The state of our (dying) sport 2022

Homebuilt Aircraft & Kit Plane Forum

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KeithO

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Very high cost of entry on all fronts. Training, ownership and operation. Its cheaper to buy a Porsche than an airplane..... If one wants to simplify building then one has to go composite, except that the price of everything composite has risen so drastically. Then there is the engine problem. $37k for the most basic O-235 anyone ? $20+k for a Jabiru 3300 that wont make 1000 hours without needing a rebuild ? Dont even need to speak about the flight schools with their 1950's C150's for $110/hr and 2000 hours over manufacturers TBO. Or the alternate 180hp C172 for $130+/hr. I have recently met a lot of Aviation degree students from WMU who have rented SR20's for $200/hr not to mention twins at whatever that costs, trying to become ATP pilots. Lord knows where the money comes from.... Then the process of building hours to 1000+ so that they will get hired by an airline. 700*$130/hr = $91k if you try to rent your way there... After you got all your certificates.

At the same time, people have to want to do it or they wont. Too many just stare at the cell phone screen all day and dont even get out the building. Others possibly putting all their time and energy into building their careers. The value of the $ has dropped sharply, yet it still takes a lot of work and energy over a long time to get above $100k/yr. Even that that level, what does it cost for a car note or a house note and what is left afterward, especially if you have a couple of kids ?

There is no need to involve race in the comments above. People spend their money how they want and I can assure you some segments of the population care more about what sneakers and pants they wear than whether they own a home. About half the homes on our street are rentals and I can assure you that there is not a single renter driving a cheaper car than what my wife and I do and we are owners. No car we own has less that 120k miles on it and the Mercedes SUV we have cost us $13k. We are surrounded by Dodge Chargers, Lincolns, even the new Equinox is close to $35k.
 

KeithO

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I would also reccomend to the OP that he visit the equivalent of the EAA convention in Germany, where it takes place at Speyer anually. He may find the looks of that a great deal more shocking (I did when I was there) because it resembles a pancake breakfast of a local EAA chapter instead of a national gathering in one of the wealthiest European countries. But that is what you get with socialism, user fees (for takeoff and landing as well as any ATC following) and 22% vat if not more... And historically some of the most expensive energy prices in the world. Yet their leaders fly around for free in military jets just like ours do here in the USA....
 

Dan Thomas

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Most younger folks are busy working to feed families. And that's getting harder. Not much money left to build airplanes. If they're not working at all, they either aren't fit to fly or they have no ambition to fly or build.

When we started an EAA chapter in 1973 it was mostly older men. And it stayed that way for many years. That club has a few younger fellows in it now, but even then they're not all that short of 50.

Then there's the general decline in interest in private aviation. It takes work and money to get a pilot's license, and it's far easier to buy a boat and be on the water the same afternoon. The boat in the driveway is a status symbol. The airplane at the airport is invisible to the neighbors.

And of course, anytime a small airplane crashes or comes to any minor grief at all, the media instantly play it up and subtly portray the whole idea as dangerous and foolish, and the TV watching masses, as usual, believe everything they're told. Meanwhile, the carnage on the highways largely goes unreported because it's so common.
 

plncraze

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A pilots license is expensive. If one does the research one can build an airplane affordably. That means it won't be a kit. There are alternatives for engines. The VW Bug engine is too expensive but think Geo or Chevy. But then you have to build it and then find a place to operate. Quite a few hoops. You have to want it real bad!
 

Vigilant1

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There is a need to show a more inclusive public face. Not by demeaning or self-loathing by the demographic seen in the photo, but by making sure there is no barrier to entry based on race, gender,etc.
Agreed. There's no reason to believe that aviation will attract all demographic groups equally. If the doors are open and we are truly welcoming/encouraging to every individual with a desire to participate, that's sufficient (and preferable, IMO, to targeting demographic groups).
An observation without a recommendation: Is emphasizing the fun and excitement of aviation the best way to attract new adherents? I think it is probably necessary but not sufficient. Young people are swamped with ways to have fun and excitement, all of them easier and cheaper than flying (or building a plane). This hobby/sport is demanding. To be good requires effort, and you can continue learning and challenging yourself for your whole life. It's not a common skill, it will take effort to get proficient, but then you'll be a pilot.
I think that pitch might work, it is honest, and it promises youth something a little different.
 

KeithO

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A pilots license is expensive. If one does the research one can build an airplane affordably. That means it won't be a kit. There are alternatives for engines. The VW Bug engine is too expensive but think Geo or Chevy. But then you have to build it and then find a place to operate. Quite a few hoops. You have to want it real bad!
FYI, the current estimate on building a LongEz is about $45k. Scratch built from foam and fiberglass and it is a very small plane. Assuming a self rebuilt O-235 or maybe an O-320 if one can find one.
 

KeithO

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Here is the summer gathering of Germany's experimental aircraft association, the OUV. 110 aircraft in attendance in a country of 84+ million.

To make a comparison, when they celebrated St Martins day on 11 November, we had 30k guests in a town with a population of 1800. Experimental aviation is not a drop in the bucket in Germany.

1659140746797.png
 

Voidhawk9

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Aviation does not have the draw it once did.
As a kid, I used to collect little metal toy aircraft, sometimes in packs of 4. Nowdays, you would be hard pressed to even find aircraft toys in a store, though there are exceptions - I bought a 2" Rutan Boomerang recently(!!).

I was once employed full-time in aviation. No longer - it's just not worth it anymore, the job security certainly isn't there, and the last flying job I had, I MIGHT have broken even...
I'm not the only one I know who loves aviation, loves flying, but cannot justify a career in it.

Now I'll fly occasionally for fun in a rental while I try to find time and finances to finish by build.
 

Radicaldude1234

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Anecdotal evidence aside, if you look at the FAA's Pilot Demographics there are just as many pilots in the 30-40 age range, which I'm part of, as in the 40-50 and 50-60 ranges. 70+ starts dropping off because of age and 20-30 is lower because people are still figuring out other parts of their lives.

My interpretation of this is people only start to have enough disposable income in the 30-40 age range in order to have an active part in aviation. You guys don't see it because the kids can be annoying with their pop culture...but there's a small but vibrant aviation culture amongst the younger folks. So while aviation certainly isn't growing, it also certainly isn't dying.

I think a bigger problem is the racial and gender distribution of aviators: it's 90% white and mostly men.

I'm Asian and when I see another one of us, it's like seeing two unicorns at the same time. We make up less than 2% of the pilot population...and we still outnumber African Americans (1.6%) and Native Americans (0.2%)

It also amazes me that only 3.5% pilots are women....which means, if the gender distribution is equal amongst all races, there are about 50 female Native American pilots in the country and a pilot population of ~720,000

My point? Other than the bold and gee-whiz information....I'm not trying to make one. Be more involved with the community, inspire and spread the good word of aviation whomever you meet, I guess?
 

Toobuilder

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What day was that picture taken? Is it just possible that the younger folks are, you know... AT WORK?

I know what I've been doing for Osh week - working at a airplane factory by day and working in my hangar on my airplanes at night. Yes I'm over 50 now, but I've been doing this since my 20's.... Just like all my (now 50+ year old) friends.

GA is only dead if you let it die. Not at my house.
 

KeithO

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At the same time, the % of Tesla's owned by young Asian men must be off the charts based on my personal observations. Every Tesla I saw on a 4300 mile road trip was being driven by an Asian man from the state of CA. The closest I got to that state was Phoenix AZ. According to US statistics, 2019 Census data, the median household income of Asian Americans was $93,759, as compared to $71,664 for non-Hispanic whites. So it seems its not due to a lack of finances but other reasons keeping Asians out the hobby. Source Asian American - The Office of Minority Health
 

KeithO

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Jackson, MI
There is no history of anyone in my family being an aviator. I do recall there being some sort of town fair when I had just started high school and getting a ride in what must have been a C172 or 182. That was what sparked my interest in aviation, but in my home country there is no way that I could have afforded to get my PPL. Besides the cost I was generally working from 8am to 8:30pm 4 days a week, 3:30 on Friday and lucky if I got 2 weeks leave a year. This continued until I was 32, at which time I took a job in Germany. It was while in Germany from 2000-2003 that I started investigating what sort of airplane I might build which was when I bought RV-9 and RV-7 preview plans.

I was really interested in building a LongEz at that time, but had no heated shop where I could do a composite project. I did in fact do some experimentation with composites, epoxy and stitched UD fabrics to get a feel for what it is like doing a layup and wetting out different fabrics and found that the shaded side of the valley I was on was unsuitable for even small layups in the middle of summer without implementing a heating system. 1 divorce later and I sought work in the US since I was otherwise going back to ZA. Nov 2003 I landed in Detroit in a snowstorm.... 2004 to 2012 my employer went through a time of unprecedented expansion as we thrashed our competitors with better knowledge and better manufacturing but left me with little free time. Another divorce in 2012 and being assigned to a new facility in Dayton OH with a weekly commute through 2016 meant that I wasnt even home except to do my laundry and mow the grass before returning to Dayton and my hotel room......

2017 I met and started dating the woman who is now my 3rd wife. Much younger than me and mixed race. At this point in life my personal dream of flying is more or less over but now I have a secret weapon against old age because my wife can get her PPL and she is unlikely to have any disqualifying health issues for many years. Fast forward a few years and we have finally bought an airplane and found a CFI who travels in from out of town to train her at the local airport. Once she solos she can fly to an airport closer to his home town and save him the commute. She will be the first pilot in her extended family ever.

So it is possible to change things, but I think it happens at the personal level. Some sort of government grant or subsidy is not going to make meaningful change. Look at colleges buying $800k cirrus SR20s for pilot training. Then renting them for $200+ per hour to students who are borrowing money to pay their college fees. Why not LSA's for $120k instead ? Rent them for $75/hr. Eventually trickle down economics might have them enter the GA pool as used planes. The number of places where one can get LSA training in the state of Michigan can probably be counted on 1 hand, all hours from where I live.
 

Radicaldude1234

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At the same time, the % of Tesla's owned by young Asian men must be off the charts based on my personal observations. Every Tesla I saw on a 4300 mile road trip was being driven by an Asian man from the state of CA. The closest I got to that state was Phoenix AZ. According to US statistics, 2019 Census data, the median household income of Asian Americans was $93,759, as compared to $71,664 for non-Hispanic whites. So it seems its not due to a lack of finances but other reasons keeping Asians out the hobby. Source Asian American - The Office of Minority Health

Can confirm. I don't own one but I borrow a family member's a lot...they're just nice cars!

I hate to speak for all Asians (but will anyways because there' probably like 5 of us on here) and this is a bit anecdotal, but I think it's more than a little cultural: There seems be an obsession of using your excess income in "wise" and "practical" things which also double as status symbols. Real Estate is big and I think the only fun and fast thing you can justify as practical is pretty much a car. So I think you're more likely to see people of my ethnicity with a 6 bedroom house and $100k+ car than in an airplane. Also aviation is seen as more of a thrill seeking and needlessly dangerous activity.

So I'm currently on a fact finding mission: I just moved back to Los Angeles and I'm flying to various GA airports (it's surprising how tightly pack they are in this area) on weekends to talk with people and look for flying activities other than getting the hundred dollar burger. I've been surprised and hope to continue to be surprised by what I've found!
 

Dan Thomas

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How many women restore classic or antique cars?

How many women own and drive hotrod cars? (Or whatever one calls hotrods these days!)

How many women have a workshop in the basement or garage?

How many women build boats?

How many women ride motorbikes?

See, there are distinct differences in interests between the sexes. Maybe that's not politically correct these days, but I see it everywhere. Women could easily do all those things above, if they had the interest, but most don't. A few do, and they usually do it well. We had female flight students at the school, maybe 10 or 15% of the enrolment, and they did just fine. They were easier on the airplanes than the guys were, and they didn't show off or take stupid chances. Testosterone does that to some guys. Not so much to women. The women also did as well as the guys, or better, in my Aircraft Systems classes. They often did better because they actually studied the textbook and didn't assume they already knew it all like so many of the guys did, and got higher scores on the assignments. I liked that.

Because so few women are in homebuilding, and in flying in general, the few that show up at a club meeting are likely to feel badly out of place among all those guys. Even if they try to make her feel welcome, it has to be done the same way as with a new guy, or she'll feel some condescension. She might not return.
 
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