The Canadian private civil aircraft fleet continued to grow in 2014, but at a very slow rate, one that was lowest since 2001 and worse than at any time during the recession of 2008-10.
In 2008 the fleet grew at a peak rate of 3.2%. By 2012 it was down to just 1.96%, dropping to 1.92% in 2013 and now 1.21% in 2014.
The numbers seem to indicate that structural changes are occurring in the aircraft purchase market in Canada, probably as a result of the ongoing poor state of the Canadian economy, plus demographic factors involving an aging pilot population. As in all recent years, the fact that the fleet has continued to grow at all and not shrink is probably due to the persistently high asking prices for used aircraft in Canada. The US economy and its dollar remained somewhat weak through early 2014 and the Canadian dollar only fell precipitously with oil prices late in the year. With the Canadian dollar now at 85 cents US, Canadian aircraft asking prices in US dollars may have dropped enough to reduce the recent year's cross-border aircraft shopping spree which has driven up the overall number of aircraft registered in Canada. As I have noted in years past, even though the Canadian civil fleet has grown in size each year, the number of hours flown probably isn't increasing and may in fact be decreasing.
In 2014 the total Canadian civil fleet increased in size by 296, compared to 538 in 2013. In 2014 the private segment of the fleet once again accounted for all the growth seen, increasing by 349, while the commercial aircraft fleet shrank by 49 aircraft and the state fleet, those aircraft owned by the various levels of government in Canada, shrank by four aircraft. While private aviation is growing very slowly, state and commercial aviation both got smaller in 2014.
Certified aircraft have been leading the growth in private aircraft for a number of years, including in 2013, but lost that lead to basic ultralights in 2014, probably because as the US dollar climbed it made importing aircraft more expensive. The numbers dropped in 2014 with 103 certified aircraft added, notably down from 2013's total of 187.
In 2014 the new additions to the certified fleet were made up of 66 airplanes, 40 helicopters and 1 balloon while the number of gliders was reduced by four. Certified aircraft accounted for 30% of the private fleet growth in 2014. There were 16,396 private certified aircraft at the end of 2014, out of a total of 29,162 private aircraft registered.
BULAs were by far the quickest growing area of private aviation in 2014. In 2014 the category increased by 135 aircraft and accounted for 38% of the private fleet growth. There were 5,915 BULAs registered at the end of 2014. The enduring attraction of this category is undoubtedly its relatively low cost.
Amateur-builts were in the number three position again in 2014, increasing by 67 aircraft, down from an increase of 90 in 2013 and 98 in 2012. In 2014 the aircraft added were made up of 65 airplanes, four helicopters and four balloons, while the number of helicopters and airships decreased by four each. The number of gyroplanes remained unchanged at a total of 183. Amateur-builts made up 19% of the aircraft added to the private fleet in 2014.
Amateur builts now number 4,136 in Canada and include a wide variety of aircraft, from fixed wing airplanes, helicopters, gliders, gyroplanes to balloons, airships and even one ornithopter.
The O-M category added 26 aircraft in 2014, up from the 22 added in 2013, leaving the category in fourth spot once again ahead of advanced ultralights. By the end of 2014, there were 631 O-M aircraft on the registry, made up of 615 airplanes and 16 gliders. O-M aircraft made up 7% of the aircraft added to the private fleet in 2014.
This category has continued to suffer from low numbers of aircraft being moved from the certified category ever since the American FAA announced that O-M aircraft will never be allowed to fly in US airspace or sold in the USA. Overall this category continues to stagger along with a low degree of interest from owners.
Advanced Ultralights remained in fifth place for growth in 2014, increasing their numbers by only 17 airplanes, the same number added in 2013. Their growth in numbers in 2014 made up 5% of the private fleet increase and brought the total number of AULAs on the civil register to 1,210. By the category definition, all AULAs are powered, fixed wing aircraft.
The AULA category was introduced in 1991 and therefore 2014 was its 23rd year. The category has increased its numbers at an average of 52 aircraft per year and so can hardly be considered the success that was anticipated when it was started. As in the past five years, the number of AULAs added in 2014 was well below the average from the category's earlier years. The low sales figures are mostly likely linked to the high price of new AULAs and their American counter-parts, Light-Sport Aircraft.
In 2014 the commercial aircraft fleet decreased by 49 aircraft to bring it down to 6,964. The numbers show an decrease of 21 airplanes and 29 helicopters, with no increases in any category.
In round numbers, at the end of 2014 the private fleet made up 80% of the aircraft in Canada, with the commercial fleet at 19% and the state fleet at 0.7%, all basically unchanged from 2013. As commercial aviation fails to grow or even shrinks over time private aviation is making up a greater proportion of the fleet.
Imports & Exports
Aircraft imports into Canada in 2014 numbered 619, which was down from 669 in 2013 and well below the 968 imported during the pre-recession days of 2008. In 2014, 850 aircraft were exported, giving a difference of 231 favouring exported aircraft over those imported.
Looking at 2014
World oil prices dropped below US$60 per barrel late in 2014 taking the Canadian dollar with it, as the world markets were temporarily over-supplied with oil. Oddly, while automotive gasoline prices dropped, avgas generally didn't, or at least hadn't yet by year end, often leaving it almost twice the price of car gas. If avgas prices do drop in 2015 this may encourage more flying to take place, but there is also a real risk in 2015 or 2016 of a sudden increase in oil prices, as the far eastern economies recover and demand surges in the face of a current loss of oil capital investment and the resulting supply shortages.
Note: Data for this report was taken from the Transport Canada Civil Aircraft Register and reflects the difference between the number of aircraft registered in Canada on 31 December 2013 and 31 December 2014. These statistics reflect the net number of aircraft built and imported, minus the number destroyed, scrapped and exported. Just because an aircraft is registered in Canada does not mean it is being flown and therefore the number of registered aircraft should not be confused with the amount of flying activity.