Sales of piston-powered, fixed-wing aircraft were flat for the third year in a row, says the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) year-end report issued Wednesday—1,142 piston airplanes delivered in total, down slightly from 1,265 in 2015. Since 2009, sales of piston airplanes have hovered around 1,000 units per year, down from a modern-era peak of 2,755 in 2006. Billings for piston aircraft were slightly up in 2016, reflecting a move to more expensive, higher-end aircraft like the Cirrus SR22T. Those sales statistics mirror data provided by the FAA on the number of active, certificated fixed-wing U.S. pilots: 422,352 at the end of 2016, down 2.5% from 2015 levels.
The jet market was hit hard, delivering only 661 jets in 2016, down 7.9% from 2015. Jet billings were down more than 16%, reflecting the larger fraction of the market captured by light jets.
Turboprop sales were more vigorous than their internal combustion or jet siblings. GAMA reported 582 turboprops delivered in 2016, up from 557 in 2015. Sales of Pilatus’s popular PC-12 were particularly enthusiastic. The versatile turbine single sold 91 units, up from 70 the prior year. GAMA anticipates even stronger sales in 2017 as the European Union transitions to new rules that will permit turbine singles operating for hire to fly in instrument conditions, which, surprisingly for many U.S. pilots, is not currently allowed under European rules.
Sales of Cirrus aircraft continued to grow in 2016. Of the 890 piston single-engine airplanes delivered in 2016, Cirrus SR-series aircraft accounted for 317 of those deliveries—35% of all piston singles. Cirrus passed Textron as the largest manufacturer of piston singles (by number of airplanes) in 2013 and has held the lead since.
The full GAMA report is available here. AVweb was unable to resolve some small discrepancies in the reported numbers of piston aircraft sold.