Bad Aviation News Isn’t Homogeneous

By Scott Spangler on January 19th, 2009

shower Showered daily with foul news about the economy overall–and aviation in particular–I wasn’t looking forward to talking with a dozen avionics shops across the country for a magazine assignment. Hearing bad news first hand would be slightly more painful than getting soap in your eyes.

Imagine my surprise to learn that business, overall, isn’t that bad. In most places, and in most markets, pilots are still flying and owners are still upgrading and/or servicing their avionics, even through they aren’t spending as much money as they did in the past. In other words, business is down, but it is not dead.

Speaking for a number of shops, Rick Garcia of Gulf Coast Avionics said, “Technology is what’s selling!” Glass, especially that made by Garmin and Aspen, seems to be the most popular installation at many shops I talked to, and many owners are upgrading related equipment, like GPS to WAAS, at the same time. “I’m sure glad Garmin came out with the G600, it’s helped business,” Garcia said.

high-gas Without prompting a number of shops said their business slowdown started with last year’s high fuel prices, but that things have picked up as the bucks per gallon have come back down, at least in most places.

The Central time zones presented an unexpected dichotomy on oil prices. High fuel prices hit fun flyers hardest. Combine that with the aerial hibernation that comes with winter and neither people, nor business, are moving in places like Brainerd, Minnesota. “When people aren’t flyin’, they aren’t buyin’,”  said Rick Hansen of Avionics of Minnesota

In Louisiana, Houma Avionics is so busy it is turning away customers, “which is terrible,” said James Graves. But that will likely change if oil prices stay at or below $40 a barrel. Most of Houma’s customers serve the oil industry, and when prices are down, like the automakers, the airplane is the first thing to go.

No one would predict how long the slowed, but stabile, work would last before it got better–or worse. Instead they are focusing on being efficient, economical, and competitive. That is about all any of us can do until we work our way out of the economy’s foul shower. — Scott Spangler

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