Where Does General Aviation Go From Here?

By Scott Spangler on September 21st, 2020

Nothing in the world seems to make sense anymore.

On Monday (September 14), GAMA published its aircraft shipping and billings report for the second quarter, and it’s not good. Every category took a significant hit. The surprise was that piston airplanes got off easy with just a 13.3% decrease from the same period in 2019. Piston helos, on the other hand, took the biggest hit, down 45.2%. Between the two were business jets, down 26.7%; turboprops, down 34.2%; and turbine helos, down 37.1%.

GA-1

SM Spangler

When looking at a bigger picture, framed by my second-floor office window in my hometown of roughly 3,500 people, things are more confusing because this week crews started building three new houses. Midweek, the TV news reported that home remodeling companies were never busier. How is this possible when the virus unemployed millions, with thousands more to join them next month when the bailout restrictions expire, and most people who still have jobs live paycheck to paycheck?

Certainly, the news on September 16 that the Federal Reserve expects to leave interest rates near zero through 2023 has something to do with this. And what does it all mean for the future of general aviation? Will people invest in new airplanes as they are investing in new houses? And what about used airplanes? What has the virus done to that market? If it is following the nonsensical real estate environment, used airplanes like prelived-in homes do not seem to be on the market very long. But clearly, by comparing the GAMA report with what I see out my office window, the two are not alike.

Maybe general aviation will recoup some of the transportation business the virus took from the airlines, at least for those with jobs and the ability to afford an airplane, a fractional ownership of one, or at least a charter flight. Then again, one needs a place to go, and the approval to get off the plane upon arrival, as dictated by any applicable entry and quarantine requirements.

Time will tell, of course, and we are sure to get a clue of what the future of general aviation might hold at the end of September, when we see consequences of the third quarter of this unpredictable year.

Bearhawk

SM Spangler

On the positive side, on my hike around town yesterday, a daily excursion to get some exercise and fresh air, I saw more general aviation airplanes buzzing above me than I’d ever seen on a Friday afternoon (except during AirVenture). But this, too, may have been because of timing. It was a beautiful sunny, cloud-free day in the 70s. Being this is Wisconsin, last night’s hard freeze warning was winter knocking at the door, so those lucky pilots may have been logging their last flights of the season.

Either way, no matter what is going on, there is nothing more beautiful, more soul lifting than seeing a sunshine yellow airplane humming its way across a spotless blue sky.– Scott Spangler, Editor

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