... And Reviewing The Immediate Past

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The FAA's numbers show a few bright spots despite the inescapable fact that times have been tough. Fractional-ownership programs are spurring turboprop and jet sales, new avionics are making it easier and safer to fly and "learn-to-fly" promotions are helping to bring new pilots into the fold, the FAA said. Helicopter pilots grew by almost 2 percent in 2003 over 2002. The fastest-growing aircraft types were experimental, with a 7.4-percent growth spurt, and turbine aircraft, which grew by 5.7 percent. The 10 fastest-growing general aviation airports, as ranked by the percentage increase over fiscal year 2002, grew from a combined total of 211,941 GA operations in 2002 to 374,238 in 2003, an increase of 76.6 percent. The three airports with the largest percentage increase in 2003 were Victorville in California, Jacksonville/Cecil Field in Florida, and Stillwater Municipal in Oklahoma, each of which more than doubled its activity. Oceanic departures and overflights were up 10.9 and 5.7 percent, respectively, in 2003, which the FAA says suggests that international business travelers are increasingly turning from commercial aircraft to business/corporate jets for security reasons. "Promise for the future is evidenced by ... the development, production and introduction of new GA products and services," the FAA said.