Every year around this time, the folks at Sporty’s release a round-up of the latest trends in general aviation. For 2016:
Flight training is strong
Airlines are hiring rapidly, airline pilot salaries are going up, and more people are pursuing their dream of being a pilot.
Sporty’s Academy, the company’s on-site flight school, is concluding a record year. It was a mix of “community learners” and career-oriented pilots, some of whom are looking for a mid-life change in career.
Non-certified avionics in certified airplanes
The Experimental Aircraft Association, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, and others are pursuing a variety of novel approaches for improving the avionics in Part 23 airplanes, without requiring expensive certification programs.
In 2016, the Non Required Safety Enhancing Equipment (NORSEE) policy from the FAA came into force and a variety of groups are working on STCs to allow replacement attitude indicators and autopilots to be installed for far less than before.
Garmin’s G5 flight instrument is a prominent example, and Sporty’s officials say they have seen strong interest in these units.
Youth aviation programs pass important milestones
Young Eagles, a program for which Sporty’s has been a major supporter for over 10 years, flew its 2 millionth kid this year.
Separately, EAA signed a memorandum of support with Aviation Exploring, another organization Sporty’s has been working with for decades. We hope next year brings even more good news.
New competition in the premium headset market
Bose and Lightspeed have been slugging it out for years (even defeating Sennheiser, who withdrew from the market this year). Now David Clark has joined the battle, with its ONE-X. This new design is lighter and smaller than classic DC headsets, and has become a popular option.
Cincinnati Avionics stays busy with ADS-B Out installations
You’ve probably read about ADS-B Out for years, but with the Jan. 1, 2020, deadline now just three years away, it seems like pilots are finally getting serious about equipping. A slew of new products, including the affordable Stratus ESG and the all-in-one Garmin GTX 345, met with very favorable reactions.
The FAA’s $500 rebate program also accelerated installations. There’s a long way to go, but the pace is quickening, and Cincinnati Avionics schedule is already filling up for 2017.
Home study courses evolve beyond just video
The days of passively watching a VHS tape are long gone. Today’s online courses and apps offer more features and more interactivity than ever.
In 2016, Sporty’s introduced ForeFlight logbook integration so you can log your written test endorsement in your iPad logbook, plus an “ask a CFI” feature, an interactive Airman Certification Standards guide, and more. Our 2017 Learn to Fly course just launched and shows how far these learning platforms have come.
Drone hype fades, but reality is still exciting
The FAA finally implemented its Part 107 rule for commercial UAS operations this year, and the first Remote Pilots were certified (including many Sporty’s employees).
It’s still uncertain how big this market will be and how it will impact GA, but what is clear is that drones are here to stay.
When it comes to training, Sporty’s partnered with the Unmanned Safety Institute to offer comprehensive, professional training courses that share some of the lessons from manned aviation with remote pilots. Sporty’s has also developed a Drone Study Buddy app for iOS devices.
The iPad is still the most important avionics system for most pilots
The glass cockpit revolution is already here, but it looks like a tablet more than a PFD/MFD. The iPad has been out now for over six years, but new iPad accessories keep coming, including: SiriusXM’s Aviation Receiver for ForeFlight, XNaut’s innovative iPad mounting system with built-in fans, new kneeboards from Flight Outfitters, and much more.
Connected avionics expand in all directions
Garmin’s Flight Stream products allow pilots to send a flight plan from their tablet to their panel-mounted GPS, or to pull weather off the panel and onto the tablet.
But there are other connections happening in the cockpit: Stratus 2S portable ADS-B receivers can be connected to the Stratus ESG transponder, and Garmin’s D2 Bravo watch can control a Garmin VIRB camera.
Pilots on the go
Always mobile, pilots are keeping themselves informed more than ever on iPhones and iPads. This includes Sporty’s Takeoff app, which offers quick bites of training anywhere you are. We spotted more aviation podcasts than ever this year as well. All these options mean pilots never have to miss a chance to learn.