The air transportation system includes passenger and cargo airlines; general aviation including business aviation; and the national airspace system including the airports, ATM facilities, and operational elements of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The FAA defines general aviation as encompassing all facets of civilian aviation except commercial air carriers. That is to say general aviation includes almost of aviation except the military and the airlines. Planes are used in general aviation for variety of purposed, some of which are clearly commercial, even through they do not involve carrying passengers (Hansen & Oster 27).
In the United States general aviation is responsible for the largest number of aircrafts that land and take off at the airports. According to statistics released by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 2004, general aviation accounted for as much as 75% percentage of all the aircrafts that land and took off. The figure has remained between 71 and 75 percent for the last few decades which outlines the importance of the industry throughout the United States commercial flight history. The same statistics also mentioned that the aircrafts under this group comprised of aircrafts that had a wide range of flight operations at a staggering 19,000 number of genera aviation airports throughout the United States. The report further cited the general aviation statistics released by National Air Transportation Association, according to which the industry was responsible for contributing as much as $ 100 billion to the US economy every years and was further responsible for as many as 1.3 million jobs nationwide (Government Accountability Office 1). That is to say 96-97% of the US civilian aircraft fleet is general aviation the remaining being purely commercial. Also the 75% statistics means that general aviation is responsible for every three out of four takeoffs as well as landings each day (General Accounting Office 64).
With such massive figures, it comes as no surprise that general aviation is responsible for major contributions in economic and social aspects of United States. This paper presents the various benefits of the general aviation industry.
General Aviation Industry & uses of General Aviation Aircraft
General aviation is a large and diversified industry and includes activities from a one-person shop to thousands of workers in airport hangars. The public is only familiar with a few services within this category which includes firefighting, agricultural crop dusting and seeding, reforestation, insect control, aerial observation, business transportation (not for compensation), instructional flying, personal flying, glider towing, and parachuting. Some other functions of general aviation include law enforcement, power line inspection and repair, rescue operations, emergency services, pipeline patrol, medical supplies transporting, wildlife and land surveys, traffic reporting (Hansen & Oster 27). Business travel is the greatest use for which general aviation is employed accounting for as many as 80 percent of the aircraft’s flight hours. However, these airplanes are not for paying passengers. General aviation uses several types of aircrafts ranging from corporate multi-engine jets to amateur-built single-engine piston planes, balloons, dirigibles, gliders and helicopters. A general aviation aircraft can be wholly or jointly owned or it can be rented, leased or even chartered. Also the pilot of any general aviation aircraft can hold a student, private, commercial or air transport pilot certificate according to the requirement (Sickle et al. 18). The purpose for which an aircraft is flown is one way of classifying both the aircraft and its use. The use of an aircraft for a specific purpose is decided by FAA, which assigns an aircraft for a single usage category based on the majority usage as reported by the operators. Needless to say this means that the FAA published aircraft usage categories are merely guidelines (Radnoti 7-8).
General Aviation’s Economic Contributions
Because of its efficiency and productivity general aviation has become an important business tool. It is truly an integral part of the national transportation system and the US economy. The aviation industry economic impacts were those financial transactions that could be traced to aviation and that were of value to the nation’s economy and its citizens. The total economic contribution of general aviation services consists of both the economic impacts and the transportation benefits of general aviation activities. Economic impacts refer to the economic contribution of the general aviation industry. Transportation benefits, on the other hand, accrue primarily to the users of general aviation services (General Accounting Office 64).
Some basic economic advantages of generation aviation are as below:
Ø General aviation creates immense wealth
Ø General aviation generates large employment opportunities, both direct and indirect
Ø General aviation generates substantial taxes
The economy of a country as big as the United States is extremely complex where many industries depend on each other for raw materials, supply chain functions and at times services. Therefore it is difficult to accurately measure the economic impacts as whole and most of the means for measurement turn out to be either tenuous or impractical. Nevertheless these contributions are immense considering the figures mentioned earlier and their impacts in certain rural areas are even critical tot eh surrounding communities. Economic impacts or benefits are measured by considering the contributions of the general aviation industry to the economy. Hence, these economic benefits have been divided into three categories as given below:
1. Direct impacts – These impacts were those financial transactions that were linked to the provision of air passenger and air cargo services and the provision of the aircraft
2. Indirect Impacts – These impacts were those financial transactions that were linked to the use of aviation.
3. Induced impacts – These were the multiplier implications that were associated with direct and indirect impacts.
The figure below shows components of the total economic impact
Fig 1 Components of Total Economic Impact due to General Aviation (ATAG 12)
General Aviation’s Direct Contribution
Direct contributions/impacts/benefits of general aviation typically occur at the airports and aircraft manufacturing firms. These include expenditures by airlines, airport tenants, air cargo firms, Fixed-Base Operators (FBOs), ground transport firms, flight schools, airport concessions, aircraft manufacturers and others. The aircraft operation and maintenance are also included in these benefits and cover areas such as aircraft sales, training of pilots, purchases of fuels, charges levied at the airports such as landing and parking and selling spare parts. Some other industries that directly get benefited directly from general aviation are the ones that are involved in upgrading the interiors of aircrafts. Especially in business environments, these services add a lot of value. Some other direct beneficiaries are the subscriptions to commercial weather services and navigational chart services (Allen, Blond & Gellman 14, 16-19).
Some of the benefits which the general aviation provides cannot be measured in terms of monetary value or savings. These include services such as value of catering, value of time savings and the periodicals as well as the information provided. The general aviation is also responsible to some extent in the expansion and improvements of general airports, though not all of these can be quantified. In addition, the aircraft sales itself can be divided into sales of new aircrafts and sales of old aircrafts. The sales of old aircrafts though have a set monetary value, yet the complete extent of savings cannot be quantified. Finally there are some other direct economic benefits of general aviation that are difficult to quantify, such as for-profit internet sites that are involved in gathering and selling information (Wensveen & Wells 24).
General Aviation’s Indirect Contribution
Indirect impacts of general aviation include expenditures by travelers who arrive by air, travel agents, business aviation, and others. Indirect impacts typically, but not always, occur at off-airport locations. Indirect impacts also include supplies that manufacturers use in order to provide services in the airplane. For instance manufacturers, interior decorators or spare parts service people might order raw materials such as fabrics, aluminum, plastic, glass etc, which come under the head of indirect impacts or advantages. This means that the direct contributors to the economic impacts of the general aviation in turn are the cause for indirect impacts. Insurers of general aviation aircrafts purchase re-insurance which also falls under the head of indirect impacts. In addition to this, some other quantifiable indirect benefits of the general aviation is towards the computer and software industry that are used in maintenance tracking; the production and transport industry that are involved with the fuel requirements of general aviation aircrafts, the arrays of radar that are used for weather services – in other worlds the industries that are affected by the purchases made by the direct contributors when they provide their services to the general aviation industry. Some other indirect benefits of the aviation industry that cannot be quantified are the hospice industry that cater to the corporate travelers, the meals purchased during flight or travel, the value of time that is saved by not using commercial airline that have many restrictions etc (Allen, Blond & Gellman 14, 20-21).
General Aviation’s Induced Contribution
Induced contributions to the US economic output came from the general aviation industry’s expenditure towards the wage-earners such as professional pilots who were employed directly or by the various companies. This contribution cannot be traced totally in terms of monetary benefits because it also includes several other benefits which leads to further employment when these wage earners spend their money which in turn means more money generation – hence these expenditures are said to be induced. At the last instance, the wage-earners become another set of paying consumers who help in building the economy by the several activities they involve in (Allen, Blond & Gellman 15, 22-23).
General Aviation’s Social Contributions
General aviation in addition to bringing a multitude of economic advantages has also brought about a number of other benefits too:
Ø The well-spread network has lead to closer ties between different countries and continents
Ø General aviation with its multitude of requirement has brought about a splurge of innovative research and development, not only in the aviation field but other indirect and induced service areas too
Ø One of the most popular uses of general aviation after the business arena is in the rescue operations which leads to a significant contribution to providing rapid relief at the time of natural disasters and other emergencies
Ø General aviation is a critical part of a community’s public health network in US and is used for regular and chiefly emergency transportation of persons, medical equipments supplies. Sometimes patients are also transferred between two hospitals for specialist care. General aviation is also used for transferring organs for transplant and also transporting heath care personnel to rural areas.
Ø General aviation provides recreational facilities for individuals with activities such as skydiving, flying for pleasure, local and tourist sight seeing and last but not the least flying in a home-built aircraft.
Ø General aviation is extremely helpful for local developers, planners and surveyors for the purposes of mapping and surveying.
Ø General aviation helps in avoiding congestion at the airports. This is because general aviation aircrafts are smaller and help in freeing operating slots at the nearby busy commercial service airports.
Ø General aviation helps to provide flight instructions to new pilots. Not only this helps in training new pilots but it also reduces the crowing of commercial airports.
(General Accounting Office 71-72)
General Aviation’s general benefits
In addition to the impacts mentioned above, general aviation has much more to contribute. As is mentioned earlier, general aviation comprises of about 97% of the commercial flights, more than 80% of which are for business purposes. United States also happens to be the world leader in business aviation. However, it was mentioned that these business flights coming under general aviation are not meant for paying customers. Nevertheless they are still responsible for a large number of benefits, many of which can be directly viewed as economic benefits. Both large and small companies use aircrafts as tools for their business operations. In fact many large American business houses have their own fleet of aircraft, most of which are turbine powered with their own team of flight crews, maintenance technicians and other aviation support personnel. Over two-thirds of the Fortune 500 companies operate business aircrafts, and virtually all these aircraft operators are members of the National Business Aircraft Association (NBAA), which is the principal representative of business aviation before congress and the regulatory agencies, such as the FAA (Wensveen & Wells 112). According to NBAA the benefits of business aviation falls into the following ten categories:
1. Time savings – Business aircraft help in saving time in two ways. First of all they reduce the travel time by reducing flight time as they use point-to-point service as well as have smaller airports near the required destinations. Secondly, the business aircrafts emulate the complete office environment, which in turn allows the flight time itself to become more productive.
2. Flexibility – Since commercial flights have their own rigid time tables & route schedules, business executives cannot always follow them. Business aircrafts gives them the flexibility to change course en route and chose flight times according to their schedules.
3. Reliability – Since most companies have control of their own fleet, they business aircrafts are able to maintain the highest standards.
4. Safety – Looking at the recent records, it also becomes clear that the safety records of business aircrafts have been outstanding which is comparable and many times better than the scheduled commercial airlines.
5. Improved marketing efficiency – Since the primary purpose business aircrafts is easing business operations, they are commonly used to expand the reach of the sales force by either sending sales personnel to far as well as remote areas or even bringing customers to the nearest point of sale.
6. Control of facilities – Many large corporations use the business aircrafts for routine monitoring of their facilities that are in remote areas. General aviation has also led to the decentralization of production and distribution which has made business operations more efficient.
7. Development of personnel and industry – In addition to sending executives for sales purposes or monitoring purposes, many companies also use aircrafts for accelerating training and orientation for their employees and also encouraging teamwork.
8. Comfort and privacy – Business conversations are almost sacred in their confidentiality. Business aircraft help companies to preserve privacy. In addition, business aircrafts are usually modified versions to accommodate special needs to virtually any executive or sometimes client.
9. Efficiency – Businesses thrive on efficiency and business aviations helps companies achieve this by minimizing two of their most important assets – people & time. This happens because the decisions can now be made and actions can be taken quickly on-the-spot. Also traveling time is reduced considerably which means a massive reduction in fatigue.
10. Security – Since companies control all aspects of their air travel including the safety of their employees on sensitive missions, the business aviation is usually considered to be an extremely secure mode of traveling.
General aviation is the largest segment of aviation based on the number of aircrafts, number of pilots, and number of airports and communities served. It is the dominant force in the sky with over 90 percent of the civil air fleet, 75 percent of civil operations at FAA-towered and un-towered airports and 80 percent of the total certificated pilots in the United States. Air mileage of the general aviation is roughly equal to commercial air carrier mileage and the number of people carried in general aviation is a thirds of that of US air carriers. The industry offers major economic and social benefits to the society as is already seen from the report above. In fact a community with no aviation gateway for economic development is obviously at a competitive disadvantage compared to the one that has one. Many studies on the impact of general aviation airports on communities conclude that a small town without an airport is in the same position as a community that was bypassed by a canal or railroad 100 years ago. Close proximity to an airport is always near the top of the list of prime factors that a business considers when planning a major move to an area.
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