2013 Year in Review: An Industry Making a Comeback

The past year has represented a return to pre-recession levels for much of the aviation industry, as evidenced by the number of jet hours flown by general aviation and air taxi operators.

The past year has represented a return to pre-recession levels for much of the aviation industry, as evidenced by the number of jet hours flown by general aviation and air taxi operators.

The Federal Aviation Administration released its annual forecast on March 13, and the news was good for general aviation.

The latest forecast indicates the nation’s aviation system will continue to grow over the next two decades, with a greater number of people expected to fly more miles each year. What’s more, with commercial airline terrorism being the number one concern for the health of the industry, private operators are expected to have the fewest impediments to growth.

According to FAA’s report, multiple incidents in the past few years, such as the attempted bombing of a Northwest airliner on Christmas Day 2009 and the discovery of multiple devices on cargo flights out of Europe in October 2010, have served as reminders of the great risk terrorists pose for mainline air carriers.

“Any terrorist incident aimed at aviation would have an immediate and significant impact on the demand for aviation services that would be greater than its impact on overall economic activity,” reads the FAA report.

Upon the report’s release, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the government is committed to continuing to invest in the growth of the aviation industry. That will include FAA’s ongoing investment in the NextGen system, the upgrade of the nation’s airspace infrastructure that has been slow to get off the ground, as well as increased safety measures and initiatives to improve U.S. aviation’s relationship with international airspace systems.

“With healthy growth projected in air travel, the FAA has a tremendous opportunity to make a major difference in the industry,” FAA Administrator Michael P. Huerta said. “As the system becomes more complex, we’ll look to new technologies to meet the growing demand for safe and efficient air travel here at home and around the world.”

FAA’s report indicated the general aviation fleet is expected to increase from 202,865 aircraft in 2013 to 225,700 in 2034, growing an average of 0.5 percent a year. Fixed-wing turbine aircraft are forecast to grow at a rate of 2.4 percent per year. General aviation hours flown are also forecast to increase significantly, from 24 million in 2013 to 32.4 million in 2034, an average annual growth rate of 1.4 percent a year. The hours flown by fixed-wing turbine aircraft are expected to grow at a rate of 3.3 percent per year.

Some in the industry have expressed concern the problem for aviation will be whether the airspace system can support the forecast growth. In some high traffic sectors, flights already are finding it difficult to access destinations.

“One of the things we’ve noticed is airports are getting jammed up during busy days and in high fly areas,” Elite Air CEO Gray Gibbs said. “It’s leading to some delays, but all in all, it’s a good problem to have."