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GAMA 2012 numbers are in

Here's the latest GAMA report of a market in depression.

800 piston planes sold in 2012. Cessna are mostly selling the 172, only 5 162 (ha-ha!) and no 350/400. Cirrus completely owns the high end piston market. Diamond surprisingly good with DA40 but almost no DA42. Bonanza not selling.

Cessna built over 20,000 piston planes at its peak in 1979.

Quite sad.

Kinda funny that some A330 and B747 variants are considered GA aircraft...


There are VIP versions from Boeing and Airbus.

If you relate back to the 1970s it will always look terrible.

But weren't the 1970s inflated by various social factors coming together (in the USA mainly)

  • wealth improving
  • the WW2 designs (almost all of GA) not yet looking obviously dated
  • a lot of WW2-trained pilots still around
  • a lot of WW2-trained pilots retiring from the airlines and flying GA

Nothing much happened after that until Cirrus arrived and revitalised the market with a nice looking plane.

I know many disagree, and this is a rather personal thing (everybody loves their own plane) but I really cannot see how anybody can try to sell what is obviously a WW2-era hull, with a nice GPS. It's astonishing how far some of the vendors have managed to drag their dead horses.

The post-1970s social changes (public acceptance of old junk) have been massive, and this is obvious across every aspect of business, from stuff sold in shops, to industrial gear never seen by Joe Public which still needs to be tarted up by an industrial designer. Most GA designs for sale now (not really selling - as you observe) are like selling this, today.

Most women won't be seen dead (sorry; an English expression) in most GA planes, which makes the activity rather "specialised"...

It now makes Socata's decision to drop the TB20/21 seem daft. One can see they did it in the face of the unstoppable tsunami from Cirrus, but crap marketing in the USA didn't help. The TB9/10/200 have not made sense since the 1980s, due to silly pricing, but the 20/21 completely outclasses them and stands on its own.

What are Cessna doing with the 400? I think 2012 is the 2nd consecutive year of near-zero deliveries (there was 1 in 2011, IIRC). They have put a huge amount of engineering time into tarting it up with the latest Garmin eye candy.

It reminds me of Socata's c. 2000 "GT" revamp into which they put masses of engineering time, only to drop the whole thing 2 years later (they didn't officially admit it till 2005). I suppose French labour costs and "working" practices are just too out of control, and Socata didn't have the drive to move production elsewhere and run it themselves.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

It now makes Socata's decision to drop the TB20/21 seem daft.

I doubt. Having a piece of that 800 airplane market isn't that interesting and the TB20/21 doesn't have anything that would radically differentiate it from the competition. It's a conventional all metal design albeit a bit newer than the others. Soccata wouldn't stand a chance against Cirrus and Cessna with the US being the most important markets. Cirrus is the clear innovation leader and Cessna the established and reliable market leader. The hull is not that important anymore, avionics and things like parachutes are equally important and Soccata never did much there other than install standard stuff in a standard way. TB20/21 are good planes but good is not enough in that market.

The TBM is unique in the market and it is selling well. That's a business worth being in.

Interesting though that the Piper M class sold well as did the PC-12 and TBM-850. Looks almost like higher end singles/turboprops have held up relatively vs other piston singles.

EGTK Oxford

Presumably people with money will always have money.

And people with the "communication skills" to borrow a few $M will always have those skills

Whereas most people buying stuff in the few-hundred-k area are doing it because that's all they can afford.

That's unless there is a huge overhang as e.g. there is with light jets at present. You can buy a 15 year old Citation 525 for $1.5M, which compared to say a TBM850 ($3.5M) leaves you $2M to spend on a crew, maintenance, fuel, Eurocontrol charges, handling fees, etc, and you will probably die before the money runs out.

Shoreham EGKA, United Kingdom

Interesting publication, but this GAMA list is not complete. They list Flight Design GmbH but where is Aquila, Pipistrel or Robin? On what bases do or don't they include the aircraft manufacturer?

Thrush Aircraft sold more 51 aircraft last year. I thought the crop dusting industry was dying, but this list shows me I am wrong.

Bushpilot C208/C182
FMMI/EHRD, Madagascar


I think the primary reason for the abyss like decline is the fact that prices have soared to beyond reasonable relation. In the high production times, prices were still in a range where also private people and not only very well to do folks could envisage a new or recent GA airplane. Today, prices and cost of ownership has moved this out of the range of the ¨normal guy¨. And there are not that many rich folks around who will want to fly single or twin piston planes, not even Cirrusses. Those with this kind of cash move on further, namely to things like Citation Mustangs or PC12, TB850 or likewise planes.

There is no real reason a single engine plane with 4 seats and a 200 HP engine and a good IFR equipment needs to cost 500-800k € other than the few factors which have gotten GA into the mess it is today.

First and foremost are certification costs and product liability insurance costs. I understood not too long ago that those make up to 60% of the price of a new airplane. Even if it is ¨only¨ 40%, it is way out of proportion. These planes are NOT Rocket Science and they are not technology which needs to cost this much.

The balant comparison is between certified and non certified avionic for ULM´s and VLA´s which are in many regards vastly superior to certified stuff but cost a fraction of the price. In my view, there is NO reason whatsoever that FAA and EASA bureaucrats need to satisfy their reason of being and finance themselfs with those absurd costs.

Secondly, it is strongly connected with the first item, the monopoly like situation and extreme costs for avionic and equipment. Reasons see above.

Thirdly, it is the overboarding bureaucracy and cost of ownership resulting from it which keeps a lot of people out of this market.

Add to that flight schools which will paint the worst possible pictures about ownership to new recruits because they´d rather rent their own spam cans to the pilots who graduate from their own schools.

Finally, the attitude against GA which has developed primarily in Europa but is also taking hold in the US, where GA Pilots are generally assumed to be rich playboys and ecologically irresponsible people.

What would be needed to turn the tide on this would be a massive deregulation for airplanes kept for private use. We should be able to fly with the same or slightly stricter rules as do the VLA airplanes, use the same instrumentation as well for IFR in private planes and we should have much reduced oversight and certification costs. It is possible to produce a good 4 seat travel plane with a 130-180 hp disesel or a Rotax engine which will fly at 150 kt and have a proper range and comfort for less than maybe 150k Euros, if this was possible, yet we still see today hugely overpriced certified solutions which are long out of reach the market lost again.

Best regards Urs

LSZH, Switzerland

Diamond surprisingly good with DA40 but almost no DA42.

The DA42 did beat out the Baron, Seminole & Seneca. But true: Twin pistons aren't selling in major numbers. Note, the DA42MPP surveillance version aren't included in these figures; according to Diamond it currently accounts for 2/3rds of DA42 sales.

I know many disagree, and this is a rather personal thing (everybody loves their own plane) but I really cannot see how anybody can try to sell what is obviously a WW2-era hull, with a nice GPS. It's astonishing how far some of the vendors have managed to drag their dead horses.

I agree. The lack of innovation from the classic manufacturers is downright criminal. Part of the cause is probably the ageing GA pilot population, or more precisely, the lack of a new generation of pilots emerging.

Pilots tend to favour the planes they've been flying for years. And for good reason. They've got years of experience in their particular model, and they've got confidence that it works and knows how it's put together.

The problem is, that the average age of the recreational GA pilot is probably approaching +55 years of age, most of them growing up when the C182 was hot, and twin Cessnas were all the rage. I meet few GA pilots in the 20-40 year age range, except for the odd busines owner who's bought a new SR22, or aviation professionals.

Coming into GA and getting my PPL a couple of years ago, I was shocked to see GA aircraft were actually still using manual mixture & leaded fuel, and flying what is basically a 50's era engine. In this day and age. Even more puzzling was the insistence from senior pilots that old Cessnas, Pipers & Mooneys, were the dogs bollocks compared to a composite Cirrus or Diamond. Even when the composite designs clearly seemed aerodynamically superior.

In terms of design, I've had pilots tell me with a straight face, that "the Bonanza has great ramp presence". I'm sure the Bonanza was phenomenal back in 1947, and everyone from Bob Hoover to Buzz Aldrin has owned one, but c'mon - it looks like a refrigerator with wings. How are young people ever going to get attracted to that.

But of course, the main reason why we're still seeing the old WW2 designs on the ramp is the insane expense of new aircraft. A factory new IFR tourer starts at USD400k. Way outside the budget of most people.

It now makes Socata's decision to drop the TB20/21 seem daft.

Did Socata ever do branded upgrades to the TB20 over time (like Cirrus with the SR22 G1 to G5), or was it always just sold as the "TB20"?

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