The CEO of Cessna Aircraft, Jack Pelton, recently spoke at meeting of the Aero Club of Washington where he noted that his view of the general aviation market has shifted from concern about the lack of customers to the 3 key issues facing the aviation industry today. He remarked that he felt the recovery of the aviation industry will be slow and long but show some hopeful signs.
During his speech he outlined these 3 issues:
- The Pilot Population;
- Environmental Concerns;
- The Next Generation Air Transportation System.
The Pilot Population
With respect to the pilot population, Pelton noted that the FAA has forecast that new student pilot starts will drop to a 10 year low, down to about 5,750 per month, or 69,000 next year. As you can imagine, the lack of new pilots will adversely impact the aviation business, and as general aviation is the source of flight instructors and pilots for the regional air carriers and fractional jet operators.
The days when military pilots were filling all the seats on flight decks with the airlines have now passed, there is no flight training approved under the GI Bill, young people are no longer excited about the prospect of flying airplanes, all of which means a smaller pool of qualified pilots for the airlines.
Pelton urges Congress to permit flight training under the post 9/11 GI Bill, and notes that it is important to make learning to fly, and flying, more affordable and accessible.
weight heavily on the minds of aircraft operators, and Pelton notes that the Lindbergh Foundation understands the issue correctly: that government policies must balance technology and progress with environmental sensitivity.
One example is the task of finding an alternative to leaded fuels while preserving the ability of legacy piston engines to operate on a replacement fuel right along with new aircraft.
Keep in mind that aviation represents about 2% of carbon dioxide emissions, and general aviation is a small portion of that small number. Reauthorization funding is stalled right now, but is crucial to making progress in this area.
The Next Generation Air Transportation System
NestGen impacts general aviation through the implementation of the ADS-B Out mandate while the benefits of the system for general aviation aircraft, and the costs involved, are yet to be determined.
It is important to consider the cost versus benefits while moving to a satellite based navigation system.
Will Business Aviation Recover?
Business aviation, and general aviation, typically lag the recovery by 2 years following the return of corporate profits. Industry experts believe modest growth in general aviation will occur in the next few years, so the short answer is “Yes”.
As with all things, if we work together we can spur progress and resume our technological advances which benefit everyone. Still, one wonders if the efforts of companies like FedEx to examine pilotless aircraft isn’t a reflection of their view of the future pool of pilots.
To learn more you should get Birth of Flight: History of Civil Aviation (3pc) a great read!
Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch!
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At that time  the chief engineer was almost always the chief test pilot as well. That had the fortunate result of eliminating poor engineering early in aviation.
— Igor Sikorsky, reported in ‘AOPA Pilot’ magazine February 2003