My Christmas wish: A GA "Power Collective" to bring the aviation advocacy groups together

11:12 PM

(Editor's note: This is my contribution to "Blogging in Formation," a monthly series where six active aviation bloggers all write a post about the same topic. Follow #BlogFormation on Twitter to learn when each month's posts are published.)

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

Toy airplanes, train sets, an E-Z Bake Oven. Legos by the truckload, Barbies and Ken and G.I. Joe. Sparkling new iPads, Bose headsets, a new Sporty's flight bag. All the flying toys for kids big and small? Yeah, Santa and his band of merry elves...they've got this.

This month's Formation Blogging theme is "What I want under the Christmas tree." And while it would be simple to wish for just about anything in the Sporty's catalog, that seems almost like the easy road in this exercise. Yes, I can throw down some Post-its on the pages that contain cool #Avgeek stuff, and there are plenty of things that would really look great under our freshly-cut Oregon tree. We do trees right up here in the PNW, and for $20, I can cut my own 8' high Grand Fir about 5 miles from the casa...a perfectly-sculpted tree that would fetch $150+ in NYC.

But this is Blogging in Formation, we can never play it safe. High speed, wingtip-to-wingtip, writing like the future depends on us...and in a way, it does. So let's go big, or turn a 180 and go home. My Christmas Wish for 2013?

One million active pilot certificates in the FAA database
on December 31, 2014. 
Think about this:
2012 was a year that showed a decent upward trend in student pilot certificates, with 119,946 people learning to fly...working to join the 490,630 pilots already holding certificates. That total number of certificate holders in 2012 - estimated by FAA to be 610,576 - is not good enough. Sure, the student pilot numbers were up just over 40% from 2009, when only 72,280 filed for a student pilot certificate. But with attrition, we know that only a fraction of those 119,946 who started in 2012 are actually flying today. The rest? They washed out due to a number of reasons, and may never be in a position to buy fuel, headsets and airplanes.
So for my Christmas wish, I want to see one million certificates this time next year. Can we get there? In theory, it is possible, but practically, it is a tall order. We do have one thing going for us. AOPA seems to be trending back towards the grass roots. If they do their new regional events right by bombarding the local press with the right enticements to get cameras and reporters out to the airport, the aviation family might be able to being a few more students into our community.

But there is one secret weapon that we aviators MUST use if we want to reach that lofty goal of one million certificates in 2014 (remember that student certificates qualify against that challenge). It is imperative that we start talking about STEM education and aviation in the same sentence...and we need to aim that message at high school and college females. With only 6% of the pilot population being women...this demographic holds the key to our growth.

By preaching STEM - Science, Technology, Engineering and Math - while introducing these girls and young women to our sky, I believe we can indeed prove our point that learning to fly is an important endeavor for any young female that wants to enter these fields.

So while Mark Baker and AOPA are busy criss-crossing the Fruited Plains doing what I am sure will be a high-quality road show, there has to be more of a coordinated effort to reach out to females. As Lynda Meeks of Girls With Wings has said a million times, girls need flight plans, not fairy tales. We compete with the pink aisle at We 'B Toys by inviting every Girl Scout troop in this country to attend these AOPA events. That would be a decent start, but...
If our GA future is to be bright, we need EAA, AOPA, NBAA, HAI and GAMA to join hands and reach out to the Ninety-Nines and Women in Aviation International. Together, they need to develop wide-reaching grass roots programs relying heavily on social networking to attract female Millennials. These big megaphones need to be SHOUTING about flying being both attainable and very, very cool. Let's call this marriage of the seven groups the "GA Power Collective" because as we know, world powers get together all the time at the "G8" and "G20" Summits to try and fix the big, nasty problems facing our planet. Surely the power associations of our GA world can do likewise. Imagine the progress we will make towards creating more pilots if representatives of these seven groups - joined by "at-large" panel members from the flight training industry - came together to combine their intellectual power, finances and the specialties intrinsic to each group. The results might be truly limitless.
No longer can the acronym groups operate in silos. Every one of the associations mentioned above does something to build our pilot population. But the time has come for a serious, "collective" effort to being these seven groups together with the common goal of hitting one million pilot certificates by the end of 2014. If an initiative could be formulated that allows these organizations to focus on this one goal, maybe we CAN start building a more stable future for GA.

December 31, 2014. One million certificates, that's all I ask. So c'mon EAA, AOPA, HAI, NBAA, GAMA, WAI and the Ninety-Nines, what say you? Let's step it up and all begin pulling together, shall we? It is time to put your collective power behind this critical topic of building the pilot population. When egos are checked at the door, you can work together, unlike Congress who allow their endless special interests to collide in a fiery explosion of greed and dysfunction.

Because when you really think about it, these seven aviation advocacy groups really only have one interest that is truly special... 

 More pilots.

The Blogging in Formation series launches the first week of each month. Here are the six "Formation" bloggers:

Adventures of Cap’n Aux – Eric Auxier
iFLYblog – Brent Owens
Airplanista – Dan Pimentel
Smart Flight Training – Andrew Hartley
Flight to Success – Karlene Petitt
House of Rapp – Ron Rapp

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