Janice Wood General Aviation News
The impact — and importance — of general aviation
July 12, 2023
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  • A new economic impact study finds general aviation supports 1.2 million jobs and has a $247 billion economic impact every year.

    The report was released by the National Association of State Aviation Officials (NASAO), the Alliance for Aviation Across America (AAAA), and the American Association of State and Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) just as elected officials are considering FAA reauthorization.

    “As we look at the upcoming debates about FAA reauthorization, it’s critical now more than ever that we highlight the importance of general aviation,” said Selena Shilad, executive director of the Alliance for Aviation Across America.

    “Private and general aviation often gets a bit of a bad rap,” she continued. “We wanted to highlight the importance of local airports as a lifeline for communities and as an economic driver.”

    Using information from the FAA, PricewaterhouseCoopers, airport directors, and each state’s transportation and aviation department, the report provides a comprehensive survey of data on the economic impact of general aviation aircraft and airports in each state, including the number of jobs, airports, pilots, aircraft, and other indicators of local activity.

    By The Numbers

    The new report notes that there are more than 4,800 public-use airports around the nation that can be directly accessed by general aviation.

    “This makes general aviation uniquely situated to serve the public’s transportation needs,” the executive summary reads. “These airports and general aviation are often the only option for fast, reliable, flexible air transportation to communities in every corner of the country, supporting jobs, serving as a lifeline for small to mid-sized businesses, and providing critical services to remote cities and towns in time of natural disaster or crisis.”

    There are 3,383 FBOs, more than 2,200 charter companies, 4,144 repair stations, and 643 flight training operations.

    According to the FAA, the United States has more than 680,000 pilots, “the vast majority of whom fly general aviation aircraft.”

    Keeping those aircraft in the air are 125,440 airframe and power plant mechanics.

    According to a 2017 study by NEXA Advisors, a single business aircraft supports approximately $2.5 million in incremental economic benefit.

    “Companies that utilize business aviation bring tremendous economic value to general aviation airports and the surrounding communities — on average $75 for each dollar invested,” the report notes.

    And the same study found that S&P 500 companies that use business aviation outperform those that do not by 70% and business aircraft users out-perform non-users by 23% in revenue growth.

    “Business aviation has been shown to allow employees to be more productive, and it allows companies of all sizes to reach locations more efficiently and quickly, transport goods and personnel, and many other uses,” the report continues.

    But it’s not all about business. General aviation is known for pitching in during a crisis.

    According to the Air Care Alliance, 12,548 volunteer pilots flew 33,427 humanitarian missions in 2022 alone. Those pilots served 4,139 passengers, rescued 15,686 animals, and provided more than $26 million in in-kind donations.

    According to the U.S. Department of Justice, roughly one in every five large law enforcement agencies has an aviation unit operating at least one fixed-wing plane or helicopter. Aerial law enforcement is used in 46 states.

    According to the National Agricultural Aviation Association, there are approximately 1,560 aerial application businesses that use general aviation to support farms and local communities.

    In addition, with 46.7 million Americans living more than an hour away from a Level 1 or 2 trauma center, air medical services and air ambulances are more critical than ever. Medevac fixed-wing aircraft transport 150,000 patients annually over long distances which are not within the range of helicopters. Medevac helicopters transport approximately 400,000 patients annually.

    The Medevac industry employs 4,400 pilots, 600 physicians, 5,500 nurses, and 5,300 paramedics/EMTs staffing both fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters.

    What’s The Impact in Your State?

    The report also breaks down the economic impact in each state, while an interactive map on the Alliance for Aviation Across America’s website allows you to find the economic impact in your area all the way down to within 100 miles of your zip code.

    You can then print that out and show it to local elected officials, as well as elected officials who are deciding the future of aviation.

    “Many people are not aware of the impact of general aviation as a lifeline and an economic driver in communities,” Shilad said.

    On each state page of the report, there also are quotes from local officials, as well as facts about general aviation, from where sustainable fuel is available to snapshots of aviation associations and local companies.

    “It’s important to put a human face on general aviation,” she said. “That goes hand in hand with the economic impact.”

    Find out more at AviationAcrossAmerica.org