Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Maybe There’s Still Hope

Just because they’re young doesn’t mean they don’t have a passion for flight

Speaking as the one privileged to usher them into new, more challenging realms of flight, I'd have to say that I fully recognized the responsibility thrust upon me. I considered it a rare opportunity to work with these three young 'uns, and it brightened my outlook considerably.

Most of us gray dogs look at twenty-somethings and snicker when, in actual truth, these three represent a part of their generation that many of us seldom see. I, in fact, almost never see it. But, that's not because it doesn't exist. It's because the way many of our personal worlds are structured, we just don't see many young people. I'm certain that if any of us were closer to something like the EAA's Young Eagle program, our attitudes would be different. Unfortunately, most of what we know about kids their age is what we've learned from watching neighborhood kids or the news, which often isn't good. I can't even rely on observing my friends' kids because I don't have many "civilian," non-aviation friends (as in next to none). So, almost all the kids I know are being brought up in aviation households, and they're undoubtedly a skewed population sample.

My time with the three young students started me looking around at aviation as I made my daily rounds. And, I surprised myself a little. At fly-ins, yes, there was a predominance of gray hair, but it took only a casual perusal of the crowd to realize that there are more youngsters out there than I had thought. Then I began looking at the occupants of the aircraft that pull up alongside me as I'm running up and found that a good percentage of those are youngsters getting training. So, young blood is out there, it's just not as prevalent as we'd like.

We all know student starts are down, and they've been down for what seems like forever. But, they aren't zero. More importantly, I think the quality of those young people who do jump into aviation is higher than at any time since I got into flying in 19mumble-mumble. And, the increasing regulatory complexity and the expense involved in getting into aviation has had a form of Darwinian effect: Only the strong dare apply. Yes, the obstacles do slow growth in numbers, but those who make it through are the better for it, and aviation is getting the cream of the crop.

So, all is not lost. It's just a little slow in coming.


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