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Heading Bug – Learn To See What You Can’t See

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October 2012


A thesis by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) graduate student on why we are flying less, and a move by the largest aviation “alphabet” group appointing a new senior vice president to “solve the problem,” have me thinking—not for the first time—that we aviators are not all that good at looking in the mirror, and maybe we need to reconsider what mirror, exactly, we gaze upon.

The thesis, by Kamala I. Shetty, was researched and written for a Master of Science in Aeronautics and Astronautics at MIT under the supervision of professor R. John Hansman. Shetty’s objective was to explore trends “and to determine what drives and what hinders General Aviation activity.”

I congratulate Shetty on the work. It is well worth studying as it has created a brilliant snapshot about why we are flying less, and of the current state of General Aviation in its entirety.

Shetty surveyed more than 1,250 pilots, with the help of AVweb and other aviation media that housed her survey. Since this survey’s respondents weren’t randomly/scientifically selected, but rather “self-selected,” it’s entirely possible that those who chose to participate aren’t a wholly accurate representation of the GA community.

Even if the clarity of this particular mirror is in question, it’s still worth knowing the outcome of Shetty’s work. The survey concluded that rising (fuel and maintenance) costs, burdensome regulation, lack of understanding of aviation on the part of the nonflying public and the declining pilot population are the biggest challenges facing General Aviation.

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