As Baby Boomers march into retirement in increasing numbers, there’s an opportunity for general aviation and its surviving participants to recalibrate their desires and define the future of personal flight. It all hinges on flying clubs, which better use expensive resources by sharing the costs and providing emotional support.
A new group, Ground Effect Advisors, is promoting flying clubs with a scholarship and a website resource, StartAFlyingClub.com. What separates this group and its efforts to ensure GA’s future is its focus. Accepting the fact that trying to rebuild GA one pilot at at time doesn’t work, as many programs in the past have proven, GEA is taking a new tack by exploiting the multifaceted potential of flying clubs. Its success will depend on the motivation and tenacity of the people who start and support each of them across the nation.
Baby Boomers, who still dominate the pilot population, bemoan the demise of the general aviation they grew up with, but we must all accept that 21st century economic and societal realities no longer support the 2oth century Me Generation stereotype of one pilot-one airplane. Really, few of us today can afford our own winged financial hemophiliac, let alone the hourly expense of feeding it 50 hours (or less) of gas and oil every year.
Pining for the past won’t change the future; it will only cut it short. Flying will continue to become more expensive, just as it has since the 1980s, when middle class income and buying power started to erode. And nothing is going to magically inspire the Boomers’ kids and grandkids to start flying. While many think it’s cool, it takes way too much time and effort.
But these succeeding generations are way more into sharing and efficiently using resources, so unlike their parents or grandparents, who are more interested in something that’s theirs alone, members of the millennial generation infected with aviation can easily see the time-tested benefits of flying clubs.
If there’s a problem with flying clubs today, it’s their total number. GEA is attempting to prime the pump with its Start a Flying Club Scholarship. The winner gets $3,500 worth of products, services, and support, all focused on getting a new flying club off the ground.
You can apply for the scholarship through May 1. GEA will announce the winner on June 1, and the launch of the new flying club is targeted for September 1, 2013. GEA’s executive team, Al Waterloo, Louis Bowers, Todd McClamroch, and Marc Epner, are all members of Chicagoland’s Leading Edge Flying Club, avid pilots from all wings of aviation, including a CFI, corporate pilot, flying club founder and president, and even an aviation blogger.
Not everyone will win the award, sponsored by AOPA, Cirrus Aircraft, David Clark, LiveATC.net, Pilot Edge, Schedule Master, Sporty’s Pilot Shop, and Signature Flight Support. But everyone can take advantage of the information at StartAFlyingClub.com, which focuses on their creation and evolution. –Scott Spangler, Editor