Thought for the Day: Importance of Affordable Aircraft


Below is Henry Ford’s comment on his goal with the Model T. In five years, when people ask why the concept of factory built S-LSA planes flopped, you can point back to this quote, that evidently very few of the people producing, or the aviation journalists writing reviews of S-LSA aircraft have ever read or understood:


“I will build a car for the great multitude. It will be large enough for the family, but small enough for the individual to run and care for. It will be constructed of the best materials, by the best men to be hired, after the simplest designs that modern engineering can devise. But it will be so low in price that no man making a good salary will be unable to own one – and enjoy with his family the blessing of hours of pleasure in God’s great open spaces.”


Here is an odd, but important connection: Above is the most successful sailboat of all time, the Sunfish. No other boat in history even comes close to the numbers sold, the number of people who learned to sail or the hours they enjoyed. It was not the fastest sailboat of its era, nor the best in any other way but one: It was affordable because it was a brilliant simple design that was mass producible. They went to molded fiberglass in 1960, eventually producing a quarter million boats. These boats produced millions of sailors, and a very strong and enduring sailing base in the US, complete with a lasting market for more advanced boats.


Aviation magazines are always highlighting the best, fastest, most elaborate planes with a moronic argument that these will stimulate aviation by getting people interested. Perhaps after decades of  this fiction, we can dismiss it. You don’t build a pyramid by making the top block and expecting the base to appear under it. Lasting things are built from the foundation up. No person in sailing would make the foolish claim that the winner of the 1960 America’s cup, (which demonstrated itself as the most expensive and fastest sailboat ever) was important to sailing as the introduction of mass-produced Sunfish the same year. Yet this is the same argument we hear when the EAA puts a multimillion dollar TBM-850 turboprop on the cover of Sport Aviation. -ww.




The paragraphs above are from a two-part story I wrote last year. You can consider the complete line of thought by clicking on this link: Model T of the air?

and this one for the second half: Model T of the air, Part #2 – Leeon Davis notes 

I wrote both the stories about before Cessna threw in the towel on the Chinese built, $170K, C-162 ‘skycatcher.’ Read the story of their failure to understand the US market at : Cessna’s Chinese adventure a failure.

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