What is General Aviation?

General aviation (GA) refers to all flights other than military and scheduled airline/cargo flights, both private and commercial. GA flights range from gliders and microlights to large, non-scheduled jet flights. The majority of the world's air traffic movements falls into this category.

The UK has a thriving GA sector and contributes over £3.0 billion per year to the economy directly, supporting over 38,000 jobs[*]. It has approximately the same size as the turnover of a major UK airline and is of tremendous value to communities and society across the UK. There are over 12,000 active GA aircraft registered in the UK, with over 4.6 million GA movements each year.

Some applications of GA are listed below:


Saving lives with emergency patient evacuation and organ transport.

Mapping and Surveying

Aerial photography, mapping and surveying to produce the various maps people use today.


Crop dusting, fertilisation and planting, and aerial surveillance of animals and fisheries to keep the food supply running smoothly.


Keeping businesses profitable and competitive by providing transport between different facilities, such as visiting factories and suppliers, meetings with customers, business partners, and distributors.


Search and Rescue, Emegency Relief

For picking up injured hikers, mountain climbers, boaters and divers as well as evacuating people and delivering supplies to people affected by extreme weather such as floods.

Flight Training

Flying schools and freelance instructors teach others to fly. Student pilots become the future pilots of airlines, GA businesses, or aircraft for personal use.

Public Security

Police operations and border control.

TV, Film and Media

Including news and events reporting, and filming for cinema and television.

Personal Transport

Visiting friends and relatives, holiday travel, access to hard-to-reach communities and outlying islands.


Commercial advertising.


Transport to offshore gas and oil rigs.


Air shows, air racing, skydiving, and aerobatics.


More information on general aviation in the UK is available and promoted through our affiliate organisation, the General Aviation Awareness Council.

More reading is available from IAOPA Europe.

[*] York Aviation study of General Aviation in the UK prepared for the Department for Transport, 2015

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