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Why is General Aviation declining?

No, Alexis, you would have gotten an aircraft that was two years old in a time, where real advances in airframe design have been made within a couple of months. In that year the A35 was introduced.

However, the useability of such an aircraft would be the same as a 44k$ aircraft is today, propably a bit less. Today, spending 44k$ on a Beech 35 would bring you WX, a good GPS and an Auto Pilot on top of a good and sturdy airframe. So value per Money is even increased today. If you are looking for a C172 (witch are a tad younger than comparable Beech 35s), even in Europe you can buy a very decent model (anythin proir to the P-Model, not counting Diesel conversions and the Reims Rocket) with a good VFR GPS and Mode S. Most O-300 powered Cessna 172s go for less than 30k€, if you don’t have a brand new engine installed. That leaves room for some VFR avionic upgrades. The PA28 is even a bit cheaper.

In my experience, most people don’t put too much emotion in owning a “brand new” aircraft. There is a very good used market and you just can’t ignore that. Plus, aircraft don’t age the same way cars do.

Inside the sky.
EDXE, EDXF, Germany

I do not “Ignore” it, but you simply cannot compare a brand new state of the art aircraft (which the Bonanza for $ 7900 was back then) with a 45 year old 172.

I do agree that those airplanes can be a good deal, but many, if not most people would prefer a new (or two year old) airplane over a 50 year old. I knew a guy who wanted to buy a SR22 and I told him to buy a 3 year old one .. but no, it HAD to be brand new, with the “new smell”. I (and others tried for weeks to prevent him from beeing that crazy, but he did it anyway, paid $ 920.000 and is… happy!

I would never do that. I would never take that amount of money from my company (and weaken it for my own luxury) when I can have seven year old plane, almost as ood for 1/4 of the money. But I know, from experience, that many people are completely tuned off by old Cessnas, Pipers and Robins … They don’t want to drive their Jaguar, Merc, BMW or Toyota Prius to the airport and then fly a old airplane that will not start in the winter and have wet carpets after it was standig in the rain. But many of them will rather go sailing or buy a house in the Mediterranean before they spend close to a million dollars for a four seat airplane ..

And a very nice SR22, even if it’s a couple of years old, is still € 250.000 … and in many parts of Europe you can buy a nice house for that.

Flying airplanes is NOT about “usability”, that’s really an OWT! It’s about the emotion.

Let me add: Of course there will always be the people, like many here, who don’t care about brand new. Thank god! But those – fly anyway! Only that the industry cannot survive as such from pilots of 50 year old Cessnas.

Last Edited by at 16 Nov 12:51

Flyer59 wrote:

but many, if not most people would prefer a new (or two year old) airplane over a 50 year old.

That may be, if there would be a lesser difference in prices. However, that is entirely not the case in most of my observations. If you claim the price of a new aircraft being the reason for the decline of general aviation, you have to consider people rather buying new or nothing at all. And this does not align with my experience. On the contrary, doe to the very inexpensive used marked, many people think about owning an airplane whose goals in flying could easily be addressed with renting the aero clubs aircraft. Even people who could afford a brand new aircraft would rather buy an old one and refurbish it to their liking. They then end up with a 160k€ Aero Commander or a 70k€ C172, but those aircraft are in fact as good as new and with all bells and whistles they like.

It might very well be part of the social and local environment where we both are at home, though.

Inside the sky.
EDXE, EDXF, Germany

I disagree, sorry.
All that what you wrote .. yes, yes, yes. I know all of that. But that’s not the only thing what the discussion is about.

GA cannot survive from spare parts sales for old Cessnas. We all know that there will always be specialists who don’t care about “new”. I am one of them, as I have explained. I do many things, the “average consumer” will not do. I buy old guitars and refurbish them, i buy old designer furniture from the 60s and get it repaired, I drive a V-8 cop car, just because it’s fun and because I don’t mind having oily fingers.

And I bought a 7 year old Cirrus when I had the chance to do that, after flying my fathers old plane for almost 20 years, and I am even crazy enough to keep that 2nd airplane. But the 7 year old Cirrus with alomst 1000 hours was still almost € 200.000 and I invested + €50.000 into it to have it the way i want it. And the insurance is € 4.000 per year. This airplane is the biggest luxury I will myself allow to have, and I feel very privileged to have it, and I enjoy that privilge every day.

But except one friend who has a bigger business than me and who bought a similar plane I only know one guy at my airport who bought a brand new Cirrus, and (from what I heard) he had sold his company for an amount of money .. he probably could have bought a Citation X aswell. But I know almost no other people who can afford a new airplane.

The people who buy NEW airplanes are getting less and less. And the less new airplanes are sold the less good used ones are on the market. When I (56 years old) go to my flying club, I am really one of the very youngest guys there. I actually can only think of 2 who are a couple of years younger.

Last Edited by at 16 Nov 13:21

Flyer59 wrote:

When I (56 years old) go to my flying club, I am really one of the very youngest guys there. I actually can only think of 2 who are a couple of years younger.

Sounds like flying in Bavaria will soon disappear …

Thankfully, this does NOT correspond to my experience !


alioth wrote:

The only snag with the new stuff is the running cost is significantly more with the database updates required to remain IFR legal.

As long as you are only doing BRNAV, you don’t legally need database updates. (But then you do need to check in flight that each waypoint is where it is supposed to be and you must be prepared to manually enter any waypoints introduced since your last update.)

ESKC (Uppsala/Sundbro), Sweden

Most people dont know that the Mandate for the FAA has been changed from 1. Promoting Aviation 2. Regulation and Safety, about 20 yrs ago. Before they were required to take any new regulation and determine how it would impact the economy of their actions on owners and operators. Now with Promoting aviation gone they dont have to balance for example certification costs and how their certification process is impacting a project. They dont have to care that they are making it so costly that the certification process kills the project. Another example is the Cessna Wing Spar AD. with little or no investigation other than trusting the manufacturer for their engineering input the FAA mandated a highly controversial wing spar inspection. Of course they no longer take cost into consideration or how the AD will impact financially the fleet. They are no longer required to do so.

That is just one cut out of a thousand cuts that GA is suffering.

Aviation in Europe is just plain expensive. From parts to gas to landing fees. That coupled with ridiculous limits on utility all concoct for "wow you must be both rich (and stupid) to be able to tie up that kind of money on a hobby and toy.

But even though its more affordable in the US. They are also facing a decline even though airplanes are cheaper and more practical for transportation.

The price of owning a plane in the US is a lot cheaper but its still expensive. The price of Avgas doubled and people just cut back on flying. So there is economics at work there as well. No matter how the US Govt tries to twist the facts about the economy the average person is worse off than they were 10 yrs ago. The middle class is definitely shrinking. Yes there are many more millionaires but there are many more poorer people. The millionaires tend not to fly their own planes but hire out Jets.

Another thing people forget is that the end of WW2 millions of pilots were trained and many more throughout the 50s got their pilots license via the GI Bill. You dont have these programs today. So is it any wonder you see old men at airports?

There is no magic one answer unfortunately.


alioth wrote:

why can’t you book out on the radio instead when they don’t have the staff to have the phone manned?

Why, on earth, do you have to book out at all? Is there any reason this should be required in the UK while ROW can do without it? (Same question goes to airport opening hours and the requirement for an airfield to be manned in Germany, of course – and many other local peculiarities) Imagine, you had to book out (other than, maybe, with your wife) when going on a car trip.

Essen-Mülheim (EDLE), Düsseldorf (EDDL), Paderborn (EDLP), Mönchengladbach (EDLN), Germany

The GI Bill was definitely a huge factor in promoting GA through the 70’s or so. The other underlying factor I see is the societal effect of the baby boomers in their child raising years. Having finished their ‘60s blowout and had children they started a sustained 25 year push to eliminate risk from our world, basically making their children and society as a whole into a fearful and unadventurous bunch of drones. It’ll take while to reverse and I think the outlook for progress and adventure until it does is a bit bleak. GA will not be spared except for the fact that the planes last a long time so there is positive inertia.

Patrick wrote:

Why, on earth, do you have to book out at all?

Beats me. It’s just another petty piece of bureaucracy that we could do without.

Andreas IOM
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