Pete Bedell has posted an interesting question on Air Facts: What era would you consider general aviation’s golden years? Pete began his post by noting the glass cockpits, avionics, electronic charts and other technological devices that are available to pilots today. On the other hand, there was also the “exciting and innovating days” of the 1950s and 1960s when aircraft manufacturers were creating new aircraft models and entire new categories of airplanes. And then there was the early 1970s when fuel was still cheap and aircraft, with plenty of “groovy” interiors, were still abundant. That came to an end by the 1980s thanks to high oil prices and lawsuits directed at aircraft manufacturers.
More specifically, Pete outlined the following general aviation ages:
1950s and 1960s
- New models and new configurations (e.g. light twins).
- The tailwheel gave way to the easier to use tricycle gear.
- Turbines made inroads.
- The big three aircraft makers (Beech, Cessna and Piper) introduced several new models whenever engine manufacturers came out with a new motor.
Early part of the 1970s
- Fuel was cheap.
- Airlines were regulated and expensive – meaning that private flying was still cost effective.
- Huge growth in the number of pilots and aircraft.
- Aircraft manufacturers produced tens of thousands of GA aircraft.
- The bottom of the aircraft market falls out.
- Manufacturers and pilots alike are spooked by the oil crisis.
- Aircraft production plummets.
- Product-liability lawsuits target aircraft manufacturers and force aircraft prices to a level that was unattainable for most recreational pilots.
Mid 2000s until Today
- New technology like glass cockpits emerge.
- However, new aircraft are also forever separated from used aircraft.
Pete believes that the golden age of general aviation was the period between the mid 1960s and the mid 1970s. However, do you agree or disagree? In other words, when do you believe was the golden age of general aviation or are we in the golden age right now?
Interesting collection of web links, as always. I know I’m bending the definition, but if you asked about the world’s first commercial airmail service the answer would be New Zealand – in the 1890s! There were even special stamps issued:
Pigeon services Great Barrier Islands
The saga of the airmail
I think the golden age of general aviation has to be the mid 50's to mid 60's. The Cessna 150 and 172 were first introduced in the mid 50's and the Piper Cherokee in the early 60's. In my opinion, these aircraft ushered in a new dawn in aviation, making flying accessible to many more people.