The general aviation industry continued to feel the dampening effects of the global Covid pandemic in the third quarter of 2020, with new airplane deliveries in the first nine months falling 12.6 percent year-over-year, according to statistics released November 18 by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA). Meanwhile, billings were off by more than 20 percent, at $11.9 billion, during the comparative nine-month period.
In the business jet segment, third-quarter deliveries declined by 26.7 percent, to 378 units, versus the same time frame a year earlier, with Textron Aviation's Cessna Citations showing the worst erosion. The Wichita-based airframer’s jet delivery total through the first nine months of 2020 slid to 71, down from 135 in the first three-quarters of 2019—a more than 47 percent drop. The midsize Citation Latitude saw the largest reduction, going from 42 handed over through third-quarter 2019 to just 13 in the same period in 2020.
Embraer Executive Jets handed over 20 fewer aircraft year-over-year, for a 31.7 percent decline. Meanwhile, Bombardier shipments slid by 22 percent. The Canadian OEM saw the largest reduction in its Challenger family, handing over 16 fewer super-midsize 350s and large-cabin 650s than it did a year earlier—a 33 percent drop.
Savannah, Georgia-based Gulfstream delivered eight fewer of its large-cabin offerings and one less super-midsize G280 during the first three quarters, giving the General Dynamics subsidiary a 9.3 percent decrease year-over-year.
Honda Aircraft delivered 17 HondaJets through September, eight fewer than in the first three quarters of 2019, for a reduction of 32 percent, while fellow light jet manufacturers Cirrus and Pilatus experienced relatively gentler headwinds at 9.6 percent and 11 percent for their SF50 Vision Jet and PC-24, respectively.
Dassault Falcon only reports its deliveries at midyear and year-end.
Deliveries in the overall turboprop segment were down by 27 percent year-over-year, to 254 aircraft, while the pressurized models performed slightly better, at 23.8 percent off of 2019’s pace, at 131. This includes the addition of newcomer Epic Aircraft, which contributed the first four of its recently-certified E1000 singles to the 131 pressurized turboprop-powered aircraft delivered in the first three quarters.
Like its Cessna sibling, Textron’s Beechcraft division experienced a more than 45 percent decrease in deliveries through the first nine months of 2020, handing over half the number of King Air C90GTx and 350 twins than it did in the same span of the previous year.
Daher, which phased out the TBM 930 over the past year, increased the number of new TBM 940s it delivered by three, but saw the total of TBM 910s drop from nine in the first three quarters of 2019 to just one through September of 2020, for an overall delivery decrease of more than 23 percent.,
Swiss airframer Pilatus delivered six fewer PC-12s year-over-year, representing an 11 percent decrease in the previous year’s nine-month total, while Piper handed over two less of its turboprop singles in the same span. Florida-based Piper delivered 18 M500s and seven M600s through the first nine months of 2019, but those numbers reversed themselves this year with 18 M600s and five M500s handed over. Italy’s Piaggio, which had a pair of deliveries for its twin-engine pusher Avanti Evo during the first three quarters of 2019, had none in the same span in 2020.
At the lower end of the scale, the piston-engine airplane segment has experienced somewhat of a rebound, exceeding its delivery total for the first three quarters of 2019 by 12 units, to 889 aircraft.
For the first three quarters of the year, deliveries in the rotorcraft segment were down by nearly 24 percent, to 438 units, with turbine-powered helicopters faring slightly better than their piston-powered brethren. Turbine helicopter shipments fell 23.3 percent, to 333 aircraft, while that for pistons dropped 25.5 percent, to 105. Overall billings at $1.9 billion were down by more than 16 percent from the same span in 2019.
Leonardo experienced a more than 40 percent decline year-over-year as it delivered 50 helicopters in the first nine months of 2020, compared with 84 over the same period in 2019. Most affected were the mid-twin AW139, which went from 36 deliveries in 2019 to 21 in the first three-quarters of 2020, and the AW169 that saw deliveries more than halved from a year earlier.
Bell was down 30 percent from its three-quarter 2019 tally, with most of that deficit coming from the 505 Jet Ranger. While the Textron subsidiary delivered 65 of the light single-engine helicopters in the first three-quarters last year, it handed over only 32 in the same span in 2020.
Airbus Helicopters saw some decline among its light offerings as well, handing over 31 fewer H125/H130s between its civil and military customers year-over-year. But the company’s H145 light twin held its own, with 53 deliveries in the three quarters of the year, down only two units from the previous year. Overall, the OEM posted an 18 percent decrease in shipments.
Torrance, California-based Robinson Helicopters added three to its total of R66 deliveries, compared to the first nine months of 2019, with 44 handed over this year, while Enstrom also improved from one 480B-G delivery in the first three-quarters of 2019 to three in 2020.
Sikorsky, which had no deliveries in the first three quarters of 2019, delivered one S-92 during the same timeframe in 2020.
“This latest shipment report gives insight into how the industry is faring after the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic,” said GAMA president and CEO Pete Bunce. “While we are still trailing in comparison to last year’s figures due to a virus-impacted second quarter, it is encouraging to see deliveries in certain segments have rebounded. This is reflected in what aviators have witnessed over the past few months at general aviation airports on both sides of the Atlantic where flight activity is robust, particularly in the flight school arena.”