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Thread: Barrier to student pilot starts

  1. #1

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    Barrier to student pilot starts

    There is another topic about what killed gen av"?
    This is only two factors, but they are big ones and pilots are so used to it that many may not think of how good things once were.
    Back in the 60's and 70's there were many less restrictions on student and private pilots, and also there was a GI Bill that offered money for education and training for vets, including flight training. A very poisitve result was that there were hundreds of flight schools all over the country, AND THEY WERE AT VIRTUALLY EVERY MAJOR AIRPORT, not just out in the boonies at Duct Tape FBO.
    Places like Houston Hobby, Denver Stapelton, Dallas Love Field, etc, had flight schools, maybe more than one and some had aircraft dealers also, with showrooms of the latest Cessnas or Pipers or Beechs, etc. Student and instructor pilots shared these airports with airline trafftic, just like cars share the road with trucks. And of course there were many small airports as well.

    Of course where money is involved, someone is not going to want to share, and some airlines did not. AOPA and others tried to suggest something like climb and descent corridors for the jet airlines, but to no avail. They wanted the whole 360 degree to themsleves. This became the TCA, now called Class B airspace.

    And in Sept, 1978, the airlines got the ammo they needed to exclude a large chunk of gen aviation from the larger airports, the ones the airlines mostly used.
    In San Diego there was a fatal crash between a PSA jet airliner, (might have been a DC-9< not sure) and a Cessna 182. The 182 was based at Montgomery Field in the northeast part of San Diego and was doing a practice instrument approach at Lindbergh Field ( named since the Linbergh plane was built there) on the west side of the city. The 182 had and instructor and a student pilot, and was cleared to fly the approach. It was heading west over midtown, may have already done one approach. The PSA plane came down the coast from L A( I think) , and turned east into the middle of the city, sort of a right downwind befoer turning onto final to the west to land on Rnwy 27. The 182 was ahead of PSA, going west. PSA was given the 182 traffic by ATC ,and called traffic in sight. However, PSA somehow lost sight of the 182 and simply ran over it from behind. Both planes crashed, with the lost of perhaps 150 people. There was of course an investigation, and some talk of a 3rd plane like that PSA might have been looking at instead of the 182, but that theory like the 2nd gunman in Dallas did not pan out.
    I am pretty sure that what happened was simply that, PSA was looking into the sun and just lost sight of the 182 ahead of them.
    In any event, much was made of the fact the "A STUDENT PILOT", was flying the 182 under the hood, of course with a CFI. No matter that the 182 was cleared to fly by approach, and had the right of way over the overtaking PSA plane, THE RESULT WAS TCAs AT MAJOR AIRPORTS,WHICH WE NOW KNOW AS CLASS B AIRSPACE.
    ONE BIG FACTOR IN CLASS B, IS NO STUDENT PILOT SOLOS ALLOWED, ( without a special sign off).
    So if you have a flight school, it would be pretty impractical to have your school in B where students can't even solo.
    The result, along with other financial factors like high rents, is that flight schools moved out of the large airports, some closing down, or going to a smaller area.
    So in many of the major population centers, there are no flight schools,no student pilots, right where a large majority of the population lives. So nowadays, many people in big cities, don't even see small gen av training flights, "out of sight, out of minds", and aren't really aware of them, much less have them conveniently available nearby.
    There are still some flight schools in the suburbs of some cities, but in many areas like Denver or Washington, DC, or even Austin, a student has to go way out of town the get to fly. What if you had to drive 20 miles to play golf, or see a high school football game or get a beer or Bar B Q or a burrito?
    That, and economic factors like less govt funding like the GI bill have really hurt gen av.
    That, along with the economic factors have hurt gen av.
    Last edited by Bill Greenwood; 02-02-2012 at 01:26 PM.

  2. #2

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    I think it's mainly the cost of training and flying expenses. Renting training planes in CA cost $100+/hr wet plus $40/hr for instructor, so total for basic training is $140/hr or more. If you need 70 hrs average for completion of Private license, that's $10,000. If you are an average 40 yr old with family and kids and mortgage, $10K is a very big chunk of money. And after the basic training, if you want to buy a plane, LSAs run around $100K and maintenance by A&P runs $80/hr. With fuel costs at $5-6/gal for avgas, any short flight runs ~$40/hr so a 1.5 hr jaunt to and from is well over $100 cash. Only folks with sufficient money can afford to fly and the average guy can't, so the new pilot's are fewer.

  3. #3
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    In San Diego there was a fatal crash between a PSA jet airliner, (might have been a DC-9< not sure)
    727 versus a 172. The PSA flight number was 182.

    I think it's mainly the cost of training and flying expenses. Renting training planes in CA cost $100+/hr wet plus $40/hr for instructor, so total for basic training is $140/hr or more. If you need 70 hrs average for completion of Private license, that's $10,000. If you are an average 40 yr old with family and kids and mortgage, $10K is a very big chunk of money. And after the basic training, if you want to buy a plane, LSAs run around $100K and maintenance by A&P runs $80/hr. With fuel costs at $5-6/gal for avgas, any short flight runs ~$40/hr so a 1.5 hr jaunt to and from is well over $100 cash. Only folks with sufficient money can afford to fly and the average guy can't, so the new pilot's are fewer.
    I'm something of an oddity but I honestly think the idea of everyone who wants to be able to fly, being able to do so is not perhaps the best approach. We all know a lot of mediocre pilots and while I too know the sting of the expense of learning to fly in this day and age, I think we have to balance the need to increase our numbers (if for nothing more than political capital) with the need to keep the safety record moving in the right direction. I'll probably get flamed for saying this, but that's how I feel about the subject.
    Unfortunately in science what you believe is irrelevant.

    "I'm an old-fashioned Southern Gentleman. Which means I can be a cast-iron son-of-a-***** when I want to be."- Robert A. Heinlein.



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    Quote Originally Posted by steveinindy View Post
    ... I think we have to balance the need to increase our numbers (if for nothing more than political capital) with the need to keep the safety record moving in the right direction. I'll probably get flamed for saying this, but that's how I feel about the subject.
    I agree, but I don't see any of the various groups that represent us doing anything that's really effect to this end. If you read some of the threads on forums like VAF, etc., you will see people occasionally getting threatened for advocating anything that interferes with with the right of pilots to kill themselves in a manner of their own choosing.
    Bill

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    threads on forums like VAF, etc., you will see people occasionally getting threatened for advocating anything that interferes with with the right of pilots to kill themselves in a manner of their own choosing
    I've been on the receiving end of those threats over there and on HomebuiltAirplanes forums. You have to remember that my job is kind of interfering with the "right" of people to shuffle off their mortal coil in a big ball of fire and shredded composite or aluminum.
    Unfortunately in science what you believe is irrelevant.

    "I'm an old-fashioned Southern Gentleman. Which means I can be a cast-iron son-of-a-***** when I want to be."- Robert A. Heinlein.



  6. #6

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    While I agree with you that we must continue to work toward safer flying, this thread started with an idea of how student pilot starts were at all time lows. I too as an instructor see many midiocre pilots. The truth of the matter is safe pilots have nothing to do with the thickness of the wallet. Many of the more wealthy seem to also include a healthy amount of arrogance, making it much harder to teach them anything from a lowly instructor's perspective. On the flip side, as a pilot for Civil Air Patrol for a number of years, I've also met many young men and women with plenty of smarts and lots of desire to learn to fly. They have the decipline and the drive but not the money. We as pilots, instructors or just plane advocates for aviation need to make the avenues for learning open to those that are capable. Let's not forget about Civil Air Patrol, EAA's Young Eagles and AOPA.

  7. #7

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    Bob H. Certainly flying is expensive, but it has mostly been that way for years.
    My point about the TCA or class B airspace is that the very idea or example of private or gen avitation, short of corporate jets, has been removed from the sight and consciness of much of the population in large cities.

    Price will deter many people from buying things, but first is the desire or lack of it to buy something.

    Even in our depressed economy there are still people who can and will spend on what they want. The first step is them wanting something. It applies at all levels of spending.

    I saw a news tv item about a store swamped by people trying to buy the latest Nike sneakers. This was not in a high income area of town, almost all minorities. Yet there were hundreds of people lined up to pay $200 for a pair of casual shoes. If the demand was there, somehow for some people they found the money. If you go to a high school, almost any income level, most of the kids have cell phones; it is part of the norm.
    People are beginning to buy new cars, need them or not, or Harleys, or $800 purses or ladies shoes. Look how Apple is selling expensive I pads, for $600 and they can barely keep up with demand.
    And they want them because they see ads on tv or newspaper and their friends have them. They don't want to be left out.
    AND THEY DON'T THINK IT IS SO STRANGE OR OUT OF THE ORDINARY TO HAVE THESE THINGS AND THEY DON'T HAVE TO DRIVE 30 MILES OUTSIDE OF THE CITY TO BUY THEM.

    I live in a ski town, most people ski or board. It cost money; it can be a lot of money if you are a competive racer or x games type, and you have to learn how and there is some level of danger, at least injury, not usually death. There are some wealthy people who can afford any amount and they ski. But even the much less wealthy, if they live and grow up here, they expect to ski. It is the norm,it is expected, not thought of as something that only a few people do, or beyond he reach of most.

    First comes the acceptance of skiing/boarding, then the demand, then the spending.
    And of course the ski companies do a lot better job on the whole marketing than most FBOs or flight schools do, especailly for beginners.
    Last edited by Bill Greenwood; 02-28-2012 at 04:45 PM.

  8. #8
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    You know, I have to get in my "Way Back" machine to comment here, but here goes! I statred flying in 1990 and got my certificate in 1991, I lived in the florida keys and the closest airport was Marathon abuot 40 miles from my home. I wanted to fly so distance was no object even though Homested was less distance (by 5 miles). At that time there was no ADIZ to worry about and to fly to Key West you had Boca Chica Naval Base on the south side which made it more interesting and the the "Big Balloon" on the north side so you could only fly around Boca Chica. I continued to rent until I got tired of "paying for someone else's airplane" and decided to buy my own. I got a 1960 SkyLark C-175 with the (now infamous) Go-300-C engine. I was determined to keep flying and decided to (mostly because of the new ADIZ rule) find an Airport in homested. I found X51 (Homestead General) with a great FBO and good people. I continued to fly until, yep 2001, and everything changed. Knee jerk reactions to Avaition was bordering insane, then shortly after that some Idiot flew a plane into a building in Tampa, and the next thing ya know....the end of avaition as we know it. I then retired and flew to West Virginia and been here ever since.
    Now we can all opine about the demise of general avaition, but when fuel hit 4.50 a gallon the continued up I still flew as much as I could. Finally the major changes in airspace and the rapid increase in Hanager cost as well as OUTSIDE tie down, convinced me it was time to sell the airplane. I rented for a while and one day my doctor said , Hey, Mike you got PTSD ( I guess from years of doing my job and the Military). So my health comes first and I figured its a pill once a day whats the big deal? OOOOPS it is a very big deal with the FAA I found out, now I can get my medical, but at what cost? According to FAA. AOPA, EAA and a few other well meaning friends (one who is a flight surgeon) said it would cost about 5 to 8 thousand dollars and numerous hoops to get a medical for 6 months or a year. Really, for one pill a day, Really!

    So, what killed GA..........The FAA and their rediculous medical standards, as well as pricing EVERY thing that has to touch them out of existance in Certification and repair. Me, well, I will do the LSA for a while and hope things get better, I really dont want to play with the FAA anymore, their are no fun!


    But still I want to build my own plane...WTF!

    Mike
    PKB

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Bill Greenwood View Post
    I saw a news tv item about a store swamped by people trying to buy the latest Nike sneakers. This was not in a high income area of town, almost all minorities. Yet there were hundreds of people lined up to pay $200 for a pair of casual shoes. If the demand was there, somehow for some people they found the money. If you go to a high school, almost any income level, most of the kids have cell phones; it is part of the norm.
    People are beginning to buy new cars, need them or not, or Harleys, or $800 purses or ladies shoes. Look how Apple is selling expensive I pads, for $600 and they can barely keep up with demand.
    And they want them because they see ads on tv or newspaper and their friends have them. They don't want to be left out.
    AND THEY DON'T THINK IT IS SO STRANGE OR OUT OF THE ORDINARY TO HAVE THESE THINGS AND THEY DON'T HAVE TO DRIVE 30 MILES OUTSIDE OF THE CITY TO BUY THEM.

    I live in a ski town, most people ski or board. It cost money; it can be a lot of money if you are a competive racer or x games type, and you have to learn how and there is some level of danger, at least injury, not usually death. There are some wealthy people who can afford any amount and they ski. But even the much less wealthy, if they live and grow up here, they expect to ski. It is the norm,it is expected, not thought of as something that only a few people do, or beyond he reach of most.

    First comes the acceptance of skiing/boarding, then the demand, then the spending.
    And of course the ski companies do a lot better job on the whole marketing than most FBOs or flight schools do, especailly for beginners.
    I really don't think it's about availability or advertising.

    I have a friend, about 50, makes a good wage, has a house in the country with room for a landing strip and works at an overhaul shop. Been around planes his whole life. He's thought about learning to fly, but even though he has lots of money, he can't justify spending it and taking the time to do it. Figures he wouldn't get enough use out of it.

    I live close to a private airport. About 40 hangars and around 30 planes tied down outside. A lot of lifetime homebuilders. Some have four planes in their hangar and can't be bothered to finish one. On a nice sunny summer weekend, you'd be lucky to see two planes in the air at the same time. Maybe five people flying total for the weekend. It's turned into a big social spot. Everybody wants to sit around and talk airplanes, but nobody wants to fly.

    This is part of the reason for lack of interest from the public. When you buy $300 sneakers, you buy them to show off to people. Phones and iPads are both a way of socializing and a status symbol. Same with Harleys and cars to a certain extent. Whatever the value these products are to their owners, they can realize it with very little effort. Skiing takes more effort, but it's still an all day social gathering that even someone who is inexperienced can enjoy with their friends without a lot of rules. Showing your certificate to somebody is like a rich person showing pictures of his mansion in Alaska - poor people can't relate and rich people probably don't care. Finishing your homebuilt means flying it and that usually means people won't see it.

    Piloting is a relatively solitary activity. Most people will agree that its difficult to find a passenger. Then there is the boring aspect of flying to the same places all the time. Very few people find enjoyment just from the act of being in the air. Going to different places further away increases costs exponentially. A sunday at an average small airport is a few people flying for an hour or so in the early morning, coffee for another hour or so, then the place is deserted by noon. Even if Joe Public lived just down the street and was bombarded with learn to fly commercials, its not exactly an enticing place.

    People's way of thinking has changed over the years. It's all about instant gratification. Thirty years ago it was common to take the family on a cross country car trip. Now they fly to maximize the time at the destination. It's not advertising or availability, the car is in the driveway and its probably cheaper for a family of four. Nobody wants to sit in the car doing nothing (such as sightseeing).

    Is it even possible to advertise learning to fly in an honest manner and still have the average person want to do it? Imagine the ad.

    For only $6000(or more), and a few (or more) months of dedication, you can be be a pilot! Imagine soaring through the sky (weather permitting) by yourself for only $120 an hour (aircraft availability may be limited). Feel the freedom to go anywhere (subject to TFR's), and land at interesting places (landing fees may apply). When you return you can socialize with other pilots (who couldn't afford to fly that day) and share your experiences (not too many as the majority of pilots fly less than ten times a year). Feel the freedom! (subject to background check)


    I'd love to see more people become interested in flying, but first we need to start showing some interest ourselves.

  10. #10

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    Quick point of information - the GI Bill can be used for flight instruction now.

    It's a recent change; indeed, the rule changed about two weeks after I passed my check ride!

    A big chunk of the lack of new pilots is pure demographics. The bulge of the Baby Boomers is followed by a trough of Gen Xer's. It's another topic for a different forum, but trust me, it matters. The Baby Boomers aren't retiring, and when they finally do the guy in his twenties gets promoted - leaving the forty something holding the bag.

    At any rate, if the percentage of pilots to the population held steady for each generation there'd still be a heckuvalot less pilots coming up.
    The opinions and statements of this poster are largely based on facts and portray a possible version of the actual events.

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