Sunday, January 2, 2011

Aviation Heresy – Facing Reality

Every industry, every community, and every organization has its realities that nobody is willing to admit. Oddly enough, these things always have common threads; nearly all of them involve money and time pushed, with near cult fashion, toward faulty projects and marketed heavily as urgent, life saving, or industry changing. More often than not these programs are also claimed as being “for the children.”
Meanwhile, in the dark backrooms of each industry, aviation in this case, many well known figures discuss these failures with a cagey unwillingness to openly question the people who’ve wasted our time and money. And then the next day, when in public, the same people loudly proclaim the positives of the very project they secretly admitted to be a failure just last night. But why would people do this? Perhaps these folks would rather keep their positions, as big frogs in small ponds, than risk their status in the pond by speaking what many would call heresy?
This brings me to something I’ve wanted to talk about for a long time but admittedly never have because of my friends.  Many people, close to me, have put a lot of time into the project and I was afraid they would take it personally, if I told them what I knew about the project. Over the years though, more and more well known aviation figures (two of them EAA board members) have expressed to me similar thoughts and this has made me more comfortable discussing the subject. Yet even with this encouragement, I have been unable to bring myself to be the "that guy" who took the hit for saying it to a broad group of people. But then recently, something happened that would set me free of this burden; Tom Poberezny started the road to retirement.
So maybe you are asking, "What does Tom’s retirement have to do with setting you free to speak aviation heresy?" Well, now that Tom is working his way out the door, he has apparently opened up to the idea of admitting the things that didn’t go so well on his watch. And although he doesn’t call it a failure, for the first time ever, in the December Sport Aviation Magazine, a person from EAA (Tom) has admitted several of their pet projects are not doing so well. One of them is that thing; the thing I have wanted to discuss for so long; here goes.

I’m going to say it. Really, I am. I apologize to those of you who might get upset, as I don’t mean and don’t want you to take it personally. Oh boy, I’m starting to rethink this. Holy crap, I might as well go ahead and throw the rope over a tree limb. What am I thinking? Ok, let me catch my breath. Whew, man this is tough. Alright, are you ready? Here it goes……….The Young Eagles program does very little for aviation. Whew I feel better. Now, before you turn you computer off in a rage, please keep an open mind and keep reading. Let me explain.
Let’s start with the purpose of Young Eagles. Do you know what it is? Is it about driving donation dollars to EAA? Is it about getting celebrities involved, to increase the credibility of the program, in order to drive more donation dollars to EAA? Is it about making pilots feel like they are doing something positive for aviation so that they will remain or become members of EAA? Or, is it about creating new pilots to buoy the current and shrinking pilot population? Which is it?
If you are among the majority of pilots that participate in Young Eagles, you likely believe the program is about generating new pilots. This idea comes from many different places. The primary source of this though originates with the long romanticized image of some dusty kid given a free ride, that sparked a passion for aviation, which led them to earn a license. It’s a great image isn’t it? Unfortunately, this is not the primary way people become pilots. If you want proof, look only to the numbers of Young Eagles.
Today, the number of kids given a free flight through the Young Eagles program is rapidly approaching 1.6 million. That’s impressive isn’t it? But where are the pilots?
Here is what EAA says today on their website about the Young Eagles program: The EAA Young Eagles program was launched in 1992 to give interested young people, ages 8 - 17, an opportunity to go flying in a general aviation airplane. These flights are offered free of charge and are made possible through the generosity of EAA member volunteers.
Unfortunately, I could not find any old material from those days but I’m pretty sure there was another reason, other than giving free rides, behind the start of Young Eagles. But maybe there wasn't. If not, and their purpose was only to give away free rides, then they have been extremely successful. This is why I believe the whole story is not told on their website.
You see, if the goal of Young Eagles is merely to give rides to kids, then it’s hard to argue its success. But I’m pretty sure, if you ask an old time EAA member about the reason for Young Eagles, it was ultimately to generate new pilots. And to support this, one only has to look to EAA’s website to see they have links that a motivated kid could use to help work their way into a license.  Or better yet, you could refer once again to the December Sport Aviation where Tom says Young Eagles isn't producing the results to overcome the decline in the pilot population.  But isn’t Young Eagles just about giving rides? That’s what EAA’s website says; The EAA Young Eagles program was launched in 1992 to give interested young people, ages 8 - 17, an opportunity to go flying in a general aviation airplane. So which is it? I can tell you this. If this program was created simply to give away rides, there have been some truly irresponsible people making decisions at EAA.
The truth is, Young Eagles has been a failure at driving new people to aviation. You don’t believe me? Where are all the pilots? Again, 1.6 million kids have been given rides and yet the pilot population continues to shrink.
And what percentage do you think would make Young Eagles successful? Ten percent, five percent, what? At ten percent, young Eagles would have added 160,000 pilots to the community, over and above that which naturally occurs. But has that happened?
And do you know the demographics of people who are earning new licenses? Do you really believe kids are the primary drivers of new licenses? The reality is, giving free rides, to random young people, has created no discernable improvement to the pilot population. But wait, I thought all pilots were created when some dusty kid was given a free ride by a local pilot?
So why then would EAA continue to push a program that has so little effect on the pilot population? The answer is that the Young Eagles program has been extremely successful at driving donations to EAA.
Have you ever wondered why EAA makes such a big deal about the hollow position of Young Eagles Chairman, why they continue to pursue celebrities for this position, and why they don’t instead look for a philanthropic minded executive; one known for successes with large projects critical to the future of an industry? There is a reason, and it is not about the children. The position of Young Eagles Chairman is critical to EAA fundraising and nothing else. And, to top it off, EAA has pilots spending their money to do the same.
Remember this from above; these flights are offered free of charge and are made possible through the generosity of EAA member volunteers. Now don’t get me wrong, your contributions to programs like these are not all in vain. I just wanted to point out, that in this case, I believe many EAA members are spending their time and money to do something they believe is helping aviation when in fact it is quite possible all they are doing is spending their aviation dollars to build a revenue stream for EAA. And maybe that’s what you want. If so, more power to you. Myself though, I think it’s time aviation took a long hard inward look, quit kidding itself, and started doing something effective for the future of our sport.
So, is there anything measurably positive about Young Eagles? That is hard to say. I suppose you could ask EAA for all the money raised in the name of Young Eagles and if that is your thing, then that would be something positive. Unfortunately, I have not seen anything that leads me to believe EAA would spend that money effectively.  Therefore, we are back to square one.
What about public relations? This is the only argument I have ever heard for Young Eagles that holds any water. But again, if you look at it, even this is questionable. Look at the numbers of frivolous lawsuits against aviation and you will see they have not decreased; the media still reports on aviation as if it were a dragon set loose on the world to kill people at random; politicians continue to place more restrictions on general aviation and the love affair this nation once held, with flight in general, continues to grow cold. Myself, I just can’t see it. You make the call.
So, with all that said, why don’t we go back to all those children given free rides? If there is one thing we should all be able to see today, it is that kids given everything for free don’t become the most productive members of society. Not too long ago, I was reading Bob Hoover’s book when I came across something rather interesting. When Bob and a friend, as kids, wanted to rebuild a wrecked Cub, they ran the math and realized they did not have the money to do so. But with a stronger look at where they were spending money, they hit upon a unique idea; if they were to shave their heads, and therefore go without haircuts, they could afford to rebuild the Cub. Now I ask you, how did Bob turn out?  And, while your answering that, name a kid today that would do this.
This is one example of why I worry about the message we are sending, to the world, with programs like Young Eagles. Today, kids regularly spend fifty bucks, without a second thought, for a new video game. Yet the message aviation has for kids is “flying is so great we have to give it away.” Free rides, scholarships, free access to online ground school courses, and the like are abundant. Yet where are all the new pilots? And if flying is so great, where are the lines at flight schools? If we had kept records of Young Eagles, maybe we would be able to answer that last question. No records? What? You didn’t know that?
Yes that’s right, EAA has kept no traceable record of the Young Eagles? EAA may have “the logbook,” but they never collected enough information on any of these kids to be able to verify if any of them went on to earn a pilot’s license (told to me by Tom himself only a few years back). Therefore, there is no direct way of knowing the effectiveness of the Young Eagles program. But what if they had gathered this data?  Could EAA honestly claim Young Eagles as the reason for these people becoming pilots?  Was the first person to offer van Gogh a pen, the reason he became an artist?  No.  And despite all the things mentioned above, this basic lack of information is actually the key to the failure of the Young Eagles program.
By creating a program with no retrievable data, which would allow some measurement of effectiveness of the Young Eagles program, EAA has shown that the people who started this program, who conceived it, and who implemented it were not qualified to do so. Furthermore, those people at EAA, who have been in charge from the beginning of this program up through today, were and are negligent in their duties to EAA and its members. The remaining people, if there are any, who never realized this, should have never been in charge of anything at EAA in the first place. In fact, EAA sounds more like the federal government every day.
In fact, if you were to step outside of EAA, and aviation, and ask professionals to run a similar program, with the caveat they could not keep any records that would allow them to judge the effectiveness of the program, they would laugh you off the planet. Yet within aviation, there is no question, no reasoning, and no judgment; only the good feeling that comes with each free ride given.
Do you or have you ever given a Young Eagles ride? If so, you’re either asking yourself if you have wasted your time or saying “that guy is crazy.” If you are asking one or both of the questions, ask yourself if giving the rides makes you feel good. If so, and you don’t care whether or not the rides generate future pilots, then go right ahead and continue to do so. For some people this is the only flying they do and it makes them happy and there is nothing at all wrong with that; enjoy.  And if you are saying to yourself, “that guy is crazy, Young Eagles will save the world” then that too is ok. All I ask is that you prove me wrong.
As pilots, it’s hard not to feel the instant gratification that comes with giving a ride to someone. And, as humans, we are all prone to relating everything to our own experiences. This is why many people look back fondly, to their first ride in an airplane, and assume doing the same for someone else will lead them to become a pilot. Unfortunately, the good feelings that come from these experiences fool us into false beliefs.
Can you create pilots by giving rides? Sure you can. But this requires giving a ride to a kid who really wants it, who is willing to work for it, and that you are willing to mentor for the long haul. And even then, be prepared for the day he or she decides instead to become a marine biologist.
In the December issue of Sport Pilot, Tom Poberezny said, in reference to The Young Eagles and the light-sport aircraft/sport pilot rules and regulations, “Are they producing the results needed to overcome the decline in the pilot population? The answer is no.” Those are his words, not mine. He then went on to say, that in the January issue, he would talk about what has to be improved within these two programs so that they will have a greater impact; then came the January issue.
The most recent editions of Sport Aviation has an interesting quote from Tom, “Currently we are making a good impression on young adults, but we can do more to keep them engaged. We need to show young people how they can become involved in aviation by providing pathways to participation, not just as a pilot or aircraft owner, but other affordable ways to pursue their dream of flight.” What???
In December, Tom was admitting these programs are not having a positive effect on the pilot population, and inferred there were things they would do to correct this. Now though, he says it’s not about making pilots or aircraft owners, but about something else. But what are those other avenues; RC model pilots; Paper airplane owners? Am I missing something here?
Why do you spend your time helping someone pursue a dream of flight that does not include either being a pilot or an aircraft owner or both? As I said earlier, this program has been adrift in its own hype for way too long. EAA needs real help.
And as for keeping kids involved, I’m thinking maybe Tom could at least address one Young Eagles program rule. Last year, I sat in shock as I listened to a friend tell how one EAA chapter, in Southwest Florida, decided to enforce the Young Eagles rule of “only one flight per Young Eagle.” I’m not making this up. It seems there was a kid that absolutely loved the flights, was enthralled with aviation, but at his age could not afford lessons. Therefore, the kid came to every Young Eagles rally so he could go flying.
Apparently, after a few of these flights, someone brought up this rule.  Then, instead of someone taking this kid under their wing, they decided to enforce it. The expectable result of this enforcement was the pissing off of the kid’s family and no more rides for the kid at Young Eagles rallies. This is what happens when you develop vague programs with no true meaning. It also proves, at least with this chapter, that Young Eagles has become nothing more than a feel good program. Everything was fine until the kid wanted more than one ride.  Soon thereafter, a rule, which makes no sense, was applied.
But hey, maybe I’m wrong. Online it says: The EAA Young Eagles program was launched in 1992 to give interested young people, ages 8 - 17, an opportunity to go flying in a general aviation airplane. If you read this and believe the EAA is telling the truth, then I suppose the kid received the advertised opportunity (singular) to go flying and, at that point, he was on his own.
Despite all I have said, if you enjoy The Young Eagles Program, I encourage you to keep doing what you are doing. Years ago I too gave rides at Young Eagles events. All I ask is that you understand the true outcome and purpose of Young Eagles, and that you consider putting your efforts, time, and money toward other projects; projects that are honest about their intentions and have a long term goal; maybe even a goal where today’s kids are tomorrow’s pilots and aircraft owners. What a novel idea.
Post Heresy:  So maybe you’re wondering what you can do to participate in a positive change for aviation. I had initially refused to discuss these things in this piece because the answers to aviation’s problems are not what most people want to hear. Then Ginger said, “what about your rule to never point out problems without offering solutions,” and I was forced to concede and write them down.  Here goes.
You do not solve aviation’s problems by giving rides to young people, offering scholarships, and giving them free ground-school. The answers to aviation’s problems do not involve instant gratification. To the contrary, the real solutions involve broad and long term efforts with which most people in America aren’t willing to participate.
Aviation’s problems are bureaucracy out of control, a legal system so horribly flawed it ignores reality to award multi-million dollar judgments against the person with the deepest pockets, federal agencies so out of touch their solution to most problems is the grounding of aircraft or pilots, aviation groups that no longer represent their members, and a national mindset that has lost sight of freedom and what it means to be responsible citizens. If you can affect just one of these in a positive way, you will have started aviation on the road to recovery. But that’s just too vague isn’t it? And it might take too long huh? Again, it’s your call.
Yeah sure, I can see the allure of giving rides and feeling good over slugging it out for the long haul. But what I cannot understand is why people give in and give up. Are people’s words not sincere when they say they want their children to be able to fly freely about this country? It's all about the children; right? Or is it? One has to wonder.


Shannon said...

You hit the nail right on the head. I think the eaa has lost it's connection with its members on all fronts that is why i chose not to pay my dues this year Chuck Avon

Unknown said...

While I find your viewpoint intriguing, as always, I guess there's room to argue that those that want to be aviators will become so, and there are programs available to help folks realize them. For me, it was the Civil Air Patrol cadet program. It gave me the chance to become reasonably exposed to aviation. For some other kids, it'll be Young Eagles.

Through EAA, Young Eagles and the Sporty's ground school program you described, I was able to help a young man in my town become the first recipient of EAA's Young Eagles $7500 Flight Scholarship, his Private Pilot's License, and all at his 17th birthday. Without those resources, he'd still be grounded.

This young fella is like most others that become pilots. They do it because they want to, and probably because they were exposed to it once at a young age. While there's a good chance that a majority of the kids that are flown in any program, EAA, CAP or otherwise will never take that next step into aviation-ville, I don't see many other programs that provide the visibility into our world, regardless of whether or not they actually choose that path.

That being said, your observation about the lack of traceability is certainly one that is fixable. Whether or not I'm the guy to make that happen is questionable. But the technology is there to do it now, so with the right person at the helm, this may be correctable. Having been in regular contact with EAA's Youth Programs coordinator, I do know that EAA does track people once they're enrolled in the Sporty's program. So the interest in their progress is, indeed, there, as all of the folks that complete that program are eligible for a variety of scholarships. And the kids that participate in these programs are also now entitled to a free EAA membership until their 19th birthday with all of the "benefits" of standard membership except for the print publication (they receive the electronic copy).

So my observation is that they're making an attempt to close those gaps that you've noted. They may not be closing them quickly, but there is an effort being made, at least in my eyes. So I'm optimistic that there are moves being made in the right direction to fix at least some of the problems with the system.

Best regards,

Anonymous said...

Great post. The alpabet organizations have become all about their own preservation and pay raises. Here is a link to my blog covering a solution that is working for us here in kentucky.

kevin g

Dwayne Parkinson said...

Regarding the Young Eagles, consider this. Pheasants Forever has a single mission: make sure there are pheasants forever. PF makes it clear that they do not support pheasant stocking programs where birds are pen raised and then released. Studies have shown that for every 100 birds released 5 will "over-winter" and 1 will survive a full year. Given that information, PF spends their money with land owners to improve habitat so native birds can prosper and that returns a much bigger bang for the buck.

So what does this have to do with Young Eagles? YE is essentially a stocking program that throws lots of people at the problem rather than focusing on building habitat. Like other stocking programs it’s not very effective. We both agree that habitat which fosters the growth of young pilots will go farther toward increasing the number of pilots than free flights for kids which attempt to stock the next generation of pilots, BUT there is also a critical difference in what we believe about the YE program and I’d like to explain what that is.

Like a pheasant, if you give a walleye a good environment it will thrive. In some lakes where they should be thriving they aren’t. There's an invasive species called the rusty crayfish which prevents them from thriving. Adult walleye feed on the crayfish, but those that do survive eventually cripple the walleye population. They snip off vegetation and they eat walleye eggs and minnows. With fewer eggs and less habitat each year, eventually the demographics shift dramatically in favor of the crayfish and the walleye population crashes. So far the only hopeful solutions are massive trapping operations or expensive chemical treatments.

Until trapping operations show results, it's critical that walleye finger-lings are released into a lake even though most of them get eaten. The finger-lings prevent the crashing walleye population from making the entire ecosystem in the lake collapse. So while it seems futile, the stocking of finger-lings is necessary.

Back to aviation. The FAA is acting as an invasive species. It creates a hostile environment for new pilots through massive regulation which drives up cost and limits access. We both agree that a massive trapping operation is necessary to reduce its impact. The place we differ is that I believe a stocking program is also necessary to prevent the GA ecosystem from collapsing.

I applaud you efforts to build aviation habitat because it’s critical to our future, but building habitat is a slow up-hill battle. We can also hope that our newly elected officials will begin the trapping process but that too will take time. With success in these areas, aviation can recover but until there’s enough change to foster natural growth in the industry, I believe stocking has to be done.

The YE program is far from perfect but I believe it's a critical part of preserving GA. As part of the fairly large EAA organization, the YE program has its own problems. Maintaining a database of information about children in today's world is just asking for a lawsuit. THAT is the reason the YE doesn't maintain a good contact list, at least that's what they told me when I asked. Likewise, working to coordinate a building project as mentioned by one of the responders is a lawsuit waiting to happen. What happens when that YE sponsored homebuilt plane crashes? The deepest pockets get sued and the EAA is wiped out. Obviously, good leadership goes a long way toward solving these problems and that may be lacking, but I am anxiously waiting to see how the new EAA leadership handles these challenges.

My reason for this post is so you might consider the YE program an important part of a strategy which involves stocking, trapping and habitat. There's room to improve, but if the YE program can work with the EAA, AOPA, etc toward an approach of habitat, trapping and stocking, I believe we'll achieve a goal of "aviation forever."

Anonymous said...

I would agree with you if it were not for the item missing from your comparison. The problem with the "restocking of fingerlings" is that they are spending all their time of this weak program while at the same time, government agencies are building a dam on the stream that feeds the lake so they can divert it somewhere else. No amount of fingerlings will help when our groups are playing footsie with the dambuilders or not even present at the dam building town-halls.

Rich Davidson

Terry Bowden said...


I hope my comments here are not too hard to follow. I tend to be all over the place on these issues.

First, I need to acknowledge that I support EAA as a general rule. I'm a member of the EAA and VAA, though they may not have benefited me personally much. My membership is more of a lifestyle choice, as I guess I don't really feel "plugged-in" unless I stay up with Sport Aviation and Vintage Airplane magazines.

Anyway on the Young Eagles program... I have always thought that the EAA grabbed on to something that was invented long before the EAA's existence by grassroots aviation. The EAA gave it a name and called it their own. Why? All I can see is for the publicity for whatever that's worth. It is sort of like the DC3 gathering at OSH. These things would be happening whether the EAA existed or not. It just seems the EAA wants to be tied to these things for some kind of notoriety.

So in my opinion, the EAA should promote such things for the betterment of aviation, not for the betterment of the EAA. Unfortunately, it seems they have done the latter.

As for the kids... its all about sharing something that is special with someone less fortunate. It might spark an interest. It might not. But to me.. life is short and full of God's blessings that are to be shared. Flying is one of those things. To me it is a sin to fly with an empty seat unless there's a good reason for going alone. It doesn't matter to them in the grand scheme what their career plans are and whether they might become a pilot. They just want to be involved in something fun. I am sure most believe it is completely out of the realm of possibilities that they themselves might ever become a pilot.

So... here's my thoughts on the problem of a shrinking pilot pool... and mechanics, engineers, inspectors, and the rest of aviation minded people as a rule. I don't believe getting one YE ride would do the trick to bring a new kid into the fold. On the other hand, I believe they might be more likely to choose aviation if they feel a part of the aviation crowd.

The EAA already knows that "WE" make up the aviation community. And for any community to grow, people need to feel invited and welcome. The EAA could do more than to offer free rides. What about supporting mentorships and creating more opportunities to establish flying lifestyle relationships. I thought that's what the local chapters were supposed to be for. I do not see this happening at least here locally. There are exceptions like the group in Boulder Colorado. They are doing some good stuff including kids in the whole enchilada of the airplane lifestyle.

I don't belong to the local chapter because I have never felt welcome. It seems to be an elitist club for RV pilots only and if your interest is outside that "type" of airplane, you are not considered one of "them".

Yes.. big government, lawyers, insurance, these are tough obstacles that we face. But it seems that an organization the size of EAA could be a bigger force for the cause. I am just not sure it is in the EAA business plan. My challenge to Mr. Hightower, (and Tom and Paul) is to get into the local chapters and create a more welcome atmosphere for the guests... and thus help aviation to become "attractive" to everyone.

And for people like me... I challenge myself and others to look for ways to mentor a young person. Help them see how fun and great it is to live an aviation lifestyle. Invite them in for more than just a ride. Invite them into the fold... include them in your projects... help them to feel one of the aviation community.

Rich I applaud you and Ginger for doing just that. Keep up the great work.

Ryan W. said...

Post-WWII the government would pay for flight training as part of the G.I. Bill. Numerous individuals responded, and the numbers of pilots increased until the 1980's when those individuals reached the ages of 55-65 years old. After that generation, it is my opinion that the justifiable need for general aviation in the lower 48 severely diminished. Search youtube for a video called “Airport America (1954)”; it talks about all the uses for general aviation post-war. It speaks about farmers using small planes to get parts and salesmen traveling in their Aeroncas to towns around the state.
Unfortunately, the interstate has depleted those needs. Amazingly, over 1/3 of all miles traveled in the US happens on the interstate. Farmers no longer require a long trip to the store; delivery trucks on interstates deliver them to a local store or even to the farm itself. Businessmen can get to another state in two hours on the interstate without worry about the weather. For longer trips, an Aeronca (read LSA) isn’t worthwhile anymore; if businessmen want to fly, they must travel longer distances to justify the cost, and then you have to have a more expensive long-range aircraft to make it payoff.
If you don’t think this is true watch one of the videos about Alaska Flying. They still use aviation like we all want it to be. People use small aircraft on a daily basis; delivering mail, getting from town to town, etc. However, if they would start building roads up there, aviation would die down there too.
So, other than recreational flying (one of the most expensive transportation-related hobbies out there) we are all left to those who want a career in aviation. Look at all of the military UAVs out there. It won’t be long before commercial ops, pipeline runners, agricultural aircraft, etc, are handled by a UAV system with just a safety pilot on-board (or controlling from somewhere else). So, where is the future of career pilots?
My point is that general aviation will never get to the point it once was, and those who are trying to figure out how to get it back to that point are fighting the same losing battle as those who want to revitalize the railroads.
The only real growth opportunity for aviation is as a hobby, and unfortunately I believe LSA has done more to hurt than help the cause. People dream of flying, but compared to a boat, rv, atv, etc, aircraft are way too expensive. Look at the prices of new LSA aircraft; $100K for a cheap one! Who is that market for, not the cheap hobbyist? The 1980’s ultralight craze proved that if aircraft were affordable, people would flock to the hobby. Unfortunately, all those guys eventually wanted more and so in the 90’s “fat ultralights” became the norm and finding a part 103 legal craft was very hard. LSA was supposed to take care of that group of people, but all it did was increase the price of flying even more.
Do something like expand part 103 to include a small two place at double the weight, and you will see a resurgence of pilots. Maybe add a requirement of a certain amount of flight hours in a single seat in addition to a bi-annual checkride for two-passenger ops or something. Basically do something to get the government out of the picture, and it will reduce costs & increase pilots. After that, we need an easier way to make the next jump up to LSA or a private pilot. Possibly something like passing a knowledge check and 5 consecutive bi-annuals without an issue in a row and you can get your LSA ticket. Just my two cents.

Ryan W. said...

The next bad idea for "pilot resurgence", if they ever get off the ground (pun intended), will be the roadable aircraft. On the onset it looks great; people can own an aircraft without having to pay for monthly hangar rent & it finally provides a point-to-point aircraft that would be required to make travel in small aircraft realistic. However, where will the airports be? Who will pay for the upkeep and insurance payments for the small airport? Most airports do not make money, and so without some revenue they won’t be around. If you aren’t helping them stay open, why would any airport let you on the grounds? If a lot of roadable aircraft get purchased there will be no airports to travel to/from. Or, people will start landing on back-roads and then we will all suffer the consequences. It would be better to have more airports and be able to walk or take a short taxi ride to your destination. So let’s end that headache before it starts.

Terry Bowden said...

My Dad, John Bowden passed away last week. Some of you may have known him. This posting is not specifically about Dad, but if you are interested to learn more about him, you can see more on my blog by clicking my Name above.

The intent of this post is to share something I experienced today with the EAA. This is just another example of how OUT-OF-TOUCH the EAA is with its members. I called them on it and they are looking into correcting their policy now, but here's what happened.

My mom and I were discussing that there are many of Dad's former EAA friends who might not have heard the news of my Dad's passing. So, I thought of the "Gone West" column in SPORT AVIATION magazine. Today, I called the EAA to ask them to add Dad to the "Gone West" listing. The girl on the line looked up Dad in the computer and said, "We cannot have your Dad listed because his membership has not been current for a number of years." So I explained that this was because my Mother had let his membership lapse a number of years ago because Dad came down with Alzheimer's disease. He spent the past several years in a nursing home. I further explained that before his illness, Dad was an EAA member and promoter for more than 30 years!!

I was shocked by her response. She said it was their policy that to be listed on the "Gone West" page, a member must be in good standing. I COULD NOT BELIEVE MY EARS!! POLICY????

This immediately caused me to wonder about the many aviation friends our family met through Dad's EAA involvement, spanning over three decades. Many of those folks were only known to my dad and mom through their EAA network. So where-else might these people go to learn of his passing than the major EAA publication? I had no idea such a policy existed. In fact, I routinely check this column looking for old friends and acquaintances I have had through the EAA. Now, to think that I might have missed the news of deceased friends over the years due to this policy is an outrage!


****** Follow-up...

I asked the girl to transfer me to her supervisor and so I spoke with Barry Eck, manager of member relations (I think that was his title). He took note of this and said he would make sure Dad will be listed in a future edition of the magazine. He also said he will bring this policy up for review with the senior directorship.

Will the EAA directors ever realize that the individual members identify themselves through this organization? They don't get it - this is the strength (and now becoming a weakness) of the EAA. It's personal!


Terry Bowden said...

Rich - I apologize for Hijacking this comment thread and taking it off the original track about the EAA Young Eagles program. I promise this is my last rant about the EAA policy on their "Gone West" column in Sport Aviation.

I just wanted to add, in contrast, the experience I had with a separate organization. Yesterday, I received a very nice letter from Robert Taylor, the founder of the Antique Airplane Association. It was a personal offer of condolences to my family and contained another very kind gesture that endears me to the AAA and Mr. Taylor.

Along with the letter, he sent me two new membership cards one for me and one for my wife. They each had my Dad's member # and next to our names, the letters "LIFETIME". In his letter Mr. Taylor explained that is the usual policy of the AAA to transfer lifetime memberships to the following generation in the belief that it will ensure the future of the organization.

WHAT A CONTRAST to the EAA policy.

John Roberts said...


You seem a little rough on the EAA in this particular instance. One of the challenges of a group getting that large is that you try to set standard procedures to reduce workload. In this case it sounds like an appropriate course of action was taken; They set up a policy, and the lady tried to adhere to it (as she should have). When you realized the policy's flaw you contacted her supervisor who aknowledged/agreed with the problem, and he indicated he would attempt to resolve it. What is wrong with that? God bless you if you've always made the correct call on the first attempt.

Terry Bowden said...

If I seem a little rough on the EAA, it was meant that way. EAA members need to speak out on whats important to them.

If you are tired of watching your regional EAA fly-ins struggle to survive and die on the vine... while millions of EAA dollars are pouring into making Air Venture bigger and bigger, YOU should speak out. It is already the biggest aviation event in the universe! Does it need to grow larger?

If you are tired of watching your local EAA chapters fight tooth and nail to raise measly funds to build a small clubhouse in the back of a non-insulated hangar to hold their meetings and run area projects..... while millions of EAA dollars pour into OSH facilities and positions for more and more HQ desk jockeys, YOU should speak out.

If you are tired of watching individuals get snubbed by EAA after devoting 30+ years of hard work to promote sport flying, homebuilding, vintage airplane restorations, and giving of their time to EAA programs... while EAA publicists jump on the bandwagon of every flashy air venture show-off that comes and goes... then YOU should speak out too. Like me.

Anonymous said...

Looks like EAA reads the NORDO news. They sent out a press release saying how well the Young Eagles program is working:

Rich Davidson said...

Have you read my latest post "Something's missing?"

The EAA was working on this already. I am not the only one pointing these things out and they were and are doing their best to make it appear a success despite the fact Tom actually admitted it wasn't. But yeah, EAA is starting to listen to people. As for appropriate responses, well that is another thing.