Shipments of general aviation aircraft opened the first quarter of 2020 in dynamic fashion but faded to double-digit declines as the economy collided with the coronavirus pandemic near the end of the period.
The 219 piston airplanes delivered marked a decline of 11.7 percent compared to the first quarter of 2019. The 114 business jets delivered as 2020 got underway sagged 19.1 percent from 2019. Seventy-one turboprops were shipped for a decline of 41.8 percent from comparable 2019 activity, according to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association’s First Quarter 2020 Aircraft Shipments and Billings Report.
In dollar terms, the $3.4 billion worth of airplanes delivered represented a 21.3-percent decline from 2019 Q1. The $430 million value of helicopters delivered was down from $514 million, a 19.4-percent slowdown in the quarter-to-quarter comparison.
“While the year started off strong, the health and safety restrictions put in place to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic began to significantly impact global operations, supply chains and deliveries towards the end of the first quarter,” said GAMA President Pete Bunce.
Bunce highlighted the adjustments manufacturers made to confront the new and unexpected business climate and praised the industry’s responsiveness to the public health crisis.
“Companies rapidly implemented a wide range of health protocols in accordance with local, regional and national level guidance to keep production, maintenance and training activity churning,” he said. “Many companies then supplemented ongoing activities with the production and transport of health care materials needed by front line health care workers and communities across the globe. These actions serve as a testament to the adaptability and resilience of our industry’s incredible workforce who will play such a pivotal role in our recovery process.”
With the slowdown making its presence felt near the end of the quarter, some manufacturers including Cirrus Aircraft, Diamond Aircraft, and Pilatus turned in delivery numbers close to last year’s initial period totals—with Honda Aircraft Co., delivering seven HA–420 HondaJets, on par with last year’s initial quarter.
By contrast, Piper Aircraft, which shipped 58 airplanes in the first quarter of 2019 (including 35 Piper Archer III singles), saw shipments slip to 25 aircraft, of which 18 were Archer IIIs, a model that has commanded a solid share of the flight training segment.
Textron Aviation’s Cessna unit saw 7-percent slippage from the 100 aircraft shipped in 2019’s first quarter—a time when piston-airplane deliveries were leading the airplane segment higher—to 93 in the current period. However, the 48 Cessna 172S Skyhawk SPs the company delivered more than topped 2019’s first-quarter total of 28 Cessna 172S Skyhawk SPs delivered.
Last year’s first-quarter deliveries of 18 Cessna 208B Grand Caravan EX single-engine turboprops dropped off to four in the first quarterly report of 2020.