Menu Sign In Contact FAQ
Welcome to our forums

GA activity and its decline

It looks like 100k hours to me, which seems to be 12-13%. That’s a huge drop, which becomes accelerating quickly as facilities start to disappear.

It is a big drop but the drop I see in real activity when hanging out at the airfield seems much bigger – I would say of the order of a factor of 2.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

The commercial training is on the same level maybe rising. In Coventry Atlantic has a lot of training, I seems to be rising. The big question is how much is commerical training.

United Kingdom

If you check FAA figures, the (US) pilot population diminishes by 5’000 a year and that’s only bound to accelerate as demographics have the final word.

Last Edited by Shorrick_Mk2 at 01 Jun 18:07

According to Wikipedia, the United Nations projects a U.S. population of 402 million in 2050, an increase of 32% from 2007

It’s not demographics, it’s mostly alternative ways of spending free time. In the old days, the local airfield was the place to hang around, meet people, have a chat. Especially in the more rural areas. Today, the airfields are void. People have many other things to do, not the least hang around the internet. When the alternative was collecting stamps or spending time at airfields, our hobby looked damn attractive.

The usual argument “flying has become too expensive” isn’t true either. Taking inflation and growth in productivity into account, flying costs no more than decades ago. It just competes with a much larger choice of alternative ways to spend one’s income and it has lost most of its attractiveness, most of all the utility value. In 1990, right after the Berlin wall fell, my aircraft flew to Dresden and was about the only way to get to this exciting and unknown place. Today a cheap airline does it for 1/5th of what I would pay in fuel alone. In 1990, a SEP was the cheapest way to fly from A to B in most cases.

With all these things remaining true, the decline is going to continue. Almost nothing we have in GA infrastructure would be built today if it didn’t already exist. Most of the arguments against deconstruction of GA infrastructure are pretty weak from the point of view of the 99% that are not GA pilots.

Now compare GA pilots to amateur radio — they have a hard time keeping their hobby alive! We still have a rather comfortable position in most Western countries.

Last Edited by achimha at 01 Jun 20:23

This appears to be a common situation in the GA sector.
In past years microlights, or ultralights as they’re called here, have been steadily increasing both in numbers of licenses and aircraft. In recent years though, the number of ultralights on the Swedish register has declined along with a flattening of licenses and a decline in PPL-licenses. Another trend is that PPL pilots drop their PPL-license in favor of the UL-license.
All in all, the trend is downwards.

Almost everyone I talk to says the reason for the decline is cost, but when I look at earnings and compare them to cost of flying it doesn’t appear to be such a huge increase, not that would explain the whole reduction. So, are we just getting borde with flying? Too much crap on TV? Too many Ipads, google maps, cheap Ryanair flights? What is going on?

ESSB, Stockholm Bromma

What is going on?

I think we have had multiple threads on this here, and there are probably multiple answers. My view is that the biggest factor is that Yes there is a lot of money around (and I generally agree with Achim above regarding the inflation adjusted costs, with the proviso that 100LL has had a big hike over the past decade) but the people who have it choose to spend it elsewhere. They spend it where they get a greater return – whatever that means. Nowadays the average GA airfield scene is pretty unappealing, and young people especially have so many distractions. When I was a kid, if I said to my parent(s) that I was bored, they would give me a book to read! I had loads of books, so I was never bored. Times have changed…

But I still don’t get the CAA annual flight time data. It seems too optimistic. Perhaps an airport manager here can offer some figures?

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

My impression is that a fair proportion of new PPLs are getting the licence to then study for the ATPL exams – these would be wannabes who are not going down, or can’t afford the MPL route.

They will then do the required hour building for a CPL ME/IR, and either get a job within a couple of years, or let the original licence lapse.

Equally there is a reasonable proportion of new PPLs who are flying because they want to enjoy the privileges of the licence.

Finally there does seem to be a minority who seem to want to get the licence, achieve their ambition and then drop out quite quickly – nearly as if the PPL were only a goal in itself, to say they have done it.

Oxford (EGTK), United Kingdom

It is a big drop but the drop I see in real activity when hanging out at the airfield seems much bigger – I would say of the order of a factor of 2.

Maybe that is the way it is. 20% of the PPL pilots flying 80% of the hours. The decline we see is mostly those who doesn’t fly all that much, but there are lots of them. Statistics of valid/current PPLs could probably show more details.

The elephant is the circulation

I suppose another possibility – drop in activity primarily amongst people bimbling – but long distances still being flown in earnest including private jets etc… could lead to reduced activity at airports but a roughly static figure for total hours flown. When I was training at Inverness I was amazed by the number of private jets and turboprops flying in and out – far more than the number of non-flying-school flights.

Perhaps relative costs aren’t worsening and expense isn’t the problem, but cheaper flying could well be the solution.

Last Edited by kwlf at 02 Jun 03:40

In my world, costs to own and fly your own plane have decreased a little in real terms over the last ten years and I have nothing to complain about: the cost of the planes is going down, hangars are available if you look around where it used to be years of waiting, the scene is pretty active and self sustaining between individuals. There’s more opportunity to own and enjoy aircraft for somebody in my position (US) than there was in the past. Training is very active, with at least 50% of the students being foreign.

I think where they might be a problem is in those areas where government is a parasite on GA versus a provider. Government organizations rarely change size once established and if the volume of activity decreases, then the tax burden on training, licensing, maintenance, fuel etc will increase. The costs for maintenance might go up where fee-paying maintenance organizations are mandated. On the other hand, where there is more flexibility and people can solve problems amongst themselves, and where government stays the same size but provides services versus costs, there is more to go around now than before.

The ‘microlight versus GA’ thing is completely unnecessary – they’re all planes, the only difference is the ability to dodge a burden of government that shouldn’t exist.

Last Edited by Silvaire at 02 Jun 06:35
Sign in to add your message

Back to Top