Although new aircraft sales are in the doldrums, some avionics shops are doing brisk business upgrading older airframes and that made the Aircraft Electronics Association convention an upbeat affair. The AEA wrapped up its 52nd annual convention Saturday at Dallas's Gaylord Texan convention center with a record number of new product introductions and strong participation by association members. AEA President Paula Derks told AVweb that some member shops have seen only modest business decline since last fall, if they've seen any. "I can't say certain regions or certain shops are busier than others. Thankfully, our segment of the industry, the repair stations and the manufacturers of avionics system, are not reporting a lot of layoffs," Derks said.
In some ways, strong OEM sales during the past five years may have prepared certain segments of the market to weather the current downturn. Expensive-to-develop systems such as Garmin's G1000 and Avidyne's Entegra line were designed with new aircraft in mind but everyone expected they would eventually find their way into the aftermarket. And eventually is evidently here, as both Garmin and Avidyne are selling aggressively into the legacy fleet while newcomer Aspen Avionics is doing well with its popular EFIS retrofit. Lesser-known players such as Sagem, Chelton and ISS are also angling for a share of the retrofit market. Aspen CEO John Uczekaj said sales for March showed a definite uptick and Aviydne's Tom Harper reported the same trend. Aspen has sold more than 1000 of its unique retrofit PFDs and expects to be shipping a companion MFD by about mid-year.