As in 2009 the Canadian private civil aircraft fleet grew in 2010, but at nowhere near the rate before the recession of 2008-10 started.
In 2008 the fleet grew at 3.2%, but by 2009 that dropped to 2.2% and in 2010 it increased slightly to 2.3%, a return to the sort of fleet growth rates that were seen in the days of 2003-04 when the Canadian dollar was quite low against the U.S. dollar.
The recession of the last few years, and the very anaemic recovery we have seen, have definitely taken a toll on the aircraft purchase aspirations of Canadians.That the fleet has continued to grow at all and not diminish in size is probably due to the continued high asking prices for used aircraft in Canada. Aircraft asking prices should have decreased in mid to late 2010 as the Canadian dollar surged back to par against the U.S. dollar. Because North American aircraft are essentially priced in U.S. dollars, a rise in the value of the Canadian dollar should see an equivalent lowering in aircraft asking prices to compensate.
In 2010 the total Canadian civil fleet increased in size by 642, compared to 600 aircraft in 2009 and 803 aircraft in 2008. In 2010 the private fleet accounted for almost all the growth; increasing by 617, while commercial aircraft fleet increased by only 29 aircraft.
The state fleet, those aircraft owned by the various levels of government in Canada, continued recent trends and shrank by four aircraft as government priorities continued to favour economic stimulus packages over operations.
For the past few years, certified aircraft have been leading the growth in private aircraft numbers for Canada. Fuelled by a low U.S. dollar and high asking prices for aircraft in Canada, this made imports from that country cheaper than buying domestically.
The numbers slipped somewhat in 2010 with 174 certified aircraft added, compared to 196 in 2009. However, certified aircraft remained the category with the largest growth, although just barely. In 2010, the new additions were made up of 156 airplanes, 15 helicopters and five balloons, while certified gliders decreased in number by two.
Private certified aircraft accounted for 28% of the overall fleet growth in 2010. There were 15,706 private certified aircraft at the end of 2010, out of a total of 27,053 private aircraft registered.
For the last number of years BULAs have been the second quickest growing area of private aviation and this remained the case in 2010. The category increased by 173 and accounted for 28% of the private fleet growth. The increase included 169 single-engine and four twin-engine ultralights. There were 5,275 BULAs registered at the end of the year.
Amateur-built aircraft were in the number three slot again in 2010, increasing by 109 compared to the 125 seen in 2009. In 2010 the aircraft added were made up of 95 airplanes, 13 helicopters and one balloon. The good news here is that, unlike in 2009, the number of gliders and gyroplanes remained steady and did not diminish. Amateurbuilts made up 18% of the aircraft added to the overall fleet in 2010, down from 21% in 2009.
Amateur builts now number 3,744 in Canada and include fixed wing airplanes, helicopters, gliders, gyroplanes, balloons, airships and one ornithopter.
In 2010 AULAs remained in fourth place for growth, increasing their numbers by 39, compared to an increase of 42 the year before. By category definition, all AULAs are powered fixed wing aircraft. Their growth in numbers in 2010 made up 6% of the fleet increase and brought the total number of AULAs on the register to 1,121.
The AULA category was introduced in 1991 and has increased at an average of 59 aircraft per year. Like 2009, this past year was well below average for the category and seem to indicate an increasing lack of popularity of this category over time, probably due to the high price of new AULAs.
The O-M category added 36 aircraft in 2010, which is up considerably from 2009 when only 27 were added. By the end of 2010, there were 519 O-M aircraft on the registry, made up of 507 airplanes and 12 gliders.
This category has suffered from low numbers of aircraft being moved from the certified category ever since the FAA announced that O-M aircraft will never be allowed to fly in U.S. airspace or sold in the USA. The increase this past year may indicate that Canadian owners have decided that they don’t care about that factor as much anymore and see the ownership cost savings as worth the disadvantages. It will be interesting to see how this category fares in 2011.
Commercial and State Fleets
As the economy continued to struggle in 2010 the commercial aircraft fleet had another weak year, increasing by only 29 aircraft to bring it to 6,861. The numbers show a shrinkage of nine airplanes, offset by growth in the helicopter fleet by 38, plus one balloon added. Almost all the commercial fleet growth was in twin-engine aircraft, with 31 added, versus just two singles and one four-engine aircraft.Five three-engine aircraft left the fleet, likely old Boeing 727s being retired.
The state fleet was reduced in 2010 by four aircraft. The state fleet lost six airplanes, offset by the addition of two helicopters.
At the end of 2010 the private fleet made up 79% of the aircraft in Canada, with the commercial fleet at 20% and the state fleet at 0. 8%. These proportions have not changed since 2007.
Imports, Exports and Pilots
Aircraft imports into Canada in 2010 numbered 774, up from 673 in 2009, but far below the 968 imported in 2008. Exports produced very similar numbers in 2010 with 698 aircraft exported, giving a difference of only 76 favouring imports over exports.
Between December 2008 and June 2010 the number of licensed pilots in Canada with valid medicals fell by 624, a decline of 1% in that time period.
Looking at 2011
As 2011 opens, many large scale economic forces are at play that will impact aviation in Canada and will also affect future fleet growth. Oil is once again above US$90 per barrel and rising, as global oil demand increases and world oil production has remained in a plateau since 2006.
Much of the new demand is driven by India and especially China, who took the lead as the world’s largest car manufacturer in 2010. A lot of new demand has been seen in oil producing countries as well, such as Saudi Arabia.
The effects of climbing oil prices are already being felt at the airport pumps, with January 2011 Canadian 100LL avgas prices now close to $1.50 per litre, similar to 2008.
With many economists predicting that high oil prices will force the world into a new recession this year, the result may be falling used aircraft prices once again. This was seen in 2008 as owners tried to sell aircraft to pay their mortgages. This may make 2011 the right time to pick up a bargain on the used aircraft market!
Note: Data for this report was taken from the Transport Canada Civil Aircraft Register and reflects the difference between the number of aircraft registered in Canada on Dec. 31, 2009 and Dec. 31, 2010. These statistics reflect the net number of aircraft built and imported, minus the number destroyed, scrapped and exported. Just because an aircraft is registered in Canada does not mean it is being flown and therefore the number of registered aircraft should not be confused with the amount of flying activity.