May 26, 2020

Despite a continued downturn in business aviation flight activity when compared to last year, two recent industry reports point to encouraging signs the industry may be starting to rebound from the effects from the COVID-19 pandemic.

In its latest Global Market Tracker report, WingX Advance noted the seven-day rolling average jumped to 6,800 business aviation flights worldwide in May 19, versus 4,800 on May 1 and April’s low point of less than 3,700 operations.

Nevertheless, global business aviation traffic remains down by 55% year-over-year, with 113,000 legs flown through May 21 versus 254,000 for the same period in May 2019. Light business aircraft continue to dominate operations, with 30% of all business aviation activity operated by turboprops such as the Pilatus PC-12, Cessna 208 Caravan and the Beechcraft King Air 200.

“The improvement in daily activity is encouraging, as is the higher fleet employment, but it’s too early to see if this demand is resilient, or simply reflects the slight relaxation in government lockdown,” said WingX Managing Director Richard Koe. “The trajectory of virus suppression policy seems to indicate that international and especially intercontinental travel will be slowest to recover.”

Those sentiments were largely echoed in a recent Argus International webinar, with May expected to see a 103% month-over-month gain in flight activity, even as year-over-year operations remain down 44%. “Importantly, that’s a recovery of one-third of business aircraft activity losses seen since March 15,” said Travis Kuhn, vice-president of market intelligence for Argus.

Aviation International News reports Kuhn believes the industry will see a similar month-over-month rebound for June, with subsequent months largely tracking with gains and losses in the stock market. October, traditionally the busiest month for business aviation flight activity, may be the most significant bellwether for the industry’s sustained resilience. View the article.

“We should see a boost from November elections,” he said. “The more October is closer to 2019, the better this will bode for business aircraft flying in 2021.”