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Week of July 15, 2002
Bucks Strong Headwinds
more people to personal aviation may be difficult if cost and security issues
are not mitigated
aviation in the
aircraft such as the two-place KitFox appeal to first-time builders. The
sport flying industry is attracting people who are interested in personal
the wake of the attack on
Poberezny, president of the EAA, said the September attacks have had a negative
effect on the sport aviation movement and aviation in general, and that their
residual effects will linger for years. Tighter security and restrictions at
airports and within the national airspace system are among Poberezny's chief
concerns, especially for the long term. "We need to be sure not to take on
security initiatives that don't have any bite and that become overwhelming
DAVE GUSTAFSON PHOTOS
popularity of early "homebuilt" aircraft, such as this Wittman
"Tailwind," is declining as quick-build, all-composite kits
capture a major share of the market.
fences around airports to "keep people out is not the answer . . . we have
to seek practical solutions that will produce results and are economically
feasible," Poberezny said. Instead of striving to keep people out of
airports and airplanes, "we need to get more people into the air," he
said. In addition, the EAA and other general aviation organizations need to have
a "collective voice" when dealing with Congress and the Bush
administration, Poberezny said.
IMPORTANTLY, the EAA and officials of the
Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assn., the National Business Aviation Assn., the
General Aviation Manufacturers Assn. and the Small Aircraft Manufacturers Assn.
(SAMA) are deeply concerned about future security measures. Their chief fear is
that a wave of "overreactions" by the Transportation Security
Administration and the Office of Homeland Security will inflict irreparable
damage on aviation at all levels.
A number of
kit-built manufacturers have gained certification of their aircraft and
entered production. The Lancair IVP is capable of speeds of more than 300
really frightening thing is that security people within the Office of Homeland
Security will be two steps removed from aviation and one step removed from the
Transportation Dept., and they won't be part of the FAA," said Paul
Fiduccia, president of SAMA. As a result, these bureaucrats "may not
understand the consequences of what they do," and may not care because
"they fail to comprehend the crucial importance of [general] aviation to
the national economy and the American way of life," he said. According to
Fiduccia, it is essential that the Bush administration avoid the
"inadvertent dismantling or careless destruction of our industry" for
the sake of national security "because they do not perceive small aircraft
as an integral part of the country's transportation infrastructure."
experimental aircraft movement is a unique "incubator" for bringing
new technologies to market. "Many of the technologies we see in certified
airplanes today were first seen in experimental aircraft," Poberezny said.
For example, Cirrus Design Corp., Lancair and the Eclipse 500 personal jet under
development came out of the EAA and the experimental aircraft movement. In the
past few years, Cirrus and Lancair have transitioned to commercial production.
"Both companies are certifying and producing new models, and they have
customers buying and flying them, and that's the bottom line," Poberezny
EAA's convention and sport aircraft exhibit AirVenture 2002 is scheduled for
next week at
the EAA is a hotbed of innovation in airframe and engine design, materials and
fuels research, it faces a series of challenges to make flying more accessible
and affordable. These include reducing the high cost of building an airplane and
learning to fly. "The biggest issue is economics of ownership and the
amount of time it takes to learn to fly," Poberezny said. "People want
to learn to fly, but [aviation] is competing against other forms of recreation
that make it easier to get involved."
today's society, time is more valuable than money, but to get involved [in
aviation] takes a lot of time, and aircraft ownership takes both time and
money," Poberezny said. According to the EAA, only one out of three student
pilots completes flight training and earns a private pilot license, and
"that's not good," he said.
an attempt to address that situation, the EAA is supporting FAA approval of a
new Light-Sport Aircraft category. These 1-2-place aircraft would have a maximum
gross weight of not more than 1,232 lb., and are reminiscent of light airplanes
built during the post-World War II aviation boom. Poberezny said EAA officials
are "working hard to ensure a good rule from the FAA." The regulation
is tentatively scheduled to be issued in the first quarter of next year.
help provide an infrastructure for the rule, the American Society of Testing
Materials is developing manufacturing standards for new aircraft, and the EAA
and the FAA are hammering out standards for flight instructors involved in
training Light-Sport Aircraft pilots. Poberezny said the new rule is aimed at
attracting young people to aviation at the grassroots level. If successful,
"we will create a new pipeline of pilots for the future," he said. In
concert with the Light-Sport Aircraft initiative, EAA's Young Eagles program is
aimed at introducing flying to 1 million children by December 2003--the 100th
anniversary of the Wright Brothers first powered flight. As of late last month,
about 800,000 young people had participated in the program, and Poberezny is
confident that the final goal will be achieved.
is a national trade association representing 30 manufacturers of small kit-built
and production aircraft designed for personal transportation. It also assists
manufacturers seeking FAA certification of their products. Fiduccia estimates
that kit-built airplanes account for about 15% of the
high-performance sport aircraft such as the Lancair IV are a "plausible
transportation tool" for trips of 300-500 naut. mi. Many kit-built and
production sport airplanes are capable of cruise speeds of more than 200 mph.
and routinely beat the airlines in terms of overall time expended for a trip.
addition, constant advances in avionics are making navigation easier and more
informative for experienced and neophyte pilots alike. Digital, fully integrated
avionic suites that combine GPS satellite navigation with the FAA's Wide Area
Augmentation System, in-cockpit graphical weather, communications data link and
sophisticated autopilots are reducing pilot workload significantly while
improving flight safety and efficiency. Development of small, ultra-lightweight
turbofan engines such as the EJ-22 currently being developed by Williams
International for the Eclipse 500 could spawn an entire new line of small jets
with cruise speeds of up to 500 mph., Fiduccia said. Acquisition cost, however,
will be the major determining factor driving whether these new aircraft succeed.
these and other promising technological advances, the small aircraft industry is
fighting strong headwinds. Fiduccia said a weak
for reciprocating engines, which power virtually all sport aircraft, a number of
aggressive programs are underway in the
Schools Sink or Swim
Kelley is watching, helplessly, as his business withers.
Flying Service, a flight school established in 1937 and purchased by Kelley for
$20,000 in 1994, is in limbo. That's because
estimates he's losing $10,000 a month in revenue while
is running out of options--he has already sold two of the five aircraft in his
fleet. "That's what breaks my heart. I'm the guy taking a historical flight
service and taking it down the tubes."
goes the roller coaster life of one flight school owner a stone's throw from
all accounts, Beacon's plight is a result of a "security glitch"
between the airport management and the TSA regarding security protocol that
Hyde's operators must follow, something that Kelley said he had nothing to do
with. (The TSA last year took control of aviation security from the FAA.)
Airport officials said the issues have been addressed, but the TSA has not
released its stranglehold.
the three GA airports required significant restrictions on operations and strict
security protocols agreed to by the airports, the TSA, the Secret Service and a
half dozen other federal agencies. No traffic pattern practice was allowed, no
transient aircraft were permitted to come in, and pilots, including new
students, had to provide fingerprints and pass an FBI criminal history check and
an FAA records check. Once vetted by the government, pilots received a personal
identification number to be used when filing a special flight plan that must be
approved by the FAA, the TSA and the Secret Service.
practice, pilots use procedures similar to an instrument flight plan to fly to
and from the airports. After filing a flight plan by phone, a pilot will call
POTOMAC AIRFIELD, 1 mi. west of Hyde, all
outbound pilots have to check in at James A. Davidson's pilot supply shop before
they fly, a practice Davidson said is one of three layers of security that
has seven aircraft, six instructors and 50 students, down 66% from the 150 this
time last year. Even with the security levels that pilots must satisfy to fly
changes could be coming on Oct. 1 when the new Northern Command is scheduled to
begin its task of coordinating the military's role in homeland defense. A source
close to the deliberations said there would be a "large debate" as to
what measures are needed to protect the public from potential terrorist threats
using GA aircraft. Without additional equipment that could give the military
more information about the intent of an aircraft flying under visual rules and
not communicating with controllers, officials will likely need to put
significantly larger no-fly zones around "sensitive" areas, according
to the source. GA aircraft flying under instrument rules are not as much of a
concern, he said, as controllers can compare the pilot's clearance with the
aircraft's path. Critics say widespread GA restrictions are unwarranted when
considering the limited destructive potential of a small aircraft.
the security upgrades
As They Return to Flight Lines
can't ground pilots or aircraft or repress the flying spirit for long. In the 10
months since Sept. 11, the U.S. general aviation sector is returning to the
flight lines determined to build a more positive image and hold on to a corner
of the sky.
instructor observes a student pilot performing a preflight check of a
Cessna 172 at
were uncertain as to when, if ever, [general aviation] would come back. For the
first time, we comprehended we might lose that gift of flight. When you have the
risk of loss of something that precious, you value it even higher," said
John King, co-chair of King Schools Inc., multimedia training experts.
returned to flying with a renewed sense of joy and appreciation. The
to Sept. 11, general aviation flight schools and pilots were quietly doing what
they do and nobody much cared or noticed. Suddenly, everyone was
aviation-conscious because terrorists trained at GA airports.
public began to see a pilot as someone who likes to take risks, who is kind of a
daredevil and in many cases irresponsible in conduct," said King.
"They had no conception that learning how to fly takes enormous commitment
and normally attracts capable, goal-oriented, high achievers."
McMahon, vice president of marketing at Aerotech Inc. in
Forecast for Active Pilots Holding
FAA 2002-13 Aviation Forecast
permanently left the fold. The percentage is difficult to pinpoint, but Sept. 11
together with the continuing economic downtrend caused "some depression,
about 10-15%, in the number of people who fly," King estimated.
to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Assn. General Aviation Trends (see p. 61), the
Air Transport Pilot sector was the hardest hit by last September's events. In
the first quarter, 1,336 new ATP certificates were issued--a 38% decline
compared with the first quarter of last year. The drop is due to a temporary
decrease in demand for airline pilots following the attacks.
pilot candidates were totally discouraged from applying for airline jobs, but
those who were 2-3 years away from airline careers were more optimistic,
according to Drew Steketee, president and chief executive of Be-A-Pilot, a
national educational program to raise public awareness of nonairline general
Aerotech, which normally certifies about 600 students yearly from private pilot
through ATP from its three
each passing month, however, enrollments at Aerotech returned to a more normal
level, according to McMahon. More pilots began upgrading their certificates
after Sept. 11, and instrument students have doubled to 400 compared with a year
ago, she noted.
to FAA Aviation Forecast 2002-13, 315,000 of 646,215 certified pilots will hold
instrument ratings this year. King added that the percentage of those who go on
to get instrument ratings is the highest it's been in the history of aviation.
GA Trends indicate that instrument certificates are up 15% for the first quarter
compared with the 2001 period. The increase is attributed to post-Sept. 11
flight restrictions, which required IFR flight plan filing, and a "general
sentiment for increased vigilance when flying."
lure of learning to fly still draws them into the tent. AOPA projected that
there will be 96,000 student pilots in 2002 and 104,000 in 2006.
FAA's Aviation Forecast 2002-13, however, predicts that there will be 83,000
student pilots this year and only 83,250 in 2006. However, it also is
projectingan increase in private pilot certificates--to 270,000 in 2006 from
261,500 in 2002--and a rise in commercial certificates to 144,100 from 137,600
during the same period (see chart).
President Phil Boyer disputes the FAA's forecast. The organization, which has
380,000 members, believes that the FAA understated the student forecast for the
last two years, and that underreporting was partly due to the agency's switch to
an electronic-based reporting system that generated a number of
"orphan" records (student pilots who were not counted).
stressed that an accurate student forecast drives the GA industry, and the FAA's
being "wrongly pessimistic about the future" can negatively affect
general aviation's economic recovery.
FAA is now reviewing its source-gathering methodology, but has no plans at
present to revise the numbers, according to FAA spokesman Hank Price.
the numbers are worked out, the GA sector continues to work to attract new
students. The Be-A-Pilot program has generated about 20,000 new pilots since its
inception in 1997, according to Steketee.
$2-million program, funded by a coalition of aviation companies, offers
interested parties a $49 certificate for an introductory flight lesson at one of
TARGETED AUDIENCE, says Steketee, is the ±50-year-old
baby boomers who learned to fly in 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and may want to come
back, as well as new prospects in their twenties and thirties.
adds that after Sept. 11, another factor entered the picture in attracting
people to aviation. Realizing that "life is short,people didn't want to put
off doing things they loved, and wanted to smell the roses."
Shevers, founder and chairman of Sporty's Pilot Shop, said business has been
running ahead of last year's at 22% average since Sept. 11. "We had one bad
week [Sept. 11], but business increased 35% in October 2001 compared to the same
month last year. We thought it was just a rebound from the September decline,
and didn't think it would last, but it did."
attributes the increased activity in personal flying to the "airport hassle
factor," noting that "pilots don't want to wait in lines at
of airport security, there's a resurgence in general aviation to use airplanes
as a primary transportation tool, says King. Nevertheless, Steketee notes that
people are not contemplating flight training just because of security delays.
"It's not the overwhelming trend that some thought it would be."
observers also agree that GA's image should be improved. "We need to be
more proactive citizens in selling the idea of responsibility in our flying and
promoting the benefits of GA to the nonflying public, such as connecting some
12,000 airports and people that would not be be served by airlines," King
continued flight restrictions and the nation growing more security-conscious,
"what we may do is change the U.S. aviation culture in this country to the
extent we become so security-conscious that we will impose an enormous burden on
society and suffer a great loss of flexibility and opportunity--which would be
very costly to GA," warned King.
echoed the concern. "Ph.D.s and politicians are screwing up the national
transportation system. What made