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Strong private fleet growth continues

By Adam Hunt

 

The number of private aircraft in Canada continued to grow at a respectable rate in 2007, just as it has done for the past four years.

Growth in the private fleet had been close to 1% for many years through the 1990s and early part of this century. However, in 2004, the fleet broke 2% growth driven by an increasingly strong Canadian dollar and probably by demographic factors as well.

The growth rate in 2007 was 2.70%, up slightly from the 2.63% seen in 2006 and close to the record 2.80% seen in 2005.

Imports of aircraft from the U.S., particularly in the fourth quarter of the year, brought the rates to near record highs as the Canadian dollar peaked at over US$1.10 - the most favourable exchange rate since the invention of the airplane.

It is likely the high exchange rate would have driven more imports except most potential aircraft buyers had probably already purchased an aircraft in the preceding two years.

By the end of the year the total Canadian fleet had grown by 868 aircraft of which 659 were private and 213 commercial. The state aircraft fleet, those civil aircraft owned by the federal, provincial and territorial governments, continued to shrink, shedding four aircraft in 2007.

The private fleet currently makes up 79% of the 31,886 aircraft registered in Canada. In examining the growth in the private fleet by category, it is apparent there were few real surprises in 2007.

The trends of the past four years continue, with the largest growth occurring in the certified aircraft category, adding 256 aircraft to the register. The vast majority of them are used aircraft imported from the USA. The number of new aircraft imported continues to be small.

The number of privately owned certified helicopters continues to grow at a high rate, with 48 added in 2007, increasing their numbers by 10.23%. There were a total of 517 privately-owned certified helicopters at the end of 2007. Three new certified privately registered balloons were added last year, too.

The category showing the next largest growth was the basic ultralights, with 127 new BULAs added in 2007. This increased their numbers by 2.74% over 2006. All but one of these aircraft were single-engine, with a sole twin engine BULA rounding out the numbers. All of these were airplanes, since that is the only type of aircraft permitted in the basic ultralight category.

The amateur-built category showed strong growth with 125 aircraft added to their numbers, increasing the amateur-built fleet by 3.84%. This consisted of 117 airplanes and seven helicopters. There were 3,376 amateur-builts in Canada at the end of 2007.

Other than the small growth in the amateur-built helicopter numbers, other sub-categories of amateur-built showed very little increase. There was one amateur-built airship and one gyroplane added, while the number of amateur-built gliders decreased by one.

Of interest, the number of four-engine amateur-builts doubled in 2007 to a total of two. Both of them are airships!

The number of advanced ultralights increased by 50 in 2007, which brought their fleet up to 989 in total. AULAs are all airplanes, by definition.

Owner-maintenance aircraft continued to grow at a slow rate again in 2007, with just 33 aircraft moved to that category from certified or imported directly. This category continues to suffer from the fact they aren't permitted to fly in U.S. airspace and the FAA has given every indication this situation will not change in time, therefore, many owners are leaving their aircraft in the certified category. There were a total of 421 O-M aircraft in Canada at year's end.

COMMERCIAL FLEET

The commercial aircraft fleet saw strong growth last year with 213 aircraft added. These were almost evenly split between 104 airplanes and 109 helicopters. Looking at them by weight, 162 commercial aircraft at or below 12,500 lbs were added, plus 51 above that weight.

Only two of the new commercial aircraft were four-engine, with 128 single-engine and 83 twins added. Overall the commercial fleet grew by 3.36%, which is a higher growth rate than the private fleet saw, however, the commercial fleet only makes up 21% of the aircraft in Canada,

As has been the trend for several years, the government-owned state aircraft fleet continues to shrink as governments contract out the air services they need, rather than buying aircraft and operating them.

This analysis is based on Transport Canada's Civil Aircraft Register statistics, between December 2006 and December 2007. The increases in aircraft are due to new aircraft being constructed, aircraft converted to a new category (i.e. certified to owner-maintenance), plus those imported. Decreases are due to aircraft being exported, converted to another category or destroyed.