The GA Market

Discussion in 'Hangar Flying' started by Wanttaja, Sep 29, 2019.

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  1. Sep 29, 2019 #1

    Wanttaja

    Wanttaja

    Wanttaja

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    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:
    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
     
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  2. Sep 29, 2019 #2

    Hephaestus

    Hephaestus

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    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.

    If I wanted to hit Toronto right now, last minute flight, $1136+++. It's basically 6.5 hours from leaving my house to arriving family (assuming no 401 insanity). In the Mooney - if I'm going for speed not cheap - 10gph and 7 hours. About 1400 round trip, with departure/arrival in my schedule.

    I regularly did Calgary to fort McMurray for after work wings with my old co-workers. 10hours by car, that's not possible. Lazy 3 hours flying at economy cruise. That works.

    Hopped the Rockies more than once in the past year to go see the whales migrating.

    I cant count the number of neat little events we've hit up. Most of the time it's more the ability to get there in a timely manner than the cost...

    Even booked out month+ in advance, often commercial is expensive. Trip to Edmonton will cost me more than Toronto often.
     
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2019
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  3. Sep 29, 2019 #3

    BBerson

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    Maybe a single seat pocket rocket. Like a BD-5 done right with no safety issues.
    Say 300 pounds empty with a good engine, no belt drive.

    And a similar single seat seaplane, super light version of the Icon. Your fly buddies each need their own airplane. Buy a pair, like Ron's dad wth snowmobiles.
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2019
  4. Sep 30, 2019 #4

    Hephaestus

    Hephaestus

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    If love a tiny bd5 like toy. Too bad there's just no place for fuel ;)

    I posted ages ago what I've been working on - narrowed up single place full composite derivative of the KR2. Keep looking at the w/b since it would be fairly easy to fit a sub-adult tandem seat.
     
  5. Sep 30, 2019 #5

    BBerson

    BBerson

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    Plenty of room for fuel for the pair on the trailer.
     
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  6. Sep 30, 2019 #6

    Kyle Boatright

    Kyle Boatright

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    The one thing I think you left out is reliability. When I was old enough to be aware of cars and their functionality (Say 1970), cars were not terribly reliable. Broken fan belts, blown hoses, tire problems, and a host of other problems seemed to assault us on many "long" trips - say anything more than 50 miles from home. Prior to 1970, I'm sure it was worse. Beyond that, cars were well on their way to worn out or economically used up after 100K miles - both mechanically (failed transmission, AC, and/or power steering anyone?) and cosmetically (failed headliner or cracked dashpad maybe?).

    But in the late '70's, the Japanese came to market with reliable vehicles that weren't used up at 100K miles and which pretty much ran for years if you changed the fluids and topped off the fuel. That quality and reliability has reset the automotive world, and today it is common for properly treated vehicles to go 250K miles or more before being economically used up. That made GA travel (with all of the maintenance requirements and reliability issues) even less viable as transportation because you now know that traffic backups are about the only things that are gonna keep you from averaging about 70 mph on cross country trips to Grandma's or the beach. Even better, when you get there, you brought your own local transportation with you.
     
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  7. Sep 30, 2019 #7

    Hephaestus

    Hephaestus

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    Turo, Uber lyft in that order ;)

    And a lot of small airports still have crew cars ;)
     
  8. Sep 30, 2019 #8

    Kyle Boatright

    Kyle Boatright

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    Any of those are fine if you're in and out in a day. If you're gonna stay at Granny's or the beach for a week, they aren't great options.
     
  9. Sep 30, 2019 #9

    Vigilant1

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    Ron's case is solid regarding GA as transportation-- just not too practical, except for niche cases, in the continental US. That leaves recreational flying, which is not as popular as it was, with no signs of a turnaround. And, since we're talking about trying to sell new airplanes, we need to also consider the glut of good used ones, certified, EAB, and part 103, that can be bought for a song, often cheaper than building.

    So, the remaining target market would be people who want to build a plane and have the resources to do so--not as a means to an end, but (at least partially) as an end in itself. I don't know how many of these folks are out there, but I think the number is declining.
     
  10. Sep 30, 2019 #10

    MadProfessor8138

    MadProfessor8138

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    If GA dies....is that really a bad thing ?
    And before everyone gets in an uproar,let me explain that question.

    Maybe that is what's needed to start over again and do it right this time.....

    Offering aircraft at a $ rate $ that would be comparable to other personal pleasure craft/vehicles can only be accomplished through one avenue......"quantity"/ "mass production".
    And the only way to do that is to either get the FAA "all in" or get them "all out" of the situation.
    The FAA has set up a scenario that practically assures failure for the whole aviation industry.
    They want to ride rough shot on the whole industry by imposing rules & regulations but then do not offer the means to comply with their mandates.
    If you want to learn to fly......you need to seek out a private individual.
    If you want to take your check ride....you need to seek out a private individual.
    If you need an Annual.....you need to seek out a private individual.
    Why arent these things provided by the organization that imposed the rules?

    In the auto industry.......
    If you want to learn to drive....there are state funded driving schools.
    If you want to take your driving test....there is a state provided examiner.
    If you need your car inspected to be able to operate in some areas....there is a state provided VET testing facility.
    All of this is state & government provided.

    Why isn't aviation the same ?

    The FAA has imposed rules and then stepped back to watch the chaos ensue.
    They need to either get "all in" or get "all out" of the situation.

    How many people do we all know that gave up on the dream of flying because of the hurdles that they encountered along the way.
    Too expensive,instructor not available,aircraft not available.....etc,etc.

    Now imagine that aviation was ran like the auto industry......
    Cost was acceptable for training,instructors were always available,aircraft were available,individual for your check ride was available,A&P - I/A available for the Annual.......etc.
    When that happens......you are going to see a surge of people becoming new pilots with a need/want for aircraft.
    Now.....manufacturers can lower their prices because they have the "quantity" of aircraft rolling out the doors to justify the price decrease.

    The FAA is the reason that GA is doing so poorly because they refused to keep up with the changing times.
    Life progresses.....keep up or get left behind.....they chose to be left behind while other areas of transportation and pleasure craft flourished.

    But that's just my viewpoint....agree or disagree,its up to you.

    Kevin
     
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  11. Sep 30, 2019 #11

    TFF

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    I think the computer has killed aviation.

    Today what percentage of commerce is just computer? Before, you had to be face to face with a customer. Before, money had to change hands or check to bank. There is a small company in my town started by an alumni of my high school. The premise was to get the checks from one part of the country to the other overnight so money could be released. No check at the originating bank, no money released to the deposited bank. Most people call that company Fed Ex.
    My boss was in the aircraft parts business for GA and commuter airlines. There was a fleet of planes to fly to all the little FBOs all over the region. 20 years he put 8500 hrs on his main mount 182. Delivering parts, picking up cores; customer service. We use that company still. The last plane was sold 15 years ago, and it was legacy for 10. Just recently all the sales people on the phone are not sales but helpers to teach us to interact with the computer and we do their job now as customers. We have to be smart enough to pick right place to be shipped from and all the this and that a sales person would do for a customer. Their jobs have to be on the short string now. They closed the warehouse here.

    The less people need to interact personally, the less you need any transportation. Millennials not driving means less cars. They also don’t have the same freedom as they can’t steer where they want to go directly riding in an autonomous car. The computer will decide one day which grocery you buy from, and prevent detours through the countryside for the fun. Rule by attrition of freedom.

    Where GA has gotten a little better is corporate and 135 flights. Family of four or six going to Disney on the airlines can put that money to rent a King Air to deliver and pickup for not that much more if you are filling the seats. Disney has their own ramp for you. Less dealing with TSA. Less crowd at a small airport and almost door to door, at least to the rental car.

    Cost. A high optioned Corvette in the mid 60s cost as much as a C150. A high optioned modern Vette is approaching 100,000;new LSA ballpark.

    Experimental airplanes was one way to fly cheaper. Build some squirrelly single seat or kissing cousin two seat. You were not building anything like a certified airplane. Then and today may be about cheaper but not really in the same sense. The difference is mission. 50s-70s was just about getting in the air with a bit of performance. A Flybaby is a “hot rod” compared to a stock J-3 it stole the parts from. Today it is more precise. “ I got $80,000, how can I build a IFR plane with new stuff instead of buying a 30 year old Bonanza. It’s always been a costly game, but now planes like RVs are being built to replace certified airplanes not as experiments.

    Like the original experimenters building a Teenie, VP, Flybaby, you are just trying to get in the air; you have to build those type of planes. In the 60s with a vette budget, you were building a Pitts or a T-18. Same cost as a 150 with more performance. New Bonanza or Mooney were a chunk of money. Maybe the reasons are the same, but because the environment is different, there are a lot of people who will not play if they don’t get what they want. A new 1965 Bonanza was $75,000. 1965. New 172 in 65 was $13,000. Why was a T2 a popular dream at $1000? Planes have always been expensive. They use to be needed way more.
     
  12. Sep 30, 2019 #12

    Dan Thomas

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    Short airline flights are always expensive. It costs money to load, take off and climb, then unload, and there are departure and landing fees. There are taxes.

    Calgary-Edmonton is a three-hour drive. And you don't need Uber or Lyft or a taxi or a bus at either or both ends. Edmonton's airport is a ridiculous distance from the city, too, a half-hour or more. So very few people make that flight, which makes it more expensive. Too little demand.

    When we lived in Alberta, Westjet made a political point by temporarily offering a few flights between Calgary and Edmonton for $1. The total came to well over $80 with all the other fees and taxes added. That was 20 years ago, at least, and it's only gotten worse.

    If we hadn't had deregulation, a flight between YEG and YYZ would cost $4K or more. Maybe a lot more, since the volumes would be small like they were in the '60s.
     
  13. Sep 30, 2019 #13

    Dan Thomas

    Dan Thomas

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    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.
     
  14. Sep 30, 2019 #14

    Hephaestus

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    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.
     
  15. Sep 30, 2019 #15

    MadProfessor8138

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    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
     
  16. Sep 30, 2019 #16

    Vigilant1

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    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.
    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.
     
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2019
  17. Sep 30, 2019 #17

    BJC

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    +1. Well said, V1.


    BJC
     
  18. Sep 30, 2019 #18

    BJC

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    No. If you are enjoying what you are doing, it is not a waste of your time.
    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
     
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  19. Sep 30, 2019 #19

    MadProfessor8138

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    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
     
  20. Sep 30, 2019 #20

    BJC

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    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.
    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.
    No, not by society; by their own decisions.


    BJC
     
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