With Increase in Aircraft Shipments Overall from 2020, GAMA Reports a Good Year

The association held its annual conference Wednesday with updates on fuel, sustainability, workforce, and supply chain challenges.

General aviation aircraft shipments rose 10.2 percent in 2021. [File Photo: Adobe Stock]

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) offered good news in the wake of the second year of the global pandemic, with overall general aviation aircraft shipments ticking upward by 10.2 percent in 2021, with a total valuation of $25.2 billion. 

GAMA held its annual State of the Industry Press Conference on Wednesday at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., to deliver the report and update the industry on the key challenges it faces in 2022: 

  • Fuel
  • Sustainability
  • Workforce
  • Supply chain

“The strength and tenacity of the general aviation industry has provided a strong foundation for the industry to rebound from pandemic-related setbacks with a powerful showing in 2021,” said Pete Bunce, GAMA president and CEO. “Total aircraft shipments are converging on figures that were seen before the outset of the pandemic. 

“The industry has been able to weather the storm by strategically managing workforce and supply chain challenges, which unfortunately are still ongoing,” Bunce continued. “Despite this adversity, there is robust interest and excitement in our industry as we continue to further our advancements in innovation, technology and environmental sustainability.”

Bunce opened the press conference with a tribute to FAA Administrator Steve Dickson, who announced his retirement halfway through his tenure at the agency.

"I was there...in Congress during his confirmation hearing and when Mr. Dickson said the Max is not going to be returned to service 'until I fly it,' I knew that very second that not only was he going to be confirmed, but that that was the the strong leadership that we want to have in the FAA."

In the first stage of the pandemic, the challenge was to keep the workforce employed. "The money wasn't there," said Bunce, but then he credited the funding earmarked for support, totaling $673 million helping 593 companies. Other good things came during the past two years, including stronger bilateral cooperation between the EU and North America, and the launch of the Business Aviation Commitment on Climate Change that was signed last fall.

Bunce noted another industry and FAA cooperative effort, when industry realized that the last business day of 2021 would fall on Friday, December 31, a holiday. By working with the agency, OEMs were able to book roughly $250 million in year-end deliveries, helping to bolster the year.

EAGLE Initiative Launches

Dickson was on hand to present a critical step forward in the quest to solve the troubled future of leaded avgas. Bunce introduced the effort, recognizing that though the industry has been working on the problem for a decade, the pressure to find a solution has grown rapidly in recent months. "We've got a time clock ticking," he said.

Dickson announced the EAGLE initiative--Eliminate Aviation Gas Lead Emissions--as a four-pillared program joining the GA industry with the FAA in pushing forward to cut leaded fuel from the fleet by 2030. "We have the will to get this done," said Dickson, noting that general aviation's piston fleet accounts for 350 tons of lead emissions into the atmosphere every day.

Piston Airplane Shipments See Modest Uptick

In 2021, piston airplane deliveries increased 5.5 percent as compared to the reduced numbers in 2020, with a total of 1,393 units out the door. Shipments in North America accounted for 68.7 percent overall, with the Asia-Pacific market coming in second at 14.4 percent.

Piston airplanes comprise a critical portion of the fleet in terms of maintaining the airport infrastructure found across the U.S. Bunce called it "an infrastructure to preserve...the U.S. is an aviation nation...and we need to keep every one of them open."

Turboprop Deliveries Make Good Strides

A brighter spot: Turboprop airplane deliveries increased by 19.0 percent, with 527 units. Turboprop customers in North America took delivery of 52.6 percent of the global total, with the Latin America market tallying 15.7 percent of the pie.

Turboprop shipments reflected the strength not only of the private aviation sector, which saw growth owing to people new to GA wanting to travel outside of the airlines, but also the owner-pilot segment. In an industry panel, moderator Maria Della Posta, president of Pratt & Whitney Canada, said OEMs had done a fantastic job introducing new models through the pandemic, with the demand increasing for owners new to the market.

Jet Shipments Reflect Increase in Private Aviation Travel

Business jet deliveries increased by 10.2 percent, with a total 710 units shipped. Overall, the airplane deliveries for 2021 was preliminarily cast at $21.6 billion, an increase of roughly 7.6 percent. 

North American dominated the business jet segment as well, with 65.9 percent of deliveries into the region in 2021. Next in line? Europe, with 18 percent of the total shipments.

GAMA board chairman Michael Amalfitano presented the industry report to the conference, noting that GA shipments are not yet collectively back to pre-pandemic levels. However, he said, "the backlog would tell you the stronger story," with many OEMs registering delivery dates towards the end of 2023 or 2024 in some cases.

Rotorcraft Charge Upward

Coming back from a truly soft year, piston helicopter deliveries rebounded with an increase of 27.5 percent as compared to 2020, with 181 units. A first look at civil-commercial turbine helicopter shipments registered an increase of 24.8 percent, with 645 units. The preliminary value of helicopter deliveries for 2021 was $3.7 billion, an increase of about 28 percent.

While Leonardo Helicopters hadn't yet reported its 2021 addition to the turbine segment, the rotorcraft industry overall reflected the same strength as the rest of the GA market.

Year-End Aircraft Shipments and Billings
Aircraft Type 2020 2021 Change
Piston Airplanes 1,321 1,393 5.5 percent
Turboprops 443 527 19 percent
Business Jets 644 710 10.2 percent
Total Airplanes 2,408 2,630 9.2 percent
Total Airplane Billing $20 billion $21.6 billion 7.6 percent
Piston Helicopters 142 181 27.5 percent
Turbine Helicopters 517 645 24.8 percent
Total Helicopters 659 826 25.3 percent
Total Helicopter Billing $2.9 billion $3.7 billion 28 percent
Source: General Aviation Manufacturers Association
Based in Maryland, Julie is an editor, aviation educator, and author. She holds an airline transport pilot certificate with Douglas DC-3 and CE510 (Citation Mustang) type ratings. She's a CFI/CFII since 1993, specializing in advanced aircraft and flight instructor development. Follow Julie on Twitter @julieinthesky.
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