Feb. 20, 2020

Next-generation propulsion and aerial transportation technologies, environmental sustainability and the continuing need to develop the industry’s future workforce were all important themes highlighted during the 2020 General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) State of the Industry conference held Feb. 19 in Washington, DC.

“The 2019 year-end numbers reveal that overall, the general aviation manufacturing industry is vibrant,” said GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce. “Looking ahead, manufacturers are excited about the future, especially given the ongoing innovations in manufacturing that directly relate to safety and the progress being made in the development of supersonic and electrically propelled aircraft.”

GAMA, along with NBAA and other aviation associations, released the results of an updated study during the event, which highlights general aviation’s contributions to the U.S. economy, providing more than 1 million jobs, and more than $246 billion in economic output. Read more about the study.

In particular, Bunce pointed to the rapidly expanding urban air mobility (UAM) segment. “This has to be like the time was at the dawn of the jet age,” Bunce said. “We have all of these companies working on these new types of vehicles, using electric and some hybrid propulsion, and it is going to literally change our world. And it is going to happen faster than people realize.”

Sustainability is another important area of focus throughout the industry. Bombardier Aviation President David Coleal, who also serves as chairman of GAMA’s Environmental Committee, pointed to the industry’s ongoing successes in this area, most notably through expanded use and awareness of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF).

“Over the last several years, we have had a very systematic approach,” he said. “Since 2018, we’ve got the message out that SAF is ASTM-approved as a drop-in fuel that is safe for flight. It looks, smells and tastes like Jet-A; the plane doesn’t know the difference.”

That said, Coleal also emphasized the need for additional education about SAF and its benefits, highlighting the importance of initiatives, such as the recent fueling of aircraft heading to the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland with SAF. Industry groups, including NBAA, will again come together on March 24 to promote the environmentally sustainable fuel at the Business Aviation Global Sustainability Summit in Washington, DC. Ahead of the summit, a coalition of GA groups has detailed its focus on sustainability, including at the WEF event, at a dedicated website, futureofsustainablefuel.com.

“I think it’s very important that all our industry continue to be ambassadors of this topic, and make sure the world knows what we’re doing,” Coleal added.

Regarding general aviation aircraft shipments in 2019, GAMA had positive news to report across most industry segments. Business jet deliveries increased to 809, marking the industry’s best year in a decade, and the flight training market drove a more than 200-unit jump in the number of piston-engine aircraft shipments. Even with a drop in turboprop aircraft deliveries over 2018, the combined total represented the best year for fixed-wing GA aircraft deliveries since 2008.