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.