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GA activity and its decline

In this thread there is a link to a CAA report showing (page 14) that the decline is very small – from 2003 to 2012:

Those are just UK figures, of course.

I wonder how representative that data is.

The CAA data for new PPL issues from 2003 to 2010 (I don’t have later data to hand but I gather it is similar to 2010) is this

My statistics is crap but to me this might suggests some combination of

  • the number of pilots dropping out of flying has slowed down
  • the existing pilots are flying more hours (highly unlikely)
  • the activity data (at the top) is wrong and understates the decline in activity

Very superficially, I see virtually no new faces coming into the game, while the “old” faces keep going. This would eventually create an overhang which could collapse quickly.

Last Edited by Peter at 01 Jun 13:48
Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

In Norway there are similar statistics apparently. But microlights have a positive trend while PPL have a slowly declining trend. PPL is “flying” only 3 times as many hours as microlights last year, it used to be more. All in all the trend is positive, I would guess? At my club (micro and PPL) almost all the PPL students disappears to some flight academy for more education to commercial ratings when they have their PPL. The microlight students stay and fly and some purchase their own aircraft.

There is definitely an overhang of old people with PPL, but also old aircraft. It is bound to collapse sooner or later.

ENVA ENOP ENMO, Norway

In Germany, too. I don’t have the numbers, but the change is apparent.
Italy is the extreme example, where flying in certified light GA aircraft is almost dead and 90% takes place on microlights.

The big question is: in how far does the compensation from increasing microlight activity help GA as a whole to “survive”?

In some way, it certainly does, since microlighters are still pilots. Pilots who fly, burn fuel, use airfields, need instructors, maintenance, etc. All private pilots tend to fight controlled airspace, etc.

On the other hand, there is – like it or not – some dividing line between them and the persevering “classical” GA. On a closer look, microlights tend to use petrol taken from the forecourt so they often do not support the airport refuelling infrastructure. They fly in and out of Deanland instead of Shoreham ( ) so they tend to not support the “high utility GA airports”, which are so much under threat these days. And so on. One could go on for hours on the subject…. I shall renounce…

Last Edited by boscomantico at 01 Jun 15:23
Mainz (EDFZ), Germany

I wouldn’t trust the “estimated hours flown” statistics. They have very little foundation.

I quite agree about microlighters not wishing to pay for facilities they can’t use anyway, such as ILS and approach lighting. But as regards fuel, most of us are quite prepared to pay a bit more for MoGas from an airfield pump than for the MoGas we now haul in in jerrycans. But have you counted how few fields have a MoGas pump? My homefield promises one for somewhere this summer, and I think many more will follow. And yes, it varies by country: in Germany MoGas availability is quite good.

Then again: of the “classical” PPL’ers, what percentage exercise more of their legal options than the average microlighter? As has often been said before, at least 80 % of PPL holders will fly just a few hours per annum, their typical flight being a 100 quid hamburger run of twice perhaps half an hour’s flying. Add the ubiquitous trip to Le Touquet once every year. Those pilots have also been contributing towards the cost of expensive facilities that they never use. It is as well they switch to microlighting, paying only for the services they actually require.

This only repeats another point that has already been made, too: it is all about politics really. What was called “high utility airfields” are nice for well-to-do-but-not-outright-rich people, and that is a dwindling category. Today one is either rich but then really rich (driving a Porsche, at least, and not flying but being flown), or one is “of moderate means”, driving a BMW 5-class at most and flying VFR only, at best.

Comparing to motorcars: even as late as the 1980’s, Mercedes-Benz had the 190 aka W201: a car for people with some distinction. Today, the same company produces only cars that are either posh or hip or middle class – but nothing “Gutbürgerlich” left. Same for the other car makers of course – there’s too little potential left in that corner of the market.

Last Edited by at 01 Jun 16:26
EBZH Kiewit, Belgium

and if I may add:

Pilots who fly, burn fuel, use airfields, need instructors, maintenance, etc.

For me, and for many more I believe, the main reason to stick to microlighting is the freedom from third party maintenance. If one thing makes flying possible within my budget, it is the liberty of doing the maintenance myself, or invite one of the many enthusiasts to do it while of course teaching me. At my field, the running joke is that Cessna’s and Pipers exist to be flown, whereas microlights exist to be tinkered; even if they are flown, every now and then, it is only to validate the tinkering.

EBZH Kiewit, Belgium

The other issue with GA is disentangling the hours flown by ATPLs in training from the hours flown by genuine private pilots. Could account for some of the lack of decline.

I wouldn’t trust the “estimated hours flown” statistics. They have very little foundation.

FWIW, the UK CAA gets the last year’s hours reported on the pilot’s medical application form. That is only on CAA licenses, not FAA licenses, but fairly soon they will all have to get CAA licenses (and medicals) – or give up flying for ever (or move outside the EU, etc). That figure is not verified by the AME; it is just given by the pilot. But it is probably fairly accurate.

Italy is the extreme example, where flying in certified light GA aircraft is almost dead and 90% takes place on microlights.

Is that a recent thing?

I recall reading something saying exactly that about 10 years ago.

The other issue with GA is disentangling the hours flown by ATPLs in training from the hours flown by genuine private pilots. Could account for some of the lack of decline.

That would be a factor for pilots who get a PPL on the way to the CPL/IR. I don’t know how many that is. If the MPL is becoming significant, that would account for the drop in PPL issues without there being a drop in “real” PPL issues.

Administrator
Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

In this thread there is a link to a CAA report showing (page 14) that the decline is very small – from 2003 to 2012:

Is it really small?

It looks like 100k hours to me, which seems to be 12-13%. That’s a huge drop, which becomes accelerating quickly as facilities start to disappear.

EIWT Weston

I agree with Achimha – estimated figures have very little value.

Furthermore, I think the data does not provide useful information unless there is greater separation of types by weight.

A band from 0 – 5700kg encompasses a very wide variety of flying, from SSDR to commercial operations flying King Airs. Assuming real data could be made available, it would be nice to see figures for different weight classes, for example: 0-299kg, 300-499kg, 500-999kg, 1000-1999kg, 2000-2999kg, 3000-5000kg.

At the airfield I fly from, there is quite a lot of commercial GA activity but my perception is that there are fewer new pilots going through the training school and even fewer that stick around.

It would be very interesting to know if there is growth in commercial GA, whilst at the same time the traditional GA light single is in rapid decline – or not, as the case may be.

EGTT, The London FIR
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