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Old 05-03-2009, 12:12 PM   #1  
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Default Economy buffeting flight schools

Economy buffeting student pilots, flight schools
Losing altitude: Economy grounding student pilots, causing turbulence for flight schools

* James Hannah, Associated Press Writer
* On Sunday May 3, 2009, 1:49 pm EDT

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DAYTON, Ohio (AP) -- Ivan Nogalo can often hear small planes buzzing over his machine shop in Cleveland. "You want to be up there," the 33-year-old said.

But Nogalo can't be. The would-be pilot has been grounded because the economy has forced him to tighten his belt.

It's the same for Ryan Fisher, who spent an estimated $10,000 on flying lessons before losing his job with a real estate developer. The 37-year-old was two weeks short of being certified as a private pilot when he couldn't afford further training.

"It's frustrating," said Fisher, of Cleveland Heights. "I miss being up in the airplane, that sense of freedom. It's kind of transcendental."

The slumping economy has forced some student pilots to put their dreams of flying on hold, threatened to accelerate the decline of the U.S. pilot population, and put a financial chokehold on flight schools.

The number of U.S. pilots has fallen more than 25 percent from a 1980 peak of about 827,000 to about 590,000 at the end of 2008, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

While there are no more recent figures, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is seeing some anecdotal evidence that the economy is taking a toll, said Chris Dancy, spokesman for the Frederick, Md.-based organization.

"Flight training is done with disposable income," Dancy said. "It is very common in economic down times for flight training to fall off."

It usually costs between $6,000 and $9,000 to get a private pilot's license, according to Dancy.

Ryan Gessel, 26, of San Francisco, has wanted to fly for nearly three years, hoping to fly for pleasure as well as to see clients in northern California as an account manager for a brewing company. He began taking flying lessons last summer and had gotten four or five hours under his belt when the economy went into a nosedive.

Gessel's salary became uncertain, and while he has since gotten a new position in the company, he is not sure how much he'll be paid.

"There is a lot of uncertainty, so I didn't see it as the smartest move to put $10,000 into something that isn't really considered a priority," Gessel said. "It's kind of frustrating. But the dream is definitely still there."

Economic conditions have also forced some pilots who already have licenses to give up flying.

Marty Helms, of Wake Forest, N.C., got his license in 2006 and would fly to visit family and friends in Virginia and Pennsylvania.

Last May, Helms began to re-evaluate the money he was spending on aviation as the economy began to sour, the price of fuel began to skyrocket and his friends started losing their jobs. The 40-year-old hasn't flown since.

Helms estimates it would cost him $3,000 to complete the training hours needed to resume flying. Then add in the cost of fuel and renting aircraft. And there is the economy, which makes his financial future uncertain.

"It's not something that motivates you to stay in a hobby like aviation," Helms said. "I miss it. There is nothing more rewarding than the flying."

Richard Syrovy, of Kitchener, Ontario, has a private license and was pursuing a license to fly commercially in hopes of making aviation his career. But the economy made openings for pilots scarce, and the 22-year-old college student, who took a part-time job marketing knives to pay for his training, couldn't afford to continue. He last flew in June.

"When you take a part-time job, your checks are going to be part-time," Syrovy said.

Flying lessons are down 50 percent from a year ago at the New Flyers Association, a flight club at the Ohio State University Airport in Columbus that has seven airplanes and 120 members. President Dick Willis blames the economy and uncertain financial futures of the students.

"They don't know what's going to happen," Willis said. "They're keeping their money in their mattresses."

At Moraine Airpark in suburban Dayton, the pool of students has dwindled from 30 to 10. The school accounts for about 25 percent of the airport's income.

"It hurts us pretty bad," said manager George Bockerstette.

Nogalo had used some of his salary at the machine shop to bankroll flying lessons, which he started taking in October. But he put them on hold when business began to dry up because of the economy.

"With this recession, it's obviously hit northeast Ohio -- especially the machining center -- pretty heavily," he said. "It was like someone turned off a faucet."

Bill Kronenberger, manager of the flight school at the Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport, said many prospective students can't get loans to fund their training.

Kronenberger said some students are opting for the less expensive sport pilot license instead of the private license. Sport pilots are limited to flying smaller planes with fewer passengers and cannot fly at night, in bad weather or congested air space. But the license costs half as much and can be obtained twice as fast.

The licenses became available in 2005 and there are already 2,600 sport pilots nationwide.

Todd Marte, 28, an Ohio State student, got his flying certificate last year. He began training for his instrument rating -- which enables pilots to fly through clouds and in bad weather -- when fuel prices began to go up and the economy began to go down. So, Marte put a stop to his flying, fearing it would put him in debt.

"It's so expensive to fly," he said. "It's definitely a luxury."

Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association: AOPA Online: Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association
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Old 05-03-2009, 07:33 PM   #2  
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There certainly has been a lot of "mal-investment" in flying... or rather... "over-investment" .. asinine prices for zero to hero stuff... the market will eventually even itself out for a while.. and with a new surge of liquidity........soon another generation of idiots will take $100k loans for a shot at a $25k dream... and there will be bamboozling lenders/flight schools willing to facilitate... so the cycle/saga continues....

on a side note... what's wrong with just working hard until you complete your ratings... why does everything always have to be instant gratification?
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Old 08-06-2009, 11:23 PM   #3  
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I feel that just because the economy is bad,that all of the sudden it seems like flying is now-ultra expensive. Truth is this has never been a poor mans hobby. It has always taken a huge investment of time and money.
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Old 08-07-2009, 08:00 AM   #4  
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Originally Posted by ryan1234 View Post
on a side note... what's wrong with just working hard until you complete your ratings... why does everything always have to be instant gratification?
I was shooting the **** with a guy while getting my oil changed yesterday.

This new generation thats entering the workplace had next to no sense of hard work towards an ultimate goal. There had never been a since of failure or hardships to overcome because people thought that would be detremental to their upbringing. Everyone gets trophies, everyone is a winner!

So now, for a nominal fee, a snap of the fingers and one place can turn you into a pilot in 90 days flat. Not six months, not four years, not 12 years. Put that nominal fee on top of these new kids having next to no sense of personal finance...and one may speculate what economic future we will be headed towards.
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Old 08-07-2009, 08:44 AM   #5  
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I think it will be a very long time before lenders are stupid enough to hand out money without a documented, practical means of paying it back. Hopefully we have seen the end of zero-to-hero for all-comers.

In the future it will only be trust-fund babys and the odd career-changer...not good, but there will far fewer of them.
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Old 08-07-2009, 08:46 AM   #6  
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Originally Posted by SchellhammerIBY View Post
I feel that just because the economy is bad,that all of the sudden it seems like flying is now-ultra expensive. Truth is this has never been a poor mans hobby. It has always taken a huge investment of time and money.
It's always been expensive, but in the last 10 years the costs have risen exponentially. In 1998 I could rent a plane for $40/hour wet. Now the average seems to be $130/wet.

When you have Cessna charging $270,000 for a 172, high fuel prices, and out of control insurance premiums it's hard to keep a reasonable rental rate. I don't know how anyone in the flight training business makes money anymore.
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Old 08-07-2009, 12:12 PM   #7  
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Originally Posted by ryan1234 View Post
... what's wrong with just working hard until you complete your ratings... why does everything always have to be instant gratification?
That's how did it, and I owe nothing to flight training. It makes you appreciate having the training to have paid for it up-front. It also makes you a lot more level-minded when it comes to assessing whether or not to take an airline job. It would seem impossible to say "no" to an entry level airline job, when you have $50-100k in flight training debts aimed at getting you there. I always wonder how those pilots who do it make the payments.
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