Business Aviation Posts Monster Year

The worldwide fleet of Challenger 300s, including the one on Elite Air’s 135 certificate based in Boca Raton, Fla., flew 90,054 flights in 2016, more than any other super-midsize aircraft.

The worldwide fleet of Challenger 300s, including the one on Elite Air’s 135 certificate based in Boca Raton, Fla., flew 90,054 flights in 2016, more than any other super-midsize aircraft.

Business aviation recorded one of its best years in history in 2016, according to Argus International’s Business Aviation 2016 Review.

The industry analyst and auditor reported that growth continued in every major aircraft and operational category in 2016. In 11 of the 12 calendar months, the industry saw gains. Only April experienced a slight year-over-year decline of 0.6%.

According to Argus, 2016 flight activity was up 3.2% and flight hours were up 3.8% when compared to 2015. That represented three straight years of growth in business aviation from 2014-2016.

Argus indicated flight activity stayed fairly consistent throughout the year. The second half, from July to December, was up 3.3% compared to the same period in 2015, while the first half was up 3.1%. The first quarter of 2016 experienced the strongest year-over-year rise in flight activity, up 4.2% from Q1 2015, helped along by the extra day in February. The second, third and fourth quarters saw increases of 1.9%, 3.3% and 3.2%.

The Part 135 industry continued to lead business aviation’s overall industry growth. The segment saw yearly gains in 11 of the 12 months in 2016, including 10.1% growth in November. Part 135 on-demand charter flights and flight hours grew 5.6% and 5.8% in the past 12 months when compared to 2015. Part 135 operators flew 1,413,870 hours last year, an increase of 77,336 hours over 2015.

Breaking it down by aircraft, large cabin Part 135 flight hours grew 10.1% in 2016. Midsize Part 135 flight hours grew at a rate of 3%, and small cabin aircraft flights grew 1.8%. Turboprop flight hours increased 9.4% during 2016.

Part 91 flights and flight hours likewise increased, at 2% and 2.9%, over the past 12 months compared to 2015. Part 91 operators flew 2,234,979 hours in 2016, an upsurge of 63,159 hours from the previous year.

The fractional industry, which posted yearly declines during 10 of the 12 months in 2015, posted yearly gains during 9 of the 12 months last year.

Following the robust 2016, Argus analysts estimate the positive trend will continue well into 2017. Flight activity in January, February and March rose several percentage points over the same period in 2016.