2021 saw the world still under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result of the excellent control and regulations regarding COVID-19, the economy in mainland China is still dynamic and recovered quickly. As a branch of the aviation industry, general aviation has maintained its continuous development in 2021. However, some factors that deter the development of general aviation still exist. As such, the market potential waits for further discovery.
General aviation flight hours decreased by 8% from 2019 to 2020 due to the COVID-19 – the steepest decline since 2016. 2021 saw the operations of general aviation gradually recover to their pre-pandemic state. It is expected that there will be huge growth in flight hours between 2020 and 2021, and could even surpass 2019’s flight hour total. General aviation flight hours from January 2021 to May 2021 all showed dramatic growth compared with the same period in 2020. However, from June to July 2021, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) restricted flight activities of general aviation aircraft due to the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party of China. In addition, the CAAC published a safety management notice for flight services at the end of June 2021, which deterred light sport aircraft from operating. These two events happening simultaneously caused a huge impact on general aviation operators as well as flight hours.
Amongst general aviation flight operations, the flight hours of license training accounted for 65% and ranked the highest in 2020. Next was the utility and air tourism, with a market share of 26%. The remainder includes transportation and charter, which accounts for 9% of the market share.
The number of general aviation operators has shown continuous growth since 2014. However, this trend has gradually slowed. In June 2021, 454 general aviation operators were operating in mainland China – two fewer than at the end of 2020. Additionally, newly added operators experienced continuous growth from 2013, reaching a peak in 2018. There were 109 new operators starting business operations in 2018. After 2018 the number of new enterprises gradually reduced. For the first half of 2021, there were a total of 23 newly added operators.
During the same period a total of 25 operators ceased operations, marking the first time that there were more operators closing operations than beginning. A lot of the operators that suspended operations specialized in license training or sky tours. The rest included business charter flights, forestry, or EMS. The majority of operators are small enterprises.
In June 2021, the number of general aviation aircraft was 3,066, giving a growth rate of 4% compared to the end of 2020. The number of aircraft has seen continuous growth since 2014. The growth reduced in 2016 and then bounced back in 2017. Since then it has been slowly declining.
As of June 2021, fixed-wing turboprops and pistons accounted for 52% of the general aviation market share in mainland China and ranked first amongst various aircraft types. Helicopters and business jets came second and third, each with a market share of 34% and 12%, respectively. The rest of the general aviation aircraft accounted for 2% of the fleet.
When comparing the growth trend amongst flight hours, the number of operators, and aircraft, Asian Sky Group expects that the general aviation market will maintain its positive growth during 2021. Furthermore, the growth stage is over. Now, the market is facing a trend of the biggest operators gradually becoming stronger and larger.
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