Business aviation activity has “soared to new highs” with the Part 135 community leading the gains, with the operating segment up 4.5 percent year-over-year in the first six months, according to business aviation safety and research specialist Argus. In its 2018 Mid-Year Business Aviation Review covering flights to/from the U.S., Canada, and the Caribbean, Argus reported that flight activity has increased in five out of the first six months of the year and has climbed 2.3 percent from the same period in 2017. Flight hours have increased 2.6 percent in the period.
Part 135 activity posted its first year-over-year decline in 25 months in June, but showed increases in every other month. February was a high-water mark, jumping 8.8 percent. However, Argus noted, the rate of growth is slowing more recently.
Along with the gains in charter, Part 91 operations rose in four of the first six months, with April the strongest month with a 4 percent year-over-year increase. While also showing some improvement in four months in the first half, total operations have been fairly flat in the fractional market.
By aircraft category, large-cabin aircraft logged the biggest increase in operations, up 3.8 percent in the period, followed by mid-cabins at 2.9 percent. Turboprops marked a 1.9 percent ascent, while small-cabin jets marked a 1.5 percent improvement.
Gama Aviation, with a fleet size of 117, has led flight hours tracked by Argus, reaching 72,885 in the first half of the year. This is up from the 61,651 hours Argus tracked in the same period in 2017, when its fleet stood at 99 aircraft. Executive Jet Management, with a fleet of 136 aircraft, followed in flight hours. Other most-active charter operators, from a flight-hours standpoint, included XOJet, Delta Private Jets, and Jet Linx.
Florida, California, and Texas have led the nation in business aviation departures in the first six months, while Delaware, Rhode Island, and Vermont logged the fewest. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday remain the busiest days for travel, each averaging more than 9,000 flights per day. Thursday gets top honors at 10,000 flights per day on average.
Argus forecasts that flight activity will continue its upward trend, increasing in total by 0.8 percent in the third quarter versus the same period last year. July activity was up 0.9 percent year-over-year, and August was tracking at a similar rate. September will be up by almost as much, at 0.8 percent, Argus said.
The company anticipates a 2.3 percent year-over-year increase in October, expecting flights to hit the 280,000 mark for the first time since March 2008.