Aviation industry expresses ‘cautious optimism’ in Friedrichshafen

This year’s AERO in Friedrichshafen kicked off with an industry meeting attended by representatives from aviation associations and aircraft manufacturers as well as industry journalists.

In his introduction, president of the German aviation press club, Peter Pletschacher, gave attendees some current facts and figures on the industry.According to these figures, the general aviation market continues to stagnate - the number of aircraft delivered worldwide in 2012 was 2,133, just 0.6% above the previous year. For comparison, Pletschacher referenced a figure from 2007, the last year before the crisis: that year, 4,277 aircraft were delivered worldwide.

However, helicopter manufacturers seem to be bucking this trend. In 2012, 1,044 helicopters of all classes were delivered, amounting to a 21 percent increase compared to the previous year. According to Pletschacher, because the average age of aircraft currently in use is an extremely high 37 years, in the event of a global economic recovery, high demand with a backlog of aircraft orders can be expected. Overall, general aviation companies recorded sales of 18.8 billion US dollars in 2012.

A more positive picture is apparent in some sectors of general aviation, as Dr. Nicolas von Mende, Director of the northern German company Atlas Air Service AG revealed. His company is the largest European partner of the US business jet manufacturer Cessna. The Ganderkesee-based company maintains and cares for more than 300 jets. In 2012, 16 new Cessna Citation jets were sold in Germany, a sales record. According to Mende, the mood in the industry is currently “cautiously optimistic”.

Powered ultralight aircraft represent another area of general aviation that is doing well. Christian Wenger, general manager of the aircraft manufacturer Flight Design, from Leinfelden-Echterdingen in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, sees his company in a good global position. For example, more than 1,700 of the company’s CT model aircraft have been sold in 46 countries since 1997. The company has been active in China for six years because, according to Wenger, China and East Asia are the markets of the future, next to the traditional markets in Europe and North America.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) Germany is the general aviation association in Germany and represents the interests of pilots and aircraft owners. AOPA has 470,000 members worldwide. Dr. Michael Erb, general manager of AOPA Germany, sees the industry as currently under pressure.

“The situation is not easy in general aviation,” he stressed, in light of weak broader economic conditions. Erb also complained about unnecessary bureaucratic restrictions: “In a time of economic weakness, we do not need uncertainty generated by government authorities - they cannot make our lives even more difficult.”

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He stressed that systems in use in the large airline transport sector should not be imposed on private pilots in general aviation. “We want a healthy dose of reason and sensibility to play a role at the regulatory agencies,” Erb said, arguing that private pilots needed to be treated differently from airline crews.

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