re destroying General Aviation” …besides all of the larger “Market Force”? issues eluded to earlier …is the dirty little secret that we (those of us who’ve been in this business for any length of time) are all too aware of and have encountered all too often; unethical, unprofessional, dishonest and amoral …(just plain GREED!) treatment at the airport.

    Too many FBO’s, Flight Schools and yes, even individual Flight Instructors have been (at least during my 35+ years in Aviation) and continue to deliberately take advantage of their students …their Customers …our future peers! …and this is but one example.

    NO one …a private Pilot type for instance, who’s moderately proficient and experienced in light tricycle gear singles would require more than 8-10 hours in the typical conventional geared airplane commonly utilized for the now required “Tailwheel Endorsement” Many are competent at less (I’ve had 15 hr. student pilots able to handle them with just a few hrs of practice) and it’s only the (sometime) draconian insurance requirements that often ask for at least 10+ hours (with an instructor sign-off) to allow for solo rental. A Citabria or Decathlon, Aeronca or even a Cub are most often used and even at their (bit excessive) average present day rental rates of $90 -130/hr wet, with average Instructor rates of $35-40, one need not shell out more than $1100-1300 for a typical (and thorough) tailwheel check-out endorsement!

    Far too many Schools/Instructors have taken advantage of rule changes and new ‘exotic’ equipment to create elaborate course “packages” and “programs” that go excessively beyond what would actually be reasonably required, and they do it for primarily one reason; …profit!

    The gouging that continues to exist in all aspects of our “industry” is also a major player in the inevitable demise of “General Aviation” as we have known it, as this behavior will continue to drive away …even the most affluent “rich man” types, in spite the fact they are becoming the only ones who can most likely afford it!

    Mr. Hibbert …My apologies for the wrong (“our’ industry) has done you.

  16. B.M. DeVandry Says:

    I rarely comment once …let alone twice in any forum, but the last post by Mr. Hibbert really got my goat!

    Another quintessential example of how (and why) we’re destroying General Aviation” …besides all of the larger “Market Force”? issues eluded to earlier …is the dirty little secret that we (those of us who’ve been in this business for any length of time) are all too aware of and have encountered all too often; unethical, unprofessional, dishonest and amoral …(just plain GREED!) treatment at the airport.

    Too many FBO’s, Flight Schools and yes, even individual Flight Instructors have been (at least during my 35+ years in Aviation) and continue to deliberately take advantage of their students …their Customers …our future peers! …and this is but one example.

    NO one …a private Pilot type for instance, who’s moderately proficient and experienced in light tricycle gear singles should require more than 8-10 hours in the typical conventional geared airplane commonly utilized for the now required “Tailwheel Endorsement” Many are competent at less (I’ve had 15 hr student pilots able to handle them with just a few hrs. of practice) and it’s only the (sometime) draconian insurance requirements that often ask for at least 10+ hours (with an instructor sign-off) to allow for solo rental. A Citabria or Decathlon, Aeronca or even a Cub are most often used and even at their (bit excessive) average present day rental rates of $90 -130/hr wet, with average Instructor rates of $35-40, one need not shell out more than $1100-1300 for a typical (and thorough) tailwheel check-out endorsement!

    Far too many Schools/Instructors have taken advantage of rule changes and new ‘exotic’ equipment to create elaborate course “packages” and “programs” that go excessively beyond what would actually be reasonably required and they do it primarily one reason …profit!

    The gouging that continues to exist in all aspects of our “industry” is also a major player in the seemingly inevitable demise of “General Aviation” as we have known it, as this behavior will continue to drive away even the most affluent “rich man” types …in spite the fact they are becoming the only ones who can most likely afford it!

    Mr. Hibbert …My apologies for the wrong (“our’ industry) has done you

  17. B.M. DeVandry Says:

    I rarely comment once …let alone twice in any forum, but the last post by Mr. Hibbert really got my goat!

    Another quintessential example of how (and why) we’re destroying “General Aviation” …besides all of the larger “Market Force”? issues eluded to earlier …is the dirty little secret that we (those of us who’ve been in this business for any length of time) are all too aware of and have encountered all too often; unethical, unprofessional, dishonest and amoral …(just plain GREED!) treatment at the airport.

    Too many FBO’s, Flight Schools and yes, even individual Flight Instructors have been (at least during my 35+ years in Aviation) and continue to deliberately take advantage of their students …their Customers …our future peers! …and this is but one example.

    NO one …a private Pilot type for instance, who’s moderately proficient and experienced in light tricycle gear singles should require more than 8-10 hours in the typical conventional geared airplane commonly utilized for the now required “Tailwheel Endorsement” Many are competent at less (I’ve had 15 hr. student pilots able to handle them with just a few hrs. of practice) and it’s only the (sometime) draconian insurance requirements that often ask for at least 10+ hours (with an instructor sign-off) to allow for solo rental. A Citabria or Decathlon, Aeronca or even a Cub are most often used and even at their (bit excessive) average present day rental rates of $90 -130/hr wet, with average Instructor rates of $35-40, one need not shell out more than $1100-1300 for a typical (and thorough) tailwheel check-out endorsement!

    Far too many Schools/Instructors have taken advantage of rule changes and new ‘exotic’ equipment to create elaborate course “packages” and “programs” that go excessively beyond what would actually be reasonably required and they do it primarily one reason …profit!

    The gouging that continues to exist in all aspects of our “industry” is also a major player in the seemingly inevitable demise of “General Aviation” as we have known it, as this behavior will continue to drive away even the most affluent “rich man” types …in spite the fact they are becoming the only ones who can most likely afford it!

    Mr. Hibbert …My apologies for the wrong (“our” industry) has done you.

  18. Martin J. rosenthal Says:

    Unless pilots fly aircraft for a living (usually for very little pay while paying their “dues”), or uses an aircraft for profit or a tool in a business, aviation is usually restricted to those with much discretionary income or assets for this very expensive hobby or mode of pleasure travel. Most of us pilots or possible pilots read Flying magazine, etc., and your publication dreaming of what could be but won’t be. Your other commenters are right on by saying the same thing over and over, aviation has become too expensive. Who appears at your ceremonies to receive your awards, wealthy celebrities like Harrison Ford and John Travolta, not us ‘regular” folks.

  19. B.M. DeVandry Says:

    I rarely comment once …let alone twice in any forum, but the last post by Mr. Hibbert really got my goat!

    Another quintessential example of how (and why) we’re destroying “General Aviation” …besides all of the larger “Market Force”? issues eluded to earlier …is the dirty little secret that we (those of us who’ve been in this business for any length of time) are all too aware of and have encountered all too often; unethical, unprofessional, dishonest and amoral …(just plain GREED!) treatment at the airport.

    Too many FBO’s, Flight Schools and yes, even individual Flight Instructors have been (at least during my 35+ years in Aviation) and continue to deliberately take advantage of their students …their Customers …our future peers! …and this is but one of many examples.

    NO one …a private Pilot type for instance, who’s moderately proficient and experienced in light tricycle gear singles should require more than 8-10 hours in the typical conventional geared airplane commonly utilized for the now required “Tailwheel Endorsement” Many are competent at less (I’ve had 15 hr. student pilots able to handle them with just a few hrs. of practice) and it’s only the (sometime) draconian insurance requirements that often ask for at least 10+ hours (with an instructor sign-off) to allow for solo rental.

    A Citabria or Decathlon, Aeronca or even a Cub are most often used and even at their (bit excessive) average present day rental rates of $90 -130/hr wet, with average Instructor rates of $35-40, one need not shell out more than $1100-1300 for a typical (and thorough) tailwheel check-out endorsement!

    Far too many Schools/Instructors have taken advantage of rule changes and new ‘exotic’ equipment to create elaborate course “packages” and “programs” that go excessively beyond what would actually be reasonably required and they do it primarily one reason …profit!

    The gouging that continues to exist in all aspects of our “industry” is also a major player in the seemingly inevitable demise of “General Aviation” as we have known it, as this behavior will continue to drive away even the most affluent “rich man” types …in spite the fact they are becoming the only ones who can most likely afford it!

    Mr. Hibbert …My apologies for the wrong (“our” industry) has done you.

  20. Tom B Says:

    I was catching up on my reading the other day and opened the June issue of AOPA. Looking through the advertisements, I thought to myself “Just who is AOPA magazine for anyway?” I can’t afford anything they are advertising.

    $50,000-$100,000 flight schools
    $500,000 cirrus aircraft
    $30,000 efis/gps systems
    $10,000 watches
    $40,000 factory engines
    $10,000 engine monitors
    mulitmillion dollar business jets

    Just who are they advertising too? Certainly not to me and I’m a 22 year ATP rated former airline pilot. Just who is AOPA’s customer anyway?

    And to top it off, I receive the AOPA daily email. Two of the articles I really wanted to read were blocked because I’m not a member of the legal services plan.

    The truth is, for the vast majority of us, the only way forward is to build/buy an experimental for a fraction of the price. A new airplane with fancy avionics for $50,000-$100,000 seems to be the right move. Honestly, AOPA doesn’t speak my language anymore but EAA does.

  21. Wayne Szabo Says:

    Please make sure to see my entries under 2009 and 2010.

    I started this blog in 2009 as a means to evangelize the virtues and benefits of the Sport Pilot certification and LSA product mix, as well as to address the affordability and community challenges. The primary goal of this blog is to encourage new involvement in general aviation through recreational sport flying (aka recreational general aviation on steroids!). Yes, with the advent of the Sport Pilot certificate and variety of new Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) on the market, recreational sport flying can be more affordable and achievable for the broader population!

    I’m going out on a limb here, but I am convinced that the Sport Pilot certificate and airplane LSA are vital to bringing about a general aviation revival as the economy begins to rebound. I believe it’s the only catalyst for a general aviation revival – focused solely on Recreational Sport Flying. Recreational Sport Flying has many facets – please review my blog entries for more specifics. Also, see my alternate website called http://www.gethookedonflying.com.

    These are ideas that are a bit outside the box and need some chewing on. However, I believe this is a good opportunity and subject matter to interject them here. Again, I’ve been promoting them online since 2009. Hopefully, it will provoke some more lively discussion about the affordability and community factors, and that there just might be a different solution out there. We just need to get outside the proverbial box on this obviously sensitive issue.

    Yes, I wholeheartedly believe the Sport Pilot certificate and LSA product line can undeniably move us forward to making GA and Recreational Sport Flying more affordable and available to the “common” man, but the following changes and attitudes must take place:

    • We must not write-off the “common” man from being able to afford to fly – and refuse to accept the idea that GA flying is for the wealthy only; that gone are the days of barnstorming and back country flying for the average Joe pilot. Nonsense!

    • We must not discount that there are some very ripe target audiences out there that just need the right encouragement, education and exposure in order to get hooked on flying, or for that matter, who need to get there rear ends back in the saddle again! If you review GAMA stats, you will see that there is a huge population of baby boomers who are gravitating to the Sport Pilot side for all the reasons we already know (the average age being 54); another key market is the high school youth and young adult market between the ages of 17 and 27 who obviously represent the future of aviation; and lastly, there is an extremely huge market opportunity in the broader recreational powersports enthusiast market (aka recreational weekend warrior market) – converts to flying who embrace Recreational Sport Flying as the ultimate recreational powersports alternative!

    • We must get outside the proverbial box of promotion and marketing to the aviation community only, and focus more and more effort on promotion and marketing to the broader not-yet flying population, educating them on the benefits and virtues of the Sport Pilot and LSA offerings through non-aviation channels and means, or as I call it, non-conventional promotion and marketing.

    • LSA manufacturers must continue to work harder to drive down unit cost of aircraft for ownership to be achievable, especially those aircraft that feature basic instrumentation for solely visual flight operations – come on, who needs all that fancy glass? We’re talking much less complex VFR flying here!

    • We must get more creative with shared ownership and financing models – so that the overall aircraft acquisition cost for the “common” man is driven down to reasonable and affordable terms, promoting share ownership as the prudent means to facilitating aircraft ownership and recreational sport flying.

    • Sport Pilots must move to smaller, privately-owned airports/airparks to facilitate and advance recreational sport flying (please don’t forget to review my entries regarding this topic).

    • We must encourage the development of non-residential recreational sport flying airports/airparks – and ultimately see the development and growth of a recreational sport flying infrastructure and network throughout the U.S., moving away from the burdens and limitations inherent and growing in the public airport system.

    • We must proactively reach out to age-ready high school students through aviation education and youth outreach programs, and promote the benefits of aviation and the classroom-to-real world connections to high schools and their districts (science, technology, engineering and mathematics emphasis here – as we all know already).

    • We must see the creation of Safe-Haven Networks to promote the purest and simplest form of recreational flying, removing the stresses and complexities associated with heavy traffic and ATC communications. This will revolutionize the airspace challenge!

    These changes and attitudes must take place now in order to reach the broader population, revive general aviation, and make the dream of flying more affordable and achievable again. It will most definitely build community and foster growth in this current stagnant industry!

    Enjoy, and let me know what you think, good, bad or ugly!

  22. Tom B Says:

    Many good points there. I wish LSA aircraft had a path forward to fly IFR in IMC in order to realistically be able to travel.

  23. james l. hibbert Says:

    As a footnote, when I bought my second airplane, a Grumman Tiger, the check had been delivered, processed, cleared and then I was allowed to pick up the airplane in Savannah, Georgia. When you buy a car, you are treated like the most important person in the world.

    When my wife and I arrived in Savannah, the guy, and I say “guy” because I did not know who he was and no intro was made. He said, without calling my name, here are your keys.

    That was my thanks for buying a new airplane.

    At that point, I knew aviation for the average person meant nothing. If I had bought a G—-
    whatever, would the reception have been the same?

    Cutter aviation is trying to change that. How many other organizations that deal with general aviation are trying?

    When you rent a plane, how do you feel?

    Food for thought.

    James L. Hibbert

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