BY FREDA MIKLIN
George Bye, United States Air Force instructor pilot and veteran of Operation Desert Storm (1991), launched Bye Aerospace at Centennial Airport 12 years ago. He spoke at the June 6 general partnership meeting of the Denver South Economic Development Partnership, held at the Lone Tree Arts Center about the future of aviation.
According to Bye, 30 percent of airline pilots will retire in the next three years. The pipeline of pilots starts with general aviation and the average age of general aviation pilots at Centennial Airport is 50. Asked why pilots are not more likely to come from the military, Bye pointed to the relatively small size of today’s military. Multiple sources put the number of active-duty military personnel at 1.3 million today, down two-thirds since the Vietnam era and continuing to decline.
Bye said current projections forecast a 15,000-pilot shortage by 2026, potentially grounding 1,400 commercial aircraft every day. He went on to say that 790,000 new pilots will be needed over the next 20 years.
Looking at general aviation, Bye said the $150,000-$200,000 cost to become a commercial pilot is prohibitive for many and that 80 percent of student pilots quit before they get licensed.
His company is developing new technology to reduce the cost of training pilots, and the cost of general aviation flight, by using aircraft that operate on electricity instead of aviation fuel. Bye Aerospace’s eFlyer2 costs $23/hour to operate, compared to similar-sized aviation fuel-powered planes, which cost $110/hour to $133/hour. Bye Aerospace’s eFlyer2 is designed for up to two hours of flight time.
Bye’s next model, the eFlyer4, is intended to fly up to four hours at a time. He expects it to be used as an “on-demand air taxi” that can operate on routes like Palo Alto, CA to Lake Tahoe, NV, turning a 4-hour drive into a 0.69-hour flight. The eFlyer4 would fly from New York to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts in just under an hour, avoiding a 6-hour drive. George Bye sees electric power as the future of aviation.