Yesterday I opened my e-mail and found my Aviation eBrief from AOPA. The news was fairly disturbing.
From Air Transport World, is the news that, “DOT Secretary LaHood reaffirms Obama’s NextGen commitment.”
The next headline read, “Column: Middle-class pilots are squeezed out of GA.” This from General Aviation News.
The third headline of note from FlightGlobal.com, “Cessna to increase investment in business jets.”
It would be one thing to see these three headlines independently, but seeing them together almost seems as if it is a death knell for the little airplane pilot.
When I saw the first headline about NextGen, the little kid side of me who loves technology got all excited. The sane side of me, the adult side, immediately began asking those really important and nagging questions such as, “Who is going to pay for this?” and, “How much is this going to cost me?”
There is also the feeling of airspace being closed off from “us” little airplane drivers. If you don’t have that new, expensive, and complicated piece of equipment, there are some places you cannot go.
Drew Steketee’s column for February 2, 2011 makes the point that general aviation once used to be for everyone. He illustrated the idea that many involved in general aviation and the 1960s and 70s were solidly middle class. As he puts it now, “Today much of GA looks like a Rich Man’s Game, as it did in the 1930s.”
Finally, from FlightGlobal.com, is the story that Cessna aircraft is “ramping up its business jets” to compete against Embraer’s jets. I liked Cessna a lot better when they were focused on building single-engine Cessna’s such as the 120, 140, 150, 170, 172, 175, 180, 182, 185, 190, 195, and last but not least, the 210.
Most of us could afford the lower end of that spectrum; later in life when the salaries increased, a few might even be able to afford one of those heavier singles.
We are all feeling the squeeze, some more than others. There is one thing for certain—aviation is not getting cheaper. Somehow, we are going to have to find a way to “watch our backs” to try to contain costs.
Some of the older pilots who use to fly are now leaving. They say they just cannot afford it anymore.
Somehow, I think too many have bought into the idea flying is supposed to be expensive. We have to remember it is not about going fast, burning a lot of gas, and paying through the nose.
© 2011 J. Clark