Number of aircraft in the United States 1990-2020

The number of aircraft in the United States has been steadily increasing, with 2019 estimates holding that the general aviation fleet was 212,335 aircraft, and the for-hire carrier fleet was 7,628 aircraft. However, it is predicted that the number of for-hire carrier aircraft will slightly reduce in 2020, dropping to 7,550.

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 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.

Number of aircraft in the United States from 1990 to 2020

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Release date

March 2020


United States

Survey time period

1990 to 2019

Supplementary notes

* 2019 is estimated and 2020 figure is forecasted.
General aviation includes air taxi aircraft. Beginning in 2004, commuter activity is excluded from all estimates. Commuter activity was included in the air taxi use category in 2003 and prior.
For-hire air carrier aircraft are those carrying passengers or cargo for hire under 14 CFR 121 and 14 CFR 135. Beginning in 1990, the number of aircraft is the monthly average of the number of aircraft reported in use for the last three months of the year. For-hire air carriers include U.S. mainline carriers (passenger and cargo jets) and U.S. regional carriers.

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Statistics on "Passenger airlines in the U.S."

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