What's The Point of 'Next-Gen' If 'Now-Gen' Crashes and Burns? (Part 6) | Aero-News Network
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Mon, Nov 08, 2010

What's The Point of 'Next-Gen' If 'Now-Gen' Crashes and Burns? (Part 6)

A Continuing Look At The Obstacles We Face

Aero-Analysis/Commentary by James R. Campbell, ANN Editor-In-Chief/Rabble-Rouser

And so the fun never ends… some weeks ago we started this series of editorial articles in order to point out issues we felt were, and continued to be, problematic to the future health of the aviation industry.

Fist of all... we're sorry that we haven't followed up in a number of days with additional parts to this series… but between trying to beat the flu (and not succeeding) and the usual everyday ANN business trials, it's tough to find the time to be creative, inspiring… appropriately troublesome, and right on target.

A few follow-ups… in the next few days, time permitting, ANN will unveil a few new programs of our own… our attempt to "Get Off Our Duffs And Contribute Something Positive To Save Aviation" - I think you'll get a kick out of them… since we're going to put our money, our time, and our talent where our editorial mouths have been… and do something demonstrative to make a difference to flyers the world over.

And by the way, we've decided to send a small team to AOPA's so-called Summit this week-with reservations… despite AOPA's disinterest in allowing unrestricted and unfettered coverage of their event… though the minute we see any evidence of real restriction on our coverage, we'll report it to you, and are likely to pull the plug. It's become perfectly obvious to us and a number of other independent journalistic organizations that AOPA wants to not only control all aspects of how GA is covered but really could care less if independent aviation media withered away and disappeared. That's a foolish and wholly dangerous attitude… and we abhor it. We're particularly concerned about some AOPA efforts that seem deliberately targeted to inhibit other independent media (and in fact, they seem to be targeting one well-known monthly print periodical quite aggressively).

Sigh… what happened to the AOPA we respected, supported and were proud to support? We miss it...

Oh well… back to the editorial business at hand.

This series has been an enlightening process, both on terms of actually sitting down and put the words to work… and in the thousands of responses we've gotten from others in the aviation community… the great majority of whom are just as worried about aviation's future as we are. This time, though, let's look at what used to be a pretty positive aspect of aviation, in days gone by… and one that might play a pivotal role in our future… in a most positive way -- if we can update it to fit the times we live in.

Re-Discovering and Re-Inventing The 'Flying Club' Concept For North America

I don't have to tell you that aircraft ownership is prohibitively expensive and well beyond the reach of many of those who so desperately want the plane of their dreams. Most of us are afflicted with the aviation bug when quite young… long before the worldly concerns of higher education, chasing the opposite sex (or the same, if you're wired that way) and finding a solid career (among SO many other conflicts) rear their ugly heads. For many, you have to be at least half way through your normal lifespan before you have the financial wherewithal  and other resources to be able to afford an airplane so that you can feed your desire to fly, at will.

By the time that a person can afford it, though, many of their younger dreams of flight have died off and the enthusiasm we see, sporadically, at today's overtly confined and fenced airports is squashed long before those passions can truly take root for a lifetime.

Think about it… by the time that most of us can afford what we want in terms of an airplane, the commitments of everyday life have all but trashed the early yearnings to fly that so many of today's non-flying public admit to. Renting planes is a difficult and expensive process at many FBOs, access to same is often quite limited, and there is little of the social reinforcement that other pastimes offer. We have to find a way to bridge the gap between youthful enthusiasm and legitimate interest -- and then finally having the means to indulge in the passion of flight.

Mind you; other endeavors do not seem to be troubled as badly as we see in aviation. For example, along a minor thoroughfare that passes by the residential airpark that I live on, the route North (bordered by the St. Johns River) boasts a number of small friendly boating marinas that provide a social network for those enamored of such activities as well as a haven for their boats. Many of these have a small gathering place, a pub or small eating establishment, a club or other organization and a number of means by which these communities provide a loose social compact for those who enjoy this recreational diversion. On weekends, these places are packed… many evenings, as well… and there is obviously something going on that binds these boaters together when they're not actually off boating.

Think of what we might accomplish if we had something similar for aviators… flying clubs that could bridge the gap of affordability, and provide ready access and social reinforcement that would keep the interest in aviation alive for those without the means to become full-time owners… as well as a place to enjoy the company and esprit de corps of other flyers. For those just starting out… or those on retirement incomes, these clubs, scattered at locations near major population centers and using attractive new LSAs, as well as more conventional airframes, can provide the impetus to keep a new flyer in the game as they climb the rungs of the ladder of life… or provide a pleasant and affordable way to stay flying to those enjoying their senior years.
They should provide more than just access to airplanes… but a gathering point for erstwhile flyers AND their families to meet, enjoy the camaraderie of other flyers, and provide a good time even when everyone isn't flying. There should be regular gatherings, parties, dances, lessons, seminars, family outings, and as many organized flying activities as possible… with Saturday and Sunday morning fly-outs to popular breakfast spots or local airshows being just the tip of the iceberg.

With solid social event planning and an organizational structure that invites regular participation, we can build a network of activity that can keep people interested as they build their lives to the point where full-time aircraft ownership becomes practical…. And we shouldn't miss a trick in doing so… with everything from aero-movie nights for flyers and families to kiddie playgrounds that feature aeronautically themed kiddie rides so that the young ones can 'fly' while their Daddy or Mommy does it for real. There are a million little ideas that can be utilized to customize a flying club to the locale and clientele in a specific area… and a little creativity can build a following for aviation that could put the boating industry to shame… face it, aviation is a heck of a lot more exciting and versatile… but we have to find a way to provide the accessibility that is so evident in boating, RVing, and other endeavors.

Overseas, flying club activity is often more pervasive, (by shear necessity… aviation overseas is even more expensive/restrictive than it is here in the states), and it is also a far more social activity… with all manner of events and gatherings that not only bring pilots together, but members of their families, to boot. Not only are these clubs helping to keep the costs down, make airplanes accessible to pilots, and providing a social structure for flyers and their families… they have often become an abiding part of their nation's aviation infrastructure. And best of all; to many of those who have joined such groups as they worked their way through life to the point where they could afford an airplane of their own, they have kept their affiliation simply because such clubs added to their enjoyment of the aviation world.

We can take some serious guidance and inspiration from such programs… to serve here as a template for a future network of flying clubs that offers just what this industry needs, ready access to reasonably affordable aircraft as well as a reinforcing social network that will keep flyers involved and enthused to be a part of an extraordinary family of humanity… known as flyers.

So… there's the problem (the decline of the flying club) -- and a possible solution (recrafting them to fit in with the needs of today's erstwhile flyer) - what do you think? What ideas do you have? What would constitute the PERFECT flying club for YOU? How might you improve on this outline? How would you promote it? SPEAK UP! We look forward to hearing from you.

Next… While we realize that such a hard-hitting editorial series tends to seem negative and depressing… we also understand that much of the criticism for the state of the aviation world needs to be directed a little closer to home. SO… do be advised that some of the toughest criticism we have coming up is for our own ilk... and the truly deplorable state of aviation journalism.

More to follow in the coming days… Stay tuned!

Jim Campbell -- Unrepentant Aero-Advocate, Professional Trouble-Maker/Pain-In-The-Ass/Aero-Evangelist (YOU Choose which one truly applies)

FMI: ANN's 'Great Rant' -- I've Got Some Comments! -- Is There A Future For Flying Clubs?

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