It is no secret that there are fewer and fewer active general aviation pilots every year. Why is that true? Can we arrest the decline? Will the activity ever grow again?
The factors most commonly cited when discussing the decline are money and time. Those are excuses, though, not factors. Flying has always been expensive and learning how to use an airplane has always taken a lot of time.
One reason there are fewer pilots is because the mood in our country has changed. There is more of a tendency today for people to be needy and dependent and risk-averse. That is not a good demographic for flight training or for flying.
The only real way to increase interest in flying is to appeal to people who have a strong sense of independent individualism. The risks can’t be minimized. In fact, flying is something that takes a good mix of intelligence and coordination, both physical and mental. Lacking that, flying can be downright hazardous to your health. In other words, wimps are not good prospects for flying.
When I started flying in the early 80’s the sky’s were filled with planes and almost everyone knew at least one private pilot. Landing at uncontrolled airports was a real challenge with so many planes in the pattern it often looked like a NASCAR event and getting a word in on the radio took real patience. Now when I land at most small airports I’m usually the only one there and the radio frequencies are quite with only few lonely voices in the wilderness to break the static. I,m doing my part by teaching my kids to fly but if general aviation is to survive something needs to be done to reverse the trend.