What’s Ahead For 2020? Business Aviation Leaders Weigh In

Credit: Textron Aviation

What do you think will be the most significant story related to business and general aviation in 2020? 

Brian Foley, aviation analyst with Brian Foley Associates:

There are currently 41 business jet models competing for around 700 sales per year. This, coupled with announced layoffs by two large business jet manufacturers in 2019, suggests to me that there could be some upcoming brand exits or consolidations. Thus, I wouldn’t be surprised if a lead story in 2020 could be the complete departure of a storied brand or its acquisition by another player.

Ron Draper, Textron Aviation president and CEO:

For Textron Aviation, 2020 will mark several significant product milestones, particularly in the Cessna SkyCourier program. The SkyCourier, which is entering a new segment for us, is designed to be a rugged and reliable platform that is going to bring additional mission capabilities to our customers around the world. Also in 2020, with the Citation Longitude’s recent certification, we will be turning our focus to its continued successful entry into service and foreign certification efforts for this revolutionary aircraft. 

Michael Amalfitano, Embraer Executive Jets president and CEO:

The industry is working together to foster the future development of the evolving air travel ecosystem. We are collaborating on workforce development initiatives to attract and retain the engineers, pilots, technicians, mechanics and technology developers who will help shape that future. The industry is coming together to design the safe, yet dynamic ecosystem needed to support urban air mobility solutions, including eVTOLs. And we are all liaising with the regulatory agencies on the important next steps for framing certification of both vehicles and air traffic management systems to propel our industry well into the exciting new decade ahead.

Rolland Vincent, Rolland Vincent Associates president:

The divergent stories of another relatively strong year for the OEMs with respect to new business jet deliveries, especially for all new and substantially new designs, while demand languishes for their legacy designs, many of which are later on in their production life cycles. 

Adam Twidell, PrivateFly CEO:

I think sustainability will be the biggest story. I think (and hope) we’ll see more rapid progress of electric-powered aircraft and in the increased use and development of sustainable fuels. Business aviation has been focused on improving efficiency and mitigating its environmental impact in lots of ways, over many years. But with awareness of climate change now accelerating rapidly, 2020 will also see a whole range of business aviation companies moving toward self-governance and communicating their efforts more publicly.

Jack Pelton, Experimental Aircraft Association CEO:

Twenty-twenty could be a year that begins to highlight the shortage of pilots for bizav if the airline shortages continue to really become problematic and draw pilots out of business aviation. The general aviation student pilot and newly certificated pilot roles should increase as this demand grows. As a result of ADS-B mandate becoming effective Dec 31, 2019, we are optimistic it will reflect in continued improved safety record for general aviation.

Ed Bolen, National Business Aviation Association president and CEO:

I think sustainability will be a big story going forward. I think, my hope, is that last year the biz aviation community began a year early with our big event at Van Nuys, California, related to sustainable aviation fuel. I think we will see continued focus on that as we go forward, and hopefully it will spur both increased production and operator demand. 

Mark Burns, Gulfstream Aerospace president:

I think the most significant story in 2020 will be the growing use of sustainable aviation fuels and the increased focus on innovation with regard to our industry’s relationship with the environment. As a broader industry and a company, we invested considerable time and effort to grow our and our customers’ support, knowledge and use of sustainable aviation fuel. We’re definitely making headway, having flown more than 1 million nm on our dedicated supply of the fuel, providing it to customers at our facilities in Long Beach and Van Nuys, [California,] and participating in industry events to promote the benefits and safety of the fuel. We also introduced carbon offsets as part of our Aircraft Ownership Service. We’re already looking ahead to see what we can do in 2020 to help the industry meet its sustainability goals.   

Pete Bunce, General Aviation Manufacturers Association president and CEO:

Aviation was the first industry to set aggressive voluntary environmental goals to address its carbon footprint. The biggest transformative factor for 2020 will be our industry’s embrace of sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), which is a drop in for Jet A fuel. Along with several other initiatives taken on by the industry, SAF commercialization will be our biggest challenge to meeting our climate change commitments. Further, ensuring rational environmental policy decisions informed by our industry work over several decades to improve environmental performance will be critical. We held educational events throughout this year in Europe and the U.S. to educate the community and stakeholders about SAF and these efforts will continue into the next decade.

Janine Iannarelli, founder, CEO of Par Avion Ltd.:

I think that the continued pursuit of clean, green propulsion will come into sharper focus for the bizav industry in 2020 and be a major topic of discussion. While the conversation started quite some time ago, it won’t be acceptable to simply say you offset your carbon footprint by making a contribution for each flight hour flown. The public, based on the very high-profile demonstrations in 2019, are going to demand real change. So you will see more interest, more investment, more companies pursuing alternative fuels and electric means of transport. It will be interesting to see how the industry develops bigger, longer range, faster while meeting public demand for cleaner/greener.

David Coleal, Bombardier Aviation president:

The most significant story related to business and general aviation in 2020 is the industry’s continuing efforts on sustainability and climate change—significant themes that generated a great deal of discussion throughout 2019. What’s less commonly reported, however, is how the business aviation industry is leading efforts to address its environmental impact. It’s a historic time, in which manufacturers are working together for the future of the industry and new technologies are making headway. Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF), for example, is among the most essential of innovations to help us meet the environmental goals set out by the industry. And we know the fuel is proven—now is the time for the industry to significantly increase its efforts to encourage the production and use of SAF. Bombardier Aviation stands behind its commitment to promote the increased use of SAF throughout the industry. We recently announced that Bombardier is offering SAF to its customers taking delivery of their aircraft— and it’s only the beginning.

Dave Franson, Wichita Aero Club president:

The attention to carbon emissions and alternative fuels for aircraft will be a major (if not THE major) story for this coming [election] year … and several years thereafter. That’s because real progress is being made in this important arena. Viable alternative fuels have been demonstrated by airframe manufacturers flying their aircraft to trade shows using them and the entire industry is focusing on greater fuel efficiency (burn less, pollute less) and environmentally-conscious operations.  

Next Week: Leaders will weigh in on the question: What will be the biggest goal or challenge for your business, or for your members, and the industry in 2020? 

Molly McMillin

Molly McMillin, a 25-year aviation journalist, is managing editor of business aviation for the Aviation Week Network and editor-in-chief of The Weekly of Business Aviation, an Aviation Week market intelligence report.