Elitism in Aviation


There’s lots of ways pilots can be elitist, from rattling off jargon in front of non-pilots, or turning their nose up at pilots who don’t do taildraggers/floats/grass runways/off-airport landings/aerobatics, to priding themselves on being able to identify plane models from a view of the inside of the cockpit or a small close-up of the rear landing gear.

I’m in a facebook group for taildragger pilots, and a little while ago, one of the older guys posted a little rant about how the younger generation doesn’t seem to appreciate the vintage aircraft the way the older generation does. He went on to complain that all the young guys getting into aviation, they were all going commercial, and didn’t appreciate just going out and flying for fun.

Okay, look. My wet dream as a pilot would be to find a Spitfire frame and restore it and fly that around. I would fly it around all over, and I’d fly it into controlled airspace just so that I could have air traffic control address me as Spitfire-whatever-my-civil-ident-was, and listen to them advise other aircraft that they had traffic wherever that was a Spitfire. Because come on, that would be frickin’ amazing, and I know that asshole in the Boeing 747 looking out for me would be in his fancy ass plane going seriously? Like, a Spitfire, Spitfire? OMG, that’s so cool!

I can’t picture myself ever having the money a) to buy the aircraft, b) to find somewhere to store it, c) to pay for the restoration, or d) to pay for the fuel and maintenance costs for an aircraft.

Warning – rant coming….

Look at that meme up above. Look at the assumptions it makes. It assumes that the reason I don’t have a porch to chat with my friends on is because I don’t know how nice it is to have one.

It assumes everyone reading it can afford a residence that has a front porch.

I live in an apartment. I grew up with both my mother and both my grandmothers keeping gardens. Do you know how much I’d love to have a yard? Frickin’ hell, yes, I’d love to have a yard, and a garden, and someplace to put the barbecue. I’d love to own a vintage aircraft.

This guy got a whole load of answers explaining the economic times for young people, but glancing at this meme the other day reminded me of something I notice a lot among General Aviation pilots.

They’re rich. They don’t think they’re rich though. They’re surrounded by other people who can afford to buy an aircraft that costs anywhere between twice as much as a car to twice as much as a house, and put-put it around for fun. And they don’t realize how broke other people are. They think they’re the norm.

This guy literally complained that all the young people getting into aviation were going commercial. When I looked at getting into aviation, I very quickly came to the conclusion that the only way to justify the expense flight training was going to be to make it a career. Because I would never have the money to fly as much as I would want to if I opened that pandora’s box.

A message to the baby boomer generation: the economics of my generation is a reality that I and others faced with it have been forced to accept. The cushy jobs that would carry us through college while working through the summer – those just straight up don’t exist anymore, and have been replaced with jobs that people sneer at us and belittle us just for being willing to take.


Look. If you people who can afford to maintain a vintage aircraft turn your nose up at me and mine for going commercial – arguably for taking aviation as seriously as it can be taken, then be prepared for us to roll our eyes at you. If you want to share your love of vintage aircraft with us, then take us with you on a flight. Teach one of us how to land your wwii aircraft. I would freaking’ love that.

We’re looking at a pilot shortage. A period where the military pilots that went commercial haven’t made a habit of letting the next generation fly to build up the hours of experience they need. Do you want to be one of those snooty pilots not passing on your skills and knowledge to the next generation? Do you want your legacy to die with you?

We want and value that knowledge. It’s just – we want food on the table an a roof over our heads too. I often feel like people over 40 think we’r exaggerating about the roof thing though. The vintage aircraft thing is a luxury. It’s a luxury we would treasure, but a luxury all the same. If you have a vintage aircraft, will it to someone who would appreciate it, huh?


8 responses to “Elitism in Aviation

  1. Excellent. I’ve seen you address that and other stuff in certain FB groups; and in fact that’s what lead me to follow you here in the first place. Turning downwind, if I remember well, was the definitive “Hah! Eat that! I’m following this diesel punk!”.

    In any case, I’ve used that same argument about some owners being surrounded by other owners, not realizing that is the norm… within their small group of buddies. And yes, the same applies to wealthy people outside the flying community.

    But it’s just some. The noisiest “some”, but not everyone. In fact, I got a good deal of my first hours thanks to people like that; “that” being the silent bunch. They’d call and let me fly their planes whenever they were going up, for a stroll, a trip, a rally or whatever. Taught this or that trick or went the extra mile and surprised me with an IR instructor, claiming: “Being selfist here, you know, for my own safety, just in case we get trapped one day and I’m sick or something”. A couple of them even made copies of their keys for me… probably because they knew I couldn’t even afford the fuel for a pattern, though ;-P

    Point being, that “I often feel like people over 40 think we’re exaggerating” could be a tad too broad. Or perhaps it’s just that’s I’m about to hit 40 myself and want to make sure I’m left well outside that “people over 40” you’re referring to . But anyway, have you flown a taildragger from a dirt road with camels, trucks and goats? No!? Meh, then I’m losing my time ;-P

    • We had a plane donated to our local 99’s, by a guy who didn’t fly anymore. It was pointed out to him that there were all these women pilots with no access to an aircraft for an affordable price, and he had this C150 sitting collecting dust. That plane flies more hours every year now than it had in the twenty years previous – I bet the only planes that put in more hours are the training planes at the flight schools. It’s well loved and well appreciated, and the women flying it visited him in the hospital before he passed away to show him how much they appreciated what he’d done. There doesn’t seem to be that many people who will do that – just give you the keys to their plane the way it seems they used to back in the day. But then, safety is a lot more on people’s minds too, as is liability, so people are more conscious of the skill level of the people they’re lending their plane to, as well as maintenance.

  2. I hear you. I made the same decision decades ago: flying was too expensive to be hobby, so I went commercial as quick as I could. Along the way, I got to fly some aircraft that were older than I was. Now I’m training pilots who weren’t born when I started. But if I won the lottery tomorrow, I’d have a gyrocopter within weeks, and I’d fly that for fun.

  3. Great post! I try not to envy those who can afford to indulge in aviation to the extent I wish I could, but I definitely do not appreciate the assumptions some make that the reason I do not is because I don’t get it. Nope,it’s just because of money. Well, time and money. I work full time, have two kids (5 and 3), and can already barely find time or pennies to fly. I do what I can, when I can. Maybe one day.

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