EAA's AirVenture 2008 offers much to all who are interested in aviation; however, after a few days of wandering the grounds, I began to get a sense of what might be missing, and it is significant.
Although EAA has made a laudable effort during these financially challenging times to demonstrate that the point of entry for purchasing and building an airplane can be as low as buying a car, the organization seems to be missing the point that most people know that the first check, the one to buy the aircraft, is probably the smallest check they'll ever write for an aviation purchase. It is the cost of maintaining and actually flying their craft that adds up.
Take my RV-10. Sure, its build has been a drain on the checkbook in a steady, significant way over the past four years, but until that engine fired up and the aircraft took to the air those costs were predictable. Then we got the first fuel bills. And had to replace the electrical components that did not work. And a tire. And...well, you know where I am going with this.
Forums that have anything to do with engine and/or aircraft efficiency or longevity are packed at this show, which means the people here are definitely interested in learning more about how to build, modify and fly their aircraft for less money. It is just too bad that there are not more displays by EAA and manufacturers here that can offer these folks some solutions.
I'm a little worried that this key issue isn't being addressed. As pilot numbers shrink, manufacturers make fewer aircraft, oil companies refine less avgas, and the cost must go up. We in the industry must demonstrate both to these folks, who are clearly trying to keep flying their aircraft even as costs go up, but also to those who are considering learning to fly, that general aviation is an affordable pastime by coming up with solutions to make our aircraft and engines more efficient and less dependent on traditional fuels and materials.