# The GA Market

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#### Wanttaja

##### Well-Known Member
This is a change in title to a discussion previously taking place under the "Icon" thread. The post I'm responding to is at:

https://www.homebuiltairplanes.com/f...61#post-494402

Here's the key points in the original post that I'm kicking off on:
In your opinion are B.B. and I waisting our time attempting to make an inexpensive aircraft? Is there mass market for a 21 st century Ford Fliver or the Kitty Hawk multicopter personal air vehicle?

Icon was developed on the idea that there was a market for 3,000 aircraft per year. North American over estimated the market for the Sea Bee and Ercoupe went out of businesses for the same reason.

We can agree that if the Icon were less than $100,000 there would be many more sales. But, I still question if the market would support that volume for twenty years. A lot of folks have tried to develop inexpensive aircraft, and few have succeeded. The main barrier is economic, but in addition, a lot of the justifications for personal aircraft have gone away. Let's look at the economics, first. Ideally, a recreational aircraft should cost the same as other top-grade personal vehicles. You'd like your personal aircraft to cost the same as a top-shelf snowmobile, for example. Or conceivably, TWICE the cost of a top-shelf snowmobile, since lots of folks buy two. I just did a real quick search, grabbing the first Artic Cat that came up (my dad owned a pair). It gave a list price of$8,300. With tax and other costs, that'll easily run to over $9,000. Let's say$8K for argument. Two would cost $16K. So your new light airplane needs an engine. Guess what a Rotax 912 costs? Yep, about$16K. So just in your engine ALONE, you've busted the target price. Then you've got to design, test, and certify the airframe as well.

The Quicksilver Sport 2SE comes to mind as the completed product. They charge $40,000, ready to fly. That's exactly what we paid for my wife's new Acura SUV. The Quicksilver is no doubt a fine aircraft, but it is basically an ultralight. Completely open, two-stroke engine. Not really a competitor for a new car. Less comfortable, far less payload capacity, two fewer seats. Sure, it flies....that's the point of the thing. But you're going to have problems finding a market. Again, not to pick on Quicksilver. There have been a variety of other companies, especially since Light Sport came about, that have offered low-cost airplanes. Typically, "Low Cost" has meant in the$80,000 range.

Not too many people picking those up, either. Think about it... $80,000 is Tesla country. The only ones that have hung on are costing over$100,000...and that's pretty significant money, for most folks.

"But a snowmobile can't be used for traveling!" some might say. Or, "That Acura is going to slower if you actually want to fly somewhere."

The trouble is, the Interstate Highway System has hamstrung General Aviation. It's made it far less relevant to the modern American.

Through WWII, only the major roads were paved. Driving any distance meant hours on dusty (or muddy) dirt roads; doing it in the summer in many areas meant a hot, sticky, dusty trip. Often the way was rough, too, since dirt roads tend to get potholed and washboarded. There were few "expressways"; most major roads went right through every town on the way, which meant you ended up repeatedly slowing and stopping for traffic lights/stop signs.

In these circumstances, even a J-3 looked good. You could drive 200 miles in the heat and dust in six or seven hours... or fly in the smooth, cool air above it for three. Something like a Stinson? Pure luxury. Most airports were turf, and that was fine for the old taildraggers of the day.

Then, in the 1950s, came the Interstate Highway System. It was justified as a high-speed transportation corridor for the military in time of war. No more dust, no more stopping. No more rough, washboard roads. You could maintain a speed close to what that J-3 could manage, and do it even if the weather was less than clement.

True, you couldn't necessarily go direct to your destination. But the whole point about major metropolises is that MANY people live there...so the good roads were there for a lot of people. Places that WEREN'T on the highway system tended to wither on the vine; a less likely destination.

When I was a kid, we'd drive ~200 miles from home to the farm where my Dad grew up. The interstate made a tremendous difference...until we got to the point where we had to turn off I-94 and head north for 40 miles on a county road. Last time I visited the family farm, the roads were ALL paved...except for a ~5 mile stretch to the farm itself.

At the same time, cars got better. The smoother roads meant a better ride, and car manufacturers could tweak the suspensions to get a pretty smooth trip on the new roads. By the late '60s, air conditioning was getting less and less of a luxury accessories. By the late '60s, air conditioning was even standard on one brand of cars. Cruise control made long trips even easier.

At this point, it was getting harder for General Aviation to compete. The Cessna 172s of the era were a bit faster than the old J-3, but many of the advantages of air travel were fading. The trip to my Dad's old homestead was three hours by car, vs. ~1:30 for the Cessna, and you didn't waste time loading the car THEN transferring it to the Skyhawk. There weren't any hard-surface runways near Wing, North Dakota. Dad's Pontiac could plunge ahead in just about any weather. Sure, there were dirt portions of the trip, but you could roll the windows up and crank on the AC. The door-to-door times were MUCH more equivalent, and if you bought something large, you could just strap it on the roof to get it home.

There were faster light airplane available. But the prices went up pretty steeply, and unless the distances were really far, they weren't that big of an advantage.

Now...add THAT to the revolution in commercial air travel in the 1970s. It used to be that there were relatively few flights, and the air fares were pretty steep. There are lots of arguments against the deregulation that caused such a big change, but the fact is that flights got cheaper and easier to catch. A round-trip ticket from Los Angeles to New York City was about $170 in 1960; you can find it for ~$300 today.

That's, basically, only doubled over a period where the median income increased by a factor of ten.

It used to be that you could market the upscale GA aircraft to the business traveler. Now, though, the infrastructure is there to whisk the businesswoman hundreds or thousands of miles for really not that much money.

So there it was. The improvements in cars and roads reduced the private utility of small aircraft, while the rise of commercial air travel lured away the business traveler. Lower demand for small aircraft meant fewer were built...and the prices, naturally went higher, and the investment money for improvements in the breed were harder to find. Couple that with the financial crises of the 70s and 80s, and the gas shortages over the same period, and it's not surprising the bottom dropped out of the GA market. And, basically, has stayed out.

If you look at the FAA's annual GA survey you'll see the majority of GA hours are flown for business or commercial purposes. The 2017 survey says 43% of fixed wing piston-engined hours were flown for personal use.

So the recreational-only market is going to be tough. Again, several companies have offered aircraft less than $100,000, but none have really grabbed much of a market share. The homebuilt world definitely shows there's a market out there.... the same FAA survey shows 82% of amateur-built aircraft hours are for personal use. But of course, the homebuilding world is full of people getting planes on a budget. Offering a ready-to-fly ultralight-class vehicle with a Rotax 912 for$80,000 is a tough sale, when that's more than an RV kit would cost (with engine).

Man-carrying quadcopters, and similar personal air vehicles? As I've mentioned in previous postings, I love 'em.

However.....

I think there's going to be significant regulatory hurdles to overcome. Not from the FAA...but from municipal agencies.

The non-pilots love the idea of buying a device that parks in their suburban garage, and they just have to punch in a destination and it'll fly them, safely, to their destination in the cities.

But the owner's neighbors will probably scream about the sound of the thing at 6 AM, and the destination city may not allow their landing, except in certain less-than-convenient places. The Segway scooter was supposed to revolutionize urban travel. Didn't happen. Too many cities treated them like motorized vehicles (which they are...) and banned them from the sidewalks they were intended to operate on.

So...there's my cut on it.

Ron Wanttaja

#### Hephaestus

##### Well-Known Member
Personally I think there is a new emerging market...

There is that market where it comes down to being able to get there...

That's my market right now. Most of my recent flying is seeing family, going for wings with old co-workers. Hops around to go see neat stuff.

#### Dan Thomas

##### Well-Known Member
There are other costs in GA. Storage is one; tiedown outside often costs, and hangarage certainly costs. Maintenance is often cheaper than for your car on a per-hour basis, but your car now needs little maintenance compared to your old airplane, and maintenance on your car isn't legally required. We've been spoiled by modern cars and their reliability and automated everything, which makes the younger ones here complain about the amount of money and learning required and the effort needed to navigate and fly and maintain the thing. They weren't around when us old guys learned to fly in the airplanes we're still flying; the usual mistake the young make when they assume, somehow, that things were always as they are now. They weren't; they were a lot harder and many were a lot more expensive, too. A new 172 in 1973 cost as much as a house, and it still does, at least here in Canada. Few people could afford a snowmobile, even. Food and clothing ate up a lot more of the family budget back then, and if the greenies get their way and we eliminate fossil fuels, we'll be right back there again. And worse.

People buying airplanes want machines that are impressive and capable. That costs money. A full panel and many ponies aren't cheap, and yet most flying is VFR for a poke around the nearby countryside. That's a waste of a lot of panel space and horsepower. Now we have thousands of used airplanes with worn-out instruments and thirsty engines on the market, holes to pour money into. If we could start simple, like with a J-3 sort of airplane, we could get into flying for a lot less. Many of us would be happy enough with that. Those with more money could move up if they wanted to, and the market would have many used, simpler airplanes that made flying sensible.

#### Hephaestus

##### Well-Known Member
Strangely yyc-yeg is a heavily used service for WestJet and scarecanada. A lot are oilsands workers on the milkrun flights of course.

Calgary to Villeneuve is one of my favorite runs in the Mooney.

##### Well-Known Member
Log Member
Dan Thomas......I'm going to agree & disagree with you on a point that you've mentioned.
This is merely my viewpoint though.....

Every generation feels that they have it harder than the previous generation or the current generation.....that's just human nature.
And finances have always been finances......with every generation feeling that they are paying more than their fair share for anything.....that's human nature too.
From my viewpoint....yes,the current generation tends to be spoiled and want instant gratification,but that's not their fault really...the culprit is technology.
We have become a world that is driven by technology and the ability to accomplish something instantly that would have taken days or even weeks 20 years ago.
They've never experienced the world without the modern technologies /conveniences so they really dont know any better.
Even though you may think that it was harder for people to earn their ppl 30-40 years ago I'm going to disagree with you on that point.
Yes,money has always been an issue and will continue to be until the end of time.....so every generation is on a level playing field in that respect.
But the advantage you had back when you got into aviation is the pace & attitude of society in general.
Today's society has become so fast paced that there is never enough hours in the day.
And society in general,these days,has become very "shallow" due to technology,social media,etc.
It's hard to find anyone to actually show an interest in a newbie,put in the work to help them and then stick with them to see it through to completion......and that statement includes the CFI's that are being paid to provide a service.
Putting the money issue aside,I think you probably had it easier than the current generation solely on the premise of genuinely being able to associate with others and form a connection with them.

The world today saddens me....and I constantly think back to the slower,simpler and more sincere times when I was younger.

Kevin

#### Vigilant1

##### Well-Known Member
Yes,money has always been an issue and will continue to be until the end of time.....so every generation is on a level playing field in that respect.
Just speaking in generalities now, but in the US, discretionary income has never been higher. If we take median earnings and subtract out the cost of true necessities (food, utilities, even housing), families have more left over than 40 years ago. They >choose< to spend it on cable TV. They >choose< to spend it on a new car every 3 years. It is (in general) easier for more Americans to afford GA than it was 40 years ago.
But the advantage you had back when you got into aviation is the pace & attitude of society in general.
Today's society has become so fast paced that there is never enough hours in the day.
And society in general,these days,has become very "shallow" due to technology,social media,etc.
We still have free will. Every kid, and every person, today can choose to sit on the couch and watch TV, keep their head down staring at their phone while the world passes them by, or they can choose to learn and do in the real world.
As you point out, kids today do have more of some societal/cultural obstacles than previous generations had. But they have far fewer obstacles of other kinds. Let's not make their situation even worse by telling them, and ourselves, that their fate is determined by their peers, or by "society."

As you said, that's "just my viewpoint." I'm sure we're basically in agreement. The world today offers people a huge variety of entertainment and distractions that require no commitment and no discipline. I can only image how hard it is to sell pianos/piano lessons to parents these days.

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#### BJC

##### Well-Known Member
HBA Supporter
+1. Well said, V1.

BJC

#### BJC

##### Well-Known Member
HBA Supporter
jedi said: In your opinion are B.B. and I waisting our time attempting to make an inexpensive aircraft?
No. If you are enjoying what you are doing, it is not a waste of your time.
Is there mass market for a 21 st century Ford Fliver or the Kitty Hawk multicopter personal air vehicle?
No, wrt a modern Fliver. It might be possible to recover the cost of a prototype, but there will not be much of a market. Most, but not all, who are not flying today “because of the cost” will find another reason not to act.

As Ron commented, the future market for a multicopter PAV will depend on regulation.

BJC

##### Well-Known Member
Log Member
Vigilant 1......I'm sure we are basically in agreement when it comes down to the big picture of aviation and society.
And yes,every generation has their own obstacles to overcome.
But you must consider the fact that we are living in a world where you can spend many years of your life & several $100,000 for an education,be at the top of your graduating class and not be able to find gainful employment due to your Facebook status not being on par with the standards of companies. It's sad but true.... Sometimes you have no choice but to conform to make it in society now days. So,in actuality,their fate is determined by society now days.....for better or worse. Kevin #### BJC ##### Well-Known Member HBA Supporter But you must consider the fact that we are living in a world where you can spend many years of your life & several$100,000 for an education,be at the top of your graduating class and not be able to find gainful employment due to your Facebook status not being on par with the standards of companies.
Yes, the cost of employing a new graduate today is so expensive that the companies do everything that they can to ensure that the new hire meets their standards. The Facebook thing is a parenting issue.
Sometimes you have no choice but to conform to make it in society now days.
Seems to me that it always has been that way. Today, though, thanks to an apparent need by the young to document and share on the www every stupid thing that they do, it is harder for that stupid behavior to be forgotten and, therefore, easier to disqualify themselves.

Edit: I'm really glad that my youth was not documented on the www.
So,in actuality,their fate is determined by society now days.....for better or worse.
No, not by society; by their own decisions.

BJC