Increases in the U.S. general aviation (GA) turbine fleet will offset declines in the piston sector over the next two decades, but the overall number of active GA aircraft will remain static, according to the FAA’s just-released 2019 to 2039 forecast. The FAA predicts the GA fleet will total 211,575 in 2039, down from the current fleet of 212,875 aircraft (measured at the end of 2018). The 2039 number was further scaled back from last year’s 20-year forecast, which projected 214,090 GA aircraft by 2038.
In the most recent forecast, the number of turbine fixed-wing aircraft and rotorcraft is expected to grow at a rate of 2 percent a year, or by a total of 15,255 aircraft, through 2039. This matches last year’s forecast. Business jets will lead growth, averaging 2.2 percent a year; the FAA sees this sector propelled by growth in U.S. GDP and corporate profits.
However, the piston fleet is estimated to decrease by an average annual rate of 0.9 percent, totaling 25,645 fewer aircraft over the forecast period, marking a bigger slide than forecast last year. With “unfavorable pilot demographics” and increased cost of ownership, new piston aircraft deliveries are not keeping pace with retirements, the agency said.
But the FAA does see a jump in light-sport aircraft, growing by 3.6 percent annually, or by 2,890 aircraft over the 20-year period.