Even though general aviation shipments declined in every segment in 2009, the year wasn’t a total loss for the industry. Thanks to a united front among GA associations, the industry laid the foundation for a reawakening of the value of GA in the public arena, stronger government relationships, and ATC modernization.
“When it gets tough, this is an industry that pulls together,” General Aviation Manufacturers Association President and CEO Pete Bunce told GA industry leaders Feb. 16 at GAMA’s Annual Industry Review and Market Outlook Briefing in Washington, D.C.
The united front helped to defeat the Transportation Security Administration’s original plan for the Large Aircraft Security Program; keep user fees out of the Obama administration’s budget; launch the No Plane, No Gain and GA Serves America campaigns; and advance work on NextGen air transportation system modernization.
Despite the progress made on Capitol Hill and in the media, 2009 was undeniably a down year for the GA industry. Overall GA shipments decreased 42.6 percent, while billings dropped to $19.5 billion, down from the record high $24.8 billion in 2008. Piston shipments fell 54.5 percent from 2,119 in 2008 to 965 in 2009, making last year one of the 10 worst in GA history. Business jet shipments dropped 33.7 percent (from 1,313 in 2008 to 870 in 2009), but turboprops fared better, posting a 17.6 percent decline (down to 441 in 2009, versus 535 the prior year).
“Despite being down, [general aviation is] first to respond to help others,” GAMA Chairman Rob Wilson noted while reporting the grim numbers. Wilson pointed out that even in these tough times, pilots, aircraft owners, and the industry as a whole have been quick to lend a helping hand to those in need.
A perfect example is the recent outpouring of support for the Haiti relief effort in the wake of the devastating Jan. 12 earthquake. GA has flown more than 500 flights, 2,500 passengers, and 500,000 pounds of supplies to Haiti, according to GAMA.
GAMA officials were hesitant to forecast what 2010 would hold for the industry, saying that economic indicators were mixed.
“It’s a mixed bag for recovery,” Wilson said, but “indicators are trending in the right direction; 2010 should be a solid year.”
A decline in the inventory of used aircraft, a slow increase in the number of flight hours, an expanding international market, and a rise in new aircraft inquiries are all signs that GA has weathered the worst of the economic crisis and is turning the corner, according to GAMA.
“We have our work cut out for us in the next decade and in the next year,” Bunce concluded, stressing that the key to success is continued cooperation among GA associations and manufacturers.