WASHINGTON, D.C. — The long-term outlook for general aviation is favorable, even though the slow growth of the U.S. economy has affected near-term growth, according to the FAA, which released its forecasts for the years 2014 to 2034 today.
According to the forecast, the growth in numbers of aircraft and hours flown will be primarily in the turbine-powered fleet.
FAA forecasts are behind a year because data for 2013 is not available at the time the agency makes it forecasts.
Between 2010 and 2012, the number of active general aviation aircraft went down by 6.4% from 223,370 to 209,034. Assuming a similar decline in 2013 as a result of cleaning up from the re-registration and renewal registry, the GA active fleet is estimated to have decreased 3% in 2013 to 202,865.
Flight hours for 2013 based on the active fleet and other indicators were 24 million, a decline of 1.8% from the previous year.
The active GA fleet is projected to increase at an average annual rate of 0.5% over the 21-year forecast period, growing from 202,865 in 2013 to 225,700 by 2034.
The more expensive and sophisticated turbine-powered fleet — including rotorcraft — is projected to grow to a total of 49,565 aircraft at an average rate of 2.6% a year over the forecast period. The turbine jet portion is expected to increase 3% a year, reaching 22,050 by 2034.
Piston-powered aircraft — including rotorcraft — are projected to decrease at an average annual rate of 0.3% from a 2013 total of 141,325 to 131,615 by 2034. Declines are expected in both single and multi-engine fixed-wing aircraft, but rotorcraft are expected to grow at 1.7% a year.
FAA also sees a growth in the light-sport category of general aviation. This is expected to increase by 4.1% yearly to 4,880 aircraft.
GA hours flown are forecast to increase by 1.4% yearly.
The number of GA pilots is projected to be 484,425 in 2034 — up 0.4% yearly — an increase of more than 35,000 over the forecast period.