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Canadian private fleet keeps on growing

By Adam Hunt

 

The Canadian private civil aircraft fleet continued to expand in 2011 despite the ongoing struggling economy trying to recover from the 2008-10 global recession.

In 2008 the fleet grew at 3.2%, but by 2009 that rate had dropped to 2.2%. In 2010 it rebounded slightly to 2.3% and in 2011 the rate increased still further to 2.5%, but it still lags well behind the 3% plus seen prior to the recession.

The recession and the on-again off-again recovery we have seen definitely slowed down the rate of aircraft purchases in Canada. The fact that the fleet has continued to grow at all, and not shrink, is probably due to the continued high asking prices for used aircraft in Canada as the U.S. dollar remained weak in 2011.

Aircraft asking prices should have again decreased this past year as the Canadian dollar was at or near par against the U.S. dollar, but Canadian asking prices remain consistently higher than U.S. prices, encouraging cross-border aircraft shopping and acting as a Canadian fleet growth driver.

The problem remains that many of those over-pricedand-not-selling-fast aircraft are also not being flown much, so while the Canadian civil fleet grows in size the amount of flying isn’t changing a lot.

In 2011 the total Canadian civil fleet increased in size by 772; compared to 642 aircraft in 2010; 600 in 2009 and 803 aircraft in 2008.

Last year the private fleet accounted for 85% of the growth seen, increasing by 674, while the commercial aircraft fleet increased by 94 aircraft, a substantial improvement over 2010’s commercial fleet increase of only 29 aircraft.

The state fleet, those aircraft owned by the various levels of government in Canada, reversed its shrinking trend of recent years and grew by four aircraft — all of them helicopters.

Certified Aircraft

For the past few years, certified aircraft have been leading the growth in private aircraft numbers for Canada. The numbers increased last year with 228 certified aircraft added, much more than 2010’s total of 174. In 2011, certified aircraft was the category with the largest growth by a big margin over basic ultralights, the category with the next largest growth. The new additions to the certified fleet were made up of 219 airplanes, three helicopters and six gliders.

Private certified aircraft accounted for 29% of the overall fleet growth in 2011. There were 15,934 private certified aircraft at the end of 2011, out a total of 27,727 total private aircraft registered.

Basic Ultralights

For the last number of years BULAs have been the second quickest growing area of private aviation and this trend continued in 2011.

The category increased by 161 and accounted for 24% of the private fleet growth. There were 5,436 BULAs registered at the end of 2011. Low cost seems to be driving the growth of this category.

Amateur-builts

Amateur-built aircraft were in the number three slot again in 2011, increasing by 137, up from an increase of 109 in 2010.

The aircraft added were made up of 131 airplanes, seven helicopters and one balloon. The number of gliders and gyroplanes decreased by one each.

Amateur-builts made up 21% of the aircraft added to the overall fleet.

Amateur-builts now number 3,881 in Canada and include a wide variety of aircraft, from fixed wing airplanes, helicopters, gliders, gyroplanes to balloons, airships and even one ornithopter.

Advanced Ultralights

In 2011 AULAs remained in fourth place for growth, increasing their numbers by only 28 airplanes, compared to an increase of 39 in 2010 and 42 in 2009. Their growth in numbers in 2011 made up 4% of the fleet increase and brought the total number of AULAs on the civil register to 1,149. By the category definition, all AULAs are powered fixed wing aircraft.

The AULA category was introduced in 1991 and therefore 2011 was its twentieth anniversary. The category has increased its numbers at an average of 57 aircraft per year and so can hardly be considered the success that was envisioned 20 years ago, when it was heralded as the answer that would bring many more people into recreational

flying. As in the past three years the number of AULAs added was well below the average and seems to indicate that the category is slowly dying out, a trend mostly likely linked to the high price of new AULAs.

Owner Maintained

The O-M category added 27 aircraft in 2011, well down from the total of 36 added in 2010. By the end of 2011, there were 546 O-M aircraft on the registry, made up of 533 airplanes and 13 gliders.

This category has suffered from low numbers of aircraft being moved from the certified category ever since the American FAA announced that O-M aircraft will never be allowed to fly in U.S. airspace or sold in the USA. Overall this category seems to be waning over time and transfers from the certified category will probably continue to decrease in future years.

Commercial Fleet

As the economy recovered somewhat in 2011, the commercial aircraft fleet increased by 94 aircraft to bring it to 6,955. The numbers show an increase of 41 airplanes, 51 helicopters and two balloons. Almost all the commercial fleet growth was in twinengine aircraft, with 86 added, versus just three singles and four four-engine aircraft. One three-engine aircraft left the fleet, probably another old Boeing 727 being retired.

At the end of 2011 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 2011 numbered 861, up from 774 in 2010 and 673 in 2009, but still below the 968 imported in the pre-recession days of 2008. Last year 667 aircraft were exported, giving a difference of 194 favouring imported aircraft over those exported.

Between December 2008 and June 2011 the number of licensed pilots in Canada with valid medicals fell by 1431, a decline of 2.3% in two and half years, for an annual rate of just under 1% per year. Compared to past years the number of pilots dropping out of flying is increasing recently. This i not unexpected as the pilot

population ages and more pilots run into medical limitations, plus the economic situation may be preventing many retirees, as well as those out of work or under employed, from flying.

Looking at 2012

As 2012 commences, many global factors are at play that have the potential to negatively impact aviation in Canada. These include the risk of a war in the Middle East, with the potential loss of oil shipments though the Straits of Hormuz, which would result in extremely high oil prices and probably oil and gasoline shortages in eastern Canada, at least for the duration.

Oil prices remain around US$100 per barrel, resulting in high avgas prices, making flying more expensive and therefore reducing the number of people who fly, or at least who fly regularly. Anecdotal evidence seems to indicate that as fuel prices rise most aircraft owners are not so much quitting flying as just flying less and staying closer to home.

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, 2010 and Dec. 31, 2011. 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.