The Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA) closed the books on 2020’s numbers and, while they’re not good, they’re actually a little better than feared. With total sales of more than $2.2 billion through 2020, the avionics sector, including new installations and retrofits, was down some 26 percent from 2019, which was a record year, posting more than $3 billion in sales. In the last quarter of 2020 alone, avionics sales were off by 28 percent compared to the previous year. Don’t forget that the avionics industry was buoyed in the latter part of 2019 by the push for ADS-B compliance.
According to the AEA, the good news comes from that fact that “the industry experienced healthy sales growth during the last six months of the year. For example, after total sales bottomed out in the second quarter of 2020, third-quarter sales increased 5.9% with retrofit sales up 10.8% compared to the second quarter. That upward trend continued with fourth-quarter sales increasing another 8.5% with retrofit sales up 15.3% compared to the third quarter.”
“The last half of 2020 provided a softer landing as yearly sales totals slid back to roughly the same numbers in 2016-17,” said AEA President and CEO Mike Adamson. “Despite the health crisis and its economic impact, I am encouraged that industry experienced steady growth during the last half of the year. Although 2020 year-end sales are significantly down from last year’s all-time high, we see positive signs in the retrofit market, which means our members are keeping busy with avionics upgrades. We are hopeful the combination of innovative new products, the resilience of consumers who continue to focus on upgrades, and an uptick in aircraft production can fuel more sales growth in 2021.”
Looking back, sales in the first quarter of 2020 had already started to decline as COVID-19 began to take hold; overall the industry slid by 8.8 percent, with the retrofit segment seeing a 10.9 percent drop. By the second quarter, COVID-19 in full bloom, sales had fallen by 23.6 percent, and were down by 27 percent in the third quarter, this time with “forward-fit,” or new installations, taking the biggest hit. Many avionics shops are seeing sales tick up as pilots feel the worst of the COVID-19 issues may be behind us, and those shops have come to terms with a reduction in productivity due to new work rules.