The researches shows that the airplane shipments and 10.5% in their combined values makes it appear the general aviation industry is on fire. However; But a more detailed view reveals pockets of strength and weakness. Because Each quarter; the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) publishes worldwide shipment data for general aviation aircraft. This includes non-commercial civil aircraft comprised of fixed-wing piston; turboprop and business jets, as well as helicopters.
Shipment data for general aviation
Beginning with the smallest, least expensive piston airplanes; deliveries rose a remarkable 24% from 200 units to 248. Half, or 24 units of this increase; came from Piper Aircraft primarily from trainer sales while another 13 came from Textron TXT +0% Aviation’s piston offerings. It will be interesting to see Textron’s resolve in keeping the expensive; legacy Beechcraft Bonanza and Baron piston line in production ; which only saw 2 units delivered in Q1 2018 and just 1 in 2019.
Other players in the piston segment either made or lost a few more sales. ICON Aircraft, maker of the A5 light-sport amphibian; reported 14 deliveries so far this year compared to just 3 this time last year – surprising given the recent executive changes at the top and layoffs. Piston aircraft leader Cirrus Aircraft saw a double-digit decline in piston sales suggesting that the industry’s quarterly improvement is not systemic.
Piper Aircraft primarily
For turboprop airplanes deliveries rose a modest 7% from 115 to 123 units; with a lot having to do with a pop in Texton Aviation’s King Air and Caravan sales. Turboprops will soon become an interesting and high-growth segment to watch over the next couple of years as Textron introduces the single-engine Denali turboprop and the purpose-built Skycourier for package delivery.
Outliers from the core business jet makers include Honda Aircraft and Cirrus. The former’s HondaJet suffered a 41.7% drop in deliveries year-over-year from 12 to 7. This coincides with the firm’s recent announcement of building a $15.5M addition to its North Carolina facility bringing its total capital investment in the location to over $245M.
The aviation business
While ever breaking even on the program would seem remote, Honda’s quest to break into the aviation business has been accomplished. Cirrus’s tiny SF50 single-engine Vision Jet saw a 40% bump in deliveries from 10 to 14. Time will tell whether this niche market has the depth to continue delivering at these levels.
In summary, GAMA’s news that airplane shipments increased by 14.5% and billings 10.5% in the first quarter isn’t necessarily an indicator of overall industry health. The improvement in piston activity was largely driven by trainer sales and does mean that individual buyers are back in the market yet.