by Adam Hunt
Growth declined in the Canadian private civil aircraft fleet in 2018, after increasing slightly in 2017. In 2018 the private fleet grew by 82 aircraft, which is 0.28%, while the overall civil aircraft fleet grew by 129 aircraft or 0.35%.
The 2018 numbers are a drop from the 0.35% growth seen in 2017 and far off the peak growth of 2008, just before the recession hit, when the private fleet grew at a peak rate of 3.2%. As the accompanying graph shows, growth rates in the private fleet have been in general decline since the 2008-10 recession started. The numbers seem to not reflect the recovery seen in the overall Canadian economy. The low Canadian dollar, compared to the US dollar, has probably also been a factor and its effect can be seen in the net number of certified single and twin-engined aircraft exported.
The US economy continued to do well in 2018 and its dollar remained fairly high against the Canadian dollar. The Canadian dollar ended the year at 73 cents US, down seven cents since the end of last year. Once again the low dollar resulted in a net flow of used certified aircraft out of Canada, mostly to US buyers.
In 2018 the total Canadian civil fleet increased in size by 129 aircraft. In 2018 the private segment of the fleet increased by 82 aircraft, while the commercial aircraft fleet increased by 60 aircraft and the state fleet, those aircraft owned by the various levels of government in Canada, decreased by 13 aircraft.
Certified aircraft had been leading the growth in private aircraft for a number of years when the Canadian dollar was high, but that trend changed in 2015 when we lost 103 certified aircraft and accelerated in 2016 with the falling Canadian dollar, as we lost 161 certified aircraft. In 2017 we lost 69 certified aircraft and, as the dollar fell in 2018, that increased to 117.
In 2018 the changes to the private certified fleet were made up of a reduction of 117 airplanes, while helicopters increased by seven and gliders increased by one. Private certified balloons were down by eight. The 2018 decline included 71 single-engined aircraft, 37 twins and one three-engined aircraft.
There were 15,946 private certified aircraft at the end of 2018, out of a total of 29,453 private aircraft registered or 54% of the private fleet.
BULAs were once again where the growth was in private aviation in Canada in 2018, as the case has been for several years. During the year the category increased by 118 aircraft, an increase from the growth of 101 in 2015, 104 in 2016 and 98 in 2017. There were 6,336 BULAs registered at the end of 2018.
The attraction of this category undoubtedly remains its low cost.
Amateur-builts were in the number two growth position again in 2018, increasing by 37 aircraft, up from 35 aircraft in 2017, although down from a high of 67 in 2014. Interest in this category seems to be slowly trending downwards over time. In 2018 the aircraft added were made up of 39 airplanes and one amateur-built balloon, minus the loss of two gliders and one gyroplane. Airships and helicopters saw no new net additions this past year.
Amateur-builts now number 4,280 in Canada and include a wide variety of aircraft, from fixed wing airplanes, helicopters, gliders, gyroplanes to balloons, airships and even one ornithopter, although the latter is in a museum.
The O-M category added 17 aircraft in 2018, the same number as in 2017, which is down from the 42 added in 2015 and 34 in 2016. This makes it the category with the third best growth for 2018, behind basic ultralights and amateur-builts. There were actually 18 airplanes added and one glider removed, for a total 17. By the end of 2018, there were 741 O-M aircraft on the registry, made up of 724 airplanes and 17 gliders.
It is worth noting that aircraft are not built in this category, but are mostly existing Canadian certified aircraft that are moved to O-M. Some may be certified aircraft imported from other countries into the O-M category, as well.
The O-M 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.
Advanced ultralights were in fourth place for growth again in 2018, increasing their numbers by 13 airplanes, well down from the 20 added in 2015. Their growth this year brought the total number of AULAs on the civil register to 1,254. By its category definition, AULAs are all powered, fixed wing aircraft.
The AULA category was introduced in 1991 and therefore 2018 was its 27th year in existence. The category has increased its numbers at an average of 46 aircraft per year since its inception and so can hardly be considered the success that was anticipated when it was started. As in recent years, the number of AULAs added in 2018 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. US LSAs are also seeing very anemic sales numbers, far below the initial expectations in the US.
In 2018 the commercial aircraft fleet increased by 60 aircraft to bring it up to 7,012. The numbers show an increase of 40 airplanes and 21 helicopters, with the addition of one commercial glider, the sole one registered. Two commercial balloons were removed from the register.
In round numbers, at the end of 2018 the private fleet made up 80% of the aircraft in Canada, with the commercial fleet at 19% and the state fleet at 1%, all basically unchanged in recent years.
Imports & Exports
Aircraft imports into Canada in 2018 numbered 552, which was up from 527 in 2017, but well below the 968 imported during the pre-recession days of 2008.
In 2018, 790 aircraft were exported, well up from the 675 aircraft exported last year. There were 238 more aircraft exported than imported, a net loss that was much higher than the 148 in 2017.
With the continuing loss of certified private aircraft exported mainly to the US, the private civil aircraft fleet saw near-zero growth in 2018. This was a continuation of the trend seen over the last four years and has been occurring despite the national economy doing well in this period. The growth that has been seen in the private fleet has been in the lowest-cost end of the fleet, while many higher-value certified aircraft are being exported. Factors such as increasing aircraft ownership costs, including high avgas prices; Transport Canada's over-regulation of personal aviation; airport closures, increasing lack of public support for burning fossil fuel for recreational activities; low interest in aviation careers by young people, due to low wages and increasing automation, despite a growing commercial pilot shortage; and an aging private pilot population, are all contributing to the lack of growth in the field.
Note: Aircraft 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 2017 and 31 December 2018. 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.