Every year about this time, Sporty’s officials spotlight the trends that topped the charts for general aviation this year.
They start the list something near and dear to them: How pilots shop.
Mobile changes how we shop.
Sporty’s sales process has gone from founder Hal Shevers at a sales counter in an FBO to mail order to 800 lines to faxes to the Internet and now to mobile.
People shop anytime they have a spare two minutes, noted Michael Wolf, Sporty’s president.
Training formats are evolving, too.
Like shopping habits, training courses are scattered among different formats. DVDs still sell, but apps and online courses are growing, offering convenience that can’t be beat.
And yes, the smartphone revolution is at work here too. Sporty’s introduced a number of upgrades and innovations to its online and app training products, Wolf noted.
Destination flight training.
Destination flight training is increasingly popular. Once upon a time there was a flight school at every airport. That’s no longer true, so many pilots — especially those starved for time — are traveling to schools, like Sporty’s Academy, for accelerated training.
Bigger is better.
Is it the year technology gets bigger or smaller? This year, technology got bigger: Bigger iPads (iPad Pro) and bigger phones (iPhone 6 Plus) were hot. We’re asking more from our mobile devices and engineers are giving it to us. Older eyes appreciate this in the cockpit.
The exception to “bigger” is smartwatches. Pilots love their watches, but this was one of the most hyped (some would say overhyped) trends of 2015. While smartwatches haven’t changed the world, they do seem to be catching on. A number of aviation app developers released Apple Watch apps this year, and Garmin’s second generation D2 Bravo was a big hit this Christmas.
Wireless headsets are here.
Lightspeed surprised the industry in November with the launch of Tango, the first wireless aviation headset from a major brand. Pilots have been asking for this for years, but it’s a more difficult technological problem to solve than many pilots understand. It has been well-received; will we see more next year?
ADS-B Out gets real.
This has been “coming soon” for a long time, but ADS-B Out has moved from a preview to a main attraction. Cincinnati Avionics, Sporty’s on-site shop, has been busy with ADS-B upgrades this year as pilots commit to this new technology.
Anyone upgrading a panel these days adds ADS-B Out to the project list, and we’re starting to see some older airplanes add ADS-B Out even without a full panel upgrade. New products from Appareo and L-3 point to continued growth in 2016. Prices seem to have hit bottom — will it be enough to meet the deadline?
The drones are coming…No, the drones are here!
Competing with smartwatches for most overhyped trend, drones were nearly unavoidable in 2015. This is sort of the Wild West, and we do believe this will be a bubble in the short term.
Those of you who have been around for a while might see the similarities with the ultralight market. Remember? Ultralights were going to save GA.
Drones will get sorted out, just as ultralights did, and after the initial hype wears off, we predict drones will end up being a transformative industry – and aviation will be affected as much as anyone.
Sporty’s began selling drones in 2015, and worked to encourage an “airmanship mindset” for operators of these small quadcopters. Sporty’s officials said they will participate in this growing industry in a thoughtful way, as manned aviation has a lot to teach unmanned aviation (and vice versa).
Simpler is (sometimes) better.
Pilots responded to two new additions to Sporty’s airport in 2015: The 172LITE and the Legend Cub. While everyone loves a high-end transportation airplane with lots of glass, the fact remains that most flight students at Sporty’s Academy are flying for the fun. For them, low and slow is a lot of fun, and less complex aircraft can make their time and money investment lower.
The year for medical reform?
Medical reform may finally be coming next year. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) have worked tirelessly on the Third Class medical reform, and the end may be in sight.
Sporty’s will offer a full library of proficiency training courses for lapsed pilots. Sporty’s Academy will create custom recurrent packages, whether you’ve been away for six months or 16 years, officials added.
The opportunity for youth to pursue a career in aviation is as strong as it has been in decades.
Aviation youth programs, including Young Eagles, Aviation Exploring and Civil Air Patrol, to name a few, will help ensure the industry is equipped with bright, talented individuals to fill projected pilot and mechanic shortages.