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#GrowingGA Challenges + Solutions | The FC Community Speaks Out

We reached out to the Flight Chops Community to hear about the challenges many newbie pilots face, and to get the solutions shared by those who overcame them.

Here was the call:

We’d love your thoughts about #growingGA. Please leave your comment after watching this episode; let us know any barriers you faced when starting to fly and how you overcame them; or any other ways we can do a better job helping others become aviators.  

If you haven’t yet seen this episode, please watch this inspiring story!

Becoming a PILOT – Overcoming the barriers to Aviation – Learning to Fly – ATC audio

We received so many insightful responses from you — thank you all who have contributed their thoughts to this discussion. 

You may of course add your voice to the continuing conversation here on this post.  We will share some of the feedback we received below, but first – what’s going on in GA?

What’s happening in General Aviation?

According to the AOPA, the number of student pilots is DOWN 65% compared to 1980.

“The aviation industry in America is shrinking, not growing,” they said.

This brief video will fill you in on the situation:

Video via AOPA LIVE


The Biggest Barriers to Entry / Obstacles Faced by Newbie Pilots? We asked, you answered:


The biggest barrier is money. It is an expensive license to get but well worth it. I just did my first flight lesson and I loved it. The question is, how do I afford a lesson once or twice a week at $300+ a pop! Gotta save my pennies. I can also relate to it feeling like an exclusive group but only rarely do I feel that. Pilots in general love flying and want to share their love. My father-in-law is a commercial airline pilot and tries to talk me out of it regularly because it is a struggle working your way to where he is. I think the aviation world is accepting for the most part it is just a matter if you want to do it or not…. also my wife is a barrier when it comes to flying 😉 – M. Miller


I think most people think this is something that “normal” people could never do! I love your videos that show normal people absolutely can fly airplanes.  – SWpilot3

In many places flying is very much an “old mans club” and I think it needs to feel more including and friendly towards the younger crowd. – M. Areskoug

Having no one in my family who had ever been a pilot, I was really walking into darkness and feeling my own way. GA can feel like a very closed community and we need to find ways to make it more welcoming. – J. Tidmore



Barriers being financial considerations and time commitments. For me financials worked out, balancing getting it done and family life can be a struggle. – J. Abbott

Money, Time, Instructor availability and weather. – B. Seymour

Weather is the hardest part for me, snow, rain and fog ground us a lot here in the north east. – Denali_cub

Other Challenges

I was scared to talk to ATC. – R. Tollefsen

I think one of the biggest barriers is knowing where to start. It seams that there is so much to learn before even choosing a flight school, instructor, and types of planes you want to fly that it may be hard to get the process started.- R. Standley 

Getting motion sickness, but i kept flying and i got over it. – R. Chacon

My biggest challenge at the moment is trying to find a flight instructor or school in my area. – Winchester572


… And Solutions Offered by Real-Life Pilots:

Take Those First Steps

I have found that FBOs and flight schools are always more than happy to help you and taking an intro flight is the best way to start! Aviation is a community where everyone looks out and helps each other learn and grow to become the best pilot possible. – R. Standley

I completely felt the same way about there being a barrier between “we know how to fly and you don’t.” That was my worst fear. Eventually I overcame it with a great instructor. – R. Warren

I have my PPL but have a tendency to allow work and life to get in the way of my pursuit of flying. To combat this I have set the goal of flying at least once every month be it a long cross country of puttering around on a sunset flight. It has only been a couple of months but I am definitely enjoying it more thus far. – K. Kincaid

How to Overcome Money Challenges 

The biggest roadblock when I was looking into finally taking my life long dream into a reality was the sheer cost. Many places I checked out were Part 141 and over $60,000. I searched for FLYING CLUBS in my area and found out most of these programs are all “pay as you go”. The rest is history. – A. Smith

Time and money became an issue for me. But, I got an internship during college and was able to finish my training over summer break. – M. Woo

Maybe you can do a series about “Low cost” airplanes. Like Pietenpol. Maybe if the people know that there are affordable planes, they would consider to do there PPL training to own one of those. P. Callewaert

Well for me, the only obstacle is cost… so safe flying to reduce insurance premiums is probably the best that the GA community can do to help with this problem 🙂 – E. Langdon

It’s expensive! That’s definitely the main issue for me. Gliding has offered a cheaper way into flying. – J. Hart

Making GA more accessible to people by providing inexpensive ways to become introduced to flying is very important. Many people have the misconception that it is simply too expensive to begin flying. My biggest hurdle was obtaining a large enough time slot with a CFI to preflight and get more than a couple take offs and landings done. By making local CFI’s more accessible and finding the right instructor for me enabled me to obtain a more thorough and fulfilling training experience. Thank you for all you do for General aviation by creating relatable and consistent content on YouTube. – Drkcrush

Take A Hands-On Approach

I personally take people up flying trying to interest them in getting their license. – B. Barker

I think that channels such as FlightChops, Mr. Aviation101, and Steveo1kinevo are great for getting younger people into aviation. You guys were monumental in fostering my obsession with Aviation when I was just getting started. – L. Fagan

Cost is always a factor, cheaper alternatives and options will always help but isn’t the overriding factor. Better forums of communicating to the local population about the accessibility of flying, more events at airports and open days that are supported by local government and community. G. Collins

Time to Evolve…

I think there need to be more active efforts to attract adults and youth. We need to become a mentor driven community were we share without judgement. There aren’t stupid questions, just ignorant answers. The military using experienced pilots to help train and encourage new pilots. If we can’t do the same GA is doomed to failure. – darkhlmt

I first started flying while in the military stationed in Hawaii. All of my first cross country trips were inter-island over the ocean! I had a great instructor (active duty c-130 pilot) who was very calm and encouraging throughout the whole process. For me my the barriers i struggled with was the availability of aircraft to rent to build time. This was back in the early 1990’s and even then aircraft both in Hawaii and state side were very hard to schedule time in. I also see now 20+ years later that the average age of most rental fleets are still just as old if not older. With the advent of much newer technology (ie moving maps and GPS enabled navigation) most FBO’s are way behind the times. Also i see a great opportunity for newer planes and larger fleets to be added to the rental lists. I would love for organizations that offer Fractional aircraft ownership to come up with something similar for aircraft owners to Rent Back their under flown aircraft to be available to the general public. -K. Kendall

Spending money is the only way to get ratings. Growing GA requires more mechanics, maintainers & A&P. – J. Rocha

Over to you…  Are you ready to take that first step to pursue your passion?

This video is what made me decide to pursue a local flight school. I just completed my first solo last week! Thanks so much! – Grant


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The Finer Points



I’m a Private Pilot, doing my best to stay current and learn. I fly for fun and might just be the least cocky pilot on the internet! My self analysis videos can seem self deprecating at times, but I am trying to learn from the small mistakes to avoid making a big one; I’m happy to share and find it rewarding to help other pilots or aspiring aviators in any way that I can. How does the saying go? “Experience is a hard teacher because she gives the test first, the lesson afterwards”. And in aviation, not all tests are survivable.

My virtual “ride-along” flying videos are aimed and sharing my experiences and giving back to the aviation community which has been so helpful to me. I shoot multi-camera angles, get detailed real time instrument panel shots, and have radio intercom audio. I respect people’s time, so I put a fair bit of work into editing to keep the videos concise and engaging; I add animations and further graphics and voice overs where needed to add context and explanations.

My hope is to continue to grow and evolve the “Flight Chops” project with input and support from the aviation community!

Steve Thorne, aka "Flight Chops"

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Flight Chops Disclaimer

I am a “weekend warrior” private pilot, I fly for fun with no intentions of going commercial. I have had my PPL for over 15 years, but still consider each flight a learning experience – I generally take detailed notes after each flight to remind myself what went well or what I could do to improve…. Having the GoPro cameras to record flights like this is invaluable. I find these self analysis videos very helpful in my constant quest to improve, and am happy to share.

Feedback is invited; however, please keep it positive.

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