Greg Herrick, publisher of AircraftOwner magazine, says private pilots tend to be more technically inclined than the average population. They use the Internet and computers at a higher rate, and tend to have scientific minds. “Beyond that, they tend to be conservative from a political and economic sense,” he says. “They’re into motorcycles, cars, anything with transportation and travel. They’re aspirational people.” J. Mac McClellan, editor-in-chief of Flying magazine, agrees, noting that they also tend to have more military experience than the general population and live in the Midwest, California, Texas and Florida.
As for the purchasing power of this private pilot demographic, the membership might be small, but they’re playing with toys outside the price range of most individuals. Herrick estimates the income of the average aircraft owner is $125,000, while the net worth of the average pilot is “well over $1 million.” Approximately 200,000 aircraft certificates—similar to titles of ownership for automobiles—have been issued in the U.S., and Herrick suggests using the model of airplane as a way to judge the income level of its owner.
Is There Room in the Hold?
While an aging demographic is upsetting to publishers of aviation magazines—Flying’s circulation peaked in the 1970s at 540,000 and currently stands at 225,000—the composition of the private pilot population can work to the advantage of marketers who are willing to reach out to them. “People in their 40s and 50s who fly do so because they really enjoy flying,” says AOPA’s Dancy. “They’ve reached a point in their lives where they’re reasonably financially set, and the kids have left the house.”
Products related to aviation are obviously appropriate for this demographic, and other possibilities include credit cards, travel accessories, luggage and insurance services, suggests Eric Francais, a creative director for list and data services firm Walter Karl. Sclair seconds the recommendation of life insurance marketing, especially if an agency knows the ins and outs of aviation.