Number of aircraft in the United States 1990-2022
General aviation versus for-hire carriers
The airline industry in the United States is generally divided into two categories: for-hire carriers and general aviation. For-hire carries includes commercial services where an operator agrees to transport passengers, cargo or mail for a fee. General aviation includes basically all others forms of air travel, such as business/personal travel on privately owned aircraft, recreational flying, and other various tasks such as search & rescue, surveying, and photography (among others). Pilots for for-hire carriers are required obtain an ‘airline transport’ license – the highest level of pilot qualification - and are therefore outnumbered by pilots who are qualified only for general aviation.
Aviation in the United States
The U.S. has one of the largest aviation market of any single country in the world. U.S. airlines transport more passengers than airlines from any other country, and the U.S. is home to around half of the top ten airlines in the world in terms of revenue. This dominance extends into the general aviation sector, with North America having a significantly larger fleet of aircraft for private air travel than any other region. However, when understood at a regional level, the Asia-Pacific region currently maintains a slightly larger commercial aircraft fleet, which is expected to become significantly larger than the North American fleet over the next 20 years.