Feds Share The View
At its annual Aviation Forecast Conference, held recently in Washington, D.C., the Federal Aviation Admin-istration (FAA) released its forecast for general aviation (GA) from fiscal years 2004 through 2015. The FAA defines “general aviation” as “a diverse range of aviation activities and includes all segments of the aviation industry, except commercial air carriers and the military.” The report gives us the FAA’s perspective on everything from single-engine piston aircraft to corporate jets, gliders and even homebuilt airplanes, both now and over the coming 12-year period.
At the end of 2003, there were 625,111 pilots in the United States, a decline of approximately 8,000 from the previous year. The report anticipates 777,730 by the year 2015, an annual increase of about 1.2%. Within the strictly GA categories (student, private and commercial) there were 452,331 pilots or about 72.4% of the total pilot population. The total number of people holding only a private pilot’s license was recorded at 241,045. Other interesting numbers from 2003 include:
• Fifty-nine percent of the total pilot population was instrument-rated.
• The total number of ATPs declined by 0.8% in 2003, the first downward trend in 46 years.
• There were 310 people with a recreational pilot’s license. Bright spots in the future include increases in both student pilots and the much anticipated light-sport aircraft categories:
• The total number of new student pilots increased 1.5% from 2002 to 2003. The trend has continued into 2004.
• Light-sport pilot ratings are projected to be 20,800 by 2015. The FAA also looked at the general-aviation fleet of aircraft:
• The average GA airplane is 28 years old.
• Single-engine pistons represent 68% of the total GA fleet.
• Single-engine pistons fly an average of 113.8 hours a year.
• Utilization of newer aircraft (one to five years old) is higher—193.1 hours a year.
• Utilization drops substantially after the aircraft reaches 25 years of age. The report also noted the effects of a slow U.S. economy ingeneral aviation:
• GA flight activity declined in 2003 by 5.3%.
• During the same period, the total number of single-engine piston aircraft declined 1.4%.
• Multi-engine aircraft declined 3.8%.
• Last year, the total number of experimental aircraft increased by approximately 8%.
As for the future, the FAA projects about 1,500 new aircraft joining the fleet each year through 2015, and about 350 of the new “personal jets” annually. The number of single-engine piston aircraft is expected to grow to a total of 148,450 in 2015. Excluding the new light-sport aircraft category, the GA fleet is expected to grow by a half a percent per year through 2015. For more information, contact the Federal Aviation Administration at www.faa.gov
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