Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans,” a quote attributed to Allen Saunders and popularized by John Lennon, might be thought of as a pithy summary of 2020, a year that started with great promise and ended, at best, with uncertainty. Along the way, we all learned new things we would have preferred not to, and likely were unable to do things we had long planned. What 2021 will end up like is anyone’s guess but—as far as general aviation is concerned—we at least have data on how it’s starting.
The numbers come courtesy of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), which in February announced its 2020 year-end aircraft billing and shipment numbers. According to the organization, aircraft deliveries during the year were valued at $22.8 billion, a sharp drop when compared to $27.8 billion in 2019. Somewhat surprisingly, at least to us, piston airplane deliveries turned out to be relatively steady, with a decline of less than one percent, while turboprop, business jet and helicopter deliveries declined between 15 and 20 percent when compared to 2019.
“As expected, in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic negatively impacted general aviation and stifled the industry’s growth,” commented GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce. “While we continue to face headwinds globally, all signs point to strong demand for our products and services that are unfortunately being constrained by pandemic induced supply chain limitations and a vast array of disjointed barriers to air travel across national borders,” Bunce added. “It is encouraging to see that segments of our industry saw a solid rebound in the fourth quarter of 2020.”
According to GAMA, piston airplane deliveries in 2020 declined only 0.9 percent over 2019, with 1312 units. Every other product category took a hit: turboprop deliveries declined 15.6 percent, with 443 units, and business jet deliveries dropped 20.4 percent/644 units.
Online sister publication AVweb.com dived down into the piston-airplane numbers and reported that Cirrus once again held the lead, producing 420 aircraft in 2020 after picking up the pace in the last two quarters of the year. Most popular was the SR22T, with 184 sold last year.
“After a rough first quarter, Piper recovered to sell 244 aircraft in 2020, led by the Archer III at 149 units. Diamond Aircraft picked up speed in the fourth quarter to finish with 239 deliveries overall, led by the DA40 (143 units) and DA42 (62). Textron, as a business unit, sold 559 aircraft, with the Skyhawk (241) and Grand Caravan (43) the best-selling models,” AVweb wrote.
Also of interest will be 2020 activity numbers, which come from a variety of sources. Regardless and presuming 2021 is better than 2020, will it best 2019? We’ll see.
— Jeb Burnside