Many regular people may confuse general aviation (GA) with aviation in general. However, there is a major difference between these two terms. In fact, general aviation is only a part of aviation in general. The later, besides GA, also includes commercial and military aviation. So let’s take a closer insight to what general, or non commercial aviation is.
As you have probably already guessed general aviation is a field that does not include regular scheduled passenger air services and some of aerial work. In general, everything that is not about transportation of people and cargo on a scheduled basis from point A to point B can be called a general aviation. Often to describe this field is used a term non-commercial aviation. So in our imagination it would mean that pilots and companies do not make profit, or it is not a main goal. In fact, many of non-commercial operations are also commercial. For example, when we talk about corporate aviation, for instance, business travels, most of the operations bear signs of flight-for-hire because pilots are paid for their labor.
When we talk about civil aviation most of us will imagine a single-engine aircraft that don’t even need a specialized runway, it is enough to have a rather even surface somewhere in a field. This image is not mistaken, but it embraces only a small part of what it really includes. In fact in the USA the almost 5000 airports serve the needs of general aviation, with almost 25 millions of flight hours yearly. 350 000 aircrafts and 700 000 pilots are occupied in GA (for comparison, in commercial aviation, with cargo and charter airlines employ 400 000 pilots and 60 000 airplanes).
What general aviation includes
As we already mentioned, it is very spread to use general aviation to serve the needs of corporations. It is used in business travelling as not only a way to get to an opposite part of a country whenever businessmen need, but also to emphasize the wealth and prosperity of them and their corporations.
Using aircrafts in agriculture has long history. Agricultural aircrafts are used for crop dusting – spreading fertilizers or crop protecting substances over fields where, otherwise, due to their size, it would be impossible to do these operations in other way, or they would take more time. Also these airplanes are utilized for planting certain types of seeds, rice, for example.
Recreational travelling by an aircraft can open new perspectives for travelers. It can mean discovering new countries, small and remote, with irregular flight connection. They provide an opportunity to reach places difficult to access, for example in jungles or mountains. Or just give a change to look at familiar scenery from a bird-eye view.
Civil aircrafts are also used for survey, and we don’t mean this military spying survey. Mostly the purpose of these surveys to conduct observation in wildlife (trace migration, etc.), environmental control (pipeline spills detection, making maps of soil erosions and wetland losses), to patrol parklands. Modifications of these plains are also utilized for aerial firefighting.
Law enforcement also widely uses civil aircrafts to patrol highways, to spot suspects, detect stolen cars, urban fires, lost children, monitor borders.
There are also many fields of application for general aviation – flight trainings, medical transportation, search and rescue, gliding, parachute sport, recourse exploration and many other.