Pistons continue to prop up aircraft market

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The General Aviation Manufacturers Association released another quarterly report of aircraft deliveries November 18, marking a continuation of painful trends that have hamstrung business jet and turboprop sales, and COVID-19 got most of the blame for double-digit declines in most sectors.

“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,” said GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce, in the news release. “This is reflected in what aviators have witnessed over the past few months at GA airports on both sides of the Atlantic where flight activity is robust, particularly in the flight school arena.”

Air travel has picked up somewhat since the early days of the pandemic, when Cessna Skyhawks, the bestselling GA aircraft in history, outnumbered the Boeing 737, the most ubiquitous airline model flying in 2020, in the air.  The Cessna 172S Skyhawk SP led the battle of the balance sheets as well, with 94 deliveries tallied in the third quarter alone, according to GAMA’s report, more than any other single aircraft model. Cirrus Aircraft delivered 101 single-engine piston airplanes during the quarter, including the SR20, SR22, and SR22T models; Textron Aviation’s piston offerings (including Cessna and Beechcraft) tallied the highest total of units sold, contributing to the 1.4-percent overall increase in piston airplane sales for the first three quarters of the year, compared to the same period in 2019.

The year-over-year comparisons are much bleaker in the turbine categories, with a 27-percent decline in turboprop airplane deliveries, and a 26.7-percent decline in business jet deliveries. Helicopter sales, both piston and turbine, declined by similar percentages compared to the first three quarters of 2019.

“While the industry has shown its resilience, it will likely once again face stiff headwinds from the resurgent pandemic, especially given that many European countries have once again gone into lockdown without a common pan-European policy enabling general and business aviation travel across national borders,” Bunce continued. “Despite these significant challenges, it continues to be our dedicated workforce that enables our industry to persevere through the recovery process.”

GAMA’s quarterly report included a notable footnote, the first reported deliveries of any electric aircraft. Pipistrel earned that spot in GAMA history with the delivery of five Velis Electro airplanes during the third quarter, following the battery-powered model’s certification in Europe.

“This portends an exciting evolution

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