I'd like to know how many flights occur on average every day worldwide. This includes all commercial passenger and cargo aircraft, all non-commercial aircraft, private aircraft and military aircraft. A flight consists of a planned take-off and landing.

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    $\begingroup$ A training aircraft takes off, goes to a small airport, maybe even an uncontrolled field, does a few touch & go landings, returns to where it started, lands, taxis to parking, and shuts down. One flight? Or several since the touch & go landings each include "a takeoff" and "a landing"? A control tower will count each T&G as two events (they controlled the landing and the takeoff); nobody at an uncontrolled field records anything. Some aircraft won't even have the count of T&G's recorded anywhere in the maintenance logs. A pilot might, but isn't required to, record the count in his logbook. $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Dec 5 '17 at 22:42
  • $\begingroup$ The question is perfectly specific, but it would be incredibly hard to get anything even remotely close to an exact number unless every controlled field in the world reports their traffic counts back to some central database. Approximations are probably available somewhere out there. $\endgroup$
    – Ralph J
    Dec 5 '17 at 22:44
  • $\begingroup$ For airlines: 100.000 flights per day (source: What are the statistical probabilities of commercial aircraft accidents?) For GA, there are no equivalent worldwide statistics. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Dec 6 '17 at 7:18

As mentioned above there are a significant number of aircraft that have no way of being recorded. However, we can make an educated guess. According to the FAA, they support; "Every day, the FAA's Air Traffic Organization (ATO) provides service to more than 42,000 flights" - https://www.faa.gov/air_traffic/by_the_numbers/. These numbers would be aircraft with flight plans, controlled airport landing & takeoffs, flight forwarding, vectoring, etc.

Probably (a guess) at least as many general aviation aircraft do training, VFR flights, helicopters (i.e. ranch cattle herding), balloons, scientific, skiing, hunting, sightseeing, gliders, ultralights and maintenance flights without filing a flight plan or interacting with ATC.

So that puts the US at about 80,000 flights per day. The US is approximately 5% of the world population and if we use that as a basis for calculating flights, then there are about 1.6 to perhaps 2 billion flights per day, including all forms of aircraft.

This is interesting - we might at first conclude 1/4 of the earths population is flying on any given day. This would be a wrong assumption because many passengers embark on several flights to reach a destination each day. For an example, a sightseeing cross country trip might include 3 or 4 stops that include re-fueling and eating, or restroom breaks. But, this is still a staggering number of people flying each day. Conservatively, perhaps 1 out of every 50 to 100 people are traveling by air each day!!!

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    $\begingroup$ While I like the analytical approach you took, I don't think that the leap from "the US is approximately 5% of the world population" to multiplying 80,000 by 20 is correct. The US has an outsize percentage of the world's aviation because it has such a well-developed aviation sector compared to almost every other country. Unfortunately, the data is hard to find, but the factor of 20 is almost certainly overstating things. $\endgroup$
    – cbw
    Dec 11 '17 at 14:49
  • $\begingroup$ I considered that before answering but came to the conclusion that undeveloped countries are more apt to use bush aircraft than the US. In the end, I think it would be near equal. The number of flights being equal, the US would use jets, while other countries would use recip or turbo prop. I arbitrarily used US statistics because they were available to me. $\endgroup$
    – jwzumwalt
    Dec 11 '17 at 19:33

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