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Where does the general aviation industry go from here? Well, this looks to be a year of transition, from the old economy that we knew prior to 2008 to the new economy that should start to really see growth in 2012. Growth will come with a different look than it has in the past, driven by technology innovation in the market and increased globalization. The United States will no longer be alone in the drivers seat. Traditional market general aviation growth will happen in China, India and other developing economies.
Growth here in the U.S. has to come from market innovation. We need to do more than get used to it. We need to adapt and embrace it, and determine where the opportunities are for those of us in general aviation in the U.S. and in Europe.
Our company finished 2010 with a strong run to the end of December, and the first few months of 2011 look strong in aircraft charter and FBO fuel sales. Is this a sustainable trend? I hope so. My major concern is the volatility of fuel prices. We don’t know if the economy, let alone the aviation industry, can stand oil prices 30% to 50% higher than they are today.
Setting concerns aside, when I look out to 2011 and beyond, I see opportunities for general aviation to capture the traveler in a new way. The number one reason more people don’t fly general aviation aircraft is price. I have written a lot about this over the past 18 months. I’ve thought about this problem (opportunity) for many years prior, as I talk with people who use or want to use our service almost every day for the past 28 years. There are some ideas worth considering in a good book I’m reading right now called “What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption” by Rachel Botsman and Roo Rogers.
Wikipedia says the following about this term I had not heard of until recently:
The term collaborative consumption is used to describe the cultural and economic force away from ‘hyper-consumption’ to re-invented economic models of sharing, swapping, bartering, trading or renting that have been enabled by advances in social media and peer-to-peer online platforms
The authors propose that in order for “Collaborative Consumption” to work, four underlying principles must be present:
* Critical Mass
* Idling Capacity
* Belief in the Commons
* Trust Between Strangers
Conditions one and two definitely exist in General Aviation and the subset of Business Aviation. We sit on a fleet of underutilized aircraft (idling capacity) , many parked and not flying at all, and even the active aircraft are not used anywhere near optimum levels. Critical mass is present but not properly managed and accounted for. In the U.S. there are 17,000 aircraft available for hire in charter service. Many more aircraft could be available if demand was sufficient to put them to work. Where are they and how do they work together as a synergistic fleet to serve the market? Today the fleet doesn’t work in a synergistic way.