December 22, 2008
Los Angeles Times
By Dan Weikel
Federal Aviation Administration statistics show that the number of licensed private pilots in the United States plummeted from a high of 357,479 in 1980 to 228,475 in 2007, a 36% decline. The number of licensed pilots, including those with commercial and air transport ratings, has dropped from 827,071 to 624,007, or roughly 25%, in the same period.
In 1978 nearly 18,000 general aviation planes were made for U.S. customers, the highest annual total in the last 30 years. In 2005 only 2,857 were built, according to the General Aviation Manufacturers Assn.
The rising cost of aircraft and flight lessons is driving the decline, association officials say, along with a lack of interest among young people who have had little exposure to aviation and don't consider it the attractive or romantic pursuit as previous generations did. Lessons to obtain a private pilot's license with an instrument rating cost between $9,000 and $14,000.
"The decline in general aviation has been going on a long time," said Glenn Parkison, the Young Eagles coordinator for the Experimental Aircraft Assn.'s South Bay chapter. "The pilot population is aging, and the World War II pilots who were the backbone of general aviation for decades are dying off. For young people, it just has not been on their radar screens."
Source: Excerpted from http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-eagles22-2008dec22,0,2450014.story]