The GA Market

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

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1. Sep 30, 2019

Wayne

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Excellent post Ron, and excellent replies! This post is written from a "recreational" perspective so does not include using a GA plane for work (why would I do that when I can fly a cheap, mostly on time, and highly reliable airline in pretty much any weather).

With 8 months of the flight school behind me (it's going well and we also acquired the Maintenance shop next door), and having the perspective of just finishing a Motorcycle course this weekend to get my license, I'd like to add that training/complexity is a significant barrier to entry for recreational customers, as well as cost. You have to REALLY want it to learn to fly GA.

I realize that learning to fly is "fundamentally" the same as it was back in the 40's (maybe a bit more complex today but the basics are the basics) but today's recreational customers have a great many choices that require far less rigor than learning to fly and are epic fun. Other sports also don't have such onerous and suffocating regulations.

As an aviation related example - my friend Scott, who runs a Paramotor training and sales business, is booming to the point he has left his landscaping business to run it - and we have Northern Illinois, USA weather as well so a large part of the year is toast. His customers are buying a paramotor, wing, and training for about $15,000 and many do that BEFORE they even go up. Paramotors can only be flown in ideal conditions but the culture/camaraderie of the aviators (and memories of flights) make up a huge part of the fun. Scott also lets people store their gear at his place for free so there are no hangar fees, insurance etc. The ongoing costs are new wings every 3 or 4 years and upgrades + the occasional motor after a few hundred hours which is a long time in a Paramotor. People can learn to fly, and get their PPL for, say,$8,000 - $10,000 - so less than a Paramotor (I realize the ongoing cost is higher for GA) but they are not flocking to the Flying School in anywhere near the numbers. I think, in large part, learning to fly is somewhat intimidating from a time, complexity, medical, regulatory, and responsibility perspective and it's possible is perceived as a lot of trouble for some..... Strapping on a Paramotor and learning to kite a wing is challenging but compared to even a Light Sport license it is WAY easier and very accessible. You also get to call yourself a Pilot, you don't have to build your flying machine, and it's not 40 plus years old like most of the US GA fleet. I wonder if some segments of the Part 103 Ultralight market are booming and we don't have visibility to that? We could also start a thread on innovation that would touch similar hot buttons. It seems to me that Europe is innovating new GA aircraft and I don't see the same level of innovation here in the US. I'm happy to admit I'm not current on all this but it seems to me that we are very reliant on our cheap AvGas and large fleet of older GA aircraft so have not been forced into creating cool new aircraft. The Icon is an example of innovation but how accessible is it? Not very for the average recreational customer.... jedi likes this. 2. Sep 30, 2019 jedi jedi Well-Known Member Joined: Aug 8, 2009 Messages: 1,781 Likes Received: 403 Location: Sahuarita Arizona, Renton Washington, USA Yes. I called Aerolight 103 and was surprised that they expect to ship 70 units this year. That is about 3 times the number of Icon A5s. I frequently count 20 or more paragliders in the air at one time when I visit the local flying site on a good day. A bus to launch holds about 20 pilots and gear and runs on a half hour schedule while a large percentage of pilots enjoy the hike to launch.The parking lot is overflowing to the point of unacceptable congestion and restricted on street parking for safety reasons. Pilots are in line waiting for a launch sequence. A majority of the new LSA aircraft are imported and therefore are not optimized for the US market. Last edited: Sep 30, 2019 3. Sep 30, 2019 MadProfessor8138 MadProfessor8138 Well-Known Member Joined: Nov 4, 2015 Messages: 624 Likes Received: 258 Location: Ekron,Kentucky Oh,I agree totally with the issue of people posting their entire life on Facebook and other places to be studied and judged....not my cup of tea. My point was that,unfortunately,we do live in a society that tends to judge you by your social status.......I'm not saying it's right but it does happen. As an example.....I know a gentleman that has an intellect that is off the charts and I feel stupid every time I converse with him.....yes,hes that smart. Last year,he was passed over for a position that he applied for due to the fact that he was not on social media,therefore the company deemed him anti-social and chose another candidate. I know the HR Director at the company and she told me that even though he is a great guy,personality wise & intellect,that they were looking for someone with more social awareness. So,in a way......society and your status in the "new society" does influance your everyday life.....professional & personal. I'm not saying it's right but that's the way it is now days....... We can probably agree to disagree on the issue and that's fine......but take a moment to consider that not all of the young people are social media queens and are ,in a way,forced to conform just to fit in. Kevin 4. Sep 30, 2019 aeromomentum aeromomentum Active Member Joined: Jan 28, 2014 Messages: 36 Likes Received: 47 Location: Stuart, FL USA Just about all of the reasons for the demise of GA that have been stated here are true. Also keep in mind that in the late 1960's you could buy a new certified Grumman AA1 for under$8000. Adjusting that for inflation it would be about $49,000 today. At that price I would buy a new one today. So where are the$50K certified 2 seat semi cross country aircraft today? Even if it was S-LSA, I would be happy with it at that price. I think $50K is today's target market price for a 120knt S-LSA and based on history it really should be achievable. Or at least a ultra super fast build kit with a completion cost of$50K.

There is still practical use for GA aircraft. For example from my home to Key West is about a 5 hour drive without traffic. With Friday evening traffic it can be 6++ hours. From Stuart, FL by a 130knt cruise GA aircraft the flight time is 1:30 and door to door is 2:15. This is a huge time savings and actually makes for a very practical day trip. If I place a reasonable value on our time it is also less "expensive" than driving. Even much more so with a trip to Bimini in The Bahamas that is under an hour flight time.

5. Sep 30, 2019

BBerson

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Paramotors are normally solo, flown in groups. Same with RC pilots, drones etc.
That's why I think more solo flown recreational fixed wing activities are needed. Other than transportation or business.

6. Sep 30, 2019

TFF

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Facebook is a parent issue not a parenting issue. The college kids who first got in on it are 30 now. It’s part choice, part requirement. If you choose no, you have no friend contact. Batch personal contact is the new phone call.

Not getting a job for not being on Facebook is a new one, unless they missed not being able to spy. A friend in a new hire first officer class at an airline came in after lunch to find folders on the desks but his and one other. The instructor said it’s ok to have no folder and called them up and dismissed them. The rest of the class has their Facebook life in front of them and they got grilled by HR on Facebook individual posts having to explain their positions. Instagram and Twitter is what the kids are on now. Facebook is what instant messenger was twenty years ago.

7. Sep 30, 2019

Dan Thomas

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I was a CFII in a non-profit flight school, as well as the Director of Aircraft Maintenance. Eventually I had to give up the instructing due to the maintenance responsibilities. The school trained pilots for missions and humanitarian flying overseas, so we were definitely interested in them as students. Being salaried meant that time and $per hour weren't issues. Unfortunately, too few of those students took advantage of the tutoring available; the ones that really were eager and ready to work hard tended to be the one that were married, had work experience, and were spending their own money. The younger, single folks were more easily distracted by other events and sports and whatnot. When I learned to fly it was a set rate per hour and the instructors weren't inclined to spend extra free time with the student. They had to make a living. And when I learned to fly it cost me a day's pay to fly an hour of solo. Nothing much has changed there except the age of the airplanes. I learned in airplanes that were six years old, and people are still learning to fly in some of them 46 years later. Note: In Canada one is a Flight Instructor at one of four levels. We're not known as CFIs or CFIIs. A CFI here is the Chief Flight Instructor, the supervisor over other instructors in the school. Last edited: Sep 30, 2019 MadProfessor8138 likes this. 8. Sep 30, 2019 Dan Thomas Dan Thomas Well-Known Member Joined: Sep 18, 2008 Messages: 4,870 Likes Received: 2,079 Two things: I think your 1968(?) AA1 would now be north of$100K new. Gasoline costs ten times what it did in 1973 when I was learning to fly. A 172 costs 20 times as much as then. Houses cost 20 times as much as then. The minimum wage is ten times as high as it was then. A PPL costs a lot more than ten times what it did then, though it's now 45 hours instead of 35.

The 172's rise is inflation PLUS all the fancy gadgetry PLUS the liability insurance Cessna has to fund for the 18-year liability frame for that airplane, which comes to around a third of the purchase price. Engine makers are faced with the same nonsense. Anybody that makes anything in that airplane...

And an $100K AA1 would be a pipe dream. The FAA has constantly beefed up the standards over the years, making construction more expensive and the airplane heavier, requiring more power. A classic example are the FAR23 occupant seat standards that now require 23G seats in the front and 19 G seats elsewhere. A 172's seats now weigh three or four times what they did in 1973. Other places on the airframe were beefed up to eliminate the problem spots. The G1000 stuff adds up to more weight than the steam gauges did. So now it needs 180 HP to pull it around, which burns more gas, which requires more fuel capacity, which requires a 250-lb higher gross weight, and the airplane still has a useful load 50 pounds less than it did in '73. Canadians and Americans nearly priced themselves out of the manufacturing sector in the '80s. Union demands for massive pay and benefits drove manufacturers offshore and toward automation. Stuff still made in the US and cnada has a hard time competing with imported items, and that includes airplanes. Automating the construction of an airplane that sells 100 units a year isn't feasible. Last edited: Sep 30, 2019 MadProfessor8138 likes this. 9. Sep 30, 2019 Hephaestus Hephaestus Well-Known Member Joined: Jun 25, 2014 Messages: 1,195 Likes Received: 260 Location: YMM I don't know about the USA but Canada the schools are incredibly overbooked. Acquaintance has been struggling with that - sure you can put 40 people through ground School, but even booked 6 months out you can't get more than 2-3 hours a month with an instructor in an aircraft. That doesn't exactly translate to creating pilots. Spend more time going over last lesson than progressing... @Dan Thomas was that the one up by 2 hills? Pretty sure it's the only place around here you can get tailwheel time, in a citabria no less. 10. Sep 30, 2019 Dan Thomas Dan Thomas Well-Known Member Joined: Sep 18, 2008 Messages: 4,870 Likes Received: 2,079 Three Hills, and yes, we did the taildragger training in the Citabrias. That was the only instruction I really enjoyed. It was fun to introduce confident young PPLs to a real airplane and see them find out that they had more to learn. Spin training in the Citabrias was much better than in the 172s, as well. They're much less forgiving of a skidding, descending turn. Some of the other instructors taught "unusual attitudes" training, which was aerobatics. I never cared for that stuff. I prefer the dirty side down most of the time. I'd get nauseated and have a headache for a day or so. The experienced guys told me I'd eventually get over it, but as I had way too much maintenance to look after I never got to it. When I moved to another city which had a couple of flight schools, they had plenty of room for more students. They're competing with too many other, more accessible pursuits. Hephaestus likes this. 11. Sep 30, 2019 Hephaestus Hephaestus Well-Known Member Joined: Jun 25, 2014 Messages: 1,195 Likes Received: 260 Location: YMM Bloody towns with places named # hills, and xxx mile house hard to keep them straight. Whenever I decide to pull the trigger and pickup a challenger2, pretty sure I'm going to set up it's ownership as a timeshare aircraft for students. There's a few CFIs local but the arms length ownership issue keeps them from actually doing any real instruction. May not be the nicest plane for instruction, but compared to 300-350$/hr... And they're cheap as chips.

12. Sep 30, 2019

gtae07

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Nor is car maintenance legally required to be done by someone with particular qualifications. Homebuilts at least get us around that.

On a bit of a tangent, at least some parts of the FAA voiced opposition to an "owner-maintained" category when it was proposed earlier, because they were concerned it would destroy the viability of those older aircraft. To the contrary, I think it would improve the value of those aircraft. Used RVs and some other homebuilts command price premiums over comparable-performance used certified airplanes, and I think that's partly because people are discounting the present price by the greater future costs of maintenance and upgrades. At least, I know I'll never own an airplane I can't work on myself.

The problem is the FAA won't let you "start simple". Everyone seems to think it's fancy avionics (and everyone wanting them) that drive up cost, but it's not. The regulatory burdens (and liability protection costs) of producing certified aircraft do not scale linearly with size or capability, and neither do the recurring labor/material costs.

A while back a few members were bemoaning the lack of "simple, light, slow" LSAs and one or two were even saying the FAA should tighten the rules to try and create more of them. The reasons why we rarely see new uber-simple low-and-slow S-LSAs is the same--the cost to produce does not really scale with size or capability. The cost of materials is a pittance; you don't save many design hours (if any at all); your production labor doesn't decrease much; and you still have to do all the FAA paperwork and testing. What we want is an airplane that's 50% of the performance for 50% of the cost; what we get is an airplane that's 50% of the performance at 85% of the cost.

The only noticeable gap seems to fall between LSAs and certified aircraft, and I think the majority of the savings comes in somewhat reduced regulatory burdens.

On the contrary, I think that number is growing. Look at how many homebuilts are being completed now. Look at the success of Van's and Bearhawk and Rans and all the other kit producers. I'm seeing more interest in homebuilding. Now, the interest in scratchbuilding seems to have largely waned, but I don't think that's really a reflection on "kids these days". It's just a recognition that time is a more precious commodity than in the past, and modern kit production techniques tip the balance in favor of CNC-punched/cut kits for almost everyone.

And I don't think it's a skills thing, either. No, most people don't have shop class with welding or woodworking any more, and most people don't grow up immersed in workshops and fine craftsmanship from an early age, but look at the proliferation of youtube videos and the "maker" movement. You don't need to have grown up in that environment to learn things any more; the internet (for all of its faults) and even (horror of horrors!) cheap Chinese equipment have made "you can do this!" a reality for far more people than in the "good old days". Today's kids might not all tinker with old carbureted cars... but the stuff I've seen them do is just as impressive.

A few years ago I knew people who grew up never having touched tools till they bought an old house and had to renovate it. Between youtube, how-to shows, and the internet, they taught themselves everything--and learned to turn wood, too. I know another couple, both IT professionals with pretty much no mechanical experience, who nevertheless built an RV-10 together.

Regarding recreational GA flying, I think we've failed on the marketing front not just because of costs, but because so much of the push for GA and instruction is geared either at "flight training for a career" or at kids--which is great and all, but has a long payoff period because kids typically can't afford to do something about it right now. It's great for the long term, but I think we need to do a better job of targeting younger adults with good careers but no children, and newly empty-nesters, since they are more likely to have the time and disposable income to do something about flying now.

13. Sep 30, 2019

Dan Thomas

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But the student is then limited to Advanced Ultralights. Usually it's better to aim for the license you want right up front. Some ultralight instuction is transferrable to PPL training, but it's not a lot. 10 hours, in accordance with CAR 421.26(6). Furthermore, a lot of ultralight training is woefully deficient in many areas. And one of the Seven Learning Factors is Primacy, which says that first impressions are the strongest and hardest to change. Once you learn something that's incorrect it's nearly unshakeable. See https://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/civilaviat...5494.htm#part-i-learning-and-learning-factors

A 172 should run around $180 per hour now. Nowhere near$300.

14. Sep 30, 2019

Hephaestus

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Only if it's registered as AULA...

Registered as EAB - it's fine for rec pilot, PPL and ultralight. It makes no sense in a lot of ways...

CFC is 350/hr someone said recently for their ab-initio

15. Sep 30, 2019

Himat

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I can’t find the reference, but some years ago I did read that a VW Golf had the same manufacturing price thirty years apart. I do think it was 1975 compared to 2015. The manufacturing cost was the same amount in US$. (Have to sidestep to US$ as the 1975 cost was in Deutsche Mark, in 2015 it was Euro.) That is VW and other car makers made a car to higher standard 30 years from 1975 on at a lower cost.

It looks like the aircraft manufacturers have missed out something. Same for avionics manufacturers. Electronic gadgets have fallen in cost and gained performance steadily in the same period.

16. Sep 30, 2019

ScaleBirdsScott

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I'm going to guess they're missing out on volume and subsidies.

How many VW Golfs are made per year?

On a somewhat different tack, I was just at the Museum of the US Air Force in Ohio and happened across the statistic "At the end of World War II, the Army Air Forces Training Command had graduated 250,000 pilots from its schools."

That's just the US Army, according to Wikipedia "in the period 1942 to 1945, the U.S. Navy produced 61,658 pilots"

In total that means the US had trained up over 300,000 pilots. Let's (perhaps generously) assume 2/3 of them survived the war and continued the pursuit, that's 200,000 pilots injected into the community with a certain taste for what flying is like, and there hasn't been, nor will ever be, another event to put that many people into the pilot's seat in a relatively short window of time.

rdj likes this.
17. Sep 30, 2019

gtae07

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There's a huge regulatory (read: financial) disincentive to improvement in aviation.

The FAA insists (for reasons that, IMHO, date back to "the way things were in the CAB days" where big airplane technology and little airplane technology differed very little) that an airplane is an airplane. Quite a number of the regulations regarding maintenance and equipment certification don't make a distinction between large and small airplanes, or airplanes that carry stuff for hire and those that don't, and the FAA refuses to reconsider that view.

Thus, because there's only one set of rules for all airplanes, the rules have to cover all airplanes. That's why the (legal) training and qualification to work on your own C150 and Delta's 777s are the same. It's why that C150 and that 777 both need STCs and certified parts and TSOed equipment and all that other jazz; it's why the FAA gets down "in the business" of making both airplanes.

But back to the point, the one set of rules requires that (in the name of safety, of course) anything new has to be brought up to the latest rules. But the kicker is, anything existing does not, provided you keep making it under the same basic approval. The intended result is that the natural course of product improvement will result in higher safety standards over time, but of course the way the FAA wants you to react and the way everyone else actually reacts is different.

The FAA created a perverse incentive with that rule. As time goes on, the standard to meet gets higher, and the amount of "stuff" you have to do to show you meet the standard gets greater, too. All that costs lots of money, and it heavily distorts the "keep it the same vs. make improvement" decision in favor of making the same old thing--which is exactly what the FAA didn't want you to do. (this is also why Boeing got to the 737 MAX)

Economic stagnation and the resulting glut of serviceable fairly new airplanes drove demand way down, ending much of the development money for light aircraft. Making big improvements at that point meant spending lots of money to be recouped over small sales... or, just keep as much as you can the same, and minimize your NRE.

I think we're finally seeing some of these improvements, but they're being driven on the homebuilt side (which doesn't have to worry about mountains of certification paperwork and producing parts under FAA approval). EFIS capability that was bleeding edge in business jets when I started my career is now commonplace in homebuilts. Electronic ignition is mainstream and EFI is gaining traction.

18. Sep 30, 2019

Dan Thomas

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Must be renting something expensive like a Cessna 400/ttX. Getting hosed otherwise.

19. Sep 30, 2019

bmcj

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That’s it... you’re BANNED! You can start off a post like that, even if you go on to explain it later.

20. Sep 30, 2019

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