General Aviation is never going to be the same again. We are going to have to invent new ways of doing business. Things have changed, and they are going to keep on changing.
These are some of the comments made by Gavin Kiggen, vice president Africa ExecuJet – an industry professional with many years’ experience – in light of the Covid-19 pandemic and the effects it has had on this sector of the aviation industry.
Following the lifting of restrictions in South Africa to level two – allowing for leisure travel between provinces – Kiggen said this move has not been good for the charter industry as airline fares are rock bottom and it is just not cost-effective to put even a Pilatus PC-12 in the air.
As far as the December season goes, he said, he is worried about how the industry will fare as South Africa sits with the fifth-highest number of Covid-19 cases in the world.
“We are going to have to give our clients a reason to fly with us. We are going to have to operate on a different level and in a more intelligent way. For instance, we will start to bring back some staff to our national office as clients want to interact with people, not computers. We will not bring back a full complement, only half. Teams will work in shifts, and we will also select those that come from the same area so that they can pool resources and travel in one car.” he said.
As far as the sales market is concerned, Kiggen said, now is the time to purchase as owners are either off-loading or looking to buy.
He said the South African market is entirely different from that of Nigeria – where more expensive jets are being purchased.
Kiggen was commenting after a recent AFBAA webinar that looked at the state of the general aviation industry in the world and South Africa in light of the Covid-19 pandemic. Recent statistics from John Hopkins University reveal that South Africa is the fifth-highest in the world with 559, 859 cases, fourth is Russia with 890 799, India is third with over two million, Brazil is second highest with over three million and the USA has over five million.
The webinar looked at how general aviation is being affected by Covid-19 and what needs to be done to survive. The question was posed “How will GA survive when there has always been such a strong parallel link between commercial and GA indicators?”
The current situation shows that OEMs are delivering less, and that there are huge layoffs and retrenchments among Bombardier, Textron and Gulfstream. This will affect South African AMO’s, FBO’s and sales organisations.
Consider that during the quarter that ended March 31, piston aeroplane deliveries had declined 11.7 percent, with 219 airframes; turboprop aeroplane deliveries dropped a whopping 41.8 percent, with 71 airframes; and business jet deliveries declined 19.1 percent, with 114 airframes when compared to the same time period in 2019.
On the rotorcraft side, turbine helicopter deliveries declined 18.3 percent with 85 airframes, while piston helicopter deliveries declined 43.9 percent sending just 37 machines out the door. Of the 404 total delivers in the first quarter, the majority–294–went to North America, 98 to Europe and nine to South America.
Industry experts and stakeholders are awaiting second-quarter delivery numbers that should appear later in the year that will reflect a better picture of the impact the Covid-19 virus has had on the industry.