It’s that time of year again. As 2014 draws to a close, it’s time we take a look back at the year that was and identify trends we’ve seen developing in general aviation. So, for the fifth time, here we go.
ADS-B Out reaches a tipping point? It’s a much-maligned rule, but thousands of pilots are finally starting to understand what ADS-B is all about. Many are flying with portable ADS-B In recevivers and now understand how much better the traffic picture can be when they install ADS-B Out in the panel. There are as many options as ever, from new Garmin units to “coming soon” products for Appareo and L3, so it’s a great time to start researching. Sporty’s on-site avionics shop, Cincinnati Avionics, has been busy this year installing these systems.
In-flight connectivity is hot. Onboard WiFi is the must-have accessory among the turbine airplane crowd, as passengers demand to stay connected to emails and the web. That’s not practical (or affordable) for piston pilots right now, but emerging technology like Iridium’s portable Go device offers at least a taste.
A new ATP certification rule. This has changed the training process dramatically for pilots working towards an airline career. It’s confusing, complicated and expensive, but the fact is everyone will have to do it who wants a multi-engine ATP. Sporty’s is trying to help, offering a one-week course that’s open to anyone (not just university students), priced affordably and taught by experienced airline instructors.
Pilots focus on proficiency. With avgas prices stubbornly high, pilots are looking for new ways to stay current while logging fewer hours in the left seat. There are more – and better – ways than ever to do this, and Sporty’s participated by introducing five new online courses, covering topics from airspace to communications.
Video cameras move from specs to applications. Whether it’s the latest GoPro or Garmin’s impressive VIRB, portable HD video cameras are hot. But as this market matures, pilots are moving beyond the latest technical specifications and starting to ask, “What do I do with this camera?” Sporty’s launched its MySolo product this year to help, where Sporty’s video pros edit your first solo footage into an exciting video. This program has been used to great effect in Sporty’s own flight school, and is also part of Flying magazine’s “Flying is…” video contest.
Portable and panel avionics connect. It’s been talked about for years, but reality finally caught up with hype in 2014 – portable gadgets like iPads are talking to panel-mount equipment. Aspen is shipping its Connected Panel system, Garmin announced its FlightStream products, and Appareo introduced an ADS-B Out transponder that connects to the Stratus portable ADS-B In receiver. Look for even more to come in this emerging market.
The $1,000 headset competition is stiffer than ever. Just when you thought it couldn’t get any more crowded at the top of the aviation headset market, it did. Lightspeed started shipping its top-of-the line Zulu PFX to rave reviews in 2014, and aviation newcomer AKG entered the market with their high tech AV100. Headset companies haven’t lost their minds; pilots are snapping up these headsets.
Portable pulse oximeters become “must have”. With multiple high profile hypoxia accidents in 2014, many pilots recommitted to carrying a portable pulse oximeter to warn of dangerous conditions. With prices under $100, there’s no excuse not to carry one.
Flying clubs gain momentum. After years of talking about flying clubs, 2014 showed real progress with dozens of new clubs starting up and enhanced resources from AOPA being released. In addition to Sporty’s popular flying club rebate program, Sporty’s started its own flying club at I69 with a Cessna 172 and 182.
Portable ADS-B receivers move up-market. No trend report would be complete without mention of the hottest pilot accessory in recent years: the portable ADS-B receiver for tablet apps. These continue to top many general aviation pilots’ wish lists, but even airline and military pilots adopted them in 2014. More and more professional pilots are appreciating the value of going paperless, and seeing the iPad as more than just a chart viewer. What was once a nice-to-have gadget has become an essential part of risk management.
Here’s a final trend: Sporty’s has stayed true to its foundation. We are still focused on general aviation and we still offer flight training. We’ve also remained a family company. I’m proud that 45 of our employees have been with us for over 20 years. Personally, I’ve been at Sporty’s for over 40 years–and I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.
All of us send our very best wishes for a happy, healthy and prosperous new year. We value our relationships with the aviation media so you know the welcome mat is always out for you. Don’t be a stranger – stop by for a visit.
Here’s to a fantastic 2015!
Michael Wolf and the Sporty’s team