General Aviation is the portion of civil aviation which encompasses all facets of aviation except for commercial air carriers that hold a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity from the Civil Aeronautics Board or the United States Military. General Aviation is commonly misunderstood as only light, small engine private aircraft, however, even a large jet or cargo aircraft that is operated under Federal Aviation Regulations can be considered a General Aviation aircraft.
General Aviation includes ninety-two percent of all U.S. aircraft and accounts for more than sixty-five percent of the flight hours flown within the United States. There are more than 5,000 local and community airports around the U.S., and all are exclusively built to service General Aviation aircraft. According to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), General Aviation also accounts for one percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product, making up over 1.3 million jobs ranging from construction and manufacturing, airport personnel, pilots, and air crew.
The government regulatory commission for General Aviation in the United States is run by the Federal Aviation Administration, or the FAA. International regulatory commissions all abide by the rules of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), which has uniform and universal codes and standards. This aids pilots flying internationally to avoid confusion in procedure, and thus avoiding major accidents because of the rigorous universal standards.
Civil Aviation covers a broad range of aviation activities, from light sport aircraft, multi-engine passenger planes, sail planes, bush planes, firefighting aircraft, ambulance and Medivac aircraft, police aviation, air charter, and gliding, among many others. General Aviation is not just limited to airplanes, either. It encompasses helicopters, gliders, and even powered parachutes as well.
While the United States accounts for most of the privately owned aircraft in the world, other countries are following suit. The field of General Aviation is constantly growing as the world reaches out towards easier and more convenient modes of transportation and travel.