The active business jet fleet is expected to experience strong growth over the next two decades, the FAA says in a newly-released forecast.
At the same time, however, the piston-powered aircraft fleet is expected to decline slightly over the same period, the FAA projects.
Recovery in the business jet market has been slow, and 2014 marked the first year of shipment increases by U.S. manufacturers since 2008, it noted.
“The forecast calls for robust growth in the long-term outlook, driven by higher corporate profits and the growth of worldwide GDP, though at rates slightly lower than those predicted last year,” the FAA said. ”Continued concerns about safety, security and flight delays keep business aviation attractive relative to commercial air travel.”
A significant portion of piston aircraft flight hours are used for business purposes as well, it said.
“We predict business usage of general aviation aircraft will expand at a faster pace than that for personal and recreational use,” the FAA said in its forecast. “Increased demand for turboprop aircraft also contributes to increased turbine fleet and hours.”
The business jet fleet is projected to grow at an average rate of 2.8% a year from 2014 through 2035, growing to a total of 20,815 aircraft, the FAA’s forecast said.
Overall, the active general aviation fleet is expected to grow at an average annual rate of 0.4% over the 21-year forecast, from an estimated 198,860 aircraft in 2014 to 214,260 by 2035, it said.
The fixed wing turbine aircraft fleet is expected to grow 2.2% a year, while fixed-wing piston-powered aircraft are expected to decline 0.6% on average per year. The rotorcraft fleet, however, is expected to grow an average of 2.5% per year.
The number of general aviation hours flown are forecasted to grow at an average rate of 1.4% a year, from 23.1 million hr. in 2014 to 30.6 million hr. in 2035, the forecast said.
Fixed-wing aircraft hours flown are expected to grow 2.9% a year, while fixed-wing piston aircraft hours flown are projected to decline at a rate of 3% a year.
The FAA projects faster growth in hours will occur after 2023, with increases in the fixed wing turbine aircraft fleet and increasing utilization of single and multi-engine piston aircraft as the aging fleet starts to slow down, it said.
In the medium term, much of the increase in hours flown will reflect strong growth in the rotorcraft and turbine jet fleets.
In addition, declining fuel prices will slow down the decrease in piston flight hours over the short-to-medium term.