June 2, 2020

First-quarter sales of avionics are down almost 9%, year-over-year, according to the Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA). In the AEA’s 2020 Avionics Market Report, sales were down from roughly $724 million in the first quarter of 2019 to $660 million for the same period this year.  

However, AEA President Mike Adamson cautions industry professionals to take the reported figures in context, specifically, the FAA’s ADS-B mandate, which became effective on Jan. 1, 2020.

“The industry saw 12 consecutive quarters of increased year-over-year sales,” said Adamson. “In the absence of another mandate, that streak was going to be tested one way or another. The fact this decrease happened to coincide with the deadline for the largest avionics mandate in aviation history has to be considered.”

The avionics market likely saw some residual ADS-B sales in January and February, and with a strong economy Adamson reported the first two months of 2020 were leading to another strong year ahead for the industry. And then COVID-19 hit.

“Could this decrease in sales be attributed to COVID? Maybe. Do we know for sure? Not yet, but we may have a more definitive answer when we gather our second quarter numbers,” Adamson said. “We have yet to see the full impact of COVID on this segment of the industry, but it’s important to remember that sales in first quarter 2020 are still over 3% ahead of the same time period in 2018.”

AEA recently surveyed members on existing business levels and future expectations in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Almost 80% of respondents reported a backlog of avionics work ranging from one to three months, with some shops reporting backlogs of three to six months. These numbers may be closer to a “normal” range, before the rush of ADS-B installations to meet the Jan. 1, 2020, mandate.

The general aviation market in particular seems to be taking advantage of windows in availability for installations. Avionics manufacturers are supporting the dealer network and investing in new technology. While new aircraft deliveries might be down for 2020, the retrofit market – which makes up more than half of total sales – could be the bright spot.

Adamson sums it by saying 2020 won’t be a record year for avionics sales, but he remains bullish on the industry overall.

“Clearly this industry has been hit and we can’t accurately quantify the full impact at this time but we’ve dealt with crises before and we’re going to get through this,” said Adamson.

Read AEA’s full report.