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We would like to ask for your opinion on this response or the editorial. What are your thoughts? (use this link -- mention what its about -- inlcude the name of the editorial and the response author).

  Kim Helliwell Responded

I read the editorial, and I read all the responses to date. Here are some of my thoughts:

I agree that aviation is still mired in the 50's in a lot of ways. It's unfortunate that the elitist attitude exists in aviation at all; certainly any flying club that is trying to get business cannot afford that attitude. And, I fear, any of them that cannot give up that attitude will die as a business The editorial and many responses deplore the high cost of flying. While I do, also, I think there are a number of factors: ridiculous liability lawsuits; FAA regulations; anti competitive situations, community concern over noise, you name it. All those factors add to the cost of flying. Very few of these factors are in the direct control of pilots or the aviation community. Much of it comes from the more general liability picture in this country and world-wide. The "deep-pockets" tort law is ridiculous, unfair, and very much alive in this country, and 18-year liability rules to patch this up are not nearly enough of a fix, even if Cessna thinks so. Supply and demand rule in this industry as in all others. Someone who responded asked who could afford the "new" $140,000 Cessna 172? Unfortunately for that person, the answer is that many people can. Cessna apparently has been able to sell all they can make. If they couldn't, they'd either lower the price until they could, or else they'd stop making them. It's really as simple as that! It would be wonderful if some aircraft manufacturer could come up with a design for a simple, utilitarian airplane that could be designed, manufactured, certified, and sold for $50,000. I bet many of us would jump at the chance to buy such a plane, especially if it had a ceiling, range, and carrying capacity that made it reasonable for transportation. It would, of course, have to have all the avionics to make it certifiable as an IFR aircraft. Unfortunately for us pilots, nobody (so far!) has been able to come up with this winning formula. And I'm realistic enough to accept that it probably won't happen: if it were easy, it would have been done already. It's not just hard, it's probably impossible. The "solution" to the high cost of flying proposed is a way to amortize the cost of lessons over a period longer than the lessons take. I think that this idea is flawed, since presumably one wants to continue flying after getting the ticket. One wants to go on to an instrument rating, or learn to fly complex (or just different) aircraft. My flying career since earning my PPL a 1.8 years ago has been a procession of checkouts in various aircraft, instrument lessons, and *occasional* pleasure flights. If I couldn't afford primary training to start with, how could I afford all that? The sad fact is: anyone embarking on flying really needs to count the cost, and should be given the true facts concerning those costs. The sad fact is: if you want to be safe flying, and you want to go use GA flying as a means of transportation, you probably need to spend $3-5K a year flying to stay current. If you can't afford to do that, maybe gliding (I think that's somewhat cheaper, at least!) or ultralights, or the flight simulator is what you need to stick with. Or even para- or hang gliding! I understand you can get completely outfitted with a rig for hang gliding plus lessons for around $4-5K, essentially a one-time cost that amortizes over the rest of your flying career. AOPA's current push to "sell" flying will probably help bring a few new pilots to the business. It certainly cannot hurt. But I think there should be a more general push, that seeks to educate the general public about flying. The public needs to understand that GA is not just a rich man's hobby, it's where the captains and first officers of the commercial planes they fly are going to come from in the next generation (especially with the military cutbacks!). People need to understand that closing GA airports next door to them because of noise is pretty much the same as eating the seed corn. I personally have both the fortune and misfortune of maintaining two expensive, technical hobbies that are ill-understood by the general public: Ham Radio and Flying. The parallels between these two are interesting. Ham radio experiences continuous threats to its band allocations ("frequency spectrum"), while GA experiences continuous threats to close airports and other facilities. Ham must deal with restrictive laws governing the height of their antennas, or even their ability to put one up at all, while GA fights restrictive noise regulations and encroachments on airport approaches. The public understands neither of these activities. Hams are the antisocial beings who put up those ugly antennas and interfere with their TV viewing; while pilots are those antisocial rich creatures who fly over the house at full power on take-off and wake them up on Saturday morning! Hams are trying to educate the general public about the public benefits of ham radio (and there are many, even in these days of cell phones). Pilots should do the same. Hams have a tradition of volunteering for disaster aid. I think pilots do also, but it's a bit more muted and this "tradition" could be developed a bit more. And both groups should trumpet to the skies the accomplishments and the benefits to society of their activities. Education of the general public is the key to long-term viability of either of these activities. GA really has a story to tell, if it's only the economic footprint in the local community! Ham radio is a piker compared with GA in this regard. We need to tell the story, loud, long, and continually!

Kim Helliwell



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