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Ten Types of General Aviation

Updated May 17, 2022 | By Wilson Kehoe Winingham staff

General aviation is usually defined as all nonscheduled, nonmilitary civilian flight operations. If an aircraft is not flown by a commercial airline or by the military, it falls under this category.

The United States has a large and diverse general aviation community. Although you may not realize it, you have probably encountered the general aviation industry in your day-to-day life.

General Aviation: The Statistics

General aviation covers a wide range of aerial operations. The Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum estimates that three-fourths of all flights in the United States fall under general aviation. And, according to the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), over 500,000 of the nation’s 600,000 pilots fly general aviation aircraft.

Types of General Aviation

General aviation is part of our everyday lives. Here are just some of the many types of general aviation you may encounter.

Aerial Firefighting

Aviation and firefighting have a long history. General aviation is key to fighting forest fires as well as protecting homes, forests, parks, wildlife reserves, and woodlands. Specifically, airtankers or “water bombers” are fitted with tanks of water that they can then drop directly on flames.

Agricultural Aviation

General aviation is an agricultural tool used to plant fields, manage herds of farm animals, and treat crops. In fact, according to AOPA, agricultural aviation plants 95 percent of rice and treats 75 million acres of crops in the United States every year.

Business and Personal Travel

There are several benefits to taking advantage of general aviation transportation for business and personal travel: flexibility, speed, and safety, to name a few. Passengers and pilots on private planes don’t have to rely on the schedule of a commercial airline, so they can depart at their convenience.

Law Enforcement

Police and other members law enforcement have used general aviation aircraft like helicopters and small planes to locate missing people, control crowds, apprehend suspects, and patrol neighborhoods or roadways.

Medical Transport

Air ambulances can transport accident victims to hospitals much more quickly than an on-the-road ambulance, and helicopters can bring resources or evacuate people from areas that are difficult to reach. Additionally, general aviation resources are used to deliver blood and organs in a timely manner to the patients and hospitals who need them.

Overnight Delivery

Have you ever ordered items online and requested overnight delivery? Thank general aviation for delivering your package quickly. Similarly, express planes can bring mail to hard-to-reach places that are overlooked by major air carriers.

Search and Rescue

Mountain climbers lost in the snow, swimmers lost at sea, and hikers lost in the maze of an inland wilderness rely on search and rescue teams to find their way back home. Helicopters and small planes are often used as part of search and rescue.


Vacation spots and landmarks advertise aerial tours for a chance to view the site from above. Looking at the Grand Canyon from a helicopter is very different than taking in the vista on the ground.

Surveying and Mapping

Agencies, government offices, and other small organizations—especially those focused on the environment—take advantage of general aviation to conduct surveys of wetlands and wildlife as well as create maps of endangered areas.

Traffic Reporting

Those aerial views of traffic on the morning news that show you how difficult your commute is going to be are usually taken from helicopters.

Contact an Aviation Accident Attorney Today

Two of our attorneys at WKW are licensed pilots with a wide range of ratings and experience. Both pilots hold a commercial license, flight engineer certificate, and instrument and multi-engine aircraft ratings. Additionally, they have flight experience in Boeing 727s and many private aircraft.

If you or a loved one have been in an accident involving any type of aircraft, you are urged to contact the Indianapolis Aviation Accident Attorneys of Wilson Kehoe Winingham. The lawyers at WKW can help you get the compensation you deserve. Call 317.920.6400 or fill out an online contact form for a free, no-obligation case evaluation.

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