HAI Convention News

GA Association Presidents Lead Town Hall Session

 - February 13, 2012, 7:42 PM

The leaders of eight general aviation advocacy associations shared one stage yesterday morning here at Heli-Expo. They included: Ed Bolen, National Business Aviation Association (NBAA); Pete Bunce, General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA); Peggy Chabrian, Women in Aviation International (WAI); Jim Coyne, National Air Transportation Association (NATA); Paula Derks, Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA); Craig Fuller, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA); Rod Hightower, Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA); and Matt Zuccaro, Helicopter Association International (HAI).

The group held a town hall-type forum in which they presented summaries of their particular missions and their current concerns, and also discussed how they overlap in the best interests of all GA. They then took questions from the audience.

Though their individual constituencies’ issues may vary, the combined message from the leadership was one of unity and cooperation.

HAI president Matt Zuccaro anchored the panel, and shared some of the cooperative efforts that members of the individual association might not be aware of. Later, he gave the example of HAI’s first visit to EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, and how that experience broadened his appreciation of the roles EAA, and all the other advocacy groups, play in supporting rotorcraft.

Ed Bolen (NBAA) suggested that supporters of general aviation at all levels embrace this election year as a chance to reach out to those who support aviation, and also use “our voices and our votes” to send a message to those whose positions are not consistent with aviation’s best interests.

“Over the past five years, we’ve faced several challenges,” said Bolen. “User fees, economic challenges and image issues; we’ve faced those challenges in a coordinated and cohesive manner, and those who tried to divide us have not been successful. This is a year in which we have the opportunity to influence how we ‘decide who the deciders are.”

Bolen said that, overall, one in three members of Congressmen of the House and Senate aviation caucuses, and two out of three governors have actively shown their support for general aviation in their states. He suggested visiting NBAA’s Web site to learn more about which legislators support our industry, “…and vote,” he said.

Pete Bunce (GAMA) said his association had decided last year to open its organization to rotorcraft manufacturers for the first time. (As did all the panelists, he also congratulated HAI for a dynamic and vibrant Heli-Expo.) He suggested that funding issues with the FAA have compromised its ability to keep pace with the certification process. Technological progress is being compromised by a lack of ability to receive approval for new and improved products.

“We can demand changes in how the FAA works,” Bunce said. “We can demand that they streamline the process of bringing a product to market. No one is more concerned with safety than those who fly and manufacture these machines.”

Jim Coyne (NATA) characterized his organization as representing general aviation’s smaller businesses. “We’re like the small business chamber of commerce for general aviation,” he said.

After expressing his frustration with the current Administration’s well-publicized negative characterization of general aviation, Coyne stressed how much of the general public does not realize the benefits GA brings to the country as a whole. “We need to bring that message to Washington,” he said, “and we won’t succeed unless we work together.”

Craig Fuller (AOPA) warned that the pilot population is declining, even as the general population is increasing. “From a business standpoint, we’ll be facing a pilot shortage,” he said.

According to AOPA research, between 70 and 80 percent of student pilots do not receive a pilot certificate. “That is not acceptable,” he said.

AOPA conducted follow-up research that revealed 47 specific factors that increase the likelihood of successful completion of flight training. AOPA then added a section to its Web site that “spotlight the things that work,” Fuller said.

Paula Derks (AEA) discussed advances in avionics over the past decade, with a proliferation of glass panels and other exciting technology for all aircraft types providing ever-more situational awareness. She said, “The economy slowed, but avionics research didn’t. The challenge, now, is in getting certified.”

Peggy Chabrian (WAI) remarked that this is the first year WAI is exhibiting at Heli-Expo. Over the past three years WAI has co-opted with EAA to form a “WomanVenture” element to AirVenture Oshkosh; AOPA’s Summit has “Women’s Wings;” and WAI has initiated a “Bring your daughter” program in relation to several aviation events.

“We need more pilots,” said Chabrian. “So we need to reach out to 10- and 11-year-old girls to show them what is possible for them in aviation.”

Rod Hightower (EAA) stressed EAA’s role as a champion of outreach, much of it on a volunteer basis. Over its 20-year history, EAA’s Young Eagles program has provided first flights for 1.6 million youngsters, which “has generated 18,000 pilot certificates, 2,900 CFIs, 1,900 A&Ps and 356 air traffic controllers, Hightower said.

He also stressed the importance of EAA’s Chapter Network (900 groups strong) in local outreach to the non-aviation public. “EAA’s chapters are a social center, but also a key enabler of outreach efforts at all levels.”


Regarding a "pilot shortage", the same thing could be said for lotsa other professions that require either higher education and/or experience......and what that means in a capitalistic society (which I think we still are...) is that the market demand for pilots will (should) result in increased wages. When I think about the skill and responsibility that is levied upon many of our regional pilots nowadays, in light of the wages they are getting, I sense a "disconnect".....and forget about the flight instructors who are the "mentors" of our future aviators...that's seems to me to be the last bastion of slave labor in the U.S. My business sense, as well as common sense, tells me that much of the prevalent wage imbalance in professional flying is associated with an "overabundance", not a "shortage" of pilots. And if we're talking about the shortage of private/recreational pilots, well we needn't look much further than the exhorbitant cost of fuel.

Well put, denny, there's way more that needed to be addressed decades ago......the 'lobby' had been advised; the fed is 'tone deaf' to recommendations already passed to them, (ie. extending medicals validity periods; regional gov academies to produce a quality civvy instructor corps;) there's more that was never acted upon......and you now see the result (oh did I forget the 'economics of the US factor?)....... :=(

The reason we are running short of new pilots, could be that there is no type of
student aid to cover cost of flight training. I myself a veteran so the VA will pick up
the funding after I have receive the Private Pilot certificate, but until then, I have to pay out of pocket to earn my Pilot Certificate. For Example, here is a general
listing of cost per-hour:

Cessna 172--100.00/hour
Flight Instructor--40.00 or 50.00/hour
AV Fuel--85.00/flight
Flight Simulator, 100.00-400.00/hour, depending on the simulator type.

If the student pilot wants to move up the scale to complex aircraft most cost.
There has to be a way the aviation industry can make the needed flight training
more affordable for aspiring students and anyone with a dream of flying.

This, completely. It seems any time the "failing" student population is address, the issue of cost is avoided. Cost and time are probably the two biggest obstacles to completion.

and btw... I'll believe a pilot shortage when regionals offer attractive pay and work rules. I'll believe it when airlines are offering paid training from zero or full scholarships to colleges with flight programs.

-McDonald's- has scholarships for their employees. I work for a major airline, and what do we have? Nada. (Granted McDonald's probably pulls a much higher profit)

Dennis, has it right. A pilot shortage from what perspective, professional, i.e., airline and corporate or general aviation?

As a former airline pilot with 22 years of experience at a Part-121 carrier, the profession has been experiencing a decade of decline. It is no longer the desirable profession it once was. Why work for an airline that will treat you like a teenager when you can go to work for a Facebook and turn into an instant millinare working a keyboard?

As to general aviation, it is overly expensive, regulated laided area and it is only going to get more expensive and regulated - the Obama administration will see to that! $100 to file an IFR flight plan. Watch the GA accident rate launch as folks push VFR to a whole new level.

The recreation pilot has been quite helpful but there is no practical use other than to go on sight seeing trips.

As to the shortage of professional pilots - it is about time!
Sorry to be so negaitve but, after taking paycuts and having my pension stolen just so I can line the pockets of management, what can you expect?

I share some of the above posters sentiments.

Dennis said;
“I sense a "disconnect".....and forget about the flight instructors who are the "mentors" of our future aviators...that's seems to me to be the last bastion of slave labor in the U.S. My business sense, as well as common sense, tells me that much of the prevalent wage imbalance in professional flying is associated with an "overabundance", not a "shortage" of pilots. And if we're talking about the shortage of private/recreational pilots, well we needn't look much further than the exhorbitant cost of fuel.”

Unfortunately the disconnect starts with the lack of education. The professional pilot associations around the country, ALPA etc, really need to inform the pilot candidates of the cost associated with obtaining the training and experience necessary to qualify for an ATP certificate. They also need to emphasize that the average regional pilot and most of the majors require 17 days a month away from home on behalf of the Companies interests. (17 days = 408 hours away, 255 hours of possible duty time all for 75-80 hours of flight time pay)
Also one must factor in the additional days commuting to and from work on your days off. This all adds up to a major commitment for very little in return.

In years past the average pilot probably spent 10 or so years working for poverty wages before he or she arrived at a major. Today with the industry able to exert pressure on wages as they have been able to do, the average individual can expect to work for very little for 20 years.

The main point that needs to be broadcast is the amount per Duty Hour a pilot can expect to make.

Sadly a regional first officer can only expect to make $10-$15 per duty hour. Many have second full time jobs to make ends meet. Never mind paying off that Fifty Thousand plus dollar education loan. No wonder so many are exhausted most of the time.

A regional captain can only expect to make $30-$35 per duty hour.
The same is true for a narrow body first officer at a major like US Air, American etc.

Only the top 10% or so of the major airline Captains make what the public thinks every pilot makes. I am speaking of the wide body pilots with the Trans-Atlantic routes.

As the original poster said; flight instructors are the last bastion of ‘slave laborers.’

What other business in this country is permitted to require 15 hours from labor and only pay them for an average of 5 hours?

Craig Fuller (AOPA):
warned that the pilot population is declining, even as the general population is increasing. “From a business standpoint, we’ll be facing a pilot shortage,” he said.

He should have further explained that the reasons for the expected shortage.!

If a pilot shortage is around the corner, it is about time !


Spot on. The sad part is that many instructors, FBOs, institutions, and others, expect students to "know" this when they start, but there's no reasonable way they can. Then they abruptly "stop" or become unmotivated, but can anyone blame them? Someone has to have the guts to tell them "how it is", and if they can pay their way through or they just want it that bad, that is fine and I have no problem with it, but I do have a problem when people blame the instructors and institutions as "just wanting to make money off of students". Yes, they are businesses, but there is something wrong on a very basic level with this industry, and they need to get this information somehow.

As expensive as earning a Private Pilot certificate might seem ($8-9K typical) it is a personal educational investment that lasts a lifetime. Is this economically out of reach for most working middle class earners? Few people think twice about financing a car that costs three times that amount yet lasts only a few years. Consider what you spend each month on cable TV, cell phones, high-speed internet, restaurants, entertainment, sports (golf, games, whatever) and all that other nice-to-have stuff you didn't really need. It's all how you prioritize.

Pilot shortage? The General Aviation community does a dismal job of cultivating new blood except within its own inbred circles. The average person today learns about GA only through tabloid media, where we are depicted as as rich elitists, crash-prone morons, or even potential terrorists. You can't expect intelligent people to spend their time and money to join a group like that.

As for thinking that we should cultivate an even greater shortage of pilots just to create demand and push up wages - the likely result would be the end of general aviation. Without new blood and the political influence of numbers, GA will either be taxed to death, regulated to the point of uselessness, or both. In an era when technology already exists to replace human airplane drivers altogether, a handful overpriced whiny pilots would only accelerate the end of their jobs.

Sure, one could finance a car that might last a few years, but that car is being used
everyday. People do not fly as much as they drive. So yes the flight training if one can afford it, will last a lifetime. Investing in a home will last a lifetime also. One can receive financial aid in the purchase of a home, but there is no financial aid for flight training.

Aurthur, there is most definitely financing available for flight training, whether or not that's a good idea is up to you. If you're financing it so you can earn 20K/yr at a regional airline, probably a bad idea. If you're doing it so you can buy/build a plane or join a local flying club, probably a good idea. Mostly comes down to what you can afford.

Hello James, I'm learning to

Hello James, I'm learning to fly not to work for an airline, but to fly my Wife and I
during our Christian Education Ministry with our Church. Now I'm a veteran, so
the Department of Veteran's Affairs would pay for the flight training if I'm trying to get my Instrument rating, or a Commercial Pilot Certificate. The issue here is, the student pilot must have at least a Private Pilot Certificate in order to advance in their career. The VA will not pay for a Private Pilot Certificate so I have to pay out of pocket.

But there are loans, yes? Heck, I know there are because I got some. Are you looking to do it for free? I used the VA to help pay for some of my training, but no "free rides" like some of the students have had in the last few years. Kind of hard to figure out what you are asking. Why isn't the ministry dedicated to a pilot-pipeline (conducts training to ensure that they will have pilots for their missions)? Seems like there are far more important issues than "private pilot liscense is expensive". It's always been that way, and there are ways to minimize the cost, as well as if you are really good at studying (and simply being a pilot, doing the research, being prepared, etc), you can cut it way down. What's the issue?

Why would you ask, Are you looking for it for free?
Free Money does not exist, now I'm in the process of applying for a Grant, now if you can direct me to a lender who works with student pilots getting a load for flight training then let me know. Otherwise, keep your insulting comments to yourself.

James, if you had read my response carefully, you would have seen that my Wife and I have a Christian Education Ministry with our church, Plus, It's been my dream to fly since I was a kid.

The cost of GA flying has escalated rapidly at a time when people are having to make tough economic decisions about basic needs like food and shelter. As Mr Diggs points out, aircraft rental for a basic single engine GA aircraft has priced many out of flight training and GA flying (rental rates start at $127/hour at our local FBO). Just 20 years ago, a primary training aircraft could be rented for $30-40/hr (wet). It lacked a lot of the "bells and whistles" and the hi-tech glass cockpit which meant the emphasis was on mastering basic "stick and rudder" skills instead of heads down gadget play.

The light sport category was supposed to fill the cost gap between the increasingly expensive 4 seat single engine GA aircraft and a 40-50 year old beat up trainers held together with duct tape and ty-wraps. Unfortunately the majority of the LSA's came to market at well over $100K for the striped down models.

For those of us who own an aircraft, the cost of maintenance is a relative bargain compared to a few hours of high dollar rental flying. That may soon change as the new avionics mandates of the next gen ATC system roll out in 2020 forcing many owners of older GA aircraft to spend 25% or more of their aircraft's value to do nothing more than to replace the functionality of the soon to be obsolete transponder already in the aircraft's panel. Many will decide to hang it up at that point.

Each year I struggle to justify the cost of flying a GA aircraft for non business purposes. At some point I will come to the conclusion that the cost has risen beyond bearable and will hand a "for sale" banner on the prop and hope to recoup at least a portion of my sunk cost.

I know we can't turn back the clock but unless something is done to keep the now nearly $200K C-172 from approaching a half million dollars, we'll see fewer and fewer pilots taking to the GA skies.

Lets see ...the "new & improved" C-172-SP, recently reviewed in Flying magazine: a single engine, 4 place, fixed gear, fixed prop, basic, simple low HP "light airplane". One whose basic airframe has been around for over half a century and whose R & D, tooling and most all other initial development costs have long since been paid for many times over, decades ago (essentially a (very) old airframe with a few tweaks, and upgraded to some modern avionics (which also should cost substantially less than their steam gauge, analog counterparts) ...all this for ONLY $300,000+ ?!?!? Oh, but you can get the venerable old "new & improved" Piper Archer for about the same price! But wait! ...you can get a shiny new Carbon Cub; an even simpler TWO place, fixed gear, fixed prop, basic, simple low HP "LIGHT SPORT" airplane" with a basic avionics package for the bargain price of just under 200K!!
Of course, Cessna has finally thrown (sort of) the fledgling new "Mom & Pop" Flight School a bone in the form of a 21st. Century "trainer"; the C-162 Skycatcher; available for the much more REASONABLE "base price" (just recently increased!) of 150K! ...which means they should be able to afford at least 3 or 4 of em! The C-172 was available, in 1980, IFR equipped, for the low 30's (aprox. 90K in today's dollars) In 1979 the C-152 went for just under 20K (55K today)

Now, throw in the over inflated (and ever increasing) costs of fuel, insurance, maintenance and all the other miscellaneous operating expenses and ask yourself; How can even an "Upper" Middle Class, "Above" Average Joe afford/justify such a purchase (especially after tacking all those actual operating expenses) How can such a sums for such airplanes ever be (reasonably) justified?? And we (and AOPA) wonder why new pilot certification is half what it was just two decades ago?? Why (aircraft) rental rates have gotten beyond the reach of most would be Sunday Flyers? What could possibly be causing this decline in our beloved activity??

Most of Europe and all of present day Asia have no such thing as "General Aviation" ...solely because of the prohibitably expensive costs. Their citizens have been coming here to pursue that dream we've all been taking for granted! Active participation in our wonderful world of "Flight" here in the USA has always been (relatively) on the expensive side, and up until now has remained the best (and only) place on the planet to do so. But take another really honest look at the math. Even if we tack on another 50% (a very conservative/generous estimate) to account for the uncontrolled explosion of all the greed laden "Product Liability" suits many (airplane manufacturers) have had to endure these last couple of decades (about the ONLY thing Cessna, Piper ect. can legitimately claim to have been "victimized" by) ...we should be looking at somewhere around $135 - 140,000 for our present day C-172. ...hmm.

In the late 70's, I struggled to put myself through school (let's not even get started on the costs of a college degree these days!) and pay for (mostly through loans) my flight training to pursue a dream of being a Professional Pilot. 35 years later, after having been fortunate to have flown everything from parachutes to 747's, this subject has been a particular heartbreak for me, as I seriously doubt I could succeed in that endeavor today ...and wonder how today's young folks ever could as well.

I'm afraid these greedy times we're a livin' and the exponential rate at which that expense is accelerating, will only serve to hasten the time when the final nails are driven. We're killing "General Aviation" in this country ...made it solely a "Rich Mans" sport. "Why" ...the Pilot shortage?? ...very sad indeed.

Hello James, I'm learning to fly not to work for an airline, but to fly my Wife and I
during our Christian Education Ministry with our Church. Now I'm a veteran, so
the Department of Veteran's Affairs would pay for the flight training if I'm trying to get my Instrument rating, or a Commercial Pilot Certificate. The issue here is, the student pilot must have at least a Private Pilot Certificate in order to advance in their career. The VA will not pay for a Private Pilot Certificate so I have to pay out of pocket.

There are some very good comments on this thread so far. While I completely agree that the cost of attaining the required/desired pilot certificates may be prohibitive, there are a couple of other factors that haven't been mentioned that are going to play into the equation.
The mandatory age 65 retirement rule - this change a few years ago meant that many of the pilots at the airlines that would have retired at 60, stayed on beyond that which created a bubble and backed up the pipeline for upward advancement of younger, less experienced pilots. I've read that approximately 1,500 of the estimated 3,000 pilots that would have retired each year did not do so. That is 1,500 less slots that would have opened for some pilots to upgrade to captain, and create a vacancy that would have allowed a pilot at a regional to move up to the majors, which means that a young pilot could have finally gotten his foot in the door at an airline, etc.
The good news is that as those pilots that stayed behind will now start hitting 65 and there will finally be an additional 1,500 or so more pilot positions open up each year more than there has been recently. But wait! Don't forget that congress mandated that the FAA raise the requirement for getting hired by the airlines to 1,500 hours - or be an ATP or qualified to get an ATP certificate.
This rule will take effect in 2013 just after the floodgates open from the previous rule that has held up hiring for the past few years have opened. So, you wanna be an airline pilot? Get into the pipeline at a part 121 carrier before the 1,500 hour rule takes effect. Otherwise, you can be guaranteed to struggle to build the requisite hours before even qualifying to be considered for a spot with a part 121 carrier.
I submit that this will increase the incidence of the flight instructor who is using the teaching position to build hours. This leads to a decrease in the quality of instruction given, and very often contributes to the student losing interest. How many times have we heard the horror stories of the student who went through several instructors because they got hired away? I question the wisdom of requiring that a pilot meet the minimums for ATP before he/she can be considered for employment at a part 121 carrier. Imagine that you could possibly have a pilot that has 1500 hours of which 1200 were training primary students and no commercial flying experience. Is that pilot better than a 300 hour pilot trained to air carrier standards? Any bad habits that instructor may have developed will be deeply embedded and will be harder to get rid of. This could pose a hard if the habit is one that doesn't show itself until an emergency arises and the student falls back on that bad habit instead of taking the appropriate action.
I tend to agree that the training process needs to be revamped as has been suggested by earlier posters and change the training paradigm from being mostly a time-building stepping stone to a more professional one of the experienced aviators training the future pilots.

If anyone has seen any of the recent news, the airlines just recorded the lowest levels of passenger traffic in 10 years. This is not suprising, as "right sizing" has been a huge problem for the airlines in the past. Think about what is happening with teleconfrencing getting better and other eletronic media. Maybe there'll be more people in the world, but to say the demand for air travel is going to go up is a little ambitious, there are lots of factors pushing it the other way. The demand for cheap tickets will always be there, but is that real demand that pays for all of the associated costs with operating the business? (training, employees, services, capital costs, etc). It's kind of like saying that there's a huge demand for $5000 new cars, well no kidding, but it's also not realistic at that pricepoint because so many things would cease to work, as they have with the airlines.

The age-65 rule isn't going to cause a huge "pilot shortage", a huge "shortage" has almost never happened. The demand for air travel would have to go up hugely, but regional airlines can often do the same trips cheaper and undercut the majors, so while people will retire, it will be cheaper for airlines to farm out those routes to regionals, who are paying pilots 20-40K.

I see a slowdown in IFR training if we use the ATC system @ $100.00 per shot.

Pilot Shortage??
So be it!! The industry needs a pilot shortage. . . . . maybe then, better economic standards will return to that of which the pilot used to have!

I've just spent $429.97 for a two-day Ground-School training to get a Private
Pilot Knowledge Exam,write-off. I took the exam, that was with a $150.00 fee, Now, I did passed, so I paid out of pocket, $579.97 just to take the equivalent of a written exam for the chance to get more flight training in order to add up the Hours
needed to earn the Private Pilot Certificate.

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