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GA pilots of the future...

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GA pilots of the future...

Old 7th Oct 2016, 01:51
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GA pilots of the future...

A very respected PPRuNer and I dined last night, and enjoyed another great conversation. During our discussion, we both lamented the changes and priorities in pilot training. New pilots have less opportunity for hands and feet, rag wing taildragger type flying, and more glass cockpit, go fast[er], automation oriented flying. As I thought about what he was saying, I more and more realized that the notion I have of a new pilot yearning to hand prop their aircraft, then taxi out through the grass, with only a minimal VFR panel in front of them, was dying. My fellow PPRuNer drove the point home further by predicting the future of commercial passenger transport as also relying less on "pilots", and more on automation. whi needs to learn the old ways now?

Will the "flying club" as we know it now only be a thing of history in decades to come? Will our ranks not be filled in from beneath with eager new pilots wanting to learn flying of old? Will they just sit the night before, and program a flight plan, then walk out to a plane with no controls, but just a slot to load a memory card, load the flight plan, and they are just along for the ride?
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Old 7th Oct 2016, 03:52
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I tend to divide recreational pilots into two types: rag and tube pilots who tend to have day jobs in the airline world, and mini-airliner pilots whose day jobs are in IT. A simplification, but there's some truth in it.

Whatever their numbers, when fully automated mini-airliners do become available, only rag and tube pilots will remain. And only then to the extent that airspace permits.

I think a big reduction is inevitable as we draw away from the era of heroic aviation. Also, demographics dictates that people of my age and younger have far less disposable income, and I gather other hobbies such as sailing and golf are in similar decline.
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Old 7th Oct 2016, 08:31
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Like so many things it all comes down to disposable income. Step back 40 years and there were no IT people in aviation, the major source then was the motor trade.

The statistics are not good, look at the CAA website and you can see the number of licence issues across the board, has dropped by 75% in 21 years!

The cost of becoming an instructor has now risen to the point where its difficult to recover the cost, the cost of moving on to instrument and ME instruction is prohibitive, which means there is no natural route to commercial instruction any more.

With the continued pressure on airfields from developers and the environmental lobby, one wonders if GA will survive the next 21 years!
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Old 7th Oct 2016, 09:17
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GA in this country is looking down the barrel of a demographic disaster - the population of pilots is growing ever older, and fewer and fewer young people are coming in at grass routes level. The training scene, and the club scene, revolves around C of A machinery which, courtesy of EASA and the CAA (who seem convinced that these aircraft need the same regulatory environment as commercial aircraft), are expensive, old, and for the most part pretty tatty.

Ab initio training on LAA aircraft is possible, but until recently involved buying into an aircraft, which most young people can't afford.

Thanks to years of gold-plating by the CAA and EASA there are now 9 written exams necessary for just a mere PPL - for many young people who have had a belly full of school and want a change, why would you pay good money to sit in the fly-blown classroom of a flying club for more of the same?

In addition, the route into the commercial world is now expensive and uncertain - why spend 120,000 on a frozen ATPL and little guarantee of a job, when the same money could buy you the training to be a commercial lawyer?

I've offered to take innumerable young people flying, but for the most part it just looks like too much trouble to them - now that you can plug in your Xbox or Playstation and be instantly pretty good at Grand Theft Auto III, why would you bother? The final nail in the coffin is that the average flying club's clubroom tends to look like a drop-in centre for pensioners, and most young people wouldn't be seen dead there.

Something has to change, and we need to wake up and smell the coffee about this, as the supply of pilots into the British commercial aircraft industry is going to become like the supply of coal - there plenty of it here, but we now have to source it all from overseas.

Last edited by wsmempson; 7th Oct 2016 at 13:58. Reason: illiteracy
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Old 7th Oct 2016, 09:31
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Perhaps it isn't JUST the disposable income - but also the fact that companies nowadays seem to expect you to work 24/7 in addition to the lack of rise of income. I rarely work less than 60 hours per week, neither does anyone in my immediate circle. A good friend of mine is currently learning at North Wealds, and he cannot dedicate more than half a day a week to his learning as a result of the pressure forcing him to work very long hours.

I think that the ever increasing cost of flying far beyond normal inflation is also something to do with it. Avgas often at 1.70+ a litre (in the UK) often 2.50+ a litre in Europe (and thanks to Brexit et Al. that's currently 2.27 a litre excluding transaction fees). Touring suddenly becomes less affordable, and to spend 10k+ to learn to fly, just to go within 50nm of your home airfield quickly gets boring (which I have found is an important factor for the decline of pilots staying current).

StepTurn - am I wrong in thinking that it is quite difficult to find somewhere to learn on older types / taildraggers? I have always wanted to fly vintage aeroplanes such as Tiger Moths, PT-19s, Norseman, Waco....etc... But every single time I inquired, the market was very much more leaning towards "scenic flights" with an instructor. It seems very difficult to get access to a vintage plane, and be able to fly it solo after learning the differences, and proving your competences. I am sure that this is for good reason, but this to me is prohibitive to spending thousands upon thousands of pounds to get the differences required to then be told, well now you can fly it with an instructor. The only place that I have come across the ability to do this was in Wanaka, NZ - where I decided to do a substantial amount of mountain training instead of learning to fly a new type.

Scary thought - would you need a pilot if there were no controls and everything was completely automated? What happens when the sensors ice over in freezing rain? What happens when the plane has some emergency? Or worse - electrical failure?
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Old 7th Oct 2016, 09:32
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Thanks to years of gold-plating by the CAA and EASA there are now 9 written exams necessary for just a mere PPL
In this, at least, EASA are blameless - all that the Regulation mandates is 120 questions, it makes no mention of the number of examinations. The fact that, in the UK, there are 9 separate exams is entirely down to the CAA.
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Old 7th Oct 2016, 09:48
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Learning to fly in in this country needs to change.

You wouldn't learn to drive in a 30 year old car, but you would often have to learn to fly in an old relic.

For some this is part of the charm,but for others it's a joke, and an expensive one.

Equally, navigating using a compass and stopwatch have their place, but how many PPLs have GPS??

There will always be a demand, but I agree that it's on the wane.
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Old 7th Oct 2016, 10:43
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Scary thought - would you need a pilot if there were no controls and everything was completely automated? What happens when the sensors ice over in freezing rain? What happens when the plane has some emergency? Or worse - electrical failure?
No idea what you are worried about.

There will be a teenager geek wannabe in a tin hut controlling your flight with his play station controller and of course he will be well equipped with a handheld GPS just incase all else fails.

I guess he/she will be logging it P1 as well, especially after their parents have paid all that money to get their licence.
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Old 7th Oct 2016, 12:39
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Originally Posted by alex90
I have always wanted to fly vintage aeroplanes such as Tiger Moths, ...
Why not pay the Tiger Club a visit - you can fly Super Cub, Druine Turbulent and Tiger Moth (plus a CAP 10 if you want some downside-up fun).

The Tiger Club, Sport Aviation, Aerobatics, formation flying. air racing, air races. display flying

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Old 7th Oct 2016, 12:51
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the number of licence issues across the board, has dropped by 75% in 21 years!
Given that it takes the CAA 6 weeks to process a licence application, that's probably just as well.......
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Old 7th Oct 2016, 13:14
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Am I right in assuming that the yoof of today can learn on LAA aircraft and build and maintain hours on LAA thereafter to count towards a commercial licence? Or does only CofA count?
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Old 7th Oct 2016, 13:33
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abgd I was in IT but deffo a rag & tube pilot.

Grass fields, tailwheels, strips, aerobatics are for me what flying is about, and I count myself lucky to have flown lots of interesting types over the 30+ years I was active in the air.

A Chipmunk was my main toy for all of those decades bar about 3 years of Yak52 part-ownership. Along the way came L4 Cub, Citabria, Super Cub, Tiger Moth, Stampe, and several other interesting machines, all of which I have fond memories of.

There were of course the C150s I did the PPL on, the C172 and 205 I did parachute dropping in and took friends for rides when the single pax seat of the interesting aeroplanes wasn't enough and other unmemorable types such as PA38s and 28s.

I guess I was lucky to have done my PPL at a grass field where access these wonderful machines was possible. I'm sure there still such places but probably far fewer than there was in 1978 when I started.

It seems much of GA today is a feeder for the commercial aviation industry, and grass strips, aeros, wind in the hair, tailwheels, and stick & rudder skills have taken a back seat in favor of nosewheels, glass cockpits, and electronic gizmos.

It's enough to make ya weep!
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Old 7th Oct 2016, 16:31
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StepTurn - am I wrong in thinking that it is quite difficult to find somewhere to learn on older types / taildraggers?
Yes, it is more difficult than simply flying the more common tricycle GA aircraft. That's an unfortunate reality, for certified aircraft, simple taildraggers are not in demand. Perhaps our next generation of pilot need to be inspired to demand them! You can learn to fly in a Cub, Chipmunk or Tiger Moth, and still carry those learned skills onward to the commercial industry, they'll actually be a little sharper. While flying a Twin Otter years ago, the check pilot observed that I must fly tailwheel a lot, as I used the pedals! Sadly, many new pilots have to travel farther to find these less common types - it's worth the effort!

Lots of exams and questions: The purpose of the exams is to assure that the information required to be taught was retained by the student. This is partly a test of the student, and also partly a test of the teacher. I dislike exams as much as the next person (and struggle with them), but they are a necessary measure of the overall effectiveness of the teaching environment. No one here is advocating for less qualified pilots.

When a prospective pilot inquires about learning to fly, and hopefully flies a trial lesson, are we the industry "selling" the romance of flying well enough? Or are we drawing attention to all the fancy avionics in the basic trainers, and how it's pretending to be a mini airliner? Sell the basics with a promise of growth. Students and new pilots, the instruments you must have to fly a GA airplane in day VFR are: Airspeed, altimeter, turn and bank/turn coordinator, compass, tachometer, oil pressure and temperature, and fuel quantity, and maybe an ammeter. If you are flying with an aircraft equipped with more than that, you're paying for more than you need for the first 20 hours of light training, and distracting yourself from the real fun and learning. There will be plenty of time for fancy equipment later. If you are flying in conditions which require more, your instructor got it wrong that flight. Don't let a complex industry tell you that you need more in the early stages.

Hoping that "next generation" pilots to be are reading this, if you want to fly the broad choice of types available now, you're going to have to demonstrate that there is still a viable life for these aircraft in the GA world. There will always be the outliers, who have a passion, and will do anything for their type. The warbird group are a good example. But, as the number of people and aircraft diminish, the cost goes way up. New pilots, go out and find different types to fly, you will enjoy it, be a better pilot for it, and sustain an industry you might want to have retained in the future. Owners of unusual types, take them to the fly ins, and inspire people with them!

Despite the great chat with my fellow PPRuNer, I hang on the hope that "everything old is new again", and out industry will circle back to make simple airplanes mainstream available, without compromising quality and durability.

Coasting on this will see our pastime wain, and mostly be found by new pilots in grainy old youtube videos, and maybe books. We need to re-invigorate ourselves.....
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Old 7th Oct 2016, 19:00
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Perhaps younger people think of the current generation as reckless idiots?

- fly a plane with fuel gauges that don't work because of poor engineering
- fly an engine where the mixture is always wrong when it doesn't block itself with ice. Who would want to fly that?
- imagine, they kept busting airspace because their compass rotated in the wrong direction 10 degree an hour!

I won't be so sure young people are wrong - remember, we fly and present utter junk to them and expect them to take to it. Next time you're bring up someone up in a Cessna or Piper twice their age with broken plastic and home made labels saying 'Autopilot U/S since 1980' imagine the impression it leaves.

The next generation is usually the wiser one, not us. We need to improve the cosmetics and optics of our aircraft.
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Old 7th Oct 2016, 19:22
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At our Club we offer for training either the PA28 or the Ikarus C42 or flexwing Quik. We explain the benefits and costs of each type. People are invited to have a taster in each type to see what they'd like to do. Cost is obviously hugely different between the types, but doesn't seem to be a deciding factor, more it's the type of aircraft people are more comfortable in. Incidentally, our prices for SEP training on the PA28 haven't changed for the last 4 years, so are relatively cheaper now.
We've got people learning on all the above fleet from all walks of life, but mostly people of modest incomes who really want to fly.
We give hundreds of local people rides in our aircraft every year, in the guise of Trial Lessons. Passing few of these ever do much more flying, though we do have plenty of repeat business, which means that they enjoy the experience we offer.
The thing that stops us doing much more than we do already is, of course, the weather. There's no doubt in my mind that weather patterns have changed in the last 20 years, call it Global Warming, Climate Change or whatever you like. Aviation has probably contributed to this so we've bitten ourselves in the rear - maybe it's karma.
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Old 7th Oct 2016, 20:46
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Might I offer my take on why few people take on the adventure of pilot training? Visibility.

I simply don't think GA enters into the mind of the average youngster. Beyond commercial aviation, by which I mean the airliners ferrying them from one major location to another, I don't think they have any real concept of what GA is and that they might in fact be able to take to the skies without years of study and uniform.

GA is pretty hidden. I only came to notice it when switching jobs which involved me designing Flight Simulators! Now I'm training for my PPL.
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Old 8th Oct 2016, 00:03
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I don't think the weather is any worse - or better - now than it was back in 1978, or any year since.

It's always been pretty iffy for VFR in UK, and I guess it always will be. That's part of the challenge; part of the fun.

VORTIME - I couldn't disagree more. Either you are in love with flight or you are not. If broken plastic trim and old technology puts you off, you are not.
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Old 8th Oct 2016, 00:24
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When I read these threads I thank god I'm in the US and also an EAA member. My 15 year old is learning to fly in a J3 and we are building a Waiex together. The statistics are bleak but it is far from hopeless.

Waiex project: skip to the end of the thread if it is too long.

I'd also add he is learning to drive in a 17 year old car with a manual transmission and crank windows.

Last edited by IFMU; 8th Oct 2016 at 00:28. Reason: Added EAA stuff
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Old 8th Oct 2016, 08:04
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GA is suffering like many other sports and pastimes. One of the culprits is the PlayStation and its ilk, as suggested by wsmempson above. We are offered instant gratification (but not satisfaction) by modern life. Cinema, theme parks, YouTube all give you a thrill with no effort. But the way GA is set up means it requires a great deal of input before you obtain much in the way of satisfaction. I still remember when I was initially learning to glide. There was so much going on that I didn't have time to enjoy it. Sports requiring the development of skills and techniques before you can participate will also be suffering from the same problems. Yet those that allow you progress at your own pace are doing well, like cycling.

So if GA is to survive, it will have to find a way of giving satisfaction in the early days. Then once you have people enjoying what they are doing, they might be be prepared to put more into it.

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Old 8th Oct 2016, 14:40
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Balls. There are plenty of young people interested in and investing the time in aviation.

Off the top of my head, I can name ten students aged 14-20 who were at my UK flying school in the last year. And very enthusiastic and hard working they were too!

When you consider the formidable challenges, not just financial but also economic and political their generation faces, their perseverance in funding licenses and training becomes even more impressive. Not one of them would turn down a spare seat going. And not one of them said "nah, I'll just play on my XPlayStationBox".
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