We Need More Gray Eagles

While EAA continues to lead the charge to attract young people to aviation with its powerful Young Eagles program, I propose that we open a second front on the war against the declining pilot population: baby boomers.

Ultimately people now in their teens and 20s will be the future of general aviation, but that is a long-term solution. Many years, even decades, will likely pass between a teenager learning to fly and the point where that person has the resources and time to become a complete participant in aviation. Think of all of the people you know who learned to fly when they were young, or at least took some lessons, but then had to postpone active flying for years. It is the norm that family and work force people to shelf their aviation activities.

But there is a readymade group of people who have lived beyond the complications of youth, and that is the baby boomers, the largest generation in the history of the nation. The oldest boomer turned 65 this year, but the youngest are still in their 40s.

Photo: Bonnie Kratz

To call boomers the future of general aviation is using the term “future” differently. I don’t know what you think of when somebody says future, but it is probably further out than 20 or 30 years. But two or three decades is a long and useful period and that is what boomers can do for general aviation.

Replacing an 80-something-year-old pilot or aviation enthusiast with a teenager is great, but it is difficult. Replacing that same pilot who has timed out with a person in his or her 50s or 60s gives our favorite activity a person at the stage in life where they are ready with the time and money to become involved immediately.

Selling aviation to boomers isn’t hard. I was born in 1949 and just about every guy close to my age who I tell I’m a pilot says he has always wanted to learn to fly, too. I don’t mean to be sexist here, but women just don’t say the same thing. I’ll leave it to you to come up with your own reasons for that, because I have given up trying to understand why that is so, but it is. The general aviation industry and affinity groups have tried everything they could think of over the decades to change the low percentage of women who fly with only modest success at best.

Photo: Bonnie Kratz

I think the reason boomer guys are so interested in aviation is that most of us were handed down the specific gene from our dads and uncles and their friends. Being “air-minded” as they once said was almost a universal trait of the World War II generation and those guys passed on at least a foundation of interest to their kids. Even if dads from the previous generation couldn’t learn to fly, many, probably even most, took their kids to the airport, went to air shows and built models, and we all watched Sky King. Remember when every airline terminal had an observation deck? And it was crowded.

Another reason to redouble our efforts to attract boomers to aviation is that we now have something to sell with the sport pilot and light-sport airplane. Sport pilot gives a person a quicker route to a certificate with less cost and complication. And the driver’s license medical requirement for sport pilots removes a potential complication for older people learning to fly.

But there are at least two other broad categories that I think can attract boomers to aviation: more capable traveling airplanes, and restoration and preservation of antiques and classics.

The revolution in avionics has made piston airplanes much more useful as traveling machines. Even 40-year-old airplanes can have the latest in navigation and satellite weather installed. A piston airplane built during the boom years of the 1970s can be updated with avionics capability that nearly matches that of new production airplanes. Advanced avionics can’t move thunderstorms out of your way or raise visibility above approach minimums, but they can make travel in a light airplane safe and convenient, and in many cases you can easily match or exceed the door-to-door time of the airlines.

Photo: Steve Cukierski

As for the antiques and classics, there is something biological in us that makes them attractive. Just as most of us lock into some period of music as our favorite, the same happens with airplanes. Airplanes that were old when I first saw them as a boy are still fascinating. At Oshkosh or other big air shows I look at the new airplanes and accessories, but I always gravitate toward the classics and antiques. Boomers care as much about old airplanes as they do about old cars or guitars.

Call it a bucket list, or maybe the generation that plans to never grow old, but boomers are our future, at least for the next 20 or 30 years. The Silver Eagles? The Gray Eagles? Heck, even the Bald Eagles. Baby boomers are ready to learn how to fly. Does anybody have the AARP’s phone number?

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47 Responses to We Need More Gray Eagles

  1. Jack Bantle says:

    Nice article. Howerver, It is really about the medical or the lack of one. Nothing would keep old people in the sky more than eliminating the need for a Third Class medical and let people self certify. How many times have you read in Trade-a-Plane that “Medical forces sale?”

    • Ray Hamel says:

      I agree completely on the 3rd Class Medical issue. The incidence of in-flight incapacitation with certificated pilots and sport pilots is virtually nil. The amount of resources that are spent to keep good pilots running around for doctor’s letters and exams, not to mention the FAA bureaucracy to check on all of the paperwork is completely unjustified. Congress should act to amend the medical exam requirement to include only pilots flying passengers or freight for hire. All other pilots should be allowed to self-certify, as is the case with the Sport Pilot program.

    • Bryan Del Monte says:

      You started out right on who and why, but then made a common mistake by EAA and AOPA on how to stop the loss of pilots. In reply back to my comments on why I (52 year old baby boomer) was “Not realizing the dream” after 50 hours of private pilot training, Tom Poberezny said that “The utility, age, and capability of training aircraft is a contributing factor. People today expect something more than currently exists.” Please stop looking back to old, rusting aircraft and move forward into the 21st century with newer aircraft having safety features (e.g., air bags), GPS, and other substantial improvements.

  2. I am a 21 year old Young Eagles pilot with about 350 hours and I have been flying since I was 16. Fortunately for me I have had a tremendous amount of support in my flying endeavors from my family, which is the reason I have been able to enjoy aviation. I have taken more “grey eagles” flying in many informal settings than I have “young eagles”. These people happen to be family friends, or friends of friends who hear I am a pilot and simply want to get a different perspective on their surroundings. I can’t say any of them have gone out and got their pilot’s license, but I do think that if some resources were focused on the boomer population it would be money well spent. These people are more likely to have discretionary income to spend on flying than someone between the ages of 8 and 17. I’m not saying that young eagles are not inspired to fly later on in their lives, but in most cases the time lapse is great between most flights donated in the name of young eagles and the actual licensing of a new private pilot who went on those flights. What general and sport aviation needs right now is a shot in the arm. I personally know three other people that are close in age to myself (24, 21, and 20) that have their pilot’s licenses and fly somewhat regularly. Everyone else I know is probably over the age of 40, most over the age of 50. The shot in the arm is going to come from this age group of people who currently do not have a part in aviation but desire to. We need to keep sustaining what is left of general aviation so there will be something tomorrow for young eagles who are flying today.

  3. Larry Stencel says:

    Geez … you sound like ME, Mac. Every time I go to Sebring, SunNFun or AirVenture, the people I see that are truly interested ARE the grey eagles. Lets face the music here … aviation requires a substantial amount of interest, dedication and discretionary income. Young people are mostly interested in instant gratification yet generally lack the resources to make their dreams turn into reality. The Grey Eagles are the exact people we oughta be courting.

    There are two changes which would cause an explosion in general aviation. Elimination of the third class medical in favor of self-certification (which we essentially already do in between medicals) (for recreational flying) and raising the weight limit of LSAs to a more usable number … I feel 2500 pounds MGTW. “New” pilots could go the LSA route until they got more time under their belts and – as they mature in their skills – they could go to the private rating … both without a medical.

    The FAA is charged with aviation safety AND promoting aviation. They are TOO focused on safety at the expense of promotion of aviation. If they don’t get real soon, they’ll be in charge of so few pilots that there’ll be one FAA man for every pilot.

    Those of us who grew up in the shadow of WWII, Sky King and the 50′s and 60′s are the very people that every aviation organization and the FAA ought to be courting. I CAN afford to buy a LSA but I won’t because they aren’t usable OR economically viable. Allow me to fly my C172 or PA28 without a medical and things will improve.

    Here’s another issue that people aren’t addressing. How many folks that own current GA airplanes are holding back on making investments in engines and avionics because they live medical to medical and can’t justify the great expendature betting on the “come.” If I thought I could fly until I determine it’s time to hang up my headsets — ala Arnold Palmer — I’d be spending money on both of my airplanes .

    Mac … you hit the proverbial nail right on the head. Good on ya!

  4. Philip Wallace says:

    Hey Jeff,,, Here’s an idea,,, why not take your motorcycle for a ride to your local airport and go flying for the day. When your done you can ride your motorcycle home and that way you get to enjoy both the ground experience and the aeriaL one. You’d be the talk of the neighborhood.

  5. RD Witham says:

    Mac, you are absolutely right. I so wish that EAA’s ‘Young Eagles’ program could be simply ‘Eagles’, as I KNOW that there there are many boomers who would love the chance to fly with – and talk with – and learn from – our volunteer pilots.
    You know, when you came on board as an EAA writer, I had serious doubts because I anticipated articles about expensive twins and turbines. I was wrong about you. If you can push ideas like this one to a reality, you’ve earned my respect. You’re in a position to use the ‘power of the pen’ to make a real difference. After reading this article, I’m rooting for you.

  6. Jay Graph says:

    Good article, and I agree. I am in my late 40′s, just started training, and hope to get my Private certificate and fly for many more years.

    Exactly what do you see being done to assist the Gray Eagles? Scholarships? Reduced price lessons?

    At the top of my suggestion list is:

    1. Same medical requirements as Light Sport.

    2. A way (eg. web site) for Gray Eagles to find others who wanted to share airplane expenses (one-half or one-third shares) and form flying clubs. A previous comment suggested that older pilots may not want to invest in maintaining / upgrading their airplanes because they don’t know how long they will be able to fly. And they aren’t willing to sell their favorite toy. But they may be willing to form partnerships with other mature pilots.

    3. Increase the weight limit for LSA.

    • Brian Price says:

      EAA could do great service by working to create and actively promote a standard legal, financial, and governance model for flying clubs, similar to many glider clubs here and abroad. Smart manufacturers could climb on board with special purchasing arrangements and support to clubs. The fundamental problem is not time, dedication, or inclination–it is the cost of owning a competent aircraft as an individual. Historically, club arrangements have been used in less affluent countries to share the ongoing costs, increase utilization, promote safety, and to share enthusiasm and experience. Perhaps the greatest benefit is that clubs create an easy route for new candidates to get into flying. We Americans automatically assume personal ownership of cars, houses, and aircraft. Personal ownership of aircraft is not feasible for most, and building workable mechanisms to share the costs should be a high priority of EAA.

  7. Pat Delaney says:

    Absolutely! Boomers are where our biggest potential lies but flight schools have a lot to learn about marketing and attracting those with the aviation “spark” plus enough motivation and time to finish the requirements and actually earn a license. Imagine if learning to fly and the thrills of being a pilot were promoted on radio and TV like car dealers and furniture stores promote their products!

  8. David Orr says:

    I saw something like this mentioned in Kit Plane by the editor about 10 years ago – wonderful idea. I’m helping mostly older men find canards made by mostly even older men and I quite enjoy seeing a pilot get his first plane for under $30,000. I’m amazed to see powered hang gliders, ultralights and even Harley Davidsons being purchased for much the same money as the starter used Varieze.

    David “Beagle” Orr

  9. Joseph F. Truncale says:

    I’m 63 and heard your call to arms (wings) 16 months ago when I decided to build a Zenith 701. For many reasons I never got a flight certificate, so the way I’m forcing myself is by building (can’t very well build a plane and not be able to fly it!). I’m about 60 % done and will take lessons when I’m nearly finished…can’t wait. And yes I know I cannot take lessons in my plane and probably won’t be able to do all of the test flight hours, but after that I’m golden. I think you are spot on by looking toward the AARP mailing list. And thanks for explaining how we can be the future of aviation too.

  10. Mike Gorno says:

    I have long thought that an interim step that could help is dropping the medical for the recreational license. If that were done the selection of planes opens widely! I am 76 and have had to obtain a special issuance medical for the past 17 years. I have owned several aircraft over the years (currently SR20) and have looked at the LSA’s since they have been available. However, flying with recreational privileges would allow me to basically do everything except fly IFR in a reasonably capable cross country aircraft (Grumman Tiger, DA40 or Pa28 for example) with plenty of weight allowance and range and I wouldn’t mind being limited to one passenger. At any rate – you’re right on target.

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  12. John Berg says:

    This is a really great idea, that recognizes the untapped potential of the boomers, of which I am one (age 60). Those of us who have been flying for not too many years can also assure our contemporaries that they haven’t “missed the boat” simply because they didn’t start flying in their teens or twenties. We can in some sense mentor and encourage older potential pilots, since we’ve traveled the same course they are embarking on.

  13. John Singleton says:

    I’m trying to get young Airmen and older (and richer) Civilians together in a cooperative build program focusing on the RV-12 at Hill AFB. By providing a space, tools, and the assistance of volunteer aircraft mechanics and pilots (of whom we have many), we can achieve professional results in record time while growing both populations of young and old pilots. Improved morale is the goal and a close supportive local community is key.

  14. John says:

    Very good article and comments as well. I started flying lessons late in life, when I had disposable income to do so. I received my PPL at 60 years old and am now 3 years into building my dream plane. At 64, I realize the 3rd class medical will one day be a deciding factor to keep me from flying my plane as it does not fit into the light sport rules. As has been mentioned by other posters, how many “grey eagles” are out there hesitant to invest into buying or building a plane not knowing when the FAA will “pull the plug” on their medical. I know this to be the case in my own EAA chapter. The dismissal of the 3rd class medical would go far in helping the declining GA ranks. We pilots must voice our opinions on this issue to continue to survive.

  15. Mike B. says:

    Your characterization of a gray eagle was spot on Mac. I have a picture of my grandfather holding a two year old me on the railing at the observation deck at Logan while a Connie was boarding passengers in the backgropund. We went nearly every week ! I’d lay on the grass in my back yard and watch the climb outs of the “new” 707′s and dreamed on. Two uncles and father all involved in flying during the “war”. I put off, and put off my flying dreams until a medical situation grounded those dreams. Then came LSA, and then the price tag and lack of available training. I still hold out hope. My den at home is loaded with airdraft models and pictures of once young men in uniform. Only thing missing is a picture of me holding my shirttail. Maybe now is the time. Gray Eagles is a good idea.

    • John King says:

      I would like to know of any financial institution that would be prepared to finance the purchase (at a reasonable rate) of a light sport aircraft (LSA) to assist gray eagles who have had dreams of aviation for many years. Most financial institutions “kill” the dreams of owning your own LSA with rates of 9% and higher – this based on the best possible credit score that can be attained. Any information or assistance to my email address will be appreciated.

      John King EAA#878180

  16. Al Garofalo says:

    I really appreciate your article. My father dreamt in becoming an Air Force pilot. He knew every airplane brand and model and could tell you all the details of every air battle in the World War II. But his dream never came true, although he tried to obtain his private pilot license for a while.

    Obviously, my father’s passion for flying was handed down to me, and also to my oldest son. I really look forward to the day I can obtain my pilot license, but unfortunately the biggest obstacle is how expensive it is. I wish there were more incentives.

  17. Hal Gosling says:

    I attempted to address this exact issue last year through my Chapter 7 President who forwarded my thoughts on attracting the “Grey Eagles” up to EAA . Their response was basically that their programs were focused on the youth who they saw as the potential future of aviation. Not much creative thinking outside of the box here from the EAA. Thank you for your timely attention on this matter.

  18. Rick Stirlen says:

    Great article! I am a 65 year old retired businessman who is in the process of fulfilling a lifelong dream of becoming a pilot. I have been training towards a Sport Pilot Certificate here in Connecticut and have completed about 20 hours of dual instruction in a Flight Design CTSW. In fact my next flight was scheduled to be my first solo, but prior to that, the airplane was damaged during a forced landing (I was not involved). It is now unclear when the plane will be repaired/replaced. But I’m determined to not be among the 70-80% of students who don’t finish training, so I hope to find a CFI who will give me a few hours of tailwheel dual while I’m waiting. My ultimate goal is to own/fly a J-3 Cub.

  19. Doug Dwyer says:

    I think the whole concept of trying to get young people involved in aviation is flawed. Most of us in marketing got caught up in the idea of marketing to the youth when the boomers were young. It was effective then because boomers were like a “Pig in a Python” to the population. They still are. They represent the majority of disposable income and have the time. They should still be the primary target for most products and services. Kids today are more interested in IPods and simulators then actually doing things. Those that have a propensity for aviation will find it if more adults are doing it. Two things could be done to save GA as we know it:

    #1. Reduce the cost of ownership. One way to do this would be to rescue the derelicts sitting on airports all over the country. There is a proposal floating around called “Owner Maintenance Category” that would be a class of airplane between Experimental and certified. You place that old (40 years) Cherokee with the flat tires into that category, restore it to flying conditions, get it cleared for flight one time and then maintain it yourself. Instead of $150K for a LSA, you have a Piper 140 Cherokee for $40K. It can be done, I did it with a Mooney M20A for less than $30K and six months of effort.

    #2. Medical Self certification. Drop the third class medical requirement.

  20. Gordon Rauber says:

    Very interesting article. I started flying at age 70 received my ppl and have logged about 350 hours. Have flowen about 35 young eagles in my c172 . Since then have lost my 3rd class and sold my airplane. I am 78 now and wish I could keep flying. The young eagle program is the answer to more pilots, I believe. Will miss the feeling of flying. Keep up the effort .

  21. Marv McGaffick says:

    I wrote a letter to EAA some time back proposing this very thing and that’s the last I have heard about it until now. Great Idea.

  22. Bob Hassel says:

    I have often thought that limiting the Young Eagles program was backwards thinking. Even those of us that love flying can’t afford it. Old Eagles, Young Eagles, Gray Eagles, Mid Eagles, Bald Eagles – we all are part of the picture and as many have already said older may be better positioned to be able to afford a little flight time or partnership owernship than young eagles. GA isn’t going to make it happen, too costly, too old and too out of date compared to what’s available to the average EAA pilot.

    1) For the PP license get rid of the 3rd class medical requirements and self certify.
    2) Increase the weight limit on LSA to something more reasonable. Current LSA models will still be appealing because of the lower cost of ownership and lower cost of flying.
    3) Get rid of the speed limit or at least raise it to something more realistic. The safety zone really is in landing speeds not cruising speeds.

  23. Terry says:

    Great article. It is important to not only bring young folks into aviation, but to keep us middle age folks in the game. The best way to do that is to eliminate the 3rd class medical for VFR private pilots or at least revise the standards for LSA to allow flying aircraft like a C-152 or Citabria with a driver’s lic medical. The threat of the medical every two years stops me from buying an airplane. I would like to see a heavy push from both the EAA and AOPA to eliminate the 3rd class medical. It appears, however, that the EAA has a much greater interest in that idea than the AOPA does of late.

  24. Tim says:

    The elimination of the sportpilot CATCH 22 and the third class for under 2500 lb GW aircraft, except for commercial operations would help get things going in the right direction. The other thing that would help would be a revision of the pilot requirements so that they made sense. Student pilot to sport to private and on. Every hobby or endever that includes a machine or lots of gear is not cheap. Most powerboats use more fuel than aircraft and even sailboats require fixed expenses for slips, storage, insurance etc. There are ways around all the high expenses for any endevear using sweat equity, partners etc. Doing anything beyond staring at the tube is not cheap.

  25. Thomas Ivines says:

    I had to reflect on the jest of this blog and make a second post other than on Facebook.

    The idea of having old farts like the baby boomers save general aviation is ludicrous. The real problem why general aviation is in decline is the cost.

    My son recently received his private pilot. It cost him well over ten thousand dollars to get it. If he wants to keep flying, it will cost him upward to a hundred and seventy-five dollars an hour for rental. Unless he bought a piece of junk for an airplane, it would cost him even more averaged out. The ironic part is he is an electrical engineer with an income well above the typical American and he cannot afford to fly but once in a great while now.

    Mac, for the life of me, I don’t see how you can envision a bunch of senior citizens on a fixed income saving General Aviation. Waive the 3rd class medical and you would get some of them back in the air, but at best that would only be a temporary fix.

    The real future of GA and that includes light sport, is to get the cost down to where average income people can afford it. Personally I do not think General aviation will completely die. It will simply shrink to that of the privileged few, who will do their best to keep the cost of flying high. That way they can keep the second-class of this country from participating. In other words, that way they can have it all to themselves.

    Here is food for thought: The Portuguese of the 17th Century were among the greatest sailors of the world. They even managed to conquer lands far from the opposite sides of their continent, but eventually succumbed to inflation and lost everything.

    Research has proven the first ships the Portuguese built were the finest in the world with brass, bronze, and other precious metals of construction used at no expense. As time went on, their ships became cheaper built, often with only iron and wood pegs used to hold them together. The last ships to be excavated from the oceans floors were found to be of the poorest construction in the world.

    The Portugal government was meticulous at keeping records, and when they were studied it was found as time progressed, it became more and more expensive to build and operate ships. They reached a standstill in their economy which put them out of business. Today, Portugal is no longer a conquering nation, but a smidgen of what it used to be. Is General aviation headed in the same direction?

  26. Ellis Snydal says:

    I really enjoy this blog and agree that more baby boomers would get into flying if the cost was lowered. I have been interested in flying since I was a teenager (I am 64). My boss had a Tripacer and he was teaching me to fly until his untimely death (in a car). He is what got me interested in flying. All my dreams were put on hold until our children were gone from home. I bought a Rans S6ES kit and built it, installed a Subaru engine and started testing it. I have a total of about $18000. with the kit, engine and all the necessary equipment. With out the LSA I would not been able to buy a plane or even own one and it has been a Grand Adventure building and flying the plane. The local FAA office here in Spokane has been extreamly helpful and thorough with LSA inspections. With the Sport Pilot program I have been able to fly. I do agree that the GA plane rule need to be changes so more of us Gray Eagles can fly. They also need more LS CFI’s.

  27. Buddy Washington says:

    Mac, you’re on the right path and so are many who have replied. As for my input, I will be 60 in April. I’ve loved airplanes as far back in my life as I can remember. It took me thirteen years to get my private pilot license because of the cost involved and that was back when aviation was less time consuming than it is today. Here are my thoughts on what the EAA, AOPA, and all of us involved in aviation need to push for if GA is to grow.
    1 Remove the third class medical. Its time has passed.
    2 All recurrent trainning, such as biannuals, CFI, instrment, etc, should be internet based trainning. We live in an age when we don’t have the time to drive 50 or 60 miles to the airport just to have a CFI sign off a biannual .
    3 The TSA should be restricted to airport security at airports that are served by airlines and cargo aircraft of thirty seats or more. Airports are no longer family friendly places. TSA has killed the airport kid and that breaks the circle of life for GA. 4 Raise the LSA weight limit so more of the great airplanes such as Colts, 150s, Tripacers, and 172s can be flown by sport pilots.
    5 Simplify the airspace rules. It is a nightmare for us VFR pilots. When you have very exprienced high profile pilots getting busted for violating TFRs it lets us know things are out of hand.
    6 Change the annual to biannual. I’m an IA/AP and with 30+ years experience. I have found no reason to tear a plane apart once a year. Most people, who fly, take care of their aircraft. Those who don’t sooner or later decrease the pilot population anyway Mac.
    My thoughts on what would help get gray eagles in the air. Good article and keep pushing for us gray eagles.

  28. John Worsley says:

    I’m proof that Gray Eagles can work. Even though I had never previously mentioned anything about flying except that I would like to fly an ultralight some day, since they seemed like the dirt bikes of airplanes. (I’m a long time dirt rider). My wife bought me an introductory flight/lesson at a silent auction for a museum. That was almost 4 years ago (I was 59). I am now a private pilot with a Cherokee 6, starting on my instrument rating.

    • Mac says:

      That’s great news, John. I know that there are many others like you. When people say to me, as they often do, that “I always wanted to learn how to fly” I reply that it is not too late.

      Mac Mc

  29. Ron Robinson says:

    Great comments all. It’s way past time for all aviators to roll in hot on these issues . Problem is, we don’t have a clearly defined target or a sure knowledge of how to proceed in the most effective way. Is it the FAA, TSA, HSA ,EPA or any number of alphabet agencies that are causing the most grief ? My vote is the FAA, although I wouldn’t dismiss the others just yet.
    The FAA administers programs and regulations that most directly affect access to ,and the cost of ,general aviation. Buddy is right on centerline with his comments and I know I’m being redundant but I’m going to plow that same furough again as it regards the FAA
    (1) Remove the 3rd class medical for non commercial flight . Mr Wartofskys’ petition
    is for aircraft under 6000# and I can live with that as long as we have no restrictions on engines, props, landing gear and speeds.
    (2) Biennial reviews, CFI renewals, etc. can be done on the internet. The FAA loves the internet.(IACRA).
    (3) Make annual inspections due every two years or 100 hours of fight time, whichever comes first. A lot of GA aircraft fly less than 50 hours a year (especially with fuel at $5.00 / gal.) so the part 91 airplane would be more like the part 135 standard for maintenance. Like Buddy ,I’m an A&P and I see no good reason to open up a perfectly good airplane that may have flown 20 t0 30 hours since it’s last annual . A good 25 hr. inspection is all it needs. Seems to me a fellow named Poberezny
    suggested something similar a few years ago . It didn’t fly then but we weren’t 14 trillion in the hole then either.
    Nothing in these changes prevents a pilot from getting all the medical care he needs to stay in the cockpit as long as he and HIS doctor deem it prudent nor does it prevent anyone from purchasing real ,necessary, maintenance for the safety of his aircraft. It simply puts the judgement back where it belongs-with the individual, free, american pilot.

  30. Michael Sheridan says:

    Get rid of the 3rd class, grow aviation. Are the bureaucrats listening? Not likely.

  31. Ken Morrow says:

    Right on Buddy and Ron, I agree 100% with what you have said. We need to get back to the basics in GA. with less rules and regs. The FAA is where we need to start and that is in there refunding through congress. We all need to write our congressmen or person about these issues, and how we feel about GA and the programs that need to be eliminated as stated in all the above blogs or replys. By cutting the FAA’s funding , reducing there employment and reducing a bunch of the rules and regs. that has cost us in GA dearly over the years would help in lowering the national debit. Congress has the power to do this if we the gray eagles and all the eagles put pressure on them . I’ve been in aviation as a pilot, A&P/IA for more than 50 + years and have seen general
    aviation go from its prime in the early 60′s through mid 80′s to almost the brink of disaster today. Just look at all the small aircraft companys that have folded in the past 25 years, all because of our goverment and the controlling power of the FAA and there rule making process, even though we can comment,they seem to have deaf ears, They all are bureaucrats that can’t make a living in the real world and think they know whats best for general aviation. Its the FAA thats driving GA to the brink disaster, think about it ! The pilots and mechanic are not the problem , its the FED’s. So less write our congress people and get this ball rolling. I wrote to all 4 of my congressmen last week on a lot of the mentioned above items. Yes I’m 70+ years old so I guess you could call me a Gray Eagle and I do own a C-170B. Thanks Mac for getting this started.

  32. Lee Leland says:

    This was supposed to be the year to learn to fly. I’m 59, kids are out on their own, all major bills paid. Then the wife decided to go into hospital with heart/diabetes issues. Yes, I have insurance, but I’m still liable for 20% of the bill. Maybe next year. Dammit, I wanna fly!

  33. Rich Dulyea says:

    When I was growing up, my family flew with the military MAC as my father was in the military. That is where the “bug” bit me. I knew then that I wanted to be in aviation as a career; specifically, flying. I enrolled at the College of Aviation – Western Michigan Universtity’s flight training. During that time, I entered Air Force ROTC to fly with the Air Force, but, as fate had it, it wasn’t to be. The Viet Nam war ended. Having earned my commercial license with instrument rating, I applied at many places but could not land a flight position; with many pilots returning stateside. I got on with a major aerospace company out west and still work with them, but during this time, life occurred; wife, kids, travelling, etc. Now that retirement is “around the corner”, I have literally blown the dust off the logbooks and have gotten back in the air, but, under the LSA rules. It’s great to be flying again, but I agree with all of the other comments on the type aircraft we can fly. In some countries (New Zealand), they allow pilots to fly in the aircraft they learned in (my case C-150, C-172, PA-28 etc.) under their equivalent of our LSA rules – drivers license as opposed to third class medical, as they feel there is risk in the transition from the known to the unknown. Regarding young eagles vs gray eagles, perhaps we should be cultivating universities providing intensive flight training as well as working to support the baby boomers cause. Thanks Mac and the EAA.

  34. Rushwan J. Dizaye says:

    There have been a lot of comments on the subject of Medical Certificate. There is an alternative; gliders. No Medical Certificate is required for a glider license. The altitude record for gliders is over 50,000 feet, and the distance record is nearly 700 miles; also many great pilots got their start in gliders (Hanna Reitsch and Neil Armstrong,for example). And a diet and exercise program can go a long way toward getting a lot a people to pass a medical examination.

  35. Brian Price says:

    Great points, Rushwan. My comment of 4 Feb regarding the potential for a concerted program to facilitate club ownership, club training, and cost-sharing was based directly on soaring experience in this country and elsewhere. Without intending any praise for 1930s German policies (please!), you will recall that Germany successfully trained a generation of excellent pilots by building a training path that started with gliding in a club setting. To this day, it is surprisingly inexpensive to fly in a glider club in this country. It is easy and cheap to get started. You also learn what a rudder is for! But we have historically drawn a bright line between soaring and powered aviation and training, rather than encouraging pilots to start in soaring and progress to whatever level they ultimately choose. EAA could be a leader in building the bridge across this divide–in a hundred ways that would get many more people in the air, at lower cost and at least equal safety.

  36. Dave Holtje says:

    All my life I said “one of these days I’m gonna get my pilot license”. At age 69, looking at the gray hair in the mirror I said “if this ain’t one of those days ….” so I went down to the airport, found a CFI and got started. After a brief delay for referral due to blood pressure meds. I got my Private and then soon after my Instrument rating. With my 80th birthday a few months away I have 800 + hours in the book. Two years ago I decided the 3rd class med was too much hassle so I let it expire and now fly Sport Pilot privileges in my Flight Design.
    As to killing 3rd class med. and raising LSA weight, forget it. Bureaucracy is a self serving growth industry reality. Let’s not tell them they are wrong, let’s point out they were correct in setting up Sport Pilot and that 3rd class is not required for less demanding aircraft and flight conditions. Therefore why not a set of privileges for private pilots with driver licenses and self certification restricted to day time VFR in single engine, non complex aircraft.
    By the way, LSA are real aircraft. I fly mine from Florida to upstate New York each spring and back down in the fall. No problem at 115 kts and 4 hr. plus endurance. All I miss is the ability for my wife and I to take another couple for the $100 hamburger.

  37. Pingback: Aviation Beacon – February 8, 2011 » Calgary Recreational & Ultralight Flying Club

  38. Dave Miller says:

    Yes-Yes -YES! And I thought I was all alone in my own little world. Thank you one & all for your thoughts. If only the powers that be (GOV) could hear us. I’m 69, going on 40 something and dread the day I will become a mere mortal, and be relegated to crawling around on the ground for what life is left in me. I spent 13 years building a Tri-Q-200 just so I could afford to fly. I’ve got 200 hrs on it and love it. But the FAA has its hammer over my head because of sleep apnea. My Special Issuance makes me think the FAA has me in the same class as an astronaut. I would love to sell & or trade up to something my wife & I could go somewhere with her big bags & hair dryer, but the prospect of that kind of investment is hard to justify with our economics & that special issuance hanging over my head. The LSA aircraft are just so limiting. I might as well stay with my Experimental for as long as the FAA will allow. It’s heartening to actually see that I’m not alone with my thoughts about the LSA limitations. Thanks again.

  39. Rod Pollard says:

    Just want to jump in and agree with the overwhelming majority on this issue. We need to continue our efforts with new “young” pilots but we also need to try and keep existing pilots. In other words attack the problem of decreasing pilot numbers from both ends. I believe one of the best ways to boost the numbers is address (i.e. eliminate) the third class medical issues. Changing the medical requirements doesn’t require shifting the Earth’s orbit or altering the laws of physics. I guess if that was all that was needed we could have had it done by now! Very soon there are is going to be nobody left to give young eagle rides.

  40. Ben Sclair says:

    Hey Mac. Great column. I prefer the term Silver Eagles myself, but what’s a shade of gray among friends.

    Perhaps my column, “Let’s attract the money” was rougher than your elegant prose, but the ideas are the same. The comments on my post were far less generous.

    We, as an industry, MUST attract those who can afford to fly. We can find millions with desire, but finding those with desire AND money is another story.

    Congrats for landing Left Seat on the web.

  41. joe murphy says:

    You are right on track.Older people love to fly.Its just seems every one wants young people.There are a lot of people out there over 55 who love airplanes And now tith the sport pilot its easy to do .Keep up the push guys.

  42. Pingback: Left Seat Blog: We Need More Gray Eagles « Calgary Recreational and Ultralight Flying Club

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