4:22 PM

Are we a Dying Breed?

FAA just released some preliminary numbers on the year-end 2006 pilot population, and the news is discouraging, to say the least. Figures to be released in a few weeks indicate the total has finally dipped below 600,000. There are now 597,109 pilots with an average age of 45.6 years old. Of that group, there were only 939 sport pilots, and that group had an average age of 52.9 years, about seven years older than the total pilot population. There were an average of 30 sport pilots certified per month during the first eight months of 2006, but the monthly average jumped to 134 for the last four months.

Here is how our population breaks down:

Private, 236,147
ATP, 144,681
Commercial, 130,234
Flight Instructors, 91,343
Student, 84,866
Rotorcraft rating, 41,306
Glider rating, 37,837
Balloon rating, 10,511
Sport, 939
Recreational, 242
As our numbers continue to fall, it begs this question: What the hell can anyone really do about this? Well, one of the only real solutions out there that anyone has put on the table is AOPA's Project Pilot program:
AOPA's Project Pilot is a mentoring program that provides a student pilot with the wisdom and support of an experienced pilot. A student with a Project Pilot Mentor is three times more likely to successfully complete their training. This exciting program is available free to all AOPA members. All it takes is someone who wants to share the joy of general aviation and a few minutes a week to help them along.
The youngest group in our population is the student pilot category, where the average age is now 34.4 years old. So students obviously are getting college out of the way and maybe starting a family before dropping a major dime on a pilot's license. One thing this tells me is that the public perceives flight training as very expensive, and to some extent, they are correct. But with the new Sport Pilot license, those costs have been cut drastically, and one new Sport Pilot equals one more glorious win as we battle upwards to build our population and further secure GA's future.

Not going to AOPA's Project Pilot website and signing up to be a Mentor...bad.

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