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Fuel Cost Up, Flying Hours Down

by John M. White |

I remember when gas for my car was under $ 0.30 per gallon, and when renting a new Cessna 172 was well within the reach of a poor college student working part time. My how things have changed! As we move forward in this brave new world general aviation faces a number of challenges, not the least of which is the supply of pilots. While sales of of small aircraft, including light sport aircraft, fell 30 percent in the first quarter of 2008 sales of business aircraft continue to increase, rising 16 percent over a year ago. On Saturday I went to an open house for the graduation celebration of a friend's twin daughters from high school and he was telling me about a recent flight he made to New York. He flies Citation Bravo and Lear 45 model aircraft for a fractional operator, and upon refueling the Bravo he was flying the FBO presented him a bill for $ 2,800 for fuel! The price per gallon was somewhere North of $ 9.00 per gallon! Can auto gas be far behind? Today it is not unusual to pay $ 125 per hour for one hour of instruction, and as a result flight training is down some 20 percent over 2007. Today pilots pay double what they did in 2005, and the cost continues to rise. For some this is good news(?). As training falls there are fewer and fewer pilots getting their licenses, gaining flight hours and experience while at the same time the business aircraft segment of general aviation continues to grow. In some cases buyers have to wait five or six years to get that new aircraft they have ordered. The real question is who will fly them? At $ 125/hour for flight training it would cost more than $ 5,000 just to get a Private Pilot's license, assuming one could get it in the minimum of 40 hours. Then add the cost to get a Commercial pilots license along with an Instrument, Multi-Engine and Instructor ratings and we are talking major bucks! Looks like if you want to fly airplanes for a living pretty soon you will dig the same kind of whole in your financial life as doctors do. Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch! JetAviator7

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