The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is requesting that editors and reporters make clear that most general aviation ("private") flights are not currently permitted in the United States (except for Alaska). Media reporting suggesting that most general aviation flight has been restored has confused some pilots. Only IFR (instrument flight rules) general aviation flights are permitted. VFR (visual flight rules) flight is not permitted. The vast majority (90 percent) of all general aviation flight is conducted under visual flight rules.
(Because general aviation is the most significant transportation mode in Alaska, VFR and IFR operations are permitted there.)
It is very important to make the distinction that only IFR flight is permitted. Some pilots who have misunderstood media reporting have taken off VFR and been intercepted by U.S. military fighter aircraft.
What is general aviation?
- General aviation is all flying except military and scheduled airline flights.
- There are 221,000 general aviation aircraft in the United States, approximately 92 percent of the total civilian aircraft fleet. Some 78 percent of all GA aircraft have fewer than six seats and weigh less than a compact automobile.
- General aviation generates some $65 billion a year in total national economic activity.
- General aviation aircraft are used for personal and business transportation, much like personal automobiles. More than 65 percent of all GA flights are conducted for business, commercial, and public-service purposes.
- Under normal circumstances, there are some 132,000 GA flights per day. General aviation accounts for 59 percent of civil aviation hours flown and 80 percent of all takeoffs and landings.
- General aviation connects the majority of communities with the nation's air transportation system. General aviation serves more than 5,300 public-use airports in communities large and small. Scheduled airlines go to some 660 U.S. airports. Some 75 percent of major airline flights operate out of just 46 big-city airports. Half of those flights move passengers between 29 hub airports.
- There are 645,000 active pilots in the United States. More than 535,000 pilots fly general aviation aircraft.
- The 375,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is the world's largest civil aviation organization. More than 58 percent of the nation's pilots are AOPA members.
Current information is available on the AOPA Web site.