My interest into aviation grows by every day and I seriously start thinking about working in the industry later, as I am very interested into avionics and pilot supporting devices in the general aviation field.

However, what's the trend in general aviation at the moment? Is the number of PPL stagnating, rising or even decreasing. It would be nice if you have data about Europe, the US and International.


The statistics for the number of pilots in the US is fairly easy to come by, The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association published a report on the number of FAA certified pilots. This shows a general static trend over the 10-or-so years preceding the report in 2011

Year    | Total Pilots
2011    |   618,660
2010    |   627,588
2009    |   594,285
2008    |   613,746
2007    |   590,349
2006    |   597,109
2005    |   609,737
2004    |   618,930
2003    |   625,011
2002    |   631,762
2001    |   612,274

The graph shows the total number of pilots since 1929.

enter image description here

For Europe, this statistic is a little harder to come by. In general, Aviation in Europe is controlled by the European Aviation Safety Association to which pretty much all European countries are members, with a few having a working arrangement to sync up their procedures/licensing. The EU, and its associated agencies are typically bureaucracies at their best (worst!) and so there is unlikely to be a single register of the number of pilots.

For example, some elements of aviation (although NOT Licensing) is still managed by the UK Civil Aviation Authority. With all the various european and intra country agencies involved in European Aviation it will be tougher to get figures for the number of pilots.

Internationally your problem is moreso. With tens of different agencies involved in the Flight Crew Licensing, you may find it harder still to get some accurate figures.

  • $\begingroup$ I think plots are easier to visualize than the table, hope you don't mind the edit. $\endgroup$
    – Gypaets
    Jul 4 '17 at 12:15
  • $\begingroup$ @Gypaets nope, don't mind at all. I agree with you and if I would have come across that plot I would have included it myself! $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Jul 4 '17 at 12:42
  • $\begingroup$ Keep in mind that the number of certificated pilots is much higher than the number of active pilots. Except for student pilot certificates, your pilot certificate never expires—even if you aren‘t flying. There are a half-dozen members of our EAA club that are in their 80s and 90s who no longer fly. And I know another bunch who got their license but haven’t used it in years. I don’t know that anyone has published an estimate of active pilots though. $\endgroup$
    – JScarry
    Jul 4 '17 at 13:34
  • $\begingroup$ @JScarry While your point is entirely right, just to nitpick my old JAR-PPL (predecessor to EASA PPL) expired. Not all licenses are lifetime. $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Jul 4 '17 at 13:48
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ So, an overall 10-year growth of 1%. Compare that to the US population growth from 200-2010 of 9.7%. So a fairly substantial per capita decline $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    Jul 5 '17 at 3:51

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