2020 Flight Stats Are Out. And Sun ’n Fun Bids Farewell To Leenhouts.

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The NTSB released its statistics for aircraft accidents in 2020, which showed that the number of fatalities in general aviation decreased markedly. There were 332 deaths in 2020 compared to 414 fatalities the year before. The accident rate also ticked down, to 1.049 mishaps per 100,000 hours, compared to 1.069 in 2019.

The report also found that there were no U.S. Part 121 (scheduled air carriers) fatalities in 2020, which has become the norm. There were 21 people who died in Part 135 on-demand charter operations in 2020, this compared to 32 deaths in 2019.

But perhaps the most anticipated figures were those for hours flown during 2020, the year in which the pandemic emerged as a major, global crisis. It was no surprise that air carrier operations were down by a lot (more than 55 percent), and losses for charter operators were nearly equally devastating, with Part 135 activity down by around 45 percent.

GA fared much better in terms of flight activity, according to the NTSB’s report, with 11% fewer hours flown in 2020 than in 2021, a figure that we forecast based on a  survey early in the pandemic that showed pilots of light and business aircraft largely unfazed by the implications of the pandemic.

Sun ’n Fun’s umbrella organization the Aerospace Center for Excellence (ACE) announced that its president/CEO John “Lites” Leenhouts would retire after next year’s Sun ‘n Fun Fly-In, which takes place April 5-10, 2022. A former Naval aviator, Leenhouts has headed Sun ’n since 2011. Under his leadership, ACE has greatly expanded the breadth of its community educational offerings while building the organization’s infrastructure on the Lakeland Linder campus.

Deliveries of piston-powered aircraft were flat for the first nine months of the year compared with the same period in 2019. GA makers of piston planes handed over just 6 fewer planes than the first three quarters of the year before.

In a surprise this week, Joby Aviation announced that it would certificate its battery-powered multiengine tilt rotor aircraft as a pilot-flown airplane. The company’s founder, JoeBen Bevirt, said that by following the typical Part 23 path, certification would be greatly eased and speeded up. Joby says it recently flew a 150-mile plus flight at a ground speed of around 120 mph.

EAA announced the second edition of its surprise hit Homebuilders Week, a series of online webinars covering every imaginable part of aircraft homebuilding. The event, which will take place from January 24-28, 2022, will feature six daily live presentations. Last year’s inaugural event attracted more than 16,000 participants.


The pilot of a firefighting modified Air Tractor 802A that crashed in Colorado earlier this month while conducting a rare nighttime mission has been identified. The pilot, Marc Thor Olsen was, the operator CO Fire Aviation said, a decorated veteran of both the Army and the Air Force. The NTSB is investigating the mishap.

The lucky pilot of a Mooney that lost power while on approach to Tampa’s Peter O. Knight Airport and his passenger were rescued after ditching in Tampa Bay. Assisting in the rescue were the chief pilot of Icon Aircraft Genesah Duffy, who was conducting a post-maintenance flight in an Icon A5, along with a Tampa Police boat. Both occupants of the Mooney got wet but were uninjured in ditching and subsequent swim.

In a week that saw a half-dozen ditchings along Florida’s Gulf Coast, that of a Bonanza pilot whose single-engine plane lost power near Cedar Key made headlines. A photo showing the Bonanza pilot standing atop his plane as a Customs and Border Protection boat comes by to offer aid was everywhere in the news. The pilot was uninjured in that incident, as well.

Leonardo showed up at the Dubai Airshow with its AW609 civil tiltrotor, which is moving steadily toward certification and eventual production. The aircraft, which emerged as a proposed business aviation high-speed, vertical flight solution, has been around since the late 1990s as a joint venture between Bell Helicopter and Boeing, and made its first flight in 2003. The program, now owned by Leonardo Air, an Italian multi-national corporation.


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