Aviation Leaders Upbeat about Health of Bizav

Despite a roller-coaster stock market and hints of economic headwinds, industry officials were upbeat about the short-term health of general and business aviation at a recent Wichita Aero Club On-Air Summit.

“I think some of the stock market fluctuations over the last couple of weeks have begun to raise some concerns,” said National Business Aviation Association president and CEO Ed Bolen, but he added: “Flight hours are up and while prices aren’t up in the used market, the level of inventory is down and my sense is we’ll finish 2018 in pretty good shape. I think there’s enthusiasm that 2019 may well be better.”

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Bolen was joined by Pete Bunce, president and CEO of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association; Jack Pelton, president and chairman of the Experimental Aircraft Association; Paula Derks, president of the Aircraft Electronics Association; and Tom Haines, senior vice president, media and outreach, for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association.

Bunce added that the sunsetting of bonus depreciation is driving some of the new and used aircraft purchases. “It’s really bonus depreciation on steroids,” he said.

Derks said that with ADS-B looming, many of AEA’s repair-station members are seeing robust business on top of business for avionics manufacturers. “They are finally reporting some backlogs,” she reported.

But Bunce said one challenge that remains is the adoption of streamlined aircraft certification regulations within the FAA. “Textron Aviation has three development programs going on right now,” he said. “They know how to build airplanes, and yet we have specialists within the FAA [who are] still…refusing to buy into this new paradigm of risk-based approach rulemaking. So we’ve had to go to Congress to be able to say, ‘Thou shalt do this.’

“But still it’s a federal government workforce, and driving cultural change is the most difficult thing in the world.”