What will 2022 bring for pilots? Hopefully tailwinds and smooth rides, but as we turn the page on another busy year at Sporty’s, we thought it was the perfect time to look back at 2021 and offer some thoughts on the general aviation market, at least as we see it from Batavia, Ohio. Here goes:
Flight training is strong
Airlines are hiring again, airline pilot salaries are going up, and more people are pursuing their dream of being a pilot. Sporty’s Academy, our on-site flight school, is concluding a record year. Many of the students are career-oriented pilots, some of whom are even looking for a mid-life change in career. Sporty’s Academy has expanded this year with more aircraft and more instructors to keep up with demand.
Home study courses hit the big screen
Today’s online courses and apps offer more features and more interactivity than ever. In 2021, Sporty’s moved beyond just online and smartphone versions, introducing apps for watching your course on Apple TV, Roku, FireTV, AndroidTV, and Chromecast. Our 2022 Learn to Fly course just launched and integrates a new CFI portal to keep instructors informed of all their students' progress. Using a course like this is a great way to save time and money while achieving your aviation goals with less stress.
AirVenture Oshkosh was bigger than ever
After a one year hiatus due to Covid-19, the yearly pilgrimage many pilots make to Oshkosh, Wisconsin, for EAA AirVenture was well attended. Aircraft parking was overflowing, there were campers as far as the eye could see, and plenty of drive-in traffic made for a great show. Many pilots still have cabin fever and we expect fly-ins to have plenty of traffic in 2022. We hope to see you in Oshkosh in July.
Home flight sims are hot
The introduction of Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 has reignited the flight sim market. In addition to the software, hardware sales are up with plenty of new options from companies like Honeycomb and Turtle Beach. Lots of pilots, both students and professionals, are taking off in the comfort of their homes. We expect this sector to continue to grow throughout 2022 as pilots start using Xbox in addition to home computers for simming.
Air taxis and VTOL
The buzz is in the air, and it’s not mosquitoes. Lots of media outlets are covering the new craze in VTOL aircraft, which promise a revolution in regional air transportation. This reminds us a little bit of the very light jet period in the 2000s, when billions of dollars were thrown at some questionable new ideas. This time, there is more money and larger players so it just might work—at least at some scale. Nobody is certain how it will shake out in the end, but Sporty’s will be ready to support flying in all its unique forms, whether you’re in a J-3 Cub or a Joby.
Along with the VTOL craze, electric aircraft are starting to show up on the radar. A 100LL replacement was announced this year, but it hasn’t received as much fanfare as we expected; instead, most of the talk is about electric aircraft. Diamond even announced that they are developing an all electric version of their popular DA40. We haven’t had an electric aircraft land here at Sporty’s just yet, but we wouldn’t be surprised if it happened in 2022.
ADS-B is everywhere
The adoption of ADS-B Out for aircraft, now two years in the rearview mirror, has been largely successful. As a result, ADS-B In for traffic avoidance is very accurate in the lower 48 states. Having onboard collision avoidance once cost over $20,000, but ADS-B has brought a new era of situational awareness to the cockpit. Mass market, portable ADS-B In devices like the Sentry are available for under $500, giving pilots all the in-flight information they need for safer operations.
Pilots rediscover adventure flying
When Covid-19 shut down international travel and cruises, many pilots found new value in general aviation airplanes. We’ve seen plenty of these flying adventures passing through Sporty’s, from family trips to the beach in a Cessna to backcountry flying excursions in taildraggers. To support the fun side of aviation, Sporty’s launched new courses last year on aerobatics and tailwheel flying. Here’s hoping 2022 brings you plenty of fun flying too.
So that was the year that was and some trends we’re thinking about as we enter our 62nd year in business. We continue to live in interesting, challenging times where changes come at a rapid pace. What hasn’t changed is pilots’ passion for what they do and our commitment to serving them. As always, our new product development team is hard at work, so stay tuned for some exciting new products in the year ahead.
From all of us at Sporty’s, we send our very best wishes for a happy and healthy 2022. Don’t forget to come see us in the New Year. You are always welcome.