Check Your Six: 2004 In Review…

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For business aviation, 2004 likely will be known as a year in which the industry withstood a number of challenges – internal and external – to emerge in at least as good a condition as when the year started. At the same time, other segments of the aviation industry did not fare as well; whether those failings will affect business aviation – and if so, how – probably will not be known in 2005. Yet, numerous signs indicate that the continuing decline in airline service is driving more companies and professionals to at least consider some form of business aviation, from setting up a formal flight department, to fractional ownership, and to charter. While it’s good for business aviation to have these kinds of problems, the industry has not weathered them without change and, in some cases, upheaval.

Still, just about every forecast of business aviation’s future includes a healthy and prosperous outlook. Formal studies by several groups – some of them without an axe to grind – all projected long-term growth. Reasons for the rosy projections include an aging in-service fleet and high utilization rates among corporate flight departments and fractional operators. Also driving anticipated growth is the coming market entry of light-light, or micro, jets like the Cessna Mustang, the Eclipse 500 and the Adam Aircraft A700. The real questions about the industry’s future center around who will be standing in, say, 10 years when the low-hanging fruit of the market for new aircraft has been picked. For that, we’ll all have to stay tuned.