Australian Aircraft Activity


This annual survey covers all Australian registered aircraft used in the Commercial Air Transport (CAT) and General Aviation (GA) sectors of the Australian aviation industry.

The CAT sector is made up of scheduled commercial air transport and non-scheduled commercial air transport.

The GA sector is made up of all flying activity in Australian-registered aircraft other than commercial air transport. The major categories of flying are aerial work, own use business flying, instructional flying, sport and pleasure flying and other flying. In addition, the sport aviation segment of GA includes operations in ultralight aircraft, gliders, hang gliders and gyrocopters.

The basic measure of General Aviation is flying hours. All owners of VH registered aircraft are surveyed annually and asked to report hours flown and landings by each aircraft in various categories of operation. Response to this year's collection was 80.7 per cent.

The survey results are merged with details from the civil aircraft register, which gives access to other information such as aircraft type, engine and fuel type, country and year of manufacture, etc.

Aircraft registered to Recreational Aviation Australia (RA-Aus) have been included in the annual General Aviation Activity Survey for the first time in 2020. Responses were received for 50.3 per cent of aircraft registered to RA-Aus. Statistics for the rest of the sport aviation segment of GA are collected from self-administrating associations once or twice a year. Like the rest of GA, flying hours are the prime measure of activity.

Key Indicators

Travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 outbreak resulted in severe disruptions to air travel this year. The 2020 report shows the impact of COVID-19 travel restrictions on Australian aviation activity.

Total hours flown in Australia by Australian owned and operated aircraft decreased by 31.4 per cent in 2020 to 2.47 million hours.

Commercial Air Transport hours flown by VH-registered aircraft decreased by 50.0 per cent to 964 thousand hours. Hours flown by scheduled commercial air transport decreased by 65.7 per cent to 524 thousand hours, while hours flown by non-scheduled commercial air transport increased by 9.8 per cent to 439 thousand hours.

General aviation hours flown by VH-registered aircraft decreased by 13.1 per cent to 1.15 million hours. There where decreases in Aerial Work (down 5.3 per cent to 459 thousand hours), Own use business flying (down 24.3 per cent to 111 thousand hours), Instructional flying (down 9.4 per cent to 383 thousand hours), and Sport and pleasure flying (down 25.8 per cent to 173 thousand hours).

Sport aviation (ultralights, gliders, hang gliders and gyrocopters) activity generally experience large swings in activity from year to year. In 2020, sport aviation activity increased 1.5 per cent to 357 thousand hours.

Hours Flown in Australian Aircraft Activity (000's)–years ended December

2019 2020
Commercial air transport Scheduled 1,526.3 524.2
  Non-scheduled 400.3 439.3
Total Commercial air transport   1,926.6 963.5
General Aviation (VH)* Aerial work 484.9  459.3
  Own Use Business 146.4  110.8
  Instructional flying 422.7  382.9
  Sport & pleasure flying 232.9  172.9
  Other flying 32.5  20.1
Total General Aviation (VH)*   1,319.4 1,146.0
Sport Aviation (non-VH)*   351.8 357.0
Total hours flown   3,597.7 2,109.6

*VH aircraft are registered with CASA
*non-VH aircraft are registered with self-administrating associations