THE US FEDERAL Aviation Administration forecasts that industry response to the recent product-liability reform will take effect by 1998 and reverse the decline in US general-aviation (GA) activity.

Passage of the legislation, which limits manufacturers' liability to 18 years after production, should enable companies to lower their insurance costs and begin to produce new-technology and less-expensive aircraft, says a senior FAA analyst.

John Rodgers, director at the FAA's office of aviation policy, plans and management analysis, presented a 12-year forecast of GA activity at a conference in Phoenix, Arizona, on 16-17 March.

The forecast is cautiously optimistic, citing several indications that GA is on the verge of a renaissance. The amateur-built- aircraft market has grown steadily - with more than 2,000 kits sold annually - and numbers of these aircraft in use are forecast to rise, from 10,900 in 1994, to 13,100 in 2006. The used-aircraft market has also remained healthy. Some 36,000 aircraft changed hands in 1992, indicating strong demand.

While the overall active GA fleet is expected to decline, from 176,000 aircraft in 1994 to 174,700 in 2006, that drop will occur mainly in the piston fleet as older aircraft are retired. The average age of the piston fleet is now 29 years. Numbers of turbine aircraft are projected to increase by 35%, from 8,218 in 1994 to 11,100 in 2006.

The FAA hopes that liability reform economic recovery and aircraft retirement will prompt a turn-around in the industry after 1998. "If the legislation fails to stimulate the development and production of new general-aviation products and services, both the active fleet and hours flown, forecasts will be considerably lower than currently forecast," the FAA warns.

"Early indications suggest that the industry is moving swiftly," says Rodgers, citing Cessna's plan to restart piston-single production and Piper's intention to increase output by 28%.

Source: Flight International