Airports see rise in general aviation activity

General aviation flight activity for the Wichita area in March was up over the same time a year ago and significantly higher than in February, according to information from FlightAware.

Wichita-area airports saw general aviation operations in March rise 29 percent over February and 6 percent over March 2009.

The increases follow a nationwide trend.

General aviation activity nationally rose 22.5 percent over February and 6.6 percent compared with March 2009.

The figures are from FlightAware's flight tracking database. FlightAware is a Houston-based flight tracking, data and planning company.

Increases for the year overall were led by charter operators, followed by fractional operators and private operators.

The biggest change in activity month over month was led by private operators, followed by fractional and charter operators, the company said.

Month-over-month activity rose significantly because of March's better weather, said FlightAware vice president of marketing Matt Davis.

Better overall economic conditions and escalating consumer confidence were two main reasons for the year-over-year increases, Davis said.

In addition, the negative stigma of owning or operating a private aircraft has waned since automaker CEOs were grilled before Congress in November 2008 about the use of private aircraft, Davis said.

"Companies are becoming better at articulating why a private aircraft is a useful and productive business tool," he said.

Davis called the data very encouraging.

"Although the state of GA continues to be tenuous at best, as I am sure everyone in Wichita understands," he said.

Still, he said he expects to see increases in next month's data as well.

Compared with a year ago, jet activity rose the most, up 14.9 percent from a year ago and 12.8 percent from February. Turboprop activity was 7.6 percent higher than a year ago and up 13.4 percent from February. Single- and multi-engine activity rose 1 percent from March 2009 and 37.5 percent from February.

Nashville International Airport had the top year-over-year increase at 31.1 percent. Dulles International in Washington posted the biggest gain over February, with a 29.5 percent increase.

Daytona Beach International had the biggest loss in activity for the month and for the year.

General aviation traffic there fell 23.4 percent in March compared with February figures and was down 8.9 percent when compared with a year ago.