Reversing the Decline of General Aviation

Discussion in 'Hangar Flying' started by Wayne, Apr 10, 2016.

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  1. Apr 10, 2016 #1

    Wayne

    Wayne

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    Folks - I just posted this on Facebook to the groups that I am involved in and thought I'd share it with you all since we have a bunch of threads that hit this topic. I don't claim to have all the answers (or any of them for that matter) but I can assure you the examples I give below are very real.


    "Never interrupt someone doing something you said couldn't be done" - Amelia Earhart
    There has been a lot of talk recently about the decline of General Aviation (GA), us having to "decode the Millennials" because they don't engage, and about how aviation is only for the wealthy. I have some strong feelings about this so am posting my perspective below in the hope that others will see that these concerns need not be true, and that maybe they will take up the challenge of driving the change needed to take control of GA's future instead of dreading it.
    Over the last 2.5 years of being actively involved in aviation as President of EAA Chapter 461, and working closely with the aviation community, general public, the amazing folks at SimplyFLY www.simplyflyadventures.com) and being an airplane homebuilder, I have come to the inescapable conclusion that the lions share of enjoyment for many people is the camaraderie around ALL aspects of aviation - not just flying - and that I am personally part of a vibrant and growing market. I contend that this market can be replicated, and can become self sustaining because
    being a part of it enriches peoples lives.
    It is true that GA as we "knew" it is in decline, and in my opinion one big reason for this is because it has not changed with the times. Like other endeavors that are rooted in the past GA has lost touch with the market. Yes - things are different today than they were yesterday and they will be more different tomorrow. Change is inevitable, and frankly desirable in many ways, so we must learn to embrace and innovate with it to shape the future.
    For things to get better we need people who are willing to take leadership roles - people that will take the risk, and invest the effort to innovate, to step up, and to make things happen. We know that if we create something relevant we will attract, retain, and grow a happy community of people whose lives are enriched, and we know this because we (all of us) are doing it right now with EAA 461 and our community partners the Illinois Aviation Museum (IAM) and SimplyFLY.
    Don't be bummed out that GA is in decline, change it!
    Here are some specific examples, and ways, we are jointly growing aviation:
    The Illinois Aviation Museum Zenith Cruzer "One Year Wonder" build project attracted 100 members of all ages and demographics from the community at it's last build session. That is 100 non aviation people coming together to build an airplane ! Most of these folks would never have been introduced to aviation if it were not for a group of leaders from IAM who had the courage to accept risk, innovate, and drive change. These people, and our much appreciated sponsors, have made a material impact to the community which can be measured in participation, increased memberships for the Museum and EAA 461, plus greatly increased and positive exposure for Clow Airport. People are proud and excited to be a part of the project which means it is valuable to them. Activities like this sow the seeds that will grow into pilots, aircraft owners, and new leaders for tomorrow.
    We must attract people from outside of aviation if we seek to grow. As an example - the vast majority of SimplyFLY's customers come from the general public and have never been exposed to aviation. SimplyFLY attracts and retains people who might have dreamed about flying but never thought they could afford it or that it was out of their reach yet here they are graduating from the school and flying all over the place. These people don't need to be wealthy to fly..... The company is growing almost exponentially and it is doing that through innovations in quality, customer service, the development of market defining software technology, and by building a community of people who gain value through participation. This is a far cry from traditional flying schools, and is another view into how embracing and driving change can make the difference between decline and growth.
    To ensure we thrive tomorrow we must take a long term view and invest in the future now. We invest heavily into the community with the specific goal of promoting aviation to young adults. Between EAA 461 and SimplyFLY we facilitate STEM programs, Day camps for local City & Park District programs, meetings with aviation leaders, have a strong focus on Women in Aviation, EAA Summer Camps, and a wide range of other educational events. These activities shape and help define the future because the programs are built to appeal to the audience, and we are constantly refining our messaging to stay relevant. At the last STEM event EAA 461 participated in we talked to over 60 parents about EAA and the programs we offer for young adults interested in participating in the exciting world of aviation.
    The enthusiastic participation of the folks engaged in the groups above, the members themselves, are the true reason for the success we have had in growing our aviation community. You have all created something that is valuable and rewarding, everyone has an important role, and by the way - it just so happens to be called Aviation.
    If we want to reverse the decline of General Aviation I believe that, as a community, we need to embrace and accept the risks of innovation and change, we need to become leaders, put in the work required, and if we do that we will create communities that are self sustaining and drive their own value.
    We know this approach works and if scaled we won't have to worry about GA - it will take care of itself.
     
  2. Apr 10, 2016 #2

    D Hillberg

    D Hillberg

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    The government taxes, regulates, manipulates anything to do with freedom or liberty. you get taxed by the assessors on your flying machine you get regulated out of
    the air by cities and the FAA cubical hamster gets no complexity points for GA, you are demonized as a 'green energy villain' TSA puts fences up for 'protection' while at the same time importing 'refugees' who have a good bit of terrorists in the mix.

    the government had done a bang up job of getting bigger but it's screwed up everything it touches

    from defense to your children the powers that be have failed to foster self reliance. the corner stone of liberty.

    (edited)well kiss my ass.

    My my has the world has become corrupted so.
     
    Last edited: Apr 10, 2016
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  3. Apr 10, 2016 #3

    BBerson

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    Home building is good but has always been a small subset of GA. Maybe one percent or something in 1953 when Poberezny started EAA. Now perhaps 25% percent? (Guess).
    But Poberezny built homebuilts with used factory built certified engines. All 16 I think, except for the Limbach powered Pixie.
    Without a supply of used Continental and Lycoming engines EAA would not have grown much.

    The solution to the decline in GA can't be addressed by homebuilders. The solution requires laws that make mass sales of factory products available to the public. So... We can salvage the used engines for our homebuilts.
     
  4. Apr 10, 2016 #4

    Twodeaddogs

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    you want to keep GA vibrant? it has to be relevant and not seen as elitist or expensive. Some of GA's costs are too high, such as the cost of regulation, taxes like landing fees, taxes on training such as approach fees and there are many others, which is why microlighting is increasing and other forms of GA are falling by the wayside. Organisations like the EAA are essential to the growth and sustainment of GA.
     
  5. Apr 10, 2016 #5

    BJC

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    I just returned from Sun Fun, which certainly lived up to its name as far as I am concerned. SnF evolved from a small weekend gathering to a major fly-in under the leadership of Billy Henderson. (When Billy retired from the leadership of SnF, he was replaced, unfortunately, by a series of money-hungry jerks, who have seriously damaged the event, but that is a topic for another conversation.) Just a few days ago, Billy reminded me that he always considered the event not a gathering of airplanes, but a gathering of people who happen to like airplanes.

    Billy is a wise old man.


    BJC
     
  6. Apr 10, 2016 #6

    Turd Ferguson

    Turd Ferguson

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    What exactly about regulation is costly? A RTF LSA is built with minimal regulation yet they are >$100k out the door, or in the case of ICON ~$300k?


    I am teaching a new pilot how to fly in a C-150. I find it amazing I learned to fly in the same model plane, only when I learned they were brand new. 40 yrs have elapsed and nothing has been built in quantity to replace it. That's a problem. If you can get people to the airport, there won't be anything for them to fly.
     
  7. Apr 10, 2016 #7

    Twodeaddogs

    Twodeaddogs

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    certification of new designs is incredibly expensive, especially here in Yoorp. EASA has crippled aviation here bigtime. Making the slightest change to an aircraft costs a lot of money.....as for replacing C150s, look at Tecnams. Very common here and well regarded. Rotax 912 made a lot of difference to flight training.
     
  8. Apr 10, 2016 #8

    BBerson

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    Product liability laws are regulations. The cost of product liability regulations are apparently ICON's biggest expense. I remember back in the 90’s Cessna said liability added $70,000 to the price of a Cessna 152.
    That's why they prefer to sell Citation jets. An extra $70k or whatever tacked on a jet hardly matters.
    But could be doubling the cost per unit at ICON. (Who knows?)

    That's why the vast majority of personal 2-4 seaters are now Kitplanes which transfers the liability largely to buyers/builders.
     
  9. Apr 10, 2016 #9

    pwood66889

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    Wayne's post had a lot of good ideas and was upbeat. More is needed instead of...
    Accentuating the positive just has to happen or we flyers are all religated to the past.
    I wish to do the flight club bit myself; just have to get my own plane ambulitory enough to do so.
    Percy in SE Bama
     
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  10. Apr 11, 2016 #10

    PW_Plack

    PW_Plack

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    Something has to derail the inertia that keeps GA so expensive. Many FAA regs and local laws governing airports appear to be designed to continue to prop up the GA we knew in the 1950s and 60s.

    There is a Rans dealer near me on his own private airport, and some very innovative things are happening there.
     
  11. Apr 11, 2016 #11

    Turd Ferguson

    Turd Ferguson

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    Do we know for sure how much ICON is paying per unit for liability?

    Bill, the last 152 built sold in 1985 for $48,300* new. So if Cessna was out of pocket $25k building the plane they should have been selling for $95k after the liability premium was added or Cessna was eating a lot of cash.

    There was quite a price hike between the first and last 152 as the first one sold in 1978 for ~$23,000* but of course there were 3 straight years of double digit inflation during that time period. I recall all the blame being put on liability but also noticed the liability blame coincided with greatly reduced sales and production. Maule continued to build planes when Cessna stopped production of the single engine line so liability apparently didn't affect them.

    I think the claim today is 25% of the price. If that's what ICON is paying, ~$62,000 per unit is going for liability at the advertised $250k price.

    I don't know why more don't take the Frank Robinson approach and vigorously defend their product with a good legal team. If an ambulance chaser knows you are not going to settle without a fight, they are less likely to seek a quick settlement payout. Going to a jury trial is expensive and unless you're pretty sure of winning it's quite a gamble.

    * numbers obtained via Cessna Pilot's Association
     
  12. Apr 11, 2016 #12

    Autodidact

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    Vertical wind tunnels are currently proliferating. The terminal velocity of a skydiver can be many things, but a vertical tunnel needs to be capable of at least 150 mph. A 3-axis "flight pod" could be constrained longitudinally and have some freedom vertically, laterally, and in roll (with amount of roll constrained by distance above the tunnel floor). This type of "ride" might be more expensive than a vertical tunnel - or not - depending on cross section need and fan efficiency, etc. For a tunnel with a speed range of 0 to 150 mph, a "take-off" speed of 65 mph with a "pod" all up weight of 300lb (no engine or instrumentation) and a Clmax as low as 1.0, the wing area could be around 24 ft^2 with a span of 10 ft or less. This could conceivably
    be a profitable business while at the same time being a convenient and relatively uncomplicated way to introduce people to powered flight - including children. Yeah it's a goofy idea, but so is the vertical wind tunnel just off the highway in town?

    Oh, and I'm talking about a horizontal wind tunnel not a vertical one, and one designed only for controlled flight and not for measurement...
     
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2016
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  13. Apr 11, 2016 #13

    TFF

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    I bet Maule has not astronomically hiked the prices because it is still is a mom and pop business. Even Aviat's overpriced planes are cheap. Champion's planes are cheap. All mom and pop's and only care if they sell enough to stay in business and make a living. Cessna is a big company; Icon wants to be a big company, not a hobbiest company. Icon has set their sights to be the next Cirrus. I think what Aircraft Spruce is doing by saving designs has a better direction. What they need is support like when they were marketed by their designers. Internet build clubs for each design with a panel of completion owners helping. ACS has a forum but only the Starduster gets any traction there and even then the helper answers just as many questions on The Biplane Forum. Acrosport biplanes get support on BPF if you know to look there Pitts too, Tailwinds are on yahoo which is the best support group. If ACS could really direct people to help, potential builders dont have to be so brave. I know ACS just keeps the plans in play as a service; if they could nurture and not stick their corp neck out would help a bunch.
     
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  14. Apr 11, 2016 #14

    BBerson

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    Product liability premiums vary with risk I bet. Small companies don't buy insurance. At least the company I worked for didn't. Similar to Maule, family owned.
    The product liability problem exploded in the 80’s and 90’s after the 152 was ended. The trainer could have always been sold at a loss to bring customers for family C-206 sales from loyal customers. But eventually Cessna couldn't even sell C-206 at profit and dropped the entire piston line.

    Remember, engine companies pay liability also. Lycoming engines cost three (or 7 times ?) times more now for product liability. They sure didn't recertify, so the cost is liability. Our company bought 0-320 for $5000 in '76. Around $35k now I guess.
    And instruments, props, steel tube... They all pay liability and inflate the price.
    So total airplane price includes liability insurance paid twice or three times.
     
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  15. Apr 11, 2016 #15

    VFR-on-top

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    There are a number of LSAs in the price range of $25,000 or less, yet they're not selling like hotcakes. It's really strange to be whining about the affordability of our hobby (Icons) when there are budget planes (Kolbs, Aerolite 103s) aplenty. Maybe even more if people would just buy them.
     
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  16. Apr 11, 2016 #16

    Wayne

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    Thanks for all the nice comments folks, and I do think the points you raise are totally valid. To me one of the biggest things is to keep "building the foundation" by doing the types of things I mentioned and then we need to move on to solving the cost issues.

    Flying clubs are absolutely one way to go to make flying affordable for certified aircraft. Take a $20k 150 and split purchase/operating costs between 4 or 5 pilots and you are on your way for the VFR missions many want.

    The build project I mentioned above is also a really good way because that plane will be sold (the museum cannot have a flying aircraft due to liability - yep, you guessed it) and will end up as a flying club which was Charlie Becker's (EAA) idea in the first place. Charlie setup the "Give Flight" program at Oshkosh last year and I won a set of Wings for our Chapter - and those are going on the IAM plane. It will be very cost effective to fly that bird, it will be experimental, light sport, and probably sport an O200 or used Rotax 912 and Steam gauges - cheap flying all round. That program can be replicated and with a good scrounger on the team you can still build today's kit planes cost effectively enough when costs are divided. It's very tough (impossible?) to beat the purchase price of a older GA plane though.

    Also - we don't have to have people owning their own planes to continue the dream of aviation. Don't forget that many folks in aviation are generous and love to take people flying. I bet almost every one of you would get engaged with an enthusiastic youngster or adult and mentor them/bring them along if they took the time to build a meaningful relationship with you. Most of our planes sit on the ground 99% of the time and there is no shortage of offers to go flying. Most of the airport bums around here are looking for a reason to go up just to share the experience.

    When we finally get a cost effective kit plane designed and out the door I'll happily promote it all over. Cheap Racer is going all in it seems and we certainly have more than enough talent on the board to get one designed - we just need focus. To me (if you have not figured me out by now) the type of plane is not as important as actually producing one. I'm a big believer in doing "something" because to me that is better than doing "nothing". Of course we might make a bad decision and do the "wrong thing" but who cares? If we don't take risk, and innovate, well .. That said - there are a ton of planes out there already that we could leverage ...

    BTW - what Icon has done is masterful in one way because they are promoting a lifestyle of excitement and exclusivity. If you saw their booth at Oshkosh it was like a high powered Formula 1 racing experience - or something Red Bull might do. It looked COOL and people like COOL. I think the big let down's are obvious though, and it does not fit the paradigm of driving our brand of GA.

    At SimplyFLY we promote the fun of the sport aviation lifestyle as well - think Jet Ski's, motor bikes, that type of thing. This is cool and it attracts a large number of people, and we are able to deliver what we market - this is a major driver for the company's growth.
     
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  17. Apr 11, 2016 #17

    Turd Ferguson

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    Cessna shut down all SE piston production in 1986 and primarily blamed product liability. Yet other plane manufacturers kept right on building. I think there was more to it.

    Liability does inflate the price of goods but inflation has also inflated the prices.
     
  18. Apr 11, 2016 #18

    Turd Ferguson

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    Ya, if EAA would allow chapters to operate flying clubs, 100 flying clubs could spring up overnight. I was in a chapter where someone was willing to donate an airplane for a flying club but it was poo poo'd because can't have a flying club connected to an EAA chapter. It would be the perfect follow on to EAA's YE program, take a flight, join a club and take lessons.
     
  19. Apr 11, 2016 #19

    Twodeaddogs

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    1: set up a flying club.
    2: bring a schoolkid up.
    3: encourage tours of ATC/military bases/maintenance hangars.
    4: encourage more people to fly gliders/ultralights/classics/balloons/whatever
     
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  20. Apr 11, 2016 #20

    autoreply

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    Those cheap plane manufacturers are all pretty much out of business; guess why.

    It's a lot of self-reinforcing doom-thinking. When I think about the future of GA I think about:
    [video=youtube;bWyK2GsdIUc]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bWyK2GsdIUc[/video]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 20, 2019
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