Here’s a Cirrus owner’s view of the GA piston market

2008 Cirrus Perspective SR22TN Turbo, photo credit wikiWings
2008 Cirrus Perspective SR22TN Turbo, photo credit wikiWings

In February, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association ( released their 2016 annual report. It presents declining piston engine shipments which is disappointing news for GA but that’s not the whole story. Some manufacturers are increasing sales.  In 2016, Cirrus shipped 5.3% more planes than the prior year.  And, Cirrus piston shipments last year were up 14.9% over year-end numbers for 2013. That’s good.

It’s a trend that’s also being seen in Cirrus pre-owned aircraft sales.  Compared to four years ago, availability has changed significantly because more pilots are shifting into Cirrus planes and taking them off the market. Supply slack is just gone in certain Cirrus pre-owned models.

I’ve read several aviation magazines that commented on the 2016 piston engine decline, which fell 3.5% from the prior year.  But I’m a single-engine piston pilot – so it’s those numbers that get my attention. Overall, single-engine airplane shipments saw a 5.9% decline for 2016 compared to 2015 (see Table 1.1 below). That’s bad. The actual GAMA report provides an in-depth look at the general aviation industry.

GAMA Piston Engine Shipments Report Table 1.1
Year Single-Engine % Multi-Engine Total %
2013  908  122  1,030
2014  986 8.6%  143  1,129 9.6%
2015  946 -4.1%  110  1,056 -6.5%
2016  890 -5.9%  129  1,019 -3.5%
3-Year Change -2.0% -1.1%

So who are the GA piston shipment losers?  You can read the GAMA report by manufacturer for details, but it’s mostly 50 year-old aluminum airplane designs that are declining.  Installing glass panels in half-century old designs isn’t winning more sales.

But there are reasons to be optimistic about the future because new thought leaders are investing in innovation:

  • Elon Musk has entered the aviation market determined to bring change
  • Uber announced plans for a Vertical Take-Off and Landing vehicle (VTOL) by 2020
  • The ICON A5 light sport plane may bring in a new generation of flyers
  • Diamond aircraft has a new high-performance composite single-engine plane
  • Cirrus Vision SF50 Personal Jet is certified. Customers deliveries began last year.

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