Oct. 16, 2020

During the pandemic, flight schools are seeing a surge in people wanting to learn to fly, while health and safety concerns have spiked interest among first-time users of general aviation (GA). That new energy has made the industry resilient, even as it faces the real challenges of COVID-19, said GA leaders, including NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen, during an Oct. 15 webinar hosted by the National Aircraft Finance Association (NAFA).

Panelists noted the overall GA market improved significantly in the third quarter.

“The value proposition for business aviation is improving,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen on the webinar, “People are understanding the benefits of business aviation, and the ability to go to multiple places in a short amount of time.”

The webinar, “How the Priorities of the Aviation Industry Have Changed,” was moderated by Gil Wolin, publisher of Business Aviation Advisor Magazine and featured:

  • Ed Bolen, president and CEO, NBAA
  • Pete Bunce, president and CEO, General Aviation Manufacturers Association
  • Mark Baker, president, Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association
  • Tim Obitts, president and CEO, National Air Transportation Association
  • Jim Blessing, president, NAFA

However, several participants pointed to dramatically rising insurance costs as the number-one issue affecting GA. Rising premiums are driving up the cost of flying and hampering the ability of many people, especially older pilots, to purchase insurance.

The panel also discussed the impact of the CARES Act and the increase of sustainable fuels and other environmental issues, as well as technology advances.

The panelists agreed that the COVID-19 pandemic is boosting the perceived value of general and business aviation; especially when it comes to safety and security. “We’re seeing that of all the activity in general aviation, 90 percent is personal, and 10 percent is business,” said Obitts.

NBAA’s Bolen agreed, saying business aviation remains a bit challenged mainly because business activity overall is down significantly from where it was prior to the pandemic. However, he said that should change as economic activity picks up.

“I think the positive thing is that flight departments haven’t sold off their fleets or closed down” Bolen added. “They’re continuing to stay prepared and have been doing some intra-company flying.”