The General Aviation Manufacturers Association presented its annual State of the Industry report February 22, documenting increases in shipments and deliveries compared to 2021, despite supply chain challenges—though the rising tide did not lift every manufacturer or segment.
GAMA Chairman Eric Hinson and President and CEO Pete Bunce, noting double-digit year-over-year increases in many categories, spoke optimistically about the future of the industry.
Piston airplane shipments reached 1,524 in 2022—up 8.2 percent from 2021, and GAMA officials said the age of the in-service fleet represents opportunity: “The average age of the fleet is still 48 years old, so the opportunity for growth in the piston market is pretty good,” said Hinson.
Cirrus continues to dominate in the piston market, delivering 629 aircraft in 2022 among its deliveries of SR20, SR22, and SR22T piston singles, and the SF50 Vision Jet—more airframes than any other manufacturer. Cirrus closed out 2022 with a 19.3-percent increase in aircraft shipments and 20.9-percent increase in billing year over year.
Piper emerged as another unsurprising leader, with 236 deliveries in 2022 compared to 207 in 2021—a 14-percent increase in shipments and a 15.6-percent increase in billing, according to the GAMA report, which placed Piper among the top of its primary rivals, including Textron Aviation (makers of Cessna and Beechcraft airplanes), Tecnam, and Diamond.
“Despite the supply chain and labor challenges our industry faced this year, we were still able to deliver our aircraft as promised, create valuable enhancements across our product lineup, and pass these improvements to our Piper dealer partner network and retail customers,” said Piper President and CEO John Calcagno in Piper’s press release.
The business jet category emerged with the shallowest growth, rising 0.3 percent in shipments compared to 2021. Bunce noted that midsized jets "are carrying the load" in the business jet category, and a declining share of all business aircraft are headed to customers in Europe. In 2022, 69.9 percent of business jet aircraft were delivered to North America and only 11 percent delivered to Europe. According to Bunce, this North American dominance can be largely attributed to the infrastructure in the United States to support the missions carried out by these types of aircraft. Additionally, a trend of soft sales and deliveries in Europe is affecting all aircraft categories as concern and advocacy over environmental issues are more frequently expressed across the continent.
Strong buyer interest drove increases in turboprop sales, including single-engine models that have grown more common as a step up from piston airplanes. Buyers who previously moved to light jets might now eye a turboprop, or a larger jet. The Cirrus SF50 Vision Jet bucked that trend, though its overall 4.7-percent increase in 2022 deliveries did not match the company's overall pace, an increase of 19 percent. Other light jets fared worse.
The Honda Aircraft Co. HondaJet posted the most dramatic drop in deliveries, falling from 31 airframes delivered in 2020 and 37 delivered in 2021 to 17 delivered in 2022—a 54-percent decrease in shipments and 47.4-percent decline in billing.
Turboprop shipments were up 10.4 percent overall in 2022, with 582 units delivered. Textron Aviation continued a trend of gains in the turbine categories while piston deliveries declined. In 2020, 57 percent of Textron's deliveries had piston engines. In 2021, the figure was 47 percent, and in 2022 piston aircraft accounted for 43 percent of Textron's deliveries.
However, Textron resumed deliveries of the Beechcraft Bonanza, logging three in the fourth quarter of 2022 (the first deliveries of this storied model since the fourth quarter of 2020).
Altogether, average shipment growth for the airplane category was up 6.5 percent and total airplane billings up 5.8 percent for 2022.
Helicopter manufacturers had similar shipment and billing increases, with total helicopter shipments up by 7.5 percent and billing up 6.8 percent.
Progress noted in the report doesn’t account for the future of electric, hybrid, and hydrogen propulsion in development, but GAMA voiced an enthusiastic outlook for the future of the industry.
“As we look towards FAA reauthorization in the U.S., we will be looking for Congress to focus the FAA on improving their processes to facilitate the certification of new technologies as well as support their validation efforts globally to deliver safety, performance and sustainability benefits,” said Bunce.
The event concluded with another forward-thinking note, with a panel of young leaders in aviation speaking about how important diversity, representation, and sustainability will be for the future of the industry.
Sustainability calls back on the 2021 GAMA State of the Industry, where FAA Administrator Steve Dickson, along with AOPA and other industry leaders, formally introduced EAGLE (Eliminate Aviation Gasoline Lead Emissions), an initiative to transition to lead-free aviation fuels for all piston-engine aircraft by the end of 2030.
A year from that announcement, Bunce highlighted progress and GAMA’s continued commitment to achieving a smart and safe lead-free solution by the end of 2030.