Friedrichshafen, Germany – Despite the financial crisis and growing environmental sensitivity, the General Aviation industry views the years ahead with confidence. This was underlined by experts at the launch of the AERO Friedrichshafen Global Show for General Aviation on Wednesday. With registration numbers stable, the trend toward light and ultra-light aircraft continues to be felt, while aircraft owner readiness to invest in equipping their fleets with the latest technologies is significantly increasing. Slumping sales of small, single-engine aircraft are being offset by sales gains for business jets. Sustainability is also a major issue among aviation associations, as well as electric motors and alternative propulsion aircraft.
“America’s previous dominance in the area of smaller aircraft has been eclipsed in particular by the rapidly growing interest in performance-oriented light and ultra-light aircraft,” said Peter Pletschacher, President of the Aviation Press Club and industry author, who further pointed out that the slump has been offset by a slight sales increase of larger airplanes and business jets.
Pletschacher predicts a healthy future for light and ultra-light aircraft, as well for electric motors and diesel engines. “These will continue to be more prevalent among prop planes,” he said. He also sees recent innovations in advanced composite materials and fuel cell technologies for smaller and larger aircraft gaining ground.
Current figures demonstrate the extent of economic strength that continues to stem from the General Aviation sector. There are currently 370,000 aircraft worldwide (230,000 of which in the United States), 4,000 airports, 470,000 pilots in 68 countries, 27 million flight hours and 170 million passengers. In Germany alone, there are some 22,000 registered aircraft, 400 airports, 250 glider airfields and 100 heliports. In addition, the country has 75,000 pilots currently logging 2 million flight hours each year. The General Aviation industry employs some 10,000 people in Germany, generating a turnover of 500 million euros.
“We need to restore people’s passion for flying,” emphasized Tom Poberezny, Chairman of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), whose greatest concern and worry is the declining public interest in pursuing aviation pilot careers.
In light of stable registration rates in the marketplace, Dr. Michael Erb, President of the Verband der Allgemeinen Luftfahrt, Germany’s General Aviation association, sees an increasing interest among aircraft owners to invest in equipping their fleets with the latest technologies.
Dr. Wolfgang Scholze, environmental advisor to Germany’s Aeroclub (DAeC), particularly aims to promote General Aviation’s profile and demonstrate that aviation is economical and is able to act responsibly with natural resources. “It’s about sustainability. It’s as important to us as flying itself,” he claimed.
“Electric motors are finding their way into gliders,” said Tilo Holighaus, CEO of Schempp-Hirth, describing a general trend. Holighaus, who is also the vice chairman of Germany’s association of glider manufacturers, further explained that although the number gliders being sold was steadily decreasing, turnover was not. This he said is due to the highly innovative nature of glider design and manufacturing. The latest findings in aerodynamics are being applied to their design, from which large aircraft later benefit.