I'm a young pilot, now 19 and I would love to share my two cents. While teenagers love video games and computer games as ironic as this is, i fell in love with flying through a computer game. Now I have a PPL and decided I love flying enough to come hundreds of miles up to a college far away from my family and my lifestyle and have decided to take a risk of pursuing my dream of making it in the industry and using college as a way to network and continue flying. But other kids my age have different hobbies. With the Xbox360 out and other systems coming, it's so much easier to hand over a few twenties for that new shooter game or the new madden nfl game and invite your buddies over along with a bunch of 6 packs of bud light and get drunk, smoke, and play video games. I guess the bottomline from what I have seen is that many kids my age actually do think the concept of flying is neat, but in the end very few are willing to dedicate the time, the enormous costs, and the commitment at such a young age.
Another point I think that is hurting aviation is the image it casts itself to young people. "Cool" and "chill" were thrown around alot in my high school and the concept of aviation and the main groups who promote aviation, e.g. AOPA, EAA, etc. I personally don't think make it very cool or chill. It's always pictures of the stereotypical dork guy or girl with a conservative look wearing a golf shirt,screw that, people tell me that I don't look like a pilot, I look like a punk who skateboards and boozes and gets high with his friends all day, that's what people cast me out to be on first impression. I don't want the new aviators of the sky to be total geeks who have no life outside of aviation, but most of all, I don't want aviation to have a stereotype, I want to meet cool people in the field, but people who have other passions in life and our down to earth, not the geeks. The image of what flying is ****es me off. All the promoters of flying like AOPA and EAA often can't relate to younger people very well because the young folks of today live different lifestyles than the older folks did when they were younger, times were just different back then, they didn't have all the distractions and activities kids today do.
It's going to be a difficult solution. I think though that one key would be to mix youth with youth, take young people in aviation who have other passions in life and do all the other things any adolescent would do and let them talk to the other young folks who have doubts or preconotations. Let them tell the others their love for flying and how they've made it work and be a part of their lives while still enjoying the same joys and activities of any teenager or young person. That right there I think, is a start.
At least you're thinking kid. Just be careful about portraying the wrong image to people. Some day when some guy pays the company that pays you to fly his family to Disney World, he might want you to look a bit conservative. For now though, enjoy college and all of the drinking, etc. while you can. You at CWU in the flight program? Good old E-Burg! Still smell like cow sh*t half the year?
From what I have heard listening to today's teenagers, a great number of them have no ambitions for the future. They care to talk more about "hanging out" that night rather than something happening ten years down the road. I sense that they feel shut out from the opportunities of past generations, and I feel in large part they are right.
Aviation is a hard sell to 30-40 somethings as well. Once they find out the expense of training, limits of their privileges (you mean if I fly in clouds I have to get more training?), the expense of aircraft ownership, the medical certification, the complex regulations, the full implications of weather, etc; they are likely to go buy a Harley Davidson instead.
Today's working generation has less disposable time. For example, in my area from the 60s until the 80s, there were a lot of people who made a good living in the coal industry learning to fly. They left the mine at days end and went to the airport. Todays miner often works six days a week, with ten hour shifts. Not much time to dedicate to learn to fly.
Last edited by GauleyPilot; 07-28-2006 at 05:39 AM.
I can say from my perspective as a 21yr old flight instructor that there are quite few young students learning how to fly. However, I think a lot of them are pushed into it by their parents. I once did an intro ride for an 8yr old whose father set up the whole thing. The kid hardly seemed interested. As for fewer young people learning to fly, I cannot say thats all bad, because less pilots to fly the planes equals more demand with less supply and maybe higher salaries for those who stuck with it in the future.
I'm starting to think that this is something that is becomming very, very cost-prohibitive. I wouldn't have been able to afford it if I hadn't gone to a school with an aviation program. The younger ones that are going though the training usually have parents that are pretty well-off. The ones that don't usually run out of money before they finish.
POPA, If you don't mind me asking, what are you doing at AOPA?
When I was younger, my main obstacle was cost -- my parents weren't especially interested in aviation, they weren't about to let me build an experimental in the garage, and I couldn't afford to rent.
Other possibilities include complexity (consider the airspace on the U.S. West Coast -- it's very different coming to a complex system for the first time than it is starting with a simple system and growing with it as it becomes more complex) and just plain pain-in-the-patoot factor (you can get on a multi-year waiting list for a hangar out here, or you can get your high-time used airplane running only to tie it down outside for mumble-hundred-dollars a month, or you can park it at the far away airport it'll take you an hour to drive to, or you can fight for a reservation of one of the flying club's planes and make darned sure you have it back before your time slot ends.)
Also, I think security measures at G.A. airports are having an impact. It used to be that you could wander the flight lines and check out the planes. Now that's changed. It really came home to me recently when we were having brunch at the local airport cafe and noticed what looked like a fly-in of classic biplanes. We wanted to head over, talk to the pilots, and find out more, but we were on the wrong side of the "authorized personnel only" gate.
Finally, it wouldn't hurt to do something with our marketing. Here's an interesting exercise. Look through your favorite aviation calendar. Count the number of times the pilot is anyone besides an older white guy who's not smiling. Then, flip through your favorite aviation magazine and pay attention to what fraction of the stories are nostalgic for the yesteryear or the golden age of aviation, and think about what that says to someone deciding between taking up aviation and, say, tricking out and overclocking a hot new game machine.