Is GA Transportation Flying Dead?

Hub-and-spoke scheduling allows Delta to cover the country.

When I learned to fly more than 40 years ago the initial challenge was the same as for every new pilot—get the airplane around the airport and back on the runway. Once I could do that my objective was to go places. Flying is fun, but for me and the pilots I knew those many years ago the best use of an airplane was to go where you wanted on your schedule.

But so much has changed over the decades I often wonder if traveling in your own general aviation airplane is practical for most pilots now as it was then.

What really changed the practicality equation of GA flying for transportation is airline deregulation. And development of the airline hub-and-spoke scheduling system.

Before deregulation airline fares more or less reflected the cost of flying the route, with some margin built in for a small profit to keep the line afloat financially. Back then it cost more to fly from New York to Los Angeles than from Cleveland to Chicago. That makes sense. Regulated fares were not exactly the same amount for every mile flown because there are expenses concentrated in departure and arrival no matter how long or short the trip, but overall the fares reflected the actual operating cost of the airliner.

After deregulation any link between trip distance and ticket price went out the window. Now it can cost less to fly from New York to London than New York to Washington. And if an airline is defending one of its major hubs, fares to and from that hub can plummet to absurdly low prices.

The hub-and-spoke airline scheduling system also diminished the value of GA transportation flying because it made it possible to get to so many more destinations with many times more frequent flights. Using hub-and-spoke the airlines can sort passengers at the hub like FedEx sorts packages. Many, many more airports can be served than if airplanes traveled only between city pairs as they once did.

Meanwhile, the direct cost of operating your own airplane continues to be locked into the number of hours flown. Of course fixed costs such as insurance, hangar, and to some degree even maintenance, are not linked to the number of hours flown. But fuel costs, engine reserve and wear and tear on things like brakes, tires and many airplane components are paid for by the mile.

When I learned to fly you could beat airline fares over many routes with just two or three people in a Skylane or Cherokee, for example. Now, with a little advance planning and some online shopping, you can airline those same three people from Cleveland to Orlando for less than the cost of fuel to fly a Skylane from Cleveland to Cincinnati.

Of course, every legacy airline has gone bankrupt over those years, and several of the grand old lines are gone for good, but once freed from regulation they found it irresistible to charge fares that just couldn’t cover the cost.

On the other hand, the GA airplane owner suffered through rising expense for every aspect of operation and simply couldn’t rationalize the cost difference between the airlines and flying their own airplane except on the shortest trips. Maybe one day airline fares will rise to cover the true cost of flying and that will make a GA airplane logical again. Or more likely the hassle factor will become so much greater that any pilot who can afford it will fly themselves no matter the cost difference just to avoid the awful airline experience.

I still fly myself just about anywhere I go domestically, but for 37 years that has been part of my job. If I were flying for purely personal reasons instead of business, would I still make the trip? Maybe. But even for business I find myself drawing the line for a trip in my Baron at 1,000 to 1,200 nm when for many years I thought nothing of flying from one coast to the other. The airline fare for a coast-to-coast trip is darn near free compared to the cost of flying your own airplane.

I think general aviation airplanes are still a wonderful and convenient way to travel, and I hope to keep flying trips for many more years. But through no fault of GA airplanes and pilots much of the transportation practicality of years ago is gone. That means for most of us flying purely for fun and perhaps to go to the remote, out of the way spot, will be the primary use for personal airplanes. And that makes sense. After all, I don’t sail my boat for transportation, only to get around the race mark ahead of the other guys.

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60 Responses to Is GA Transportation Flying Dead?

  1. Bill Berson says:

    Indeed, transportation travel by airline is almost free for me because I use credit card air miles and have not paid for a ticket in years.
    But if GA is dead, why did EAA hire Mac to write articles about transportation flying?
    I have not seen a single sport flying article in SPORT AVIATION from Mac.

  2. Nick says:

    A personal plane still can’t be beat for those last minute family getaways that are in the 400-600 nm range. When the weekend is approaching, and you suddenly decide that the office is quiet enough that you can take a three or maybe even a four day weekend, you’re out of luck when it comes to commercial travel. Even if you can justify the +$1,000 per seat prices for last minute tickets, you’re likely to spend a good 12-15 hours of your precious weekend in one of the various states of commercial airline travel (getting to the airport, security, waiting, etc.). Driving time would also eat up a huge portion of that weekend. A modern general aviation aircraft (think Cirrus SR22), can get you to that vacation destination in only 3-4 hours at about $1/mile operating cost (engine reserve, fuel, etc.). For a family of four, that’s $200-$300 per seat: a bargain. More importantly, if you have a plane, you’ll do the trip. Otherwise you likely would decide it’s not worth the hassle.

  3. roger russton says:

    The cost of transportation GA is insanely high due to lack of volume, a loss of interest in flying by nay broad spectrum of people, and lack of business interest in manufacturing personal aircraft.

    I was a Cessna employee in Wichita (also Rockwell Collins, IFR/Aeroflex and a couple other places) during the “Product Liability Crisis”. Everyone who could drive a rivet knew the real issue: corporate jets made ten times as much money per square foot of plant as did a Skyhawk. PL was in reality more a nuisance than a serious impediment to making light aircraft, and the fact that none of the realistic proposals to fight the problem were officially even noticed underscored that very well.

    At this point it’s going to take a foreign company willing to invest with its own money and off its own bat into making a genuinely modern aircraft: something with four seats, yes, but with integrated full IFR panel, a modern single lever power controlled engine, and with a level of crashworthiness that will be defensible to jurors who have seen NASCAR wrecks drivers get out of unscathed. Moreover, they will have few US assets anyone can go after ( a concept the medevac helo industry didn’t quite get).

    • Ken Hornstein says:

      Roger, I think you’ve got it backwards. The cost of flying isn’t high because people aren’t interested, people aren’t interested because the cost is so high. I am now in my early 40′s and I know plenty of people my age who would love to fly, but one look at the costs and they say “forget it”.

      As for people younger than me … I hear older pilots complain that they’re more into video games and their iPhones and that’s why they aren’t learning to fly, but that’s not the reality either. Those things are dirt cheap compared to the cost of flying, and that’s the real issue. Recall that real wages have basically been flat for more than a decade, and flying has only gotten more expensive … hard to think about flying if you’re worried about putting food on the table.

      I don’t know what the answer is, but I’m afraid that it’s going to get worse before it gets better.

      • Pete Kuhns says:

        An airport buddy just bought an Aeronca Chief for $13k last week. Then flew it home (over 300nm).

        I’m not exactly sure how that equates to aviation being expensive. It flat-out doesn’t have to be. There’s something for everyone, even the middle class no-bodies like myself.

        • Rob B says:

          Pete, I hear you on low cost aircraft, this is true. I’ve been flying for 15 years and I am in my mid 40′s, so in that same demographic mentioned in earlier posts. And I’ve had my share of low cost aircraft (Cubs, biplanes, etc.), but as we all know, with those most folks rarely go anywhere significant with them on any sort of regular basis. These are largely hole boring machines for local fun flying. Nothing wrong with that. But Mac’s blog is about going places. I built and own an RV-8 for just that purpose. And while you can get low cost aircraft, even then it it is not the aircraft alone. It is the fixed costs that kill us. The $400 a month for a hangar. The $1,700 a year for insurance. I couldn’t imagine paying $2K a year for an annual, thankfully I roll my own on that. And then there is the fuel. Even with a 170 knot capable aircraft that only uses around 10 gallons an hour it is hard to justify. So I don’t. But the hassle factor mentioned is one of the reasons why I like to fly GA. I mostly fly the airlines for business and hate the experience. When on vacation I always try to fly myself whenever possible or practical. Even if it costs more. Why? Because flying GA is good therapy.

      • Lawrence Long says:

        You are right on, Ken.

  4. John Ewald says:

    About a year ago I needed to make a business trip from my home base near San Antonio to Oakland. For most trips I avoid the airline hassle but on this trip I knew about it well in advance so I opted for the airlines.

    After I returned I decided as long as I could afford it, I would never do that again. There was absolutely no time saved in taking the airline over my plane, and the abhorent treatment from the airlines and TSA were atrocious. So yes, taking my airplane costs more, but it’s worth every penny.

  5. R Butler says:

    I am an AA Platinum member with over 1 million miles and I find it hard to justify using my airplane. I do because I like to and I can afford it but I find myself using the airlines more and more (have no problem with the airport experience or the flight experience). Actually, I have discovered a new found appreciation of driving trips of up to about 300 miles. There is a lot to be said for being a passenger and not having to deal with the problems of plane ownership (I think the infrastructure of aviation is falling rapidly…have a hard time finding good maintenance, the FBO’s for the little guy are mostly a rip-off and frustrating, etc. However, with all of this said, I still fly on a regular basis because I like to and I CAN!

  6. John Niendorf says:

    I live in Friday Harbor on San Juan Island in Northwest Washington State.. I fly my PA28-140 from Friday Harbor to Arlington (KFHR-KAWO) nearly every week as a part of my commute to Los Angeles. My wife and I also make routine trips off the island to shop at Costco and other retailers.

    Although it is only a 41 NM flight, given my water-locked location, GA is a vital component of my transportation equation.

  7. Steve Carter says:

    Bill Berson is right on the Mark!

    Mac…. Why are you trying to undermine our way of life? Platinum member? Air miles…….fellas I haven’t taken my shoes off to board a cattle car for some time. Mac, why don’t you write about experimental aviation and the exploits of same or go write for someone else! Where are you coming from? What does EAA mean? What the hell is going on here?

  8. rdt7 says:

    Mac, you’re comparing apples and oranges. The only time I fly commercially is coast to coast and only if I don’t have stops in between. In the last month I’ve flown from my home base in Charlotte, NC to Los Angeles, CA to attend my son’s graduation. I had 3 stops for business on the way there and back which made it a no-brainer. After that, my wife and I flew from Charlotte to St. Petersburg, FL to visit another son. My wife would have refused to go commercial. On Friday, we left right after work. Sunday morning we got up when we felt like it, ate a leisurely breakfast with our son and left for home. Just yesterday we took a day trip down to Charleston, SC for the Spoleto festival. Again, it was all on our schedule – no airport parking deck, bus ride, security check, cancelled flights etc. You simply can’t compare the two experiences.

    If your goal is minimize the money you spend traveling, take the bus. If you want ultimate convenience, fun and adventure – fly yourself. People who do not fly do not know what they are missing.

  9. Ben says:

    While I see a lot of people not getting the utility out of their airplanes as they once may have, I use mine very regularly for that purpose. I fly a Mooney Ovation. My son lives in Pennsylvania and I was able to take a job in North Carolina because of my airplane. Every other weekend I fly up to get him from school and we are back home in NC for dinner. I then return him on Sunday. In 3 years, I have never missed a weekend and have only had to modify the plans for weather or maintenance on occasion. The flight from small GA airport to GA airport also saves a lot of driving time on both ends. Flying LOP I average 12-16 nm/gallon, so I beat the airlines in cost, convenience, and hassle. Also, the time spent in flight is high quality time for my son and I to catch up, and serves as a great way to wind down at the end of a long week. I also use the airplane to see family in CT and travel with my wife and son on vacation. As the trips get longer, the airlines always win on price, sometimes win on travel time, but never win on hassle factor.

    While I may never be caught punching holes in the sky just for fun, the joy I get in reaching my destination on time and maximizing quality time cannot be beat. If others did this degree of analysis, I think more would fly GA for transportation as I do.

    Keep up the great articles MAC! I always flip to yours first and never miss a blog. Very thought-provoking!

    • Mac says:

      Hi Ben,
      Glad to hear I’m not the only one who finds great satisifaction in planning a trip and then flying it with a very high degree of reliability. That is my fun flying. But I don’t want to make it more important than any other reason to fly. All are valid. Fly as much as you can for whatever reason you want.
      Mac Mc

  10. Brian M. DeVandry says:

    Here we go again …more of the same (and tired) ongoing “discussions” within our “Industry” on “what to do?” about the graveyard spiral General Aviation finds herself in. And again, for whatever reason, the overwhelming impression continues to be that “they” … the “Industry” …our “Associations”, (EAA, AOPA ect) groups, clubs, memberships etc. …the “Feds”, you, me, us …”WE”, just don’t seem to “get it”! “Whats really changed the practicality equation of GA flying” ??

    The original purpose …the “concept” of, if you will, for the birth and growth of the experimental aircraft community, over these last several decades, which later evolved into the “Light Sport” genera and “Industry” of the present, was to allow for the “Average Joe” with a wife and kids to be able to, over a period of about a year or so, build himself a nice simple (with at least 2 seats as flying is a thing that’s got to be shared!) airplane at a reasonably (sane!) monetary expense that would allow said “Joe” and family & friends to both proliferate and enjoy the wonderful world of Flight! …But! … let’s take a hard look at what “we’ve” (US General Aviation) allowed to happen

    …and please forgive the following re-cap and redundancy of a previous rant, in a previous “comment section” …but I just can’t seem to put this in any other way;

    Let’s see …the “new & improved” C-172-SP, recently reviewed in Flying magazine: a single engine, 4 place, fixed gear, fixed prop, basic, simple low HP “light airplane”. One whose basic airframe has been around for over half a century and whose R & D, tooling and most all other initial development costs have long since been paid for many times over, decades ago (essentially a (very) old airframe design with a few tweaks, and upgraded to some modern avionics (which also should cost substantially less than their steam gauge, analog counterparts) …all this for ONLY $300,000+ ?!?!? Oh, but you can get the venerable old “new & improved” Piper Archer for about the same price! But wait! …you can get a shiny new Cub Crafters Carbon Cub; an even simpler TWO place, fixed gear, fixed prop, basic, simple low HP “LIGHT SPORT” airplane” with a basic avionics package for the bargain price of just under 200K!! Of course, Cessna has finally thrown a bone (sort of) to the fledgling new “Mom & Pop” Flight School in the form of a 21st. Century “Trainer”; the C-162 Skycatcher! … available for the much more REASONABLE “base price” (just recently increased!) of 150K! …which means they should be able to afford at least 3 or 4 of em! The C-172 was available, in 1980, IFR equipped, for the low 30′s (aprox. 90K in today’s dollars) In 1979 the C-152 went for just under 20K (55K today)

    Now, throw in the over inflated (and ever increasing) costs of fuel, insurance, maintenance and all those other “miscellaneous” operating expenses and ask yourself; How can even an “Upper” Middle Class, “Above” Average Joe afford/justify such a purchase (especially after tacking on all those actual operating expenses) How can such a sums for such airplanes ever be (reasonably) justified?? And we (and APOPA) wonder why new pilot certification is half what it was just two decades ago?? Why (aircraft) rental rates have gotten beyond the reach of most would be Sunday Flyers? What could possibly be causing this decline in our beloved activity?!?

    Most of Europe and all of present day Asia have no such thing as “General Aviation” …solely because of the prohibitably expensive costs. Their citizens have been coming here to pursue that dream we’ve all been taking for granted! (but even that’s going to change …read: practically grind to a halt, now that the new draconian EASA Flight Crew licensing regs have kicked in) Active participation in our wonderful world of “Flight” here in the USA has always been on the (relatively) expensive side, and up until now has remained the best (and only) place on the planet to do so. But take another really honest look at the math. Even if we tack on another 50% (a very conservative/generous estimate) to account for the uncontrolled explosion of all the greed laden “Product Liability” lawsuits many (airplane manufacturers) have had to endure these last couple of decades (about the ONLY thing Cessna, Piper etc. can legitimately claim to have been “victimized” by) …we should, at most, be looking at somewhere around $135 – 140,000 for our present day (fully equipped) C-172. …hmm.

    In the late 70′s, I struggled to put myself through school (let’s not even get started on the costs of a college degree these days!) and pay for (mostly through loans) my flight training to pursue a dream of being a Professional Pilot. Now 35 years later, after having been fortunate to have flown everything from parachutes to 747′s, this subject has been a particular heartbreak for me, as I seriously doubt I could succeed in that endeavor today …and wonder how any of today’s young folks (of even “above average” means) ever could as well.

    I’m afraid these greedy times we’re a livin’ and the exponential rate at which that expense is accelerating, will only serve to hasten the time when the final nails are driven. We’re rapidly destroying “General Aviation” in this country …made it solely a “Rich Mans” sport. “Why” the rapidly downward spiral of total logged hours?? …the rapidly decreasing pilot population? …a Pilot shortage? …”sluggish sales” factor? …the “practicality” of “GA” flight?? …very, very sad indeed.

    • Dennis Wruk says:

      Spot on Brian !
      I just wanted to add that in 1970 a new Cessna Skyhawk (with an IFR radio package) was priced at $15,000 .
      Adjusted for inflation (CPI) that would be $88,950 in 2012.
      So why a $300,000 price for a Cessna 172 today?
      Maybe it’s because of the multi million dollar liability lawsuits that Cessna is slapped with every time a Skyhawk is involved in a crash.
      Since 1970 the cost of product liability insurance for aircraft manufacturers has increased dramatically . Someone has to pay the premium, and guess who that is?

      • Craig says:

        I think you guys both need to take a class in basic economics. The real reason GA aircraft cost so much today: low volume. Back in the 70s the industry was pumping out more than 10,000 units a year. Now it’s a few hundred. There are certain fixed costs of keeping the line up that have to be spread out over the total number of units sold. When volume drops, the price per unit goes through the roof. Yes there are other reasons, but that’s the main one. A new Toyota Prius is 10x more complex than a 172 and you can get one for $23K.

        Now my question for you: If cost is what is keeping people out of GA, how come rich people aren’t doing it either? Accroding to census data, there are almost 3 million households in the US with annual income over $200K. They CAN afford to fly, but only a tiny fraction actually do. Why do you think that is?

        • Rodney says:

          Honestly I think it is because idea they could or should fly. There are so many things competing for attention today that the idea of actually going somewhere, getting into an airplane that is usually 1940′s technology, and learning to operate it is foreign. People today learn online, they fly virtually in any airplane they want to fly from a WWII fighter to a 747 online without taking up their day and without the inconvenience of going to the airport. Simply put most people do NOT see general aviation as valuable to them or their lives. It is the antithesis of the modern pushbutton no hassle watch a movie or play video games while we travel mentality. It isn’t until someone is standing around wishing there was some fast hassle free way to get from point A to point B that aviation even comes into the picture and then they run smack into the reality that it takes a lot of time and money to learn, get to the level you can actually fly for travel (IFR) and maintain a plane while keeping on top of government regulations the constanct threat of an AD etc. Part of this is why Experimental aviation has outpaced certified in new planes. With an E-AB plane you can have what you want with the equipment you want but you still have to take the years to build it and maintain it which is a problem for a good sized group of potential flyers. So with time at a premium and the required investment in a plane and staying current most people pass it by. If buying and flying a plane were as quick, easy, inexpensive and free of government interference (can you imagine the police doing “ramp checks” or biannual driving tests for cars or having certified cars with “Driving Directives” you had to pay for out of pocket or you couldn’t drive) as getting and driving a car they couldn’t build them fast enough.

    • Matt says:

      Hey “Bryan”,

      Do you think it would be possible to use any more “inverted commas”?

      Just wondering.

  11. As long as we have the TSA, I’ll keep on flying my airplane as long as I’m able. On top of that, there are trips you just can’t do on the airlines. A few years ago we did a trip that went from MA, MD, MO, AR, TN and home in 10 days. We could barely have driven the distance in that time, let alone visited people along the way for a day or two. A frequent trip we make is from central MA to south NJ to visit family. Two hours in the air vs. five driving if everything goes just right. With the plane we go down & back in one day rather than spending the whole weekend. On hot summer days my wife and I meet at the airport after work and 40 minutes later we’re at Provincetown on Cape Cod and 10 minutes after that we’re having a picnic supper on the beach where it’s 20* cooler. GA travel dead? Not from where I sit.

  12. GMC says:

    Sadly, you hit the nail on the head. Like so many things in life, GA is for the rich. I love flying, but I can’t justify it.

  13. Don Shapansky says:

    I disagree with the usefullness of GA for business, I fly 250 – 300 hrs per year all over Central US and Canada occassionally. Almost all destinations are far from any airline hubs and I’m in doing my business by 09:30 am and home by 5;00 – 600 pm and have covered in some case 2000 miles and had 2 meetings in 2 cities. Yes it costs more but I’m twice to three times as effective as a guy with only a credit card and a breifcase. Try Granbury, TX to Rawlins, WY (1st meeting on site) then Liberal, KS (2nd meeting on site) and back for a meeting the next morning in my home office!

  14. george samara says:

    Let’s not forget the main reason that flying is so expensive – fuel costs! When
    we get a handle on bringing that cost down, it will also bring down the cost of
    doing business and making airplanes and parts and all of us will benefit – except the oil rich countries who are ripping us off every day!!!

  15. Rich J says:

    Newer airplanes costing $400,000 – $700,000 are great if you have a business purpose. Otherwise, forget it. They are just too expensive. Throw in a wife who gets sick in an airplane, 767 or C172, a boat, and a winding road, and you have to find friends to go on a one day outing if you want to fly, and too many of those trips is not good for the marriage. And in today’s overly litigious society, you have to be very careful as to which friends you take along, and it unfortunately would never be the kid standing by the airport fence who I hardly know, and do not even know his/her parents. So I do a lot of practice flying, maybe a trip of 200 miles or so to see someone or something, but very little else. While I have access to a couple of 35 – 45 year old steam gage planes in a club, it’s getting to the point that the airlines are not that bad at all.

  16. Joe Friend says:

    General aviation and experimental aircraft have enriched my life immeasurably. During the work week I am able to fly to my office in my Searey amphibian, departing a runway in my community and arriving at a lake next to my place of employment. With the great flying weather Florida has, I can fly between 3 to 4 days each week. The flight is 48 miles (35 min.) and driving is 61 miles (75 min.) On the weekends or during a vacation opportunity I have an IFR equipped RV-9 that is a dream to travel in. I think for the use and enjoyment I get out of having built and maintaining the planes and flying them, the cost is quite reasonable. The cost of fuel is the largest factor although my SeaRey gets 14 mi./gal. but that’s equivalent to 18 mi./gal. for ground travel taking into account the distance flying vs. driving to work and that makes the cost about the same as my Ford Explorer. Taking my RV-9 to 12,000 ft., I get 30 mi./gal. at 164 mph (statute) true airspeed. If I slow down to 150 mph, the mileage rises to 38 mi./gal. With GPS navigation, XM weather in the cockpit and ATC watching out for restricted areas and TFRs, flying around the country is very predictable and enjoyable. No more airliners or TSA for me. I am so appreciative of having the freedoms in the USA to be able to enjoy aviation as I am. Not so in so much of the rest of the world. Thanks EAA and AOPA.

  17. J.D. Barron says:


    I rejoined the EAA as I finish my motorglider project. The reason for the motorglider?
    Who can afford to go anywhere? The Limbach sips 3.5 gallons per hour (if it is runnung at all).
    But more to the point I have to repeat the comments above about the articles on commercial aviation, etc.
    I think that these stories and articles are great and I read Flying magazine for them. I rejoined EAA to read and learn more about homebuilts and other experimental aircraft. I am beginning th think that I should have bought a subscription to Kitplanes instead!
    Get back to the point or back to Flying magazine. Please!

  18. Bill C says:

    I learned to fly at age 17 and am now 57. I grew up in a family that owned airplanes and all my siblings were pilots as was my father. I got the Piper Comanche my father bought when I was 19 and still have it to this day. My love of flying is still there but the cold hard facts are that it is now too expensive for the joy I get out of it. Last year when I figured up the cost of hanger rent, insurance, maintenance, fuel and annual and divided it by the number of hours flown, the cost was $227 an hour. It is now getting close to the time to sell it. This airplane is now like having a kid in college that never gradutes. Bottom line is the high cost of flying is what will bring on the slow demise of GA except for the well off.

  19. Ron Carlson says:

    Mac, I’ve always liked your writing and this article is no exception. However, can you please tell us what is the ‘business’ need you have for your airplane? Thanks, Ron

  20. willie says:

    We had the airlines cancel our flight just days before our Disney vacation. We simply flew our old Mooney from the midwest to a little airpoirt near Orlando and rented a car. Halfway across the U.S. in just a mere 5 hours with one fuel stop. We saved our vacation and couldn’t be happier with our old heap. We still use the Mooney regularly as my wifes family lives more than 600NM away and her father has his own strip. We’ll keep on flying.

  21. Kenneth P. Katz says:

    General aviation is great fun, but it is expensive and highly sensitive to the weather, so it’s not particularly practical as a means of transportation unless you can afford high-end equipment and the time to maintain a high level of IFR proficiency. That level of capability requires an amount of money which is beyond the means of the vast majority of general aviation pilots and a commitment of time which is impractical for most people who are professional and family commitments.

    • Rodney says:

      Very true, even at the local airport where we gather I very very rarely hear of anyone taking their plane on a longer cross country trip. There are a few that go to Oshkosh but that is about it. Most of the flying is with in about 100nm of the airport.

  22. Mark L. says:

    Guys and Gals – can we stop with the rationalizations? I fly because it was my childhood dream and a wonderful adult challenge, and I simply love it. Not because it’s practical at all. I live in Wisconsin, and I have friends who have spent more hard-earned dollars on boats they use for 5 months and store for 7, snowmobiles that barely got used at all with our mild winter this year, and guys who have spent 5 or 10 grand to go bag a carribou in Wyoming compared to what I spent on my 1/3 share of a 48 year old Skyhawk. The flying I do isn’t practical – it’s amazing and challenging and truly wonderful! In my opinion, 95% of GA probably never was very practical and probably never will be. Sure it gets you from point A to point B – it’s just the way it does that is simply a joy! Fuel costs, maintenance, etc. all hurt my wallet – but God didn’t put us here just to pay bills – Flying is good for my soul. Bill C – I’d be interested in giving your Comanche a new home when you’re ready to sell! Even at $227 an hour, I’ll love it every time I get a chance to until God gives me proper wings that don’t need money and hydrocarbons.

  23. Bruce Culver says:

    If the current trends continue, it is likely that in a couple of decades the only General Aviation in the US will be the low-end homebuilders, those who build from plans or inexpensive kits, and use inexpensive converted auto engines (VW, Corvair). While there may be a population of elderly certified aircraft, the GA fleet will be getting quite old overall, and as the number of active pilots ansd airplanes decreases, at some point there will be a collapse of GA services that may ground even the wealthy who can afford the high-end stuff, and perhaps the end of dedicated aviation gasoline. But those who have built inexpensive homebuilts powered by converted auto engines or other cheap powerplants will be able to use auto fuel, do their own inspections and maintenance, and operate far more cheaply. So the irony is that as EAA moves farther from its roots wirth the homebuilders into commercial GA, that entity will continue to shrink, along with the vestiges of the old “middle class Joe” GA as old pilots die or retire and old airplanes are parted out or scrapped. So EAA will be left with the homebuilders as its largest contingent. But will they need or want the “new” Sport Aviation?”

  24. Brad K. says:

    I don’t know….I can’t agree with the “end of the world as we know it” crowd…..seems like a pervasive attitude in our world today, especially WRT politics….ugh.

    SOMEBODY is buying the gas, getting the maintenance done, getting training, and buying the insurance. Unfortunately, the pricing is settling in to what the market will bear, whether or not that includes the average Joe’s ability to pay.

    Reminds me of when I was a DJ in the student lounge during college. I spun (vinyl) pop/rock. When the format would change at a certain hour, and the crowd would flip out….”what’s happening, this is intollerable, this place sucks, it’s the worst!” Then, as I was packing up and handing the console over to my replacement, the crowd would change, fill back up, and enjoy that format. Yes, I know this doesn’t mirror some “exclusivity” that some argue is present in today’s GA, it’s just that many times we associate our narrow view of things with the bigger world, and it doesn’t necessarily fit.

    Yes, it’s too expensive…agree, agree, agree. Still, there are cost-mitigating things one can do, instead of just getting sticker shock from, a Lexus and refusing to buy anything, including the Honda Civic.

  25. Dan Horton says:

    You’re right Mac. Your Baron can’t compete with airline fares and isn’t practical as a fun flyer. Please sell it immediately and go write about boats.

    BTW, a fast experimental changes the equation a lot.

  26. Mac says:

    Hi Dan,
    Yes. There are many airplanes that are more fuel efficient and less costly to operate than a Baron. But let’s trade places on an icy winter day over the middle of Lake Michigan. The Baron flies that trip with a very acceptable level of risk. And that’s what flying for transportation is all about. Going on a preset schedule and staying on schedule nearly every time. Just about any airplane can make the trip on a sunny and calm day, but every new weather challenge drives up the cost of making the trip with acceptable safety.
    Richard Collins and I used to believe that we were doing just fine if we matched the schedule reliability of the major airlines when flying our own GA airplanes. And that is the standard for reliable scheduled travel. But GA airplanes have become more capable, and for all sorts of reasons airline schedules have become less reliable, so a fully equipped GA airplane with an experienced IFR pilot can match the airlines overall.
    Mac Mc

  27. Alex Kovnat says:

    GA for transportation dead? I hope not. In the course of my job working for Uncle Sam in Southeastern Michigan, I once was managing a contract with a business whose headquarters is in Michigan’s upper peninsula. The distance between that firm and where I’m at, is similar to the distance between where I’m at and New York City.

    Every time the CEO of that firm wants to come to Detroit, he has to take a connecting flight to Minnesota, and then fly from there to here. If he had access to an aircraft like the Piper Meridian, he wouldn’t be spewing lead into the atmosphere any more than any jetliner, yet would be able to fly here and back directly instead of making an intermediate stop in Minnesota. When you look at what’s out there, you’ll see single engine turboprops that move as fast as the old DC-7 or Super Constellation, yet can take off and land at airports where airline aviation would never be allowed owing to security and other concerns.

    Before Bonnier took over Flying magazine, they periodically had supplements (i.e. a magazine within a magazine) detailing how businesses ranging from mom-and-pop all the way to Fortune 500 firms, were using aircraft of all kinds and sizes to make it easier to reach and service their clients. I wish Bonnier would bring that feature back, so readers could get a look at how things are going in the business aviation world in this era of $309K Piper Archers, $6.00/gallon 100LL, $5.50/gallon Jet A, proposals to ban lead in avgas entirely, and proposals to lay heavy user fees on those using the IFR infrastructure.

  28. Mac says:

    Hi Alex,
    An excellent source for the business aviation data you are looking for is on the National Business Aviation Assoc. website at There you can find all sorts of information on business flying. The Business Aviation Fact Book posted there will be able to answer nearly all of your questions. And you’re right about the utility and efficiency of business flying. It’s alive and well and will certainly grow as the economy recovers.
    Mac Mc

  29. Brad says:

    As Mac points out, the instability of airline ticket prices makes it very difficult to compare apples-to-apples on price. What’s cheap today will be expensive tomorrow. Take a look at what’s happened in second-tier hubs like Minneapolis as an example: as soon as Delta acquired Northwest, prices at MSP skyrocketed and flights were cut.

    But why would anybody think that it would be less expensive to haul a few people in a small airplane than a whole bunch of people in a big one? Economies of scale kick in that you cannot beat if you think in terms of price alone. Big deal. Airline prices are cyclical, and will begin rising across the board as airlines disappear through bankruptcy and mergers. Then the whole equation changes again.

    Plenty of people have pointed out the added benefits of GA: door-to-door time, convenience, fun, etc. As long as the airlines continue with their dehumanizing approach to transportation, people will be be seeking alternatives. Right now the cost equation only makes sense if your time is valuable enough to overcome the difference in cost. Put another (cynical) way: you need to make a lot of money for personal flying to make sense economically. But are we so caught up in the economics that we lose sight of the joy, the challenge, and the passion of personal aviation? Isn’t that why you learned to fly in the first place?

  30. John says:

    The comments about GA flying costs and how they have hugely outpaced inflation are right on…any old timers remember what hangar rent was in the 60′s & 70′s…any guesses on insurance cost on a cessna single in the 60′s and 70′s? I don’t know why flying costs went up so much relative to cost of living but they did..

  31. The differences between Mac’s cost and mine are the differences between reliably dispatched IFR and VFR flights. Mac can go nearly every time and I have to travel commercial when I really need to be there. There is a tremendous cost penalty for that capability in a GA aircraft, e.g., a second engine and lots of instrumentation, high fuel consumption and high fixed costs for insurance and maintenance.

    I am a forensic engineer and a VFR pilot. Previously I owned a Cherokee 180. Fuel consumption was about 14.5 statute miles/gallon @ 140mph TAS. My break-even cost was about 1.5 seats vs. commercial airline travel.

    Currently I have an RV-6A purchased flying for about the same cost as my 1973 Cherokee. Fuel consumption is about 23 statute miles/gallon throttled back to 180 mph TAS. My break-even cost compared to an airline ticket is less than or equal to one seat.

    There are over 230 public use airports in Washington and Oregon, only a handful of which are served commercially. I can absolutely save my clients money in terms of hourly billing expenses by flying the RV-6A directly to the closest airport. One example is a job I had in Kalispell, MT. The flight from Battle Ground, WA took 2:15 minutes and I landed at Kalispell City Airport – literally one mile away from my scene inspection. I refueled with $93 worth of 100LL. To travel commercially, I have to get a flex fare ticket, check my equipment as baggage, keep my fingers crossed that the TSA doesn’t damage the equipment during their inspection (has happened – got a $50 settlement on $800 replacement cost) and in the case of the Kalispell trip, travel 30 miles to PDX instead of 2 miles to Goheen Field, get on a plane to Seattle, transfer to a flight to Glacier International (30 minutes from the scene inspection) at a ticket cost of $600 + rental car. Oh, I would have arrived more than two hours later if I had flown commercially.

    Mac, I realize that despite working for the EAA you have a strong personal prejudice in favor of certificated aircraft. For your type of flying, having a twin with IFR capability makes sense. My use of my RV-6A is incidental to my job. I am pleased that I am blessed to be able to fly it when circumstances and weather permit. My clients and I both come out winners when that happens. I saved them money and I added a few more hours to help amortize the fixed cost of ownership. One of the reason’s I fly is to fully experience the magnificence of God’s Creation. I’m personally not interested in flying IFR because that magnificence can’t be seen when one is in or above the clouds. My choice of aircraft, an RV is also consistent with VFR flying. Choosing an “experimental” aircraft (better word choice = owner built and maintained) is the biggest “bang for the buck” in general aviation. Given the name over your employer’s door, you might consider promoting this genre of aircraft.

  32. Nanji says:

    Let’s not make the classic mistake of those that know the cost of everything and the value of nothing.

    GA, like every other form of transport is a tool. Depending on the aircraft you rent/share/own, it is appropriate for some uses and not for others. A Piper Cub is a different machine compared to a Piper Malibu and both have areas where they excel and areas where they don’t. To make a general statement that GA is losing the battle or that something is too expensive is in my opinion, short sighted and lacks nuance.

    Then, there is cost. Like everything else, I see a great deal of value in using my Piper Arrow for transport. I’ve flown it from WI to TX to see family and will be flying to Kansas this weekend. Is is always the cheapest way to fly – no. But I choose to do it anyway because overall, as a value proposition, it makes sense to me.

    There can be no general statements of value though. Each person’s perception and views are different. What seems an acceptable value to me may not be for someone else.

    So to each his own – after all, isn’t that what America is all about?

  33. The acronym “POPU” is Federally Copyrighted as meaning Private Owned-Public Use; as has been recognized, as such, for types of Airport Owners agreeing with the findings of the POPU AIRPORTS Manual!

    “Funding, of Privately Owned Real Estate”, used for Airport Services, is appearing to be a Significant Barrier for being adopted toward entry into NextGen Planning!

  34. Fred Anderka says:

    While commercial travel across the country may be cheaper, the time saved is not that great. Considering door to door times of 12 hours for commercial vs. 13.5 hours flying my Velocity VFR with 2 fuel stops, the choice is an easy one, assuming good weather. Flying myself I can be 400nm toward my destination before I even set foot on a commercial flight. In most cases I can beat a 737 if the distance is less then 800nm.

    Yes, the fixed costs can be daunting even for a homebuilt, but the simple joy of flying is priceless and is something very hard to quantify or explain to non-pilots. The ability to go when and where is another perk when one considers the cost of next day fares and the possibility of overbooked flights.

    As long as my health holds out I will continue to fly myself and avoid the cattle cars as much as possible.

  35. J.D. Barron says:

    Here is the reason GA flying is losing favor. The glamor we saw back in the 50 and 60 from the glory days of aviation is gone. Now you find aviation (as represented by the airlines everyone is familiar with) is just like a bus trip eas back then!
    The glamor is mostly gone and the utility has been diluted by good cars and the interstate system.
    In the 70′s when too many aircraft were built the interstates were being finished and now you can take a good road and a comfortable car 200 miles is an easy day.
    Back in the day to remember then a trip from Bitmingham to Mobile was a long long day along US 30. Start early and get there late. Poor food and directions and farm to market roads and being stuck behind some very slow trucks on two lane roads.
    Now you can fly from Birmingham to Mobile in two hours, but you have to plan, drive to the airport, preflight get gas etc. Then fly for an easy two hours and then land, rent a car drive to your location, do your business and then repeat for the return trip.
    The expense is pretty high and the possible weather probelms always exist.
    Take the car, Get in, drive 4.5 hours direct to your destination, do your business and return. Air conditioned, food and rest stops readily available, soft music or conversation, relaxed trip.
    When you are back home in just a little more block time you are cool, calm (?) and have more money left over.
    This is the mission profile that light planes were (are) perfect for. Unfortunately unless your destination is the airport you are still not there (quite) when you arrive by air.
    The glamor is not there for the young people and the utility is mostly much less than it was. The comfort level is much less than driving now unless you are in the high end of the market.
    Add liability concerns, inflation higher than average, comfort, utility then you are into sport flying purely for enjoyment. The $200.00 hamburger is not a lot of inducement for many and there are many other places for the youn ones to spend their entertainment budget.
    I still feel the pull of aviation, but my kids don’t. Luckily my son in law does, but he fiys the big iron birds for Delta and the Air Force.
    When an entry level new plane is over $100,000.00 there are few young people standing in line and the restrictive rules and regulations dissuade the old hands everyday.

    Good Luck,


    • John says:

      good points. aside from the increased costs of GA flying that are real, I hadn’t really thought about the better roads, faster speed limits, and increased exits/food/gas/lodging etc… I do agree with all of you about the magic of flying and how it’s priceless. I hope America never let’s go of the glorious freedom of flying that we have….

  36. Nate Duehr says:

    I really hate opening up a link from an organization dedicated to supporting aviation and reading this negative junk from J. Mac. How is saying “I’ve flown for years on someone else’s dime but hey, no one else can afford it,” helping in any way?

    I know it’s hard to believe, but people are flying and J. Mac is just completely out of touch with the sport aviation community. Articles like this are just to get people riled up to click on web links. When did EAA turn into the Huffington Post?

    I’m at a fly-in with friends this weekend 850 miles from home enjoing a good time with aviation friends. Where’s J. Mac? And where are the articles about the fly-ins happening every weekend?

    It may not be the heyday of fly-ins but articles like this one are lame. J. Mac at Flying was neat stories about high-tech jets that was a neat way to dream about flying something bigger or better someday. He moves to EAA and asks if all us little guys should hang it up because it’s too expensive?

    Go jump in a lake, J. Mac. My flying budget is none of your business, thanks. Write something about all the people in the organization you work for who ARE flying. Don’t scare people off with tabloid journalism. Sheesh.

  37. Frank Giger says:

    JD is on the money:

    “In the 70′s when too many aircraft were built the interstates were being finished and now you can take a good road and a comfortable car 200 miles is an easy day.”

    Thanks for saving me the trouble of having to point out that in 1970 a Champ beat driving time by a factor of four in large parts of the country (and I’m in Alabama, too!).

  38. Otto Davis says:

    I’m with the guy who bought the Aeronca Chief for 13K! Yes, aviation has always been expensive, especially when dealing with factory-built IFR iron and two big engines burning fuel at an astounding rate.
    But there are less expensive ways to participate. I’m heartened by the advent of modern small engines from the likes of Rotax and others, and light E-AB airplanes that can utilize such powerplants to fly efficiently at a cost that the Average Joe can manage. True, your Kitfox might not be able to keep the schedule every day, in all weather, but I’ll bet 90 percent of the time it will get you there on time, and with a smile on your face.
    Also, somebody mentioned motorgliders: I used to think they seemed boring/unattractive/slow, etc., but now I have a new sense of appreciation for them, especially with today’s fuel prices. Climb to 10,000 and shut off the engine, and continue flying, and flying! Have you guys seen the Xenos motorglider?
    Forget the doom and gloom — EAA and sport aviation are alive and well!

  39. Randy Beloff says:

    I’ve read about half the posts here, and one of the things most of the current aviation types seem to forget is that speed is not the sole goal of flying an airplane cross-country. Many people take their cars and make a 400 – 600 mile trips for the weekend, traveling at 35- 60 mph depending on flow of traffic. Cubs, T-crafts, Luscombes, Champs, Pacers etc. will all beat traveling time by car, and probably operating costs will be similar.
    I flew my Luscombe from Maine to California in less time and for less money than I could drive my car. Speed is nice, but you can still fly great trips in lower cost airplanes I have indicated or you can find a Legacy Homebuilt (Tailwinds, T-18s, Cougars etc.) at very reasonable costs that still give you great speed and range very economically. You also are doing future generations a favor by preserving an aspect of GA that is vanishing. The latest hot ship is not always the greatest option, but we all tend to be dazzled by the flash of the shiny new machines. Many great older flying machines exist that can still make personal AC travel viable.

  40. John G. Johnson says:

    While the utility of GA flying for buiness and personal travel still works for people in some situations, as supported by many of the responses here, I am sadly afraid that the costs today of recreational, pleasure flying has priced out of the market many of the people who learned to fly for the love of it in the fifties, sixties, and seventies. Another factor, and I believe a large one, is that the mystique of flying is not what it was for most of the population. I graduated from high school in 1960, so I didn’t grow up listening to the exploits of WWII and Korean military pilots, but airline flying was a rarity , there were constant new developments to pique interest, and GA flying was much more common and attainable. Today for most people, airplanes are just another form of transportation. I started flying in 1981, own a share- a big factor in lowering fixed costs-of a Cherokee 180 and am closing in on 1500 hours. I’ll continue flying as long as I can pass a medical, but I am sorrowfully afraid that the “good old days” are not coming back. Incidentally, Mac, I soloed in 5454Z.

  41. Jim Faix says:

    I’ve been restoring a 1956 C-172 for the last 2 1/2 years. The way the price of fuel has been going up, I hope I can fill my tanks without taking out a second mortgage. I have about 3 months of work to do on this old bird. I hope I can afford to fly it when I get it finished.

    I think the decline of GA is tied to the price of fuel more than any thing else. If fuel prices were even $1.00/gal cheaper, there would be more pilot hours per year.

  42. Paul Connell says:

    Ken Hornstein says:

    “Roger, I think you’ve got it backwards. The cost of flying isn’t high because people aren’t interested, people aren’t interested because the cost is so high. I am now in my early 40′s and I know plenty of people my age who would love to fly, but one look at the costs and they say “forget it”.
    As for people younger than me … I hear older pilots complain that they’re more into video games and their iPhones and that’s why they aren’t learning to fly, but that’s not the reality either. Those things are dirt cheap compared to the cost of flying, and that’s the real issue.”

    Yes exactly! I have been dying to fly since about age 9. I am 16 now, I’ve taken 1 flight lesson so far (nearly a year ago) and I havn’t been able to afford another. Oh did I mention that EAA paid for that one? Yes EAA is a wonderfull organization doing everthing they can to get people interested in flying. Young Eagles Ect. EAA also made a way for me to take Sportys online pilot course (also free). I cant say how much I apriciate those generous actions of EAA. My interest in flight seems to be insatiable now! I certainly have “the bug”. But after all that… here I am finacially unable to do anything with the passion for flight that I have. I would pass up video games any day! Anyone know where I can get free lessons? :-D

  43. Tom Miller says:

    Let’s be a little more practical. To make the equation work, you need four things. 1. Mechanical reliability 2) Nearly all-weather capability, 3) Speed, and 4) Low expenses (operational, periodic, and capital). I’ve been trying hard to make the equation work, but it’s not easy.

    I fly an experimental Lancair 360 for business, day or night, rain or shine. Nearly every flight is filed IFR direct. I burn mostly 91 octane MOGAS (carbureted engine), and when I do need AVGAS, Airnav finds the cheapest. I tie down instead of hangaring. I carry no insurance whatsoever. I use two iPads for PFD and MFD with ADS-B weather and a single Garmin 430W with a TruTrak autopilot. My only backups are a handheld comm and GPS.

    Here’s the rub. While I’m out there actually trying to make it work, I find that I’m the rare exception at the airport–the oddball.

    Most folks just want to putz around on pretty days. Good for them, but that’s not why I fly. Others think they need a big twin to fly around the weather. Look, we’re both flying AROUND the weather. I’m no hurricane hunter, and neither are they. Some just “feel better” with an $80,000 panel with quintuple redundancy. Hey, it’s their budget, but I’ll guarantee you that I fly 5 times more than they do, and with ubiquitous radar coverage, my low cost backups are completely sufficient. Your plane can slumber in your pricey T-hangar. I’ll be headed somewhere at 16,000 feet sipping welding oxygen. Same goes for AVGAS vs. MOGAS. Pontificate all you want, but I’ll be flying while you’re still deciding what would put your mind at ease.

    My kind of flying probably makes many of you uncomfortable, and that’s part of the problem with GA right now. We’re spoiled. We like to spend the big bucks just because we can, and we’ve decided that any real cost saving measures must just be “dangerous shortcuts.” If we’re serious about GA for transportation, it’s time for us to start thinking more like engineers or budget airlines. “What’s the minimum required to get the job done safely?” If I need to transport 6 people, perhaps a Baron fits the bill, but for most transportation purposes, it’s costly, inefficient, extravagant overkill.

    On a different note, what would improve GA for me and anyone else who is actually serious about GA as transportation?

    1) Affordable, FAA-blessed anti-ice. Ice really messes with my schedule in the winter, and I have no good options. This is a major problem for light GA. Saying you’ll just wait until tomorrow to fly is NOT a sufficient answer. We need an attainable, FAA blessed anti-ice solution for certified and experimental aircraft. We’re EXPERIMENTERS, remember? We need a way to find and test solutions for this stuff.

    2) More reliable and affordable turbocharging. Most all of our airplanes would be significantly more efficient at FL210. We’d avoid ice and weather better there and would have more options in case of power loss. I don’t need 30 inches of boost. Just give me sea level pressure and I’ll be thrilled.

    3) Someone, ANYONE, to compete with Garmin in the GA-attainable WAAS GPS arena. Enough with the monopoly already. When in the history of GA has essential navigation capability rested so firmly in the hands of one company? Furthermore, why do they have the lock on data updates? You, the taxpayer, provide that information to Garmin and Jepp FOR FREE!

    4) Wider availability of covered tiedowns. So what if the airport authority thinks their ugly. They’re cheap to build and they’d help a lot with UV exposure.

    5) Major expansion of MOGAS availability. It’s a crying shame the small number of airports that have MOGAS on the field. We’ve got to get people over their MOGAS hangups.

    6) Affordable ADS-B out capability. It’s cool. It adds safety. Why should it cost a fortune? It’s not that high tech, and we need it ASAP.

    7) EAA folks spending their time experimenting like they really should be, instead of just building the five thousandth plain vanilla RV-fill-in-the-blank. It’s as if all we want is to just be boring little aircraft factories rather then pushing the state of the art. Let’s see the emergency RC jet engine pods. What about climb and glide for extreme efficiency? Tiny, fast plane with ultra-prone pilot seats? Please, folks, let do some new stuff! By the way, I applaud the electric folks. They’re trying, and I can’t wait to convert my Lancair to electric. Let’s do this thing!

    • bill p. says:

      In regard to your call for a new anti-ice substance, I know nothing about the subject, but do a google search for “Slippery Liquid Infused Porous Surfaces (SLIPS)” and you’ll see a team of researchers at Harvard has just announced in a press release that they have created such a substance.

  44. Dale Jarvis says:

    Seems like a lot of concern and hand-wringing going on in some of the comments. How about a different perspective? How about a fresh look from a visionary perspective? For a hundred years, mankind has been blessed to fly on aerodynamic wings. The wonderful joy and convenience of ‘traditional’ flight has been pretty continuous since the the Wrights and others innovated controllable flight. Things started slow and pretty crude (but useful), improving to the present state of the art.

    Today, experimental aircraft builders construct their own craft powered by traditional piston driven to turbine to the rapidly expanding electric powered technologies. Incidentally, two research groups have independently developed batteries that will extend the lithium battery charge density by factors of 10 and 15 respectively. The battery service lifetimes will also be extended as side bonus. So if for example, a current electric plane which can fly 1 1/2 hours on a charge can then be extended to 15 to 21 hours on a charge (depending on the respective battery technology) with virtually no increase in battery weight, it becomes clear that a new transportation paradigm is on the threshold. The actual cost of ‘fuel and maintenance’ will be vastly cheaper. The new batteries are just a few years out.

    But really, isn’t this still progress in traditional airframe technology? Is it not time to be visionary and to jump to the next higher technology? When the Wright brothers
    (and their sister) first started thinking about aircraft, they certainly did not envision high altitude, high speed intercontinental jet aircraft! Yet here we are today.

    One cannot ignore the science fiction written by Jules Verne which now has become science fact. And the ‘Vern’ of today is seen in countless Sci-fi movies such as the Star Wars series where ‘General Aviation’ criss-crossed the skies on many planets. So how about it? Do you dare to dream about gravitational manipulation for the new paradigm craft for general aviation? With GPS and modern computing power, literal highways in the sky are eminently attainable under those film scenarios.

    Allegedly, in the year 1900, a clerk at the US Patent Office stated that the office should probably be closed and shut down because “everything that could be invented, had already been invented…” History shows that discoveries have been increasing at an accelerated rate. So much for that clerks analysis!

    Just for the record, I enjoy flying in any aircraft created by man, but I ask, is it time to move beyond the traditional airfoil and small choice of power plants, to a new form of transportation for mankind? There might be a far more efficient set of technologies just over the horizon that are accessible to experimental aircraft entrepreneurs.

    With less expensive and much higher efficiency technology comes greater accessibility to the common public. Look at the history of computers and cell phones! Once only wealthy corporations could afford IBM mainframe computers and their high maintenance costs. Today, the common home laptop has the computing power of the worlds best Supercomputer of just a couple decades ago. And the power, bandwidth and color graphics on Smart cell phone apps commonly found every where? Need I say more? Commercial and private pilots are loving the upgrades that iPads and their clones bring to the cockpit.

    We love those traditional wings and always will. Let us preserve them as we apply the creative energies found in the true spirit of EAA and bring forth the next quantum leap in experimental general aviation. As a pilot, imagine yourself flying one of those atmospheric planetary vehicles seen in Star Wars movies. Would the younger generation enjoy them every bit as much as you? Someone once said: “Anything man can conceive, man can achieve.”

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