The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) has hit back at comments from CASA Director of Aviation Safety Mark Skidmore that elements of the general aviation industry are in good health.

In a circular to members, AOPA CEO Aaron Stephenson said that Skidmore made the comments during a meeting between themselves, the Department of Transport and Infrastructure and CASA held in Canberra on 25 May this year.

"My lasting impression of the meeting was that the DAS believes  the GA Industry in Australia 'is in good shape'," Stephenson said.

"We completely disagreed with this assessment. I came away from the meeting convinced this is our single biggest problem. It’s collectively our challenge to convince him he is wrong.

"Why we should have to do this beggars belief."

When asked to clarify Skidmore's remarks, a CASA spokesperson told Australian Flying "the Director has spoken on a number of occasions with AOPA and other members of the general aviation community about many issues relevant to general aviation.

"During these conversations AOPA have made the claim that general aviation is in decline. Mark has simply asked for evidence and information to support this claim. This information would allow CASA to look carefully at the issues relevant to safety regulation and identify any responses CASA should make.

"When CASA looks at data such as registrations the number of aircraft on the register has been growing over recent years.  In 2010-11 there were 14,362 aircraft on the register, in 2014-15 there were 15,287."

The most current figures available from the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) cover the calendar year 2013, and show a growth in general aviation hours flown of 5.3% compared with 2012.

The areas showing the greatest increase were Test and Ferry (14.6%), Aerial Work (11.4%), Training (5.0%) and business (0.6%).

Three sectors showed decreases: Agriculture (-10.4%), Charter (-3.2%) and Private (-0.6%).

In the nine recording years 2005-2013, BITRE figures show that general aviation flying hours increased 12.4% from 3.3 million to 3.7 million per year.

Figures for 2014 and beyond are not yet available.

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