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Long Term Impacts of COVID19 on GA

What do people think the long term impacts of Covid19 will be on GA?

I can see reasons for thinking that it might be positive and reasons why it might be negative.

On the positive side

  • many people might be put off by travelling on an airliner for some time. This might encourage those who can afford it and who are concerned about their health, look to GA as a safer way to travel.
  • airline travel might become more expensive due to social distancing requirements and fewer flights/route (due to fewer people travelling). These might make GA once again able to compete with airline travel, financially or time wise, or at least make the difference less significant (yet I know in certain circumstances GA can currently compete on time).

On the negative side

  • With the reduction in airline travel I can see a number of less profitable airports closing. Any airport that closes isn’t good for GA.
  • If the recession that follows isn’t a quick bounce back, then financial implications for individuals might drive people out of GA and force smaller airfields to close
  • If the recession that follows isn’t a quick bounce back, then less money circulating is always bad for a leisure activity.
  • Maybe the green parties seek to use this period to show that it’s possible to reduce the environmental effects of aviation by not travelling. The airlines will probably be able to adapt through fuel cell technology development, but GA will find it harder to finance the quick research and adoption of new tech.

Or maybe by next summer this will all be a distant memory with little to no effect?

My own gut feeling is that very few will turn to GA as an alternative to airline travel. It requires deep pockets to get an aircraft that can bring your family and their luggage on holidays with 95%+ reliability. (Who wants a disappointed spouse or kids because the weather here is bad on the day that you were supposed to be going to somewhere sunny for holiday). But deep pockets aren’t enough as you also need enough free time and dedication to develop the skills to fly such an aircraft IFR, safely.

In trying to think about the long term impacts, I’m reminded of the axim that that people tend to over estimate the short term impacts of a major event and underestimate the long term impacts.

What does everyone else think?

EIWT Weston, Ireland

My family does no longer want to travel by airline or train. So now they accept more turbulence in GA flight than before… But I think long term effects will be small. It took me 10 years to get the qualification and airplane to travel more or less like the airlines (except fog).

dublinpilot wrote:

I can see reasons for thinking that it might be positive and reasons why it might be negative.

On the negative side

Another negative thing for GA is if the reduction in airline travel means less interest among young people in becoming pilots. At least in my part of the world, many people train at non-profit clubs because it is cheaper ( ✝ ). Reduced training means fewer flight hours which means higher rates due fixed costs.

( ✝ arguably, you will also get better training as you will be more involved in decision-making compared to the MPL route.)

ESKC (Uppsala/Sundbro), Sweden

The initial post already summed up a lot of my thoughts on this topic.

I think the public acceptance of GA is already quite low and possibly will continue to fall, despite the positive benefits GA brings regarding risk of infection.

Many people are very risk averse and suspicious of any aircraft with propellers (even if it is a proven regional turboprop type). GA airplanes in light GA are also, for the most part, terribly outdated regarding ergonomics and comfort. A 1 million € new SR22 is hardly able to compete with a 30k€ VW Golf for legroom, ergonomics and carrying capacity. In Germany, it might even lose if you compare door-to-door travel times.

It would need an aircraft unlike any currently on the market to attract a wider customer base to GA in the aftermath of Covid-19. Moreover, it would have to be very competitive on price, given the probably reduced economic activity following the virus.

Novice pilot
EDVM Hildesheim, Germany

In the UK the economic effects still to show may make GA unaffordable for many for a few years.
Aircraft cost money to store. Some may be abandoned.
It’s rumoured that NATS is looking to cut staff. That would not be an easily reversed process.

EGPE, United Kingdom

Fewer airlines means more GA. GA in some form or the other. However, thinking of GA as a substitute for airline travel is missing the point. Pilots need to fly, and they don’t care where or for what “purpose”


There is more to GA than four-place SEPs. I venture to say that GA in general will benefit from Covid-19. Not the low end where most of us here operate, but the medium to high end. There were already some small startup airlines here in CA before the pandemic whose USP was the avoidance of crowds. Small(ish) planes like PC12s or Embraer jets, connecting small airports. Not all of them did well and one (Jetsuite) unfortunately closed in April, but I’m sure their biz model will now get a massive boost. If you have the choice to fly between LA and the Bay Area what do you prefer: the zoo that’s LAX or walking right through a little terminal to a PC-12 at Hawthorne (about 3 miles from LAX) and landing at San Carlos, right in the heart of Silicon Valley rather than San Jose (another zoo)? Pretty damn obvious. Not sure how that maps onto Europe with shorter distances and fewer airports, but I’m pretty sure you’ll see an uptick there as well.

I agree, in the same way that Biz-GA had an increase in activity after 911 when all sorts of security rules were introduced to major airports which now treat everyone as a criminal, those that can afford it will now look at how they can travel privately and not have to do the whole “mask-up” thing for hours on end.
Unfortunately in the same way, I dont think that this will be a good thing for our lighter end of GA.

Long term (i.e. three months hence) the impact of the CCPvirus (edit: or rather, of the consequent government panic “lockdowns”) on light GA will be negligible – a distant memory.

In the short term, recreational pilots will fly more, because it’s one of the few things that they can spend their money on.

We are already seeing this effect in other parts of the “boys’ toys” sector across much of Europe. Chaps can’t spend money in the pub, or taking their wives and girlfriends out for a meal, or for family holidays. So they are out fishing and shooting, and the country sports shops have been hit by a tidal wave of customers.

Last Edited by Jacko at 08 Jun 19:58
Glenswinton, SW Scotland, United Kingdom

Jacko wrote:

In the short term, recreational pilots will fly more, because it’s one of the few things that they can spend their money on.

Surprisingly, yes. Flying has gone up in my club. I hear from the Royal Swedish Aeroclub that many clubs have had the same experience.

ESKC (Uppsala/Sundbro), Sweden
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