Feb. 24, 2021

General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) leaders said they expect a healthy rebound in aircraft demand once the impact of the COVID pandemic has passed, and they believe innovations in electric propulsion and supersonic technologies will increase the sector’s global reach.

Speaking at the association’s 2021 State of the Industry address, GAMA Chair Nicolas Chabbert applauded the general aviation manufacturing industry for its response to the pandemic, which caused a 9.7% decline in airplane shipments in 2020 and a 14.8% drop in total airplane billings.

“I must say that these figures do not represent the level of demand [for aircraft], which stays very high,” said Chabbert, senior vice president of Daher’s Aircraft Division and CEO of Kodiak Aircraft. “We all are facing new constraints besides the ones that have to do with fighting the pandemic and keeping our employees safe, and we are concerned about supply chain constraints and border restrictions, [but] our industry is resilient and I’m very optimistic for 2021.”

View GAMA’s Full State of the Industry Press Conference.

GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce pointed to a strong rebound for many segments of the general aviation community in the fourth quarter of 2020. “Hats off to all those involved in our industry to be able to come back as quickly as we did and restore manufacturing to the limits of what we could do, given the strain on the supply chain during that period,” he said.

Bunce welcomed the growth of the electric aircraft sector. “As we start to look on the horizon of electric propulsion, you will see that there is innovation across the board. It is truly phenomenal the number of new aircraft designs that are going through the research process all over the planet right now,” he added.

Bunce also applauded the continued development of supersonic technologies like NASA’s X-59 Quiet SuperSonic Technology research aircraft, which could prove that supersonic aircraft can reduce a sonic boom to a gentle thump.

“With this aircraft, we will be able to see how the public reacts to a rumble in the skies that in most cases is not audible,” said Bunce. “We’re excited about this capability and how our companies will take advantage of it, and we have state governments working with us so we can explore this new area of supersonic travel.”

Despite the industry’s fourth quarter rebound, the pandemic took its toll on 2020 shipments and billings. The least affected segment, piston airplanes, saw deliveries drop just 0.9% year-over-year to 1,312 units, but turboprop shipments declined 15.6% to 443 units ,and business jet deliveries fell 20.4% to 644 aircraft.

The value of airplane deliveries for 2020 dropped 14.8% compared to 2019 to $20 billion, the association noted. Preliminary civil-commercial helicopter deliveries also fell 17.7% to 674 units and billings dropped 16.2% to $2.7 billion compared to 2019.

Read more about GAMA’s report for 2020.