Sporty’s Pilot Shop closed out 2016 with a look at several encouraging developments that could help shape the face of general aviation in the coming months. According to the aviation retail and flight training company’s annual trend report, prospective pilots were interested in flight training, aircraft owners were excited about installing lower cost non-certified avionics into certificated aircraft, and the rapidly evolving drone market continued to add remote pilots to the aviation roster.
In flight training, Sporty’s Academy in Batavia, Ohio, had “a record year,” the report said, with students enticed by airlines paying higher salaries to career pilots entering the workforce. The company’s training facility trained a combination of career-oriented professional pilots and more traditional "community learners."
The trend report highlighted the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles youth aviation program, which received national recognition when pilot and actor Harrison Ford flew the 2 millionth Young Eagle during EAA AirVenture 2016. Jodie Gawthrop, 16, was the center of attention after climbing aboard Ford’s yellow-and-green de Havilland Beaver to celebrate the milestone. The aviation retailer wrote that EAA also signed “a memorandum of support with Aviation Exploring,” an organization Sporty’s “has been working with for decades.”
Aviation programs in high schools began to take off, too. Nearly 200 educators, aviation pioneers, and business leaders convened in Seattle during the second annual AOPA High School Aviation STEM Symposium. Attendees discussed ways to use aviation in classrooms to integrate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics into a fun learning experience that also could help build the pilot population.
The report said aircraft owners welcomed new regulations from the FAA after the agency acted on recommendations from AOPA, EAA, and others to allow lower cost non-certified avionics into Part 23 certificated aircraft to increase flight safety. The FAA’s Non-Required Safety Enhancing Equipment (NORSEE) policy made it easier to install non-required safety equipment. The move allowed replacement attitude indicators and autopilots using modern technology “to be installed for far less than before,” the trend report said, citing Garmin’s “innovative” G5 flight instrument as a prominent example.
Sporty's partner Cincinnati Avionics and other avionics shops geared up for the Jan. 1, 2020, Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) equipage deadline, now just three years away. “It seems like pilots are finally getting serious about equipping,” the report said, as the devices became more affordable, powered in part by the FAA’s $500 rebate program to accelerate installations. “There’s a long way to go, but the pace is quickening, and our shop’s schedule is already filling up for 2017,” the report said. "We've got a hangar full of airplanes and several stuffed in T-hangars around the corner waiting to get in," confirmed Eastern Cincinnati Aviation's Chuck Gallagher, the avionics firm's president and CEO.
Regarding the rapidly expanding drone market, many Sporty’s employees were among the first to earn their remote pilot certificates, the company wrote. “It’s still uncertain how big this market will be and how it will impact GA, but what is clear is that drones are here to stay.” AOPA previously reported that “more than 3,300 people signed up to take the FAA knowledge test for remote pilots on the first day they could.”
Looking to the future, the trend report acknowledged that iPads are “still the most important avionics system for most pilots.” The portable glass cockpit revolution continued with notepad accessories including SiriusXM’s Aviation Receiver for ForeFlight, clever mounting systems, and more.
Connected avionics continued to improve the portable notepad experience for pilots on the go, the report concluded: “Always mobile, pilots are keeping themselves informed more than ever on iPhones and iPads.” Podcasts, flying tips, and applications including Sporty’s own Takeoff app offered “quick bites of training” to pilots and students so they “never have to miss a chance to learn,” the report said.