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Will Airline Service Get Better or Worse in the Future?

With all of the shenanigans that have been happening with airlines recently I have spent a fair amount of time reading commentary from all different point of views.  The vast majority of whom have no real understanding of how the airline industry works other than getting on a plane and flying from point A to point B.

Now, I will be the first to admit that I am hardly an expert, especially when compared with a lot of other blogs out there like AirlineReporter or AirlineGuys, or AirlineGeeks, etc. but I like to think that I know at least a little more than the average Joe out there.

The specifics of the actual events have been beaten to death with practically no one changing how they feel about the issue because that is what we do in the modern world, we pick a side and stick to it refusing to even listen to what the other side has said.  So rather than continue that useless charade my mind has been drawn to topics that led to some of these events, or at least maybe influenced their occurrence, and will continue to impact the industry as a whole as we move into the future.

One of the biggest topics that I have been thinking about is the level of service that airlines currently provide, and whether that service will improve or deteriorate in the coming years.  The challenge with this topic is that there are so many factors involved it would be practically impossible to come up with an overarching answer for the entire industry.

For example, airlines in the US are significantly different from those that operate in Europe and Asia.  They simply face different challenges and opportunities by nature of the geography in which they operate along with political sensitivities, and the different wants and needs of the passengers whom they serve.

The interesting perspective that I have right now is that recently I have significantly more experience with Asian airlines rather than US-based airlines, while the majority of the commentary that I have read has been related to airlines in the states.  It has been really interesting to see how differently they operate even when it comes to serving a similar customer base in crossing the Pacific.

If you were to compare the services that airlines offer now to those offered 40 years ago, I don’t think anyone would think the service now, as a whole, is better than it was then.  However, 40 years in aviation is nearly half of the life of an industry that has developed exponentially over its lifetime.  What is interesting about that development is that while the technology in the industry continues to improve, the service as a whole has deteriorated.

So why is aviation different from so many other industries in that they continue to offer fewer services while their technology continues to improve?  Shouldn’t increased efficiency and steadily increasing traffic lead to better service and more options?

While there are numerous pieces of this puzzle that play important roles in the overall picture like increased security measures (yes I still hate TSA), I think there is one piece that has driven this decline in service more than anything else, at least in America.

Price sensitivity.

From my admittedly relatively limited experience, Americans are more price sensitive than any other region of the world I have visited when it comes to buying plane tickets.  This is not to say that Europeans and Asians don’t care how much they pay for a plane ticket, they simply don’t allow that to be almost the only factor in their decision-making process.

Maybe someone else can help me understand the actual reasoning behind it, but Asians and Europeans seem far more willing to pay a premium for added service, whereas Americans prefer to pay the absolute lowest price for a ticket, and then wonder why the service is not as good as it once was.

To be fair, there are more and more ULCCs popping up around Asia in particular, but even those airlines offer a more pleasant experience than the ones in the US.  Maybe that is just because they write me off as the stupid American that they don’t want to deal with, but in general it has been a much better experience here than in the US.

I don’t blame the airlines one bit either.  With the need to fly with such high load factors in order to remain profitable, the airlines are always looking for ways to fill empty seats, including overbooking.  The problem is, as you continue to charge less and less for a given seat, you have to find other ways to cut costs, or else that seat becomes a liability rather than a minuscule asset.

I was working on my Bachelor’s in Aviation Management in the years after 9/11 which led to many interesting discussions about how that day had affected the industry.  In that same vein, the industry has continued to adapt in the years since for a number of different reasons so what worked then may not work now.

One of the airlines we often discussed was Continental.  In the aftermath of 9/11 when many of the other airlines were slashing ticket prices, along with their services, Continental seemed to decide they could attract those customers willing to pay a little more to keep the services they were used to.  I am not talking about business travelers who are far less price sensitive, and still get all of the services in First Class, but rather those people who simply appreciated things like a hot meal.  Continental was the last airline I remember serving me a hot meal on a domestic flight for no additional charge.  It may have only been a pretty plain chicken sandwich, but it stuck with me and my perception of the airline sat above the rest.  This is an overly simplistic view of their decision-making process, but I often feel they over think many of these decisions.

Now, all of the airlines are really not that different from each other.  Sure you have outliers like Southwest not charging for checked bags, but by and large they all seem to offer the same stuff, and I don’t really see much of a change coming anytime soon.

The reason I say I don’t see much of a change coming is that there really aren’t that many more services that the airline can take away.  You already have to pay for almost everything other than your seat, and in many cases if you want a window, aisle, or even an exit row seat, you have to pay for that too.

While I personally don’t take issue with the airlines doing this, I would honestly prefer if they would just add that stuff back in and charge me an extra $20-30 for my ticket.  I am often just as price sensitive as the next guy, and the larger my family gets the more this holds true, but at the same time I appreciate a few services.  I can convince myself to pay a little extra for a few of those services when I see it as part of the ticket, but when I see it as an additional charge for some reason I almost never pull the trigger.

The perspective of passengers is an interesting dynamic of this whole discussion, because we all view it differently.  For that reason, there is no one size fits all answer for how an airline should offer its services, but only time will tell if we ever get to a point where we feel like the industry as a whole is improving their service offerings.

April 25, 2017 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

An Awesome Avgeek T-shirt to Support Adoption

Our family is about to grow by one.

I really hesitated on posting this as I am not someone who enjoys asking for money, but after seeing the willingness of the amazing avgeek community to contribute, I figured it was worth a shot.

As you can see from the above picture, it is a pretty awesome t-shirt that I am talking about, and it is in support of an even more awesome cause: my new son’s adoption.

If you would like to read the full story please head on over to our adoption blog, but if you just want the highlights, here you go.

My wife and I have talked about adoption since we got married almost ten years ago, but it was just never the right time, until we moved to Japan and met some friends in my new squadron that were adopting from China.  To make a long story short, after about eight months of paperwork and waiting, we were paired with our new son that we have named Ty Drechsel Lynn.

Our new son Ty Drechsel Lynn.

We are now within about two months of traveling to China and just trying to raise whatever funds we can to help make that happen.  I have been overwhelmed with the generosity of people I hardly even know,  and in some cases don’t know at all.

If you would like to buy one of these awesome T-shirts and help with some of our expenses then I would greatly appreciate it.  There are a lot of great causes out there so thanks in advance for your support.

February 7, 2017 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Year In Review: Operation Christmas Drop 2015

Yeah, I know it has been more than a year since I promised this video, but here it is finally.  While I am by no means a professional video maker, there is some pretty awesome footage in there.

Operation Christmas Drop 2015 was the 64th annual edition of this humanitarian operation, making it the longest running humanitarian aid mission in DOD history.  Over a seven-day period we dropped to 56 islands covering more than 2 million square miles of mostly water.  To give you some perspective, that is an area larger than the continental United States.

This was the first year that the US Air Force was joined by the Royal Australian Air Force and Japanese Air Self Defense Force, and it was a tremendous success.  All three nations gained valuable knowledge and experience from this amazing operation.

I have done some amazing things over the past year, but I honestly don’t know that I could ever have more fun flying than I did for this week.  Cruising out at altitude for hours and then descending into the middle of the Pacific Ocean and picking out an island that is less than a square mile in area is incredibly fulfilling.

As you level off over the islands you see the bluest blue waters surrounding stunningly green palm trees with small groups of people waving and excited to see you.  It is hard to imagine a more remote location and that makes the airdrops that much more challenging.

Normally we airdrop on surveyed drop zones with ground controllers that increase our situational awareness by giving us winds and ensuring the drop zone is secure.  In this case we have to estimate the winds ourselves, and make multiple passes to ensure that we drop in a safe location free of people and structures.

While this can be extremely challenging, it is also incredibly rewarding to see all of the countless hours of training we do pay off as we deliver Christmas to people who wouldn’t receive it in any other way.

It is a little weird to celebrate Christmas in the toasty region of Guam and the South Pacific, but I also can’t think of a much more rewarding and fulfilling way to enjoy the season.

While I am no professional video maker, I hope you enjoy the footage, and I would love to hear any comments you may have to share.

 

January 18, 2017 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

2016+ Year in Review

I know it is cliche, but I really can’t believe another year has gone by.  Even more unbelievable to me is how much I have actually done this year, and some of the incredible experiences that I have had.

With all of the time I have spent all over the Pacific I have neglected this writing, which I am just now realizing was a sort of therapy that I have also been missing out on.  Such is life though and all I can do is work at getting back into it.

So rather than try to cram everything into one post, I am going to work on getting out one a week or so which will hopefully give me some time to really internalize everything I have learned this year, while at the same time not overwhelming myself and then just giving up.

So here is a quick overview of some of the things I will be writing about over the next few months:

Operation Christmas Drop 2015–  I have mentioned this before, and a year later I am going to actually get to it.  I was on a crew for this operation which was an amazing opportunity to fly all over the islands of the Pacific bringing Christmas joy to people who live about as remotely as you possibly can in this world.

Cope North 2016-  This is a massive exercise that takes place in Guam every year involving 8-9 different countries in this instance.  Once again I was on a flying crew, which was one of the best crews I have ever flown with.  This was the first time I had ever trained with fighter aircraft which was a whole lot of fun.  As well as visiting some pretty historic sites.

Balikatan 2016-  Another large-scale exercise but in the Philippines.  For this exercise I went as a mission planning cell chief working at a location we had never fully manned before.  While I didn’t get to do any real exciting flying, it did really open my eyes to the time and effort that is required to pull off these vitally important exercises.

Red Flag Alaska 2016-  Surprise, surprise, another exercise, though most people who have interest in military aviation have likely heard of it, or at least the Nellis AFB version.  While I was back to flying for this exercise, it is structured differently than the other exercises so I also did a massive amount of mission planning.  It was some of the most incredible flying I have ever done, with a fun crew, and some amazing off duty time in the awe-inspiring Alaskan mountains.

Becoming an evaluator  Not exactly an exciting flying adventure, but something that has shaped the way I view being a flyer.  I have written numerous times about how much I love instructing, and evaluating has only deepened my love of instruction, but on a much deeper level.

Operation Christmas Drop 2016-  This year I went as the mission planning cell chief and there are few times I have worked so many hours and felt so completely fulfilled by what I have done.  To be very clear, there are a lot of people who did a lot of work to make this operation happen, and it was an honor to be a part of it.  It will be hard to beat the value of this experience in my life.

So there it is.  I am sure I forgot events that I will write about as well.  It seems so short listing them all like this, but I am excited to go back and relive all of these experiences again.  I know it will put a lot of smiles on my face, and I hope that you will find some enjoyment from reading about it.  Thank you for all of your support in the past, and I look forward to your comments in the future.

January 6, 2017 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

A New Year, Some of the Same Thoughts

I’m not really sure where I am going with this post, but I find that sometimes just writing about the things that are on my mind can help me come up with solutions, or at least help me to feel more comfortable with my decisions.

I am at the point in my flying career where a change of some sort must happen and I have some mixed feelings about which direction that I want to go.  It doesn’t matter if you fly in the civilian wold or in the military, change is just a part of the industry, and as technology improves, sometimes we are forced into change whether we want it or not.

In my case The C-130H is finally being entirely replaced by the C-130J in the Active Duty Air Force.  I had previously thought my time in the Herk was going to be over a couple of years ago, but as luck would have it, I got almost another two years, and some of the most incredible experiences I have ever had in my life.  Unfortunately, the end is officially here, and I have to make some changes.

The Air Force is more than happy to retrain me into a new airframe, or more likely just another version of the C-130, but that would most likely mean a move to the Special Operations community, and that is just not the right place for me and my family situation.  The other options leave me in essentially the same position again in a few years as they phase out their navigators, and would ultimately lead to every aviators’ worst nightmare, flying a desk.  There is one opportunity that would keep me on the beloved Herk, and on active duty, but unfortunately bureaucracy has made that not an option.

That leads me to the path that I am likely to take at this point.  The National Guard and Air Force Reserves are still chock full of H-models, and every unit in the country, except maybe Texas, is hurting for experienced Navigators.  After much deliberation with my wife and some trusted advisers, I have come to essentially the same conclusion that Rob Burgon over at TallyOne did as he reached a similar transition point.

Moving to the National Guard allows me to keep flying the plane that I love while also being able to put my family, and our future, first.  If I am being honest though, I can’t help but wonder what opportunities I am leaving behind by making this switch.  There is obviously no way of knowing what the future down either path would bring, but it is in my nature to wonder what could happen.

As I write this, I find myself feeling more and more certain that making the switch is the right move, and that it will pay the greatest dividends in the long run.  I wish I had more to say in terms of certainty and knowing that the whole thing is going to work out as I would like, but then that would not be military life would it?

If I had anything to pass along to others who may be in some sort of similar situation I would say stick with your heart and don’t be afraid to pursue a path that is different from what you intended or that others expect of you.  Listen to those that have gone before and take into account as much information as you can, but at the end of the day you will find happiness doing what you love and are passionate about.

January 1, 2017 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

“A date which will live in infamy.”

These words evoke an incredible range of emotions for millions of people every year around this time.  Even for those of us who were not yet living, or even our parents for that matter, they strike an instant chord to something deep inside us.

When FDR said those words 75 years ago I seriously wonder if he would believe what I did today would have ever been possible.

I am currently in Guam participating in Operation Christmas Drop as the Mission Planning Chief for the exercise.  If you don’t know what this is look it up on YouTube because there are some amazing videos.  

In short, it is an operation to deliver supplies and Christmas presents to the people of Micronesia and the Marianas islands utilizing C-130s to airdrop these much needed supplies.  This is the 65th installment of the operation and it gets more awesome every year.

What made today special for me was the magnitude of what I was able to witness.  You see, 75 years after that infamous day, I was part of an operation where American and Japanese military members flew on each other’s aircraft to deliver goodwill and happiness to people across the islands of the Pacific.  

Two nations that fought bitterly so many years ago teamed up, along with our Australian brothers and sisters, to drop not bombs but food, gifts, and other vital supplies to people they will never meet in person.  In one day they delivered nearly 10,000 pounds of cargo in a joint operation that demonstrates the amazing relationship we have developed.

As I lay here about to go to sleep almost 75 years to the hour that Pearl Harbor was attacked, I almost cannot fathom the magnitude of what took place today, yesterday, and will again tomorrow.

In a world that can so often be viciously divided it was awe inspiring to see how much good former enemies can do when we unite together for the greater good.  May we all take a minute today to remember those that were lost, but also take a minute to find our own battles that we can bring to a peaceful resolution.

If the flag of the rising sun and the stars and stripes can literally fly together after all they endured three quarters of a century ago, then any quarrel can be settled and instead good deeds can be done.

December 7, 2016 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

A Few Shots of Everyone’s Favorite C-130: Fat Albert

The Blue Angels are the highlight of pretty much every airshow they fly at.  They put on an exhilarating show that is almost impossible not to enjoy.

The part of the show that many people unfortunately overlook is one of my favorite parts.  Fat Albert is the workhorse of the show as the transport for the maintainers, as well as the only propeller driven aircraft in the show.  I had the opportunity to see Fat Albert back when they still utilized JATO bottles for some incredible takeoffs, and I have been hooked ever since.  In case you are wondering what a JATO takeoff is, check this out:

While living in Pensacola, FL, the home of the Blue Angels, I got to see Fat Albert quite often, but there is just something special about seeing him on the road.  I had that opportunity again last August while in Seattle during the SeaFair Air Show.

While most of the action took place out over the water, I actually think Fat Albert’s part of the show is better at the airport itself.  In this case that would be King County International Airport, better know as Boeing Field.  The outdoor static displays of the Museum of Flight is a unique and wonderful place to watch an airshow.  Though you will notice a few of those planes peeking into some of my pictures.

Every show starts with a takeoff.

Every show starts with a takeoff.

A zoom climb takeoff like this is incredibly uncomfortable since you are flying at maybe 10-20 feet with the gear up as fast as you can.  Keep in mind, that this is not a little Cessna 172, but a 100,000+ pound cargo plane.  That makes for an incredibly exhilarating experience, and some pretty insane takeoff angles for such a large, propeller-driven plane.

While it can sustain this angle forever, it does get you away from the ground, fast.

While it can’t sustain this angle forever, it does get you away from the ground, fast.

If you have ever watched a “normal” C-130 takeoff, it is not very exciting, and it takes a long time to get up and away.  While this is nothing compared to the old JATO takeoffs, it is fun to take off at this steep of an angle.

C-130s don't necessarily translate to air show excitement.

C-130s don’t necessarily translate to air show excitement.

In terms of the air show itself, this picture really sums up most of what a C-130 can do in an air show.  It can be fun to see some big banking 60 degree turns and high-speed passes, but the real power and utility of the C-130 can’t really be shown at an airshow, with the exception of the takeoff we already talked about, and maybe even more nerve-wracking, intense landings.

The C-130 was designed to go into austere locations and provide support to forces that otherwise would not receive it.  I often explain to friends that all we need is an area free of trees and other tall objects and we could get in there.  While that may not be 100% accurate, it really isn’t too far off.

When all you see out the window is ground, it can be quite unnerving.

When all you see out the window is ground, it can be quite unnerving.

One important aspect of this unique ability is approaching airfields at an incredibly steep angle.  We often refer to it as riding the elevator because you watch the altitude just spin off the altimeter.  I read an article from a reporter who got to take a ride on Fat Albert and she said that the most scary part was this steep descent into the runway.

You would never know that this plane just descended about 1000 feet in about 20 seconds.

You would never know that this plane just descended about 1000 feet in about 20 seconds.

While it may make the untrained civilian uncomfortable, it is things like this that get all of us Herc crew members excited about what we do.  It feels amazing when the pilot rounds it out and you touch softly down after screaming towards good old terra firma.

What a beautiful sight.

What a beautiful sight.

Everyone is attracted to the fast and agile planes at an airshow, and for good reason, because they are exciting.  However, the older I get the more I appreciate the wonder of some of these unsung heroes at airshows.  There may be no greater unsung hero than Fat Albert, but I may be a little biased.

May 14, 2016 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

I Promise I am Still Alive (Video to Spark Your Interest)

Has it really been more than two months since I have posted?

As much as it pains me, I have to be honest: for some reason I just had no desire to write.  Admittedly, I have been busy going to two major multi-national exercises, not to mention some pretty significant family stuff going on.

With all of that being said, those are just excuses, and I apologize.  I promise to get back on the horse now that I have a little more free time.  Besides, I could really use some therapeutic writing to get the avgeekiness flowing again.

In the meantime, enjoy a little snippet of some of the amazing flying I got to do recently.  I will put together some better stuff soon.  Of particular note in this video is the runway at the end is actually where the Enola Gay took off from on its historic mission.  I also think it is awesome to see the propellers go into reverse shortly after we landed.  Enjoy.

 

April 21, 2016 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

Chair Flying May be the Best Free Thing You Can Do to Be a Better Pilot

Who would have guessed that something so simple could be one of your greatest assets toward becoming a better pilot?

Who would have guessed that something so simple could be one of your greatest assets toward becoming a better pilot?

Learning to fly is expensive.

I say that a lot, and so do a lot of other people who are associated with flying because it really is.  In the never-ending effort to reduce the cost of becoming a pilot there is something that anyone can do that I promise will save you time and in turn money.

Chair flying is a learning tool that is utilized by pilots in all stages of flying that has an incredible impact on your abilities as a pilot.  It is an amazing way to learn flows, checklists, improve your radio communications, and everything else it takes to be a pilot.  Something that can be that beneficial must be some complicated system that you have to pay a bunch of money for, right?  Wrong.

Let me take you through the simplest form of chair flying.

You sit in a chair and go through every single step of a flight in your mind.  The end.

At its heart, it really is that simple, but it can be more effective with a few basic tweaks.  Find somewhere quiet where you aren’t going to be distracted by a TV or other conversations.  Have your checklist, kneeboard, or whatever other things you fly with close at hand.  You may even put on your headset to block out the noise and make it feel more real.  Another asset that can really improve the experience is a printout of the cockpit in which you will be flying.  Even pulling an image up on your computer screen can be beneficial.

Then simply go through every step of your flight from beginning to end.  That means start from the moment you walk up to the airplane and go through how you will untie it, or get it out of the hangar, and do your external inspection.  Think about opening the door and where you will put everything (commonly referred to as building your nest) and how you will set everything up to get ready to fly.  Think through each step of the pre-flight including any radio calls or systems checks you would do if you were actually flying.

Go through engine start actually touching each of the switches and dials on your printout or computer screen that you will be manipulating or monitoring including in your mind what you expect to see from all of the gauges.  Make the radio call to ground when ready to taxi and lift your feet to release the brakes moving your hand forward to increase the throttle.  Look left and right to clear for traffic and adjust the throttle as necessary.

I could keep going, but I think you get the idea.  Even just writing this out got me in the mindset of flying and each of the steps that I go through every single time I fly.  It helps in building that muscle memory, and maybe more importantly, a mental memory of repeating those tasks over and over again until it just becomes second nature.  That way when you get in the plane you will have an even better understanding of what you will be doing and you should feel less stressed.

This is exactly why we have crew briefings in the military.  We go through every step of each mission thoroughly to make sure that we are all on the same page.  Some things are covered multiple times in separate briefings to reinforce their importance.  For more complex missions we often spend days going over the mission to ensure that every crew member fully understands their role.

Now flying a 172 into a small airport after an hour is not as complex as a multi-ship formation flight that can cover many hours, but the principle is equally effective no matter what you are flying.  One of the best parts about it, is that it is 100% free.  If you know you are struggling with a certain task, say stalls, then while you are eating your breakfast walk through each of the steps in your mind considering how your hands and feet will move, what you will hear, and what you will see.  After doing it right in your mind, do it again and again until it just becomes second nature.

Becoming a good pilot is a never-ending process of learning and growth that requires dedication to that improvement.  It is not always feasible to get out and fly everyday for 3-4 hours, unfortunately, but it is possible to spend time every day going through the motions in your mind so that you will be ready when you do finally get to slip the surly bonds of the earth and take flight.

February 13, 2016 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.

What is The Goal of Aviation?

I am still collecting some videos from Operation Christmas Drop so that post will have to wait a little longer, but there is another topic that has been on my mind a lot recently that seems applicable at this time of the year.

The new year is a time when it is extremely common for people to make resolutions which are really just another name for goals.  People generally think about weight loss, money, and other personal concerns when it comes to setting these goals.  Goals are an important part of any real success in this world which is why it is important to make them and do everything possible to reach them.  This is true for people as well as businesses.

No matter if you are a person, business, industry, non-profit, or any other group for that matter, you must understand what your main goal is if you are to find any level of success.  Once you understand your main goal, you can then set secondary goals to get you to your main goal.  This whole line of thinking started for me a couple of months ago when I read the book The Goal, by Eliyahu M. Goldratt.  There are many great business insights in the book, as well as many other insights that are applicable to individuals as well.  I highly recommend it if you are looking for something to read.  It reads as a novel, not a business textbook so it is actually quite pleasant to read.

The main insight that drives the rest of the story is that a business must first understand what their main goal is, as I already mentioned.  Once we understand the main goal all of our efforts can be focused on accomplishing it, and anything that stands in the way of that goal can be removed or worked around.  Spoiler alert, the main goal of every business is to make money.  If you want to get more details, read the book.  For the purposes of this post I pose the same question for us lovers of aviation who anxiously want to promote its growth.

What is THE Goal of aviation?

For aviation businesses the goal is the same as any other industry, to make money.  Without that they go out of business and any other goals, no matter how noble, are lost forever.

Aviation organizations like AOPA, AAAE, NBAA, WAI, and numerous others all have similar goals of promoting aviation but generally focus on one particular group like business flyers or women.  They all provide invaluable support to their constituents and the industry as a whole, but they are not really unified in working towards one particular goal.  I am not really surprised though because I don’t know that I have seen a legitimate, unifying goal put forth by anyone.

Don’t get me wrong, many have put forth great ideas, but nothing has really been effective, or else I think we would have seen more growth because people generally do pretty well when they have a clear goal set before them.

Dan Pimentel presented a great goal around this time two years ago of increasing the pilot population to 1 million through focusing on bringing more girls and women into the industry, so is THE goal simply to increase the number of pilots?

I also had an interesting discussion with someone last year about creating an incentive program, possibly through AOPA, where participants could get discounts at hotels, rental car companies, entertainment venues, and other businesses that pilots might utilize when flying to improve the quality of the whole experience.  Does that make THE goal a better experience for those who are already flying?

Eddie Rickenbacker is quoted as saying, “Aviation is proof that – given the will – we can do the impossible.”  This has been true from the Wright Brothers all the way up to Elon Musk and his groundbreaking Falcon 9 reusable rocket.  Aviation has pushed the limits of human ingenuity and innovation leading to developments that have benefited all of society.  So is innovation THE goal of aviation?

A few other potential options for our goal could be to transport people and goods, to connect the world in a more efficient manner, to safely accomplish all of the other things mentioned, or even to return the wonder to flying rather than the commonplace occurrence that it has become.

I don’t think that I have THE answer, but I do have a few thoughts that I hope might start a discussion amongst all of us so that we can focus our efforts to achieve this goal rather than to each pursue our own course of action and have our efforts not be as effective, because as we all know, the sum of our efforts can be much greater than our individual parts.

To start I think I may have already established a goal without even really thinking about it, we want to see growth.  Growth could be seen in many areas to include more pilots, more passengers, more planes, more use of airports, or any number of different metrics, and maybe all of them should matter, but what growth would really show is good health in the industry.  While I think my focus is really on general aviation, I don’t think we can segment the industry if we are truly to see growth.  For most people, commercial aviation is their only connection with flying so to exclude them would be to exclude one of our greatest resources.  Military aviation also provides a vital connection to the mass public as it is often what lights the fire in many individuals.

No matter which metric we choose to focus on, growth in and of itself is no guarantee of success.  A business can sell more product or generate more revenue and still go out of business because it is not managed well.  So I think we need to have more organized management of the industry.  Right now everyone seems to be working in their own little niche to “look out for number one” because no one has stepped up to bring us all together.  One would hope the FAA would play some role in that since aviation is their sole purpose, but we all know that will never happen.  But what is it about aviation that we could all rally around with all of our mixed agendas?  Not since the space race has the world as a whole cared more about aviation.  Maybe the new commercial space race will create some unity.

There is also no doubt that we need some innovation on the people front.  There is as much innovation as ever in aviation technology when you look at the 787, A350, and Falcon 9, but have we really changed the way people interact with the industry, maybe ever?  It is people that are going to keep the aviation industry healthy and we need to find a way to get the absolute most that we can out of those people.  It was people that made that first courageous flight at Kitty Hawk over 100 years ago, and it will be people that will keep aviation strong throughout the next 100 years.

I realize I have asked as many questions as I have given answers, but like I said, I would really love to see what kind of ideas we could come up with if we put our heads together.  There is no doubt that we will all be in love with aviation for the rest of our lives, but the question remains, what is THE goal of aviation, and what are we doing to accomplish it?

January 3, 2016 I Written By

I'm Dave and I am a proud Avgeek. It goes way beyond liking airplanes. It is a passion that cannot be subdued.