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Thread: Budd Davidsonís take on where we are

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    flyrite's Avatar
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    Budd Davidsonís take on where we are

    23 Sept -- Graying Out
    We are watching an interesting time developing in our culture: Age is becoming a determining factor in the survival of certain businesses. They may not continue on because the customers are dying and/or the businessmen themselves are aging out and have no one to pass their business along to.

    Iím certain Iíve talked about some aspects of the graying of special interest activities, e.g. the airplane/car/train model hobby market and how it has nearly disappeared. How the hotrod market is mostly gray dogs these days. How the prices of the bigger vintage airplanes have plummeted because younger aviators have no interest in them and the guys with money are going away. As far as that goes, aviation, when placed against the growth of the general population, is getting smaller and smaller. Today the industry might be proud of shipping 1700 airplanes (201 where in 1978, the number was nearly ten times that for a national population that was a third smaller than it is today. It was a monster industry!

    Official FAA av-stats: In 1980 there was one pilot for every 273 people. Today there is one pilot for every 533. That means, when put against the population, there are roughly half as many pilots today as in 1980. No wonder thereís a pilot shortage.

    What brought this to mind was a month ago I was doing research for an article on the warbird restoration community. In the process of doing that, company after company talked about how the market has changed so radically in the last few years. They said that for years, theyíd be doing restorations for a relatively large number of individual airplane owners. Now they say that those have almost disappeared to be replaced by a much smaller number of individuals who are having relatively large numbers (four or more airplanes over a period of time) restored.

    Those kinds of businesses are very much affected by ďthe statistics of small numbers.Ē They might be making good money, but a variation of only two or three customers can put them in the red.

    Iím hearing the same thing from the antique airplane restoration folks. Theyíre seeing fewer customers for big restorations because the people who have the money AND the interest are dying out. Iím hearing exactly the same thing from my friends in the vintage car restoration field.

    The only segment in aviation that is continuing to enjoy growth and nearly unbridled enthusiasm is the sport aviation segment, as represented by the EAA.

    The really sad aspect of this is that Iíve had two detailed conversations, one with the owner of a huge warbird restoration business, the other a long-time, nationally respected antique airplane restoration company owner and both were bemoaning that they didnít know what to do with their businesses. They are in their 70ís and are looking for a way out but there doesnít appear to be a way out. One has kids who donít give a crap about airplanes. Plus, because his business depends on a smaller number of viable customers, he canít sell it for a number that makes sense (plus he has a HUGE inventory of airframes and parts). The other, the antiquer, sees his business more or less continuing with his kids, but at a much smaller level. He says the people with the money are definitely out there, but the interest level is declining so the number of possible customers is also going to hell and the statistics of small numbers again takes over.

    Is there a way to reverse the way in which weíre seeing interest in what are mostly mechanical endeavors declining? Sadly, I donít think so. The motivation and interest in dirt-under-the-fingernails activities in young people has fallen off a cliff. There also seems to be a similar loss of interest in the historical nature of most these activities.

    Whether it be model airplanes, hotrods, restoring or enjoying old cars or airplanes or whatever, an interest in history seems to be a driving factor and that appears to be missing in younger generations. Those generations simply have significant less interest in mechanical stuff. Actually, as is often said, itís hard to see what interests they do have past social endeavors, sports and the digital world.

    Most of us gray dogs have lived through a number of fascinating, golden eras. For those of us in aviation and so many other mechanically-based activities, there have been decades during which we were up to our necks in really wild and wonderful hardware. And most of us reveled in it. Had we known so much was likely to disappear in our lifetimes, we would have dug deeper into what was going on. If that was even possible.

    At least we can say weíve been there and done that. Of course, millennials say, ďÖdone what? And why?Ē Is that worth answering?

    No, it's not! bd
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    texmex's Avatar
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    I've been saying for a number of years the price of these aircraft are going to fall. The 'next' generation cannot afford them.

    I'm fifty, and started the family thing relatively young, which forced me into the property market. In my same airline pilot profession, I know lots of 30 to 45 year old guys who would love an aircraft in the shed.

    But if there younger they have been wacked with crazy high property prices and LARGE mortgages. They have no 'toy cash'.

    And if they are younger then 30, just about every carrot, property, toys and even the choice of family seem impossibly far from them.

    I can't see that changing until property resets.

    Maybe different in the States, but that's way I see it in Australia.
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    Cubus Maximus's Avatar
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    Cirrus is targeting the tech generation: https://www.latimes.com/california/s...e-jets-for-fun


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    Nothing against BD but that is just another old boomer booming boomer nonsense. Lots of kids into mechanical things, vocational high schools are competitive to get into at the moment. Imagine that. Shouldn't be a surprise that boomers super hotrod car is not young peoples super hotrod car. They don't care about 69' Camaros. Nor should they, those were someone else's dream car. Another car thing that escapes boomers, not longer after boomers became adults cars went from freedom machines to oppression machines. Cars became revenue machines for the state with teenagers getting the brunt of tickets. That kids don't want to drive in oppressive clown world is rational. Further the kids aren't dumb enough to care all that much about P-51 Mustangs, or 400K Supercubs, or anything else stupid priced. The unfortunate have student loans the old guys can't conceive of and all are facing earnings to housing cost ratios the old guys have never experienced, not even close. But the kids are doing mechanical things, and they are flying. Just without boomer ideals. The take away for aging boomers is that at some point your houses and toys will resell for pennies on the dollar. However aviation will not go extinct, might even get better.
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    I'll 71. Flying at 18. Have a homebuilt (which I built from scratch), 1958 Cessna 182A and 1958 Farmal 350. I don't have a big fancey House and drive 2005 Dodge pickup. A big morgage is a waste of $$. Have fun!!
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    BC12D-4-85's Avatar
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    What let some air out of the aviation boom ballon was the increase in cost of fuel and labor rates for instruction and maintenance, plus aircraft and parts. AV fuel and labor are up 5x in my 45 flying years. Now someone will say "but corrected for Inflation"...so here's that: http://www.in2013dollars.com/us/inflation/1974.

    The 1970's and '80s were brutal for inflation and buying power, and years prior and after benefitted as shown.

    The two Supercubs I bought nearly new or restored for $15-25K then now are selling for....well we know. What's the cost for a PP certificate now? Last I heard about $10,000 locally. Then what? Rent? Sim sessions?

    Some of us were lucky to have had a good wave to ride to shore. It takes serious coin today to fly.

    Gary

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    I think there are some positive things happening in aviation that will keep the spirit alive. Look at Zenith Aircraft, they are making an aircraft that are more easily constructed with NC machined parts that fit together with minimal effort. Part of their intro to the airplane is building your own rudder. So just by taking the intro class you have your first part. Changing times, but still moving forward I think.
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    If it wasn't for the LSA market, with their reduced operating costs and their easier/cheaper to obtain ticket (though more restrictive) things would be even more grim.

    One fly-in I was at this year had a door prize for the youngest pilot, I can't remember for sure (!), but I think he was something like 49 or 50.

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    BC12D-4-85's Avatar
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    LSA - market or ticket both help keep some flying. If some day more Cessna and Champ models get included in those eligible it will benefit the industry. Two place is ok.

    Gary

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    Some never learn the power of choice, and many of the younger 'me' generation won't. Parents gave everything to their kids, so they grew up expecting everything.

    I grew up in a small three bedroom house with two parents and a brother. Today that same number often has four or five bedrooms, a tv room, garage and huge living room... we had one car, today you see three cars or four.

    Those that choose to spend into debt for college and big mortgages, new cars and such will not see disposable income. Those that choose to live modest will afford their dreams.
    I don't know where you've been me lad, but I see you won first Prize!
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    I think BD is right on. You think things are bad now just wait another 10-20 years when most of the boomers are all gone. I hope he(and I) are wrong but fear not.

    I was lucky. I never made much $ and had the same relative $ issues as anyone else. But a C150 at $7.00/ hour and a CFI for the same in a military flying club made flying possible when my take home was less than $150/week. My PPL cost me $700. I'm still flying on luck it seems. Hangar holding both airplanes $50/month, repairman certificate allows me to do my own inspections coupled with LSA makes continued flying possible. But I'm hanging on by the skin of my teeth, one more 1/2 teaspoon of metal in the filter and I'll be walking. That happened to the engine in the biplane. I figured I could handle an IRAN when I opened it up and found nothing really bad. But I sent the cases to Tulsa and the case was cracked beyond repair.....Anyone want a Acroduster 2 airframe cheap.

    And then there is insurance.....
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    I worked in a big warbird shop in the mid 90s and saw the customer dynamics change. It went from airline pilots and successful small business owners to multi millionairs with handlers that dealt with the restoration.

    My Dad restored a Model A pick up. Those vehicles values are falling because the people into them are getting older and dying off. Muscle cars bring crazy money because the people who remember those cars growing up are now in a place in their life where they can afford them.

    I believe there are fewer kids interested in working with their hands but hopefully that trend will change as high schools realize not everyone is going to college and society needs technical people. VoTech is and needs to be reintroduced at high school level. There will always be a demand for people to fix things.

    I figure my business is worth the sum of it's parts (equipment). I don't have a viable business when I am gone. I saw a friend build his business in a way where he could walk away and it made money and was viable. Takes some forward thinking.
    Steve Pierce

    Everybody is ignorant, only on different subjects.
    Will Rogers
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    They're still out there but you need to look in different directions. I have a kid in his first year of college, his group project is to build an autonomous hovercraft that will have to complete a course! Can I help, please? He is also in a car club, their cars are low, loud and have spoilers, usually made in Japan and cost are from 1500$-30K, meets are organized via group chats, usually in some business's parking lot or garage. I have a feeling the next gens aircraft will require far less training to fly, will VTOL
    and require charging before flight and can be reserved via app of course.

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    Certainly true that aviation per capita is down. Raw numbers we are at roughly 60% of our 1977 operations at KMYF. But if you correct that for population increase nationally it is around 40% - even more impressive, San Diego has grown lots faster than the nation. I can do those computations . . .

    Is it Bud Davisson who wrote the initial excerpt?

    As far as expense goes - I paid 1/6 of my yearly salary as a minimum wage draftsman for my Cub in 1962. It was worth 1/4 of my 1995 salary as an Airbus captain. If I was starting out in 1995 I would not have been able to dream of owning a flying Cub.

    I am coasting now - if I had to rely on repair shops for maintenance and overhaul, I would be out of the club. Send a cylinder or case to an overhauler and chances are it will be rejected. I just find old timers who know how to replace valve seats.
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    I should add - my lowly J3 was worth exactly my yearly salary as an America West 737 captain in 1986. We didn't pay captains very much back then, but it was competitive with my old job as a senior engineer at a major electronics firm.
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    Yes traditional private aviation is so far out of reach of the average joe that's it's not even on the spectrum of attainable pursuits. Add to it the headaches of dealing with the FAA and why would you even bother. Lets hope we can move these old airplanes into an owner maintenance program like our Canadian friends have or a similar experimental category, that may spur some activity.
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    Cub junkie's Avatar
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    Here is a thought, I wonder when Light Sport was established if it would be different now (pilot start ups, costs)if the hundreds of entry level trainers like C 150's, Piper Tommyhawks, PA28-140's etc. would have been included in the regs. ? How many of those type aircraft are for sale cheap(relative terms)compared to other hobbies that disposable income goes to ? Lots of those airplanes available for a lot less than personal water craft, expensive ATV's. A few years ago my own son broke my heart when he told me he wasn't interested in pursuing a pilots license. He used to fly with me all the time but then grew up and had other interests. You can only introduce young people to aviation, you can't make them like it.
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    Fences around airports, small airports closing due to real estate values, high cost of entry. All these things and more have put aviation out of reach for the average person. When I was a kid, you could ride your bike to the local airport, go talk to the pilots and mechanics, touch the airplanes. Not many places you can do that anymore. Iíve seen perhaps 20 airports close, each having been base for between 20 to 100+ airplanes. The remaining airports have fewer airplanes based there. Sadly we are a dyeing breed.


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk

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    Pilots love to spend time in the sky. I wonder why they always think it’s falling.

    As for Budd and others, if you think there are no youth in aviation, you should spend a little time on Instagram and a little more on YouTube. They’re out there.
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    behindpropellers's Avatar
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    Dear Budd....

    They are making new grey haired people every day.....

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    WhiskeyMike's Avatar
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    Fenced

    Quote Originally Posted by dgapilot View Post
    Fences around airports, small airports closing due to real estate values, high cost of entry. All these things and more have put aviation out of reach for the average person. When I was a kid, you could ride your bike to the local airport, go talk to the pilots and mechanics, touch the airplanes. Not many places you can do that anymore. Iíve seen perhaps 20 airports close, each having been base for between 20 to 100+ airplanes. The remaining airports have fewer airplanes based there. Sadly we are a dyeing breed.


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk
    Fences. Barbed wire. Keep out signs. Everything designed to repel people. Aviation became synonymous with danger after 9/11 and the media jumped on it. Our government blamed us instead of the perpetrators and aviation became terrorism. Another factor is parentless or reduced parenting families. Whoís going to take the kids to the airport when soccer rules over all - even on mandatory Sunday mornings replacing church. Itís not just flying and cars, itís the attack on family life, religion and free time. Steve P is right about trade school. Want a paying job? Get a skill. You canít drive a philosophy delivery van even with a PHD. If you become an electrician or plumber you can afford a reasonable used plane.
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    Quote Originally Posted by behindpropellers View Post
    Dear Budd....

    They are making new grey haired people every day.....
    But they do not hold a candle to us tenured greys.
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    flyrite's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by CharlieN View Post
    But they do not hold a candle to us tenured greys.
    Can’t claim it myself (a boomer), But, They don’t call a past generation the ‘Greatest Generation’ for nothing !
    Consider my self privileged to have had them hand me off the blessings that have and are being squandered.
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    The trades have to come back, both in training opportunities and respect. Everyone wants to be a glorified typist these days, its all they've been exposed to. A bunch of barely cognizant "developers" (typists) brought us MCAS, but I don't blame them specifically.
    What's a go-around?
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    A glider club is inexpensive flying. Soaring is the most internally competitive thing I've ever done....to say its great fun doesn't do it justice! My record is over 6 hours in a 1964 glider in Michigan thermals....not a great location for soaring. I also gained over 5000' altitude one day. Those guys who soar have outstanding stick and rudder skills, great weather prediction skills as well. Its also a wonderful group activity with lots of camaraderie with top notch characters.

    I can't understand why the clubs are not vibrant these days, kids, dads, grandparents too. I don't think its money.
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    There are some clubs marching on. Our club has bought 2 new 2seaters in the last 5 years and the youth program keeps expanding. The planets have to be in perfect alignment and experienced people have to resist the call of airlines. The 172 club I hangar with just bought their ac after 2 years of renting.
    What's a go-around?

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    I updated my statistics.my home airport, right now (well, 2017 data) is at 58% of its 1977 activity. A huge percentage of current activity is helicopter and jet; in 1977 there were three helicopters and one lonely Learjet based here.

    Normalized to population growth, compared to US population we are at 36%. That should be stunning, especially with the increase of larger turbine activity.

    Normalized to San Diego growth since 1980 (couldn’t find data for 1977) we are at 36%. Growth in San Diego in the late 1970s was stunning, so a real number would be closer to a third.

    Not that I am not doing my part - last Friday I was personally responsible for ten percent of all MYF operations compared to a daily average published. My students fly quite a bit - now six J-3s based here. That compares to one (mine) in 1977.

    Management has stated that Cubs belong in a field in the country, and that we want more and bigger jets.

    And a political note - those of you who hate Socialism will hate it even more when we become all jet, heavily subsidized. It is coming to a city airport near you. And no - not all of us can afford to pull up stakes and move to the country.
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    CubCruiser's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bcone1381 View Post
    A glider club is inexpensive flying. Soaring is the most internally competitive thing I've ever done....to say its great fun doesn't do it justice! My record is over 6 hours in a 1964 glider in Michigan thermals....not a great location for soaring. I also gained over 5000' altitude one day. Those guys who soar have outstanding stick and rudder skills, great weather prediction skills as well. Its also a wonderful group activity with lots of camaraderie with top notch characters.

    I can't understand why the clubs are not vibrant these days, kids, dads, grandparents too. I don't think its money.
    In addition to what’s been said above, glider clubs offer easy transition options for powered pilots. For me, I “paid” for all of my soaring by towing - which in itself, can be both challenging and rewarding. There’s nothing like 25 tows in a 5-hour period to hone takeoff and landing skills as well learning how to quickly down a sandwich or some peanuts while they’re hooking the next one up.

    The badge system of rewards is motivation for many and the challenge of cross-country flying without a motor is amazing.
    Daryl Hickman, CFI
    N87DH American Super Legend HP
    N161LC American Super Legend Amphibian
    http://www.CubFlying.com
    http://www.KidsFlyCubs.org
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