COMMENTARY / POSITION REPORT
Is Aviation Still Relevant?
How strong is the passion for flight?
IS AVIATION STILL RELEVANT? That is a provocative
question. For most of you, the answer is a resounding
“Yes!” For those who have been involved with flying
for decades, your response might be, “How can you
even ask such a question?” But for new entrants to the
aviation community, how strong are your feelings?
Today, with the wide variety of activities competing
for our time and money, is recreational aviation still
relevant? Is the passion for flight as strong as it was 30
or 40 years ago?
Let’s address a few facts:
• The number of active pilots
today is down 25 percent (more
than 200,000) from previous highs.
• Aircraft sales and deliveries
have dropped significantly.
• Aircraft manufacturers are
facing challenging and difficult
economic conditions, which
include reduced workforces.
• Few, if any, new airports
are being built, while the list of
current airports gets smaller.
On top of this, the airline
industry will be facing a severe
shortage of pilots in the next five
to 10 years. The current training
infrastructure and stifling government regulations
will make it difficult, if not impossible, to fulfill the
What’s happening to aviation? Is there apathy
regarding aviation’s value, which, compounded by
the economy, has led to this severe downturn? Or
is there a deeper cause that we are overlooking? If
there is, what are we going to do about it…and more
importantly, who will do it?
I want to clearly state—aviation is relevant and
important! We cannot let the current state of affairs
continue. Is there a magic answer, a silver bullet that
will solve everything? No. But to turn things around,
we have to be focused on an outcome that we all
believe in. That outcome is a growing and engaged
That sounds good, but how are we going to do
it? Why haven’t we done something already? This
column will be the start of a dialogue over the next few
months on a subject of great importance to you and me:
Let me set the stage by saying that EAA AirVenture
Oshkosh 2010 was a major example of the importance
and relevance of aviation for all of us. This year we
faced the most challenging weather conditions in our
history. On opening day I observed something that in
my wildest dreams I could never imagine. Literally,
there were no airplanes in the general aviation
parking area where normally there would be 1,500
to 2,000! “Oshkosh” was in jeopardy, but the passion
and dedication of EAA members, pilots, enthusiasts,
volunteers, and the industry overcame insurmountable
obstacles to make Oshkosh 2010 a success. Your
actions demonstrated aviation is valuable and that it
needs to engage new participants. That is one of the
primary missions of AirVenture.
Let’s go back to the beginning and evaluate the issues
and how we are going to either solve them or develop
alternatives that will offset the negative perceptions
that are hindering aviation’s growth. There are going to
be many opinions and ideas. That’s good, because these
ideas will spawn solutions. The answers will come from
those who are willing to expend the dedicated efforts and
resources needed to make a difference.
That’s where EAA steps in. We are an organization
that has invested in the future. Young Eagles is a prime
example. Today, expectations placed upon EAA by
members and the industry are greater than ever before.
Our resources such as Oshkosh, EAA chapters, and a
dedicated membership have demonstrated that we can
make an impact, but we must do more.
Next month I will share insights on why aviation
participation has declined and what investments EAA
has made to counter this trend. I will review how these
investments will impact the future.
In the future I will ask you to share your thoughts
and opinions. We can no longer sit on the sidelines.
We need to grow participation in aviation. EAA and its
members will play a leading role in doing that!