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The 162 Skycatcher Can’t Get Here Soon Enough

Published on September 19, 2009, in Uncategorized.


Flight training’s seen its better days.



Pilot training is as at it’s lowest point in the 44-year history of airplane statistical record-keeping.



There were only 17,585 new private pilots in 2008.  Expect fewer in 2009.  And, those who do fly are getting old.  Since the early 1980s, the average age of all pilots increased from 38 to 45 years old.

Unless flight training becomes more attractive a business and more affordable for students, and soon, you can predict the end of public access to light general aviation in your lifetime.  Marketing efforts are practically non-existent at small aviation businesses that serve and should be the promoters of the value of general aviation to local communities.  AOPA’s efforts and industry partnerships, like GA Team 2000 (Be A Pilot.com) in the late ’90s fizzled as the economy turned south.

Have you seen the news? 
This just in Thursday’s USA Today.




In 1998, there were eight Cessna Pilot Centers in my Dakota territory barely affording new $155,000 Skyhawks.  Just ten years later, at nearly $300,000 a copy, there’s one Cessna Pilot Center left.  Most small airports are old and look that way, offering little to attract a would-be flier.


Cessna Pilot Center, circa 1979.

I don’t blame the tech-savvy, adventure-seeking pilot prospect for not finding interest here.  The average age of a 4-place single engine plane is 38 years old!  No kidding, the plane you’ll see at the local airport (assuming you know you even have one) was built before microwave ovens, VCRs, and personal computers of any sort.  The planes look antique, as do the facilities and pilots.

Go to a larger city, and you may train to become a pilot in a modern plane, like the G1000-equipped Skyhawk, that is, if you can afford to.  Aviation needs an affordable new high-tech trainer, updated facilities and modern methods of computerized instruction.

Enter the 
Cessna 162 Skycatcher!  On the verge of a production run this year, watch the videos below to follow the first pre-production Skycatcher cross-country as it journeys from Wichita to San Diego.  King Schools will use this little gem to film a new computer-based instruction curriculum for modernized Cessna Pilot Centers.

Day 1 (If you follow this blog, you’ve already seen Day 1. Feel free to turn down the sound if the music annoys you.)


Day 2 – Tucumcari to Phoenix


Day 3 – Phoenix to San Diego (and Beyond)


Guess what? The first production Cessna 162 Skycatcher just completed its first flight, soon to land at a flight school near you!  Price tag:  $111,500.

 

5 Responses

  1. Mike Dempsey

    Which options would you choose:

    How I spent my summer vacation.

    1)I arrived at the convenience of the airline, showing up at 5:30 a.m., security showed my socks were different in color. Arrived at destination, the lines at the amusement park were long, the sun was intense, I walked the boulevard, and was glad to get home and back to work.

    2) I leisurely loaded the airplane, and departed into the morning sun. Instead of 35,000 feet, I saw the world as few do. The contours in the fields where train tracks once were, are still visible when trains once were the method of travel. The small towns scattered across the country, are still there, and have weathered the time that has gone by. I stopped at places and visited friends I haven’t seen in a long time, including fuel stops whereby I met some of the most friendly people in America.

    I stopped and stayed at places that seemed to “feel” right, and collected a history of each location I stayed at. The flight had a few challenges, from having to deviate around a building thunderstorm, and a strong crosswind landing after a front had just passed.

    The reality is, 10 years from now, I will always remember the experience just as if it happened yesterday. Not many have experienced that journey, and your perspectives are forever changed moving forward.

    I had flown for a business owner who bought a small airplane, that enabled him to expand his business into areas that would have never been considered. Once, while flying at 6,000 feet along the gulf coast, he peered out the window in amazement of the shoreline, the passing ships heading out to sea, and the oil rigs that were built along the coast. Throughout his life, he had spent money on boats, vacation homes, and an elite lifestyle. However, that day in the airplane, I don’t think he was ever as happy and satisfied, as he was at that moment. The sense of adventure, the constant variables along the way with winds and weather, and the changing landscape all held value.

    The intangibles of private aviation are something we forget, as time value is our greatest concern. The experience and freedom of flight is something that only few people truly experience. Whether growing a business, or flying for the satisfaction of achieving that rare opportunity, aviation will forever change your approach to life, including your relationships. I highly recommend IT!

  2. I agree with your lament. However, the Skycatcher does not materially lower the cost of flight training. It will increase the operators margins.

    To get flight training to the level that you imply, the industry would probably need to have a $5,000 private cost.

    I believe that we may have to accept the fact that there will only be two major private tracks in the future: career training; and personal user who is affluent.

    I have long ago given up the notion that we will see 1,000,000 pilots. We are barely over 600,000 today. I doubt that we will ever get much higher.

    John Lotz
    Director, NATA
    President/CEO
    Monterey Bay Aviation

  3. Mike Dempsey

    In response to John Lotz comment, I have a different view of cost of flight training. The real problem is selling the product of being a pilot, as the cost of flight training is historically in line with the cost of living.

    It is not necessarily the price that keeps people from being a pilot, it is the approach in bringing prospective pilots to the table. As I take the motorcycle to Lake Okoboji IA, I watch the boats/yachts that leave the marina for an afternoon on the lake. I have priced this equipment, and for a recreational alternative, the airplane certainly offers a lot more for the money.

    I recently did a yearly insurance qualification to an individual, with an annual income over $500k. He bought his first airplane nearly 3 years ago, and is enjoying his Saratoga II HP. During lunch, we discussed his experience in aviation, and he told me it was the most wonderful life changing event. His occupation was dealing with wealthy clients, who were always curious about how he could actually be a pilot. They were fascinated with the fact that he owned his own airplane, and that he flew regularly to his summer home in Vail Colorado.

    He told me that it was quite by chance, that he learned how to be a pilot. He had a meeting with an individual, and they needed to make a 3 hour drive from Philadelphia, to a location in New York. The person owned an Archer II, which made it a 45 minute flight. He let this individual fly the airplane, and he was hooked. The point is, he didn’t even know aviation was an interest to him, until he had been exposed to it.

    The question is, will the Skycatcher increase the interest in people becoming a pilot? I believe it will. History shows that Cessna knows how to create pilot training centers, and develop an excitement and atmosphere that has people considering the pilot certificate. What we did in the 70′s, was create an area where it was cool and unique to be a pilot, and there were more GA airplanes built in the late 70′s and early 80′s, than anytime in history. We then decided that the “Learning to Fly” concept didn’t make as much money, as having jet fuel burning airplanes on our ramp. So, interest and student pilot numbers dropped, and it is true, there are two types of student pilots today – those that want to be career pilots, and those who’s main interest is to use the airplane in business. Seed time and Harvest, very Biblical and evident as to the numbers of pilots registered today.

    So, it is time to plant seeds again. I believe having a modern trainer that is still and airplane, with a technological advanced panel that makes it easy to deal with airspace, and traffic, will be a true benefit for the future of GA.

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