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Thread: Where are all the young pilots?

  1. #1

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    Where are all the young pilots?

    Does anyone else read Flying Magazine? Martha Luken's article this month touched on the problem the declining interest in GA, specifically citing airport closures and the decline in student pilot starts, especially among young people. Most poignantly (to me), she writes of a student pilot: "Finally, he completes the test -- and then, what?"

    Exactly. I'm 24 years old and just put my first BFR on my private license. I think it's interesting that the term "catch-22" has its roots in aviation, because that's exactly where one exists now. The cost of flying is exorbitant, and the best way to lower my costs would be, after crunching my numbers, to buy an experimental, and share the costs with a partner. This, for a new pilot, can't reasonably be done - almost every financier and insurer wants almost triple the hours I have. Renting might be viable, even comparable to the cost of payments and operating costs, except that money is put toward hours alone, not to a tangible asset from which capital may be eventually recouped. Flying professionally requires a commercial license which requires an instrument rating which requires 30-40 additional hours at most schools to even begin - another $6000-$8000 on top of the $8000 an IFR ticket will cost me. And all of this is on top of college debt. You need a huge amount of money up front to even get to the point where you might be able to fly for cheap!

    Is it any wonder that interest in flying is waning? The future predicted pilot shortage isn't due to lack of desire, but lack of means. Martha Luken mentions cost as an afterthought to her blame on iPods, video games, Facebook, the parental coddling of my generation, and the rest of the played-out "damn kids these days!" rhetoric. I don't buy it - because the cost of aviation is making it so I can't buy anything. It's the money, honey.

    Focus: how does a young pilot, hungry for hours, manage to build some? And more importantly, how do we revolutionize aviation costs so it doesn't have to be like this anymore?

  2. #2
    hydroguy2's Avatar
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    go find 3-4 others...pony up $5000 each and get you a trainier. either a 150 or cherokee 140, etc. Do your training in it, fly it around the country, build your time. Then sell out your share to a new guy. sharing expenses with others is a economical way to log some hours and build experience.
    It's just one dam job after another

    Brian C.
    Sport Air Racing League http://www.sportairrace.org/
    Race 155

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rootski View Post
    Does anyone else read Flying Magazine? Martha Luken's article this month touched on the problem the declining interest in GA, specifically citing airport closures and the decline in student pilot starts, especially among young people. Most poignantly (to me), she writes of a student pilot: "Finally, he completes the test -- and then, what?"

    Exactly. I'm 24 years old and just put my first BFR on my private license. I think it's interesting that the term "catch-22" has its roots in aviation, because that's exactly where one exists now. The cost of flying is exorbitant, and the best way to lower my costs would be, after crunching my numbers, to buy an experimental, and share the costs with a partner. This, for a new pilot, can't reasonably be done - almost every financier and insurer wants almost triple the hours I have. Renting might be viable, even comparable to the cost of payments and operating costs, except that money is put toward hours alone, not to a tangible asset from which capital may be eventually recouped. Flying professionally requires a commercial license which requires an instrument rating which requires 30-40 additional hours at most schools to even begin - another $6000-$8000 on top of the $8000 an IFR ticket will cost me. And all of this is on top of college debt. You need a huge amount of money up front to even get to the point where you might be able to fly for cheap!

    Is it any wonder that interest in flying is waning? The future predicted pilot shortage isn't due to lack of desire, but lack of means. Martha Luken mentions cost as an afterthought to her blame on iPods, video games, Facebook, the parental coddling of my generation, and the rest of the played-out "damn kids these days!" rhetoric. I don't buy it - because the cost of aviation is making it so I can't buy anything. It's the money, honey.

    Focus: how does a young pilot, hungry for hours, manage to build some? And more importantly, how do we revolutionize aviation costs so it doesn't have to be like this anymore?


    100% spot on. I've been saying this for years.

  4. #4

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    Careful, (leans over and whispers) "there are others on this forum that feel if you don't have the means, then you don't belong in the aviator's community"
    You know after WWII the number of pilots was huge and planes were still expensive, but alot were sold to working class ex-military pilots. What's the difference now? you may ask. The regs, the insurance drama, and the endless line of people all sticking their hand in your pocket along the way that weren't there 60-70 years ago. I'm relatively new to aviation (2009) and there is no way it is going to get any better any time soon because aviators are our own worst enemy. I (working class electrician) just don't fit in to the local EAA chapters and pilots, all either wealthy business men or retired folks who worked for companies in the day that paid well.
    Want my advice? buy an unfinished (but well documented...very important!) project and build your own, be self insured (that's called assuming responsibility) and fly the heck out of it and have a blast!

  5. #5

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    So why are there only old folks hanging out at the airport and very few younger people. It is a simple matter of time vs money.

    The 20's: Either during college or maybe even right before you have all sorts of free time but very little money. Paying for school, books, beer, girls, etc tends to take up what little money you might be making working for minimum wage. Some are able to scrape up enough to get their license but then learn that once you have it you are still paying $100+ an hour just to go bounce around the pattern ever few weekends and loose interest.

    The 30s: You are in your first real job out of college and finally making some money. Unforturnatly you are now getting married, buying a house, and having kids. When you get some free time you rarely have the money to go flying and when you are able to save up some money you are suddenly hit with a home repair, doctors visit for your kid, or some other unexpected expense. If you are lucky you aren't up to your eyeballs in college debet.

    The 40s: Your kid is getting older and more self sufficient. You are also starting to make better money at your job. Unfortunatly most people are now heavily into their job trying to climb the corporate ladder spending 60+ hours a week working. The little free time you do have on the weekends is usually spent at kids soccer games, working on the house, etc. Your bank account is growing but there is no time to go spend it on flying.

    The 50's: That kid you had back in your 30's is now ready for college. Things are probably slowing down for you career wise as you reach a comfortable level and can start envisioning retirement. You have lots of free time now but all that money you saved is suddenly paying for a $30,000 a year college tutition and anything else left over is going towards retirement.

    The 60's: Your kid has graduated and is living on their own, you have a small wad of cash saved and you are retired. You can finally afford to buy a small plane and spend the days at the airport. It has only taken 40 years to get there.

    The 70's: Unfortuantly you just failed your medical and are now relegated to hanging around the airport hoping to get a ride with someone just like back in your 20's.



    Keith

  6. #6

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rootski View Post
    Focus: how does a young pilot, hungry for hours, manage to build some? And more importantly, how do we revolutionize aviation costs so it doesn't have to be like this anymore?

    Rootski, I was wondering the same thing back in the '70's when I learned how to fly. While the $ numbers were smaller, flying was relatively expensive. The regulations back then were more restrictive, which made it difficult and costly to earn advanced ratings. Sure, if you fly enough, the hourly cost of owning a plane becomes less than renting. But at that point, you'll need a healthy aviation budget regardless. The tangible asset argument for owning a plane is weak as there is very little capital tied up in a small light plane. And right now, it won't go UP in value, more likely it will depreciate even more. To paraphrase the Clinton political quote "It's the operating cost stupid!"

    Back then, to fly a much as I could, I rented the least expensive airplane I could find. Old, no fancy paint, interior or avionics. On another forum, a guy was complaining that all rentals at his airport are ragged out antiques. Well geez, if you want to rent a fancy new plane, rental cost goes up! For him that is not a factor so apparently, not everyone shares your concern about costs. He would rather pay more and have all the blinking lights, moving maps, etc.

    The decline in pilot activity is more complicated than finances. When MS Flight Simulator first came out, I was at an aviation trade show. Kids were crowded around the "simulator" flying booth and not so many looking at the real airplanes. I think that underscores much of the problem. Why put forth all the effort required with real airplanes when you can just sit at home and simulate? Much easier, low operating costs and it provides instant gratification.

  7. #7

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    Good Topic!,

    Lots of interesting comments, I think hydroguy2 has a good idea. I got my license 20 years ago in a C-150 that belonged to a local club. Flying Clubs are the best way to learn and build time as well as save money. Back in 1992 I put up $3500 in equity and rented the club C-150 for around $25/hr wet. After getting the license I moved up to the club Archer and that rented for around $35/hr wet. In 2000 I moved to Ohio and got my $3500 refunded, by then I had built-up 200 hours in my log book. I flew rentals until retiring and was looking to buy a C-150 as my retirement hobby, but I found another club in 2008. We have a TriPacer and another Archer and best of all only $500 refundable insurance deposit to join. Fuel costs have risen substantially since 1992, the club Archer cost $100/hr wet in today's economy. The downside to club flying is paying the monthly "dues" which cover fixed costs, these costs are equally divided amongst the active club members whether they fly or not. My first club had about 35 members but only 12 to 15 actually flew regularly, so we were "subsidized" by the non-flying club members. If you can't afford to fly a couple of times a month then you won't be saving much over renting.

    Saturday I flew our club Archer to a Young Eagles rally at the Sidney Airport (I-12). We had over a 100 kids and at least 8 aircraft flying from noon to 4:00PM, there is still interest in real flying. The kids were all smiles and full of energy...the parents very appreciative of the pilots and organizers, money is the problem and "kmacht" has laid out a good life model in this economy.

    Joe

  8. #8

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    I'd love to find a flying club nearby. Unfortunately, not any options within a 1/2 hr drive.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by martymayes View Post
    I'd love to find a flying club nearby. Unfortunately, not any options within a 1/2 hr drive.

    I'm willing to bet that there are, you just don't know about them. I used to be ATC at PTK and belonged to a club. There were quite a few of them at PTK. I know that there is at least on in Ann Arbor, becuase I looked at a Cherokee that they had for sale. I suspect there are others at the other airports on the west side of Detroit. The same for Lansing and Brighton. I don't know your area well, but these should all be under an hour away from Clarklake.

    My recommendation is to show up at the local FBO on Saturday morning and ask the old cronnies sitting around drinking coffee if they know of any clubs. I'm sure that they'll be able to rattle the names off the top of there head.

    If that doesn't work, find four or five buddies in Clarklake and go out and from a club. It really depends on how bad you want to fly and keep your costs to a minimum.
    --
    Bob Leffler
    RV-10 Flying
    www.mykitlog.com/rleffler

  10. #10

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    When I was 12 I joined the Royal Canadian Air Cadets. After working hard in their program for 5 years I was lucky enough to receive scholarships to spend a summer getting my glider license and then the next summer getting my private license. What a great program! The problem though is hardly anyone that graduates the cadet program with a PPL can afford to keep flying.

    During Engineering school I spent most of my summer savings on flying to stay current. After graduating I started working in the Fort McMurray oilsands up here in Alberta to afford to be more serious with aviation. Last month I finally was able to purchase a flying Cassutt for less than 10k that I plan to race at Reno. I'm 23 now.

    I found ways to fly as a young person. It isnt easy though. Without lots of luck and some sacrifices I know for sure I wouldnt be where Im at.

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