Following the Pipistrel thread which it's fair to say went a bit off topic, there were some insightful observations on the way GA is seen in the US and Europe. The manner in which GA is administered in the US relative to Europe (whether it be in licencing or maintenance or pretty much anything else) appears to be far more balanced and, for want of better words, reasonable and fair.
So why is it that GA is such an apparent whipping boy in Europe, whereas it isn't in the US? It would be interesting to hear views from both sides of the Atlantic.
Without getting too deep into cultures, my overriding view is that I think American's have a more free and easy can do attitude and embrace all that is good (like flying). In Europe people are generally more bogged down in beaurocracy and over-regulation and sometimes it's about squeezing everything that is good out of everything (just think Brussels and European Parliament), until it cant be reversed and its a dead duck. Obviously thats a very sweeping statement, and I (being a European) try to fight that and try to think more openly like I perceive Americans to do.
My impression is that GA has a strong lobby group in the US whereas here it is seen as the poor cousin.
My two pence/cents etc.
People and small businesses in the US had the resources to fly their own aircraft by the 30s, when US government was less expansive and had less resources. That's when the US regulatory die was cast. Private aviation made particular sense there and then, because distances were great and US roads were poor. Better for everybody that government helped GA grow.
Meanwhile, private aviation was not as useful in pre-war Europe due to geography, better roads and complex political boundaries. Then the lack of post-war wealth stalled GA development and governments sold off airport land. 1950s and 60s European aircraft designs were done like military aircraft (the experience of their designers)and weren't competitive. Aircraft and pilot regulation was likewise modeled on the military with its emphasis on the young, and intolerance for individual action or initiative. As time passed the scope of government grew and grew worldwide, and without a existing, developed regulatory system in Europe this invited still more aviation regulation. Microlights, largely beneath the radar of European regulation and clearly not military, offered some hope starting in the 90s.
Envy as it exists in Europe doesn't help either, or how its reflected in government policies and funding.
Obviously thats a very sweeping statement....
Well...the OP was a pretty sweeping question
Without getting too deep into cultures, my overriding view is that I think American's have a more free and easy can do attitude and embrace all that is good (like flying).
Well, I'd say it's mainly the size and influence of the interest group. Germany for example is car country and you can see how strong the lobby is. Autobahns without speed limit, good infrastructure, low tax on cars, even a tax system that encourages buying new cars every 2-3 years etc. Whenever Brussels wants to introduce a HP/displacement/CO2-dependent tax, there is massive pushback from everyone in charge.
GA has very few supporters and -- worst of all -- it is a shrinking market.
Then the lack of post-war wealth stalled GA development and governments sold off airport land. 1950s and 60s European aircraft designs were done like military aircraft (the experience of their designers)and weren't competitive.
The peak of GA in Europe was in the late 70s, not pre-war. Of course you're right that WWII stalled GA and aviation in Europe. Until the war, Europe was on par if not ahead of the US in aircraft development. After the war it took until the 1980s and a huge political and financial effort to setup Airbus as a viable competitor to the US aircraft industry.
As to GA, the utility value is just not there anymore. A very small percentage of business trips can benefit from GA these days. Fast trains and cheap airlines are widespread. Europe is densely populated, there isn't a lot of backcountry.
Also don't forget that much of the innovation in small aviation is from Europe these days. The US played almost no role in the microlight development and continued to mostly stick to 1950s designs. New engines are from Europe (Rotax, Thielert, Diamond, SMA) and there are companies like Pipistrel.
Also don't forget that much of the innovation in small aviation is from Europe these days
This is true. As much I hate to see it, you can't blame the US manufacturers for doing this - for them there is no need to innovate. You can just keeping knocking out the same old dross because the US public will buy it, invariably out a sense of blind patriotism. And few things are revered more in the US than patriotism, blind or otherwise. If the effect of this attitude isn't obvious, compare and contrast the output of the US car industry with non US car manufacturers. They still produce "supercars" in 2012 with leaf springs (groan)
Aviation is however also an even more conservative industry than car manufacturing. It isn't just GA where this is seen - it appears right up the commercial and military side of aviation as well. Prob fair to say aviation consumers are pretty conservative as well.
I think there are so many factors...
Probably one reason why GA customers are conservative is because some of the manufacturers have treated them so badly, over the decades.
The manufacturers themselves struggle because the pace of new product introduction is so slow that anybody with a brain is continually thumbing through job adverts. You might design a new GPS or whatever and then it might be 10 years before you get a chance to do the next one. Especially in the USA, where mobility of clever people is culturally high. 10 years pushing paper is a jail sentence if you are say 30 or 40 and you are bright, and it looks terrible on the CV. All the comms I've had with various US players (Honeywell comes to mind ) suggests that this is the case: they are desperately short of engineering resources, but if this "culture" extends all the way up (which it probably does) nobody is actually worried anymore.
I do think the Euro GA scene could be much improved, and this is why I spend so much time plugging away on various fronts (euroga.org being one of them). If the (say) 90% post-PPL attrition rate could be reduced by 10 percentage points (which can't be that hard) one would double the influx into the pilot population.
I think it has plenty to do with the politics of envy.
In Europe if you park a Rolls Royce in the street someone will probably run a screwdriver down the side of it saying " I'll teach the rich b****rd a lesson".
In the USA passers by would say "wow, thats a great car I'm gonna get one of those when I make it"