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How to increase GA activity?

In another thread the subject came up of US AOPA trying to do something about the declining pilot population in the USA.

The same thing has been happening in Europe too.

What do people here think are the main causes and what should be done, in Europe?

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

I wish I knew the answer. I think perhaps the cost of flying could be normalised, as there are varying prices even for the same type of aircraft, and its confusing for people considering to learn to fly as to what the real the real cost is, or they are suspicious when one club is £20 cheaper per hour than another. But then thats competition I suppose. That also then leads into a discussion about the 'you can get your license in 45 hours' claim.

However, I read a article in one of the flying mags (I cant remember which one but it was a large newspaper type one (not the Pilot and Flyer type)), and it displayed trends for the last 10 years, displaying licenses issued for NPPL, PPL, PPL/IMC, PPL/IR, CPL, ATPL and 2011/2012 has seen an incline. I dont know if thats because the rich really are getting richer (as Tory haters might suggest), or if we have seen the worst of the recession and there is more confidence in people.

I believe the cost of flying is indeed one of the major factors.

I feel it myself, and I am training at the moment. Many times I just thought of packing it in, it is hard to part away with £200 plus per hour, however the aviation bug is there and it is hard to say no, so I carry on at snails pace.

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EGKR

You are all spon on. The average age of the GA pilot is just beyond belief. I am 32 years old (and have been flying for 12 years now) and I often feel completely out of place at pilot conventions, etc. While cost is obviously a factor, there is not very much we can about it. Time, nowadays, is at least as much a factor, particularly with younger people, say between 24 and 38 years of age. Work and family are the overwhelming factors for people of that age.

One thing that I deem very important is the contribution every single one of us can make to spread general aviation into society (in a positive fashion) and to spread the passion, for example by giving away rides to people (for free please!). Usually, when preflighting your airplane for a flight, you can see at least a group of people watching from the fence. Most of them are usually enthusiasts and would love to take a flight in an airplane. If you're not in a hurry, go over and ask if someone would fancy a short bimble. I sure do this occasionally, and it is very rewarding. 15 minutes is more than enough (first time passengers tend to say "wow, that was only 15 minutes?...it sure did feel like a lot longer"...). Of course, you will have to be very gentle with first time passengers.

One thing that gets in the way a little is the worries pilots have taking the risks involved with taking unknown people up. In today's litiguous world, if you do something stupid on flight like this, it can really ruin your day...and then much more than that!

Anyway, unfortunately, as pilots we tend to "do our own thing" most of the time. But if we do so, we sure aren't supposed to wonder why no new piolts are coming. We just can't expect TV to attract people to general aviation. It won't happen.

Frankfurt (EDFZ, EDFE), Germany

Very much agree with all above.

However I think the hike in fuel price is a much more recent thing which doesn't explain the slow long term trend, and I think the reason for that is that today's young people are increasingly surrounded by easily accessible technology which delivers instant gratification. There are other factors too; for example having a "hobby" is seen as "not cool". I was in a radio ham club (OK1OFA) and today you would not be seen dead claiming that one

Taking people up and generally recruiting newcomers is a great thing to do but imagine what one could achieve if the huge attrition rate in PPL training could be reduced just a little bit.

According to folklore and the occassional UK CAA commentator, of the order of 90% drop out within the first couple of years.

If the 90% was reduced by just 10 percentage points, the feed rate into GA population would double!

So why do people drop out? That's a whole new topic.

Clearly money is a major factor. But one should be able to work out the affordability before commencing the lessons.

Change of personal circumstances e.g. children arriving (and the budget tightening, or the wife tightening the screws due to the extra responsibility ) is a big one. I've seen several people drop out due to that.

Boredom due to limited access to aircraft of adequate condition and with limited ability to take abroad is another.

I think that mentoring is the best strategy for keeping people flying, but it is a politically sensitive topic because it involves what the flight training business sees as "unqualified" people going around and doing "training". Especially if you do it before the "customer" has finished their PPL But what's wrong with that? My younger son (16) has recently started his PPL but had already loads of flying experience.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Indeed a change of circumstances can affect ones commitment to flying, in my case my son came along.

I believe what Peter mentions is very true, a mentoring strategy would help greatly. I do have a friend a retired airline pilot who normally rents a DR400 from Redhill Aerodrome and I get to go on some trips with him occasionally, this has helped me immensely in the sense that he is able to transmit his knowledge to me when flying thus enabling me to learn some key skills. Also it helps motivation when one is unable to do flying lessons on a regular basis.

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EGKR

I forgot to add one point in terms of promoting GA. Every now and then I put a poster up on the staff retreat and canteen where I work promoting the local aerodrome and it's flying businesses, and also try to promote any other aviation events going around. It is a big company so I hope that I can even attract 0.1% to try some sort of flying.

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EGKR

I think that mentoring is the best strategy for keeping people flying, but it is a politically sensitive topic because it involves what the flight training business sees as "unqualified" people going around and doing "training".

All spot on. Mentoring is a great thing (for both sides) but it just isn't planted into our aeronautical culture. As we all know, many non-instructor private pilots are much better at "mentoring" people than instructors (and I am one!), but unfortunately, as you say, this is not encoraged by the system.

Frankfurt (EDFZ, EDFE), Germany

In France we have a government sponsored scheme to give young school students (aged 15-16) a first contact with the world of aviation. It's in the form of a course, a 90-minute lesson a week, broadly spread over one school year, called the Brevet d'Initiation à l'Aéronautique.

The course covers the basics of aerodynamics and flight mechanics, aircraft knowledge, navigation, regulations, safety, meteorology and history of aviation. The standard is really not far short of the PPL theory exams. Two short flights are included in the course, free of charge.

Students who pass the BIA qualify for a (small) government grant towards the cost of learning to fly.

Anyone at club level can do the teaching if they have the appropriate aeronautical teaching certificate - obtained through self-study (and self-financed).

It's all done on a voluntary basis, of course. I haven't found any figures to show how many BIA students actually go on to do a PPL, or become involved with other areas of aviation, but I'm sure this sort of scheme doesn't do any harm.

Is there anything equivalent in other countries?

Bordeaux

My aerodrome is increasing it's fleet and is reguarly seeking new Instructors. I think that is because they have a good PR scheme where they run Young Aviators Day's where qualified pilots (not instructors) take kids up for a half hour 'spot local points of interest' flight, they have talks from people like John Hutchinson (Concorde Pilot), aerobatic days, theme days, fireworks nights and so on. All of these are generally free and open to the public, and invariably out of the tens or hundreds who will attend, maybe one will enquire about some training. They also used to advertise in the local market. Maybe this is easier for a small aerodrome, compared to a airport like Oxford.

Therefore I think for an aerodrome to increase it's GA activity, it needs to get real people, non-aviators in on site, and then hope their inner desire to do something interesting leads them up the booking counter.

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