Sporty’s 2015 Aviation Trends

It’s that time of year again – yes, already! Time for Sporty’s Aviation Trends for 2015 when we look back and see how

Michael Wolf President and CEO

Michael Wolf
President and CEO

something that started as a “Hey, have you noticed that…?” sitting around the lunch table at work grows into a trend and guides our business decisions.

I have to say that these days it seems by running fast you practically stay in place. Technology is relentless and to serve our customers we have had to learn to move fast, act fast and adapt. In fact, what became clear in 2015 is that the very act of shopping has changed.

So here goes:

Mobile changes how we shop. Mobile phones are so hot. Sporty’s sales process has gone from Hal at a sales counter in an FBO to mail order to 800-lines to faxes to the Internet and now to mobile. People shop anytime they have a spare two minutes. It continues to evolve, but so does Sporty’s. We’re available more places than ever, doing business 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Having said that, our founding principles remain the same: making flying safer, easier and more fun. We stand firm for some old-fashioned techniques – our customer service staff are human beings who will never ask customers to punch 12-digit numbers into the phone. We’re here to be of service.

Training formats are evolving, too. Like shopping habits, training courses are scattered among different formats. DVDs still sell, but apps and online courses are growing, offering convenience that can’t be beat. And yes, the smartphone revolution is at work here too. We are committed to all of them: our goal is to enable pilots to train with Sporty’s anytime, anywhere. We introduced a number of upgrades and innovations to our online and app training products this year, and we’re just getting started – stay tuned for a number of exciting developments in this area during 2016.

Destination restaurants. Destination weddings. Now it’s Destination flight training. Destination flight training is increasingly popular. Once upon a time there was a flight school at every airport. That’s no longer true, so many pilots — especially those starved for time – are traveling to top quality schools (like Sporty’s Academy) for accelerated training. This immersion method can be efficient and fun too. We are committed to the southwest Ohio area, but this past year, we trained pilots from all over the world.

Bigger is better. Is it the year technology gets bigger or smaller? This year, technology got bigger:  bigger iPads (iPad Pro) and bigger phones (iPhone 6 Plus) were hot. We’re asking more from our mobile devices and engineers are giving it to us. Older eyes appreciate this in the cockpit.

The exception to “bigger” is smartwatches. Pilots love their watches, but this was one of the most hyped (some would say overhyped) trends of 2015. While smartwatches haven’t changed the world, they do seem to be catching on. A number of aviation app developers released Apple Watch apps this year, and Garmin’s second generation D2 Bravo was a big hit this Christmas.

Wireless headsets are here. Lightspeed surprised the industry in November with the launch of Tango, the first wireless aviation headset from a major brand. Pilots have been asking for this for years, but it’s a more difficult technological problem to solve than many pilots understand. It has been well-received; will we see more next year?

ADS-B Out gets real. This has been “coming soon” for a long time, but ADS-B Out has moved from a preview to a main attraction. Cincinnati Avionics, our on-site shop, has been busy with ADS-B upgrades this year as pilots finally commit to this new technology. Anyone upgrading a panel these days adds ADS-B Out to the project list, and we’re starting to see some older airplanes add ADS-B Out even without a full panel upgrade. New products from Appareo and L-3 point to continued growth in 2016. Prices seem to have hit bottom – will it be enough to meet the deadline?

The drones are coming… No, the drones are here! Competing with smartwatches for most overhyped trend, drones were nearly unavoidable in 2015. This is sort of the Wild West, and we do believe this will be a bubble in the short term. Those of you who have been around for a while might see the similarities with the ultralight market. Remember? Ultralights were going to save GA. Drones will get sorted out, just as ultralights did, and after the initial hype wears off, we predict drones will end up being a transformative industry – and aviation will be affected as much as anyone. Sporty’s began selling drones in 2015, and worked to encourage an “airmanship mindset” for operators of these small quadcopters. We will participate in this growing industry in a thoughtful way, as manned aviation has a lot to teach unmanned aviation (and vice versa).

Simpler is (sometimes) better. Pilots responded to two new additions to Sporty’s airport in 2015: the 172LITE and the Legend Cub. While everyone loves a high-end transportation airplane with lots of glass, the fact remains that most flight students at Sporty’s Academy are flying for the fun. For them, low and slow is a lot of fun, and less complex aircraft can make their time and money investment lower.

The year for medical reform? Medical reform may finally be coming next year, and we’ll be ready to help. AOPA and EAA have worked tirelessly on the Third Class medical reform, and the end may be in sight. Sporty’s will be ready with a full library of proficiency training courses and a warm welcome for lapsed pilots. Sporty’s Academy is happy to create custom recurrent packages, whether you’ve been away for six months or 16 years.

The airline pilot shortage (along with mechanics to maintain the fleet) is here. The opportunity for youth to pursue a career in aviation is as strong as it has been in decades.  Aviation youth programs, including Young Eagles, Aviation Exploring and Civil Air Patrol, to name a few, will help ensure the industry is equipped with bright, talented individuals to fill these opportunities.  A longtime supporter of these programs, Sporty’s is committed to help sustain the future of our industry.

That’s the world as we see it from Clermont County Airport. To keep up to date with next year’s trends as they unfold, sign up for one of our interactive webinars in 2016. We’ll cover nine hot topics, from drones to iPads to ADS-B. All of us at Sporty’s thank you for your support during the year and we send along good wishes for a healthy and prosperous 2016.

Best regards,





Michael Wolf and the Sporty’s team


PS: Don’t forget the welcome mat is always out for you — we’ll give you a great price on fuel!