Civil aviation is one of two major categories of flying, representing all non-military aviation, both private and commercial. Most of the countries in the world are members of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and work together to establish common standards and recommended practices for civil aviation through that agency.
Civil aviation includes two major categories:
- Scheduled air transport, including all passenger and cargo flights operating on regularly scheduled routes; and
- General aviation (GA), including all other civil flights, private or commercial
Although scheduled air transport is the larger operation in terms of passenger numbers, GA is larger in the number of flights (and flight hours, in the U.S.) In the U.S., GA carries 166 million passengers each year, more than any individual airline, though less than all the airlines combined.
Some countries also make a regulatory distinction based on whether aircraft are flown for hire like:
- Commercial aviation includes most or all flying done for hire, particularly scheduled service on airlines; and
- Private aviation includes pilots flying for their own purposes (recreation, business meetings, etc.) without receiving any kind of remuneration.
All scheduled air transport is commercial, but general aviation can be either commercial or private. Normally, the pilot, aircraft, and operator must all be authorized to perform commercial operations through separate commercial licensing, registration, and operation certificates..