The Aircraft Electronics Association reported a first quarter drop in avionics sales for the business/general aviation sector. Pictured here is a Bombardier Challenger 650 enlisted by Finnish charter operator, Jetflite, for repatriation of COVID-19 patients. Photo: Jetflite
Avionics sales for business and general aviation aircraft dropped for the first quarter of this year dropped nearly 9 percent compared to last year, the Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA) said in its latest avionics report released on May 26.
The decrease comes, as the aviation sector continues to feel the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. The avionics for business/general aviation sector saw $660.4 million in sales in the first quarter of 2020 – a nearly $64 million fall from the nearly $724.2 million in sales in the first quarter of last year.
The decrease ends a string of 12 consecutive quarters with a reported increase in year-over-year sales, AEA said. On a bright note, however, AEA said that this year's first quarter sales were a 3.2 percent increase over first quarter sales in 2018.
The decline in 2020 first quarter sales was sharpest – $42 million, nearly 11 percent – in the retrofit market, while the forward-fit market saw a $21 million, or 6.3 percent, drop. First quarter retrofit sales this year were about $345.7 million, compared to $388.1 million last year, while forward-fit sales were about $314.8 million, compared to $336.1 million last year. In February, AEA's year-end report showed overall sales of business and general aviation avionics were up 10.2 percent in 2019 compared to 2018.
Avionics companies that report sales data to AEA for their quarterly and annual tracking of sales have continued to operate, release new products and manufacture equipment in support of the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic since travel and social distancing restrictions became widespread in early March. North Dakota-based Appareo Systems for example, unveiled a new crash-hardened recoverable data module with auto bus detection for business and general aviation aircraft on Apr. 29, and followed that with a major upgrade to its web-based flight data analysis software on May 18.
Avionics suppliers to the business and general aviation market, such as Universal Avionics, have continued to develop new products while also providing manufacturing support for supplies that can help fight the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Here, workers at Universal Avionics' Tuscon, Arizona facility work on masks and shields. Photo: Universal Avionics
On May 18, Garmin’s Autoland system achieved its first aircraft certification on the Piper M600/SLS, after completing a certification flight at Garden City Airport in Kansas on May 5. At the end of March, Honeywell Aerospace added manufacturing capabilities at its Phoenix, Arizona site to produce N95 face masks. A month after achieving European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) certification on its ClearVision Enhanced Flight Vision System (EFVS) head-wearable display, Universal Avionics started manufacturing medical masks and shields at its Tucson, Arizona facility.
Avionics industry observers had expected some decline in first quarter sales this year because of the passing of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) January 1, 2020 deadline to equip aircraft with Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (Out). AEA President Mike Adamson said that the decline in first quarter avionics sales this year "may not come as a surprise" because of the passing of that Jan 1 deadline.
"We also don't yet know the full extent and global impact of the economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic near the end of the first quarter and how it will weigh on the industry and our market figures going forward," he said in a statement. "The continued operations of business and general aviation could provide a silver lining while commercial aviation remains at a near standstill worldwide."