The Liberty Gazette
August 12, 2014Ely Air Lines
By Mike Ely and Linda Street-Ely
Mike: Proudly displayed outside the AOPA booth at this year’s Experimental Aircraft Association’s National Convention – AirVenture, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin – was the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s little yellow and black Cessna 152. This, a symbol of one of the major efforts by AOPA, is an airplane that can make flying more affordable.
The day before the AirVenture Cup race Linda and I visited with AOPA’s president Mark Baker in Mitchell, South Dakota. The most down-to-earth, real guy had a sparkle in his eye as he talked about the employee who was flying the display airplane from their home office in Fredrick, Maryland to Oshkosh, Wisconsin for the show. The trip would take her 14 hours and, he said, she was having a blast.
Linda: General Aviation has long needed a shot in the arm. Or the buttocks, or maybe both. Why? Because it’s so dern expensive. That’s thanks to lawyers and other greedy people.
Mike: We think Mark is the right person to put some smart moves into play and change the game. He explained some of AOPA’s strategies for rejuvenating flying activity. The two-seat Cessna 152, along with its older brother the 150, has been an airplane of choice for teaching thousands of pilots to fly. Mark calls it the Piper Cub of his (and our) generation. Unfortunately, rampant litigation by people not willing to take responsibility for their own actions made producing the popular airplane uneconomical and the last one rolled off the assembly line nearly three decades ago.
AOPA would like to bring the little trainer back as it makes for an inexpensive aircraft in which to take to the skies. Flying clubs, flight schools, multiple owner partnerships all find this affordable plane attractive. But even with tort reform, if Cessna were to produce the 152 today a full third of the purchasing price of the airplane would go to paying liability insurance premiums.
Linda: That’s disgusting!
Mike: So, carefully refurbishing and overhauling them is what AOPA sees as a starting point. Teaming up with Wyoming-based aircraft manufacturer Aviat to update these machines, they’re calling them Reimagined Aircraft. The price tag will be about half what it would be new.
Mark believes it’s more likely someone would pull out a small airplane for an afternoon sojourn around the local pea patch burning five gallons of fuel per hour than doing the same thing with an airplane that consumes three to six times as much. The Cessna 150 and 152 are a joy to fly, light on the controls and while they don’t perform like a rocket, each is quite capable. In fact, at the time of this writing there are two 150’s registered to challenge each other in the Indy Air Race.
Linda: Mike, brave man that he is, is going to let me have the last word. Putting aside my love of lawyer and politician bashing, what I want to leave you with this week is that this is huge. This news about the Reimagined Aircraft, central to AOPA’s campaign, "You Can Fly", and the leadership of Mark Baker has already begun to light up the future for a segment of the industry that supplies more economic support to this country than any other. Oh those wonderful flying machines!