As we near the end of a year which, quite frankly, can’t over soon enough for me, it’s a good time to look back over our shoulder at what’s behind us—and what might be gaining—even as we try to focus on what’s ahead.
In many quarters, 2022 was a good year. New and used aircraft demand is way up and it’s a good time to have a share of just about any general aviation market segment. Perhaps the biggest news for piston GA is FAA approval by supplemental type certificate of an unleaded aviation gasoline, the G100UL offering from General Aviation Modifications, Inc. (GAMI). The well-earned approval was a long time coming, in part due to the FAA’s internal and inertial hurdles.
If major air shows are any indication—and they are—crowded, successful events like Sun ‘n Fun in Lakeland, Fla., and those run by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) in Oshkosh, Wis., and by the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) last September in Orlando, Fla., bode well for the industry’s short-term future. There’s little doubt the successful events in 2022 owe something to the Covid-19 pandemic and the desire to get out of the house more often this year.
More good news came in October as the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) and its Air Safety Institute (ASI) released the 32nd Joseph T. Nall Report, which organizes and analyzes NTSB general aviation accident data. According to AOPA/ASI, the newest report “notes a decrease in total accidents from 1,167 in 2019 to 1,051 in 2020.” Non-commercial fixed-wing accident rates “decreased slightly with the fatal accident rate declining to 0.92 and the total accident rate decreasing to 5.27,” AOPA/ASI said.
Want some more good news? Weather-related accidents “sharply decreased in 2020, and maneuvering accidents—another area with high lethality—saw a substantial decrease in fatal accidents reaching a 10-year low,” among non-commercial fixed-wing aircraft, according to the Report. To us, even better news is the downward trends—however slight—in both raw numbers of accidents but also in the accident rates, which account for activity levels. This includes pilot- and fuel-related accident trends.
To what might we attribute these successes? I’m open to dissenting views, but I’m reasonably convinced ADS-B has a lot to do with the sharp reduction in weather-related accidents, either directly, via ADS-B In’s Flight Information Service (FIS) or indirectly, by providing the underpinnings for high-end electronic flight bag apps running on in-cockpit devices like ForeFlight and Garmin Pilot. There’s no question those and other tools have improved our situational awareness.
As Yogi Berra famously said, “It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future,” so I won’t engage in speculation about 2023. I’ll just hope that some things continue and others go away.
— Jeb Burnside