Avionics in Southern Africa: Industry Outlook

As with the rest of the aviation industry in Africa, the last two years have taken a toll on the avionics industry, says Sherryn de Vos. COVID-19, as it surged across the globe, halted production, cut spending, and grounded operations, almost crippling the industry…

Sherryn de Vos  |  31st January 2022
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    Sherryn de Vos
    Sherryn de Vos

    Sherryn de Vos is a content specialist at AOM Digital, a digital marketing agency whose primary client...

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    Modern private jet flight deck

    It wasn’t just the pandemic that has caused avionics sales to plummet, impacting the industry in general. Industry players have found themselves being stifled, and progress is being stalled by legislative red-tape.

    Together with various regulatory mandates that have not been correctly implemented, the hands of the key industry performers appear to have been bound recently.

    We delved into the pitfalls faced by the industry to understand what frustrations are being faced. What are the trends we can expect to see over the next few years, and, most importantly, will avionics sales and innovation improve over the next year?

    Losses Outweighing Gains

    Traditionally a buxom industry, travel restrictions, lockdowns, and flight bans flatlined profits. Not only have there been less hours flying, but fewer maintenance events across aviation. Sales have also been hugely reduced in Africa.

    The stop-start nature of the world trying to re-kindle itself into life again also seemed to do no favours to a faltering industry.

    While governments have struggled with deciding on whether to keep travel and borders open or closed, the “on-again, off-again” decisions have stolen vital profits from companies as they continuously fight to comply, while at the same time serving their customers.

    For an industry supporting 7.7 million jobs across the African continent, and representing $63bn in African economic activity, the effects have been dire. According to figures from the African Airlines Association (AFRAA), the turnover of the airlines on the continent decreased by around $8bn in 2020 alone.

    This caused a natural ripple effect across the rest of the industry, impacting suppliers, maintenance, and third-parties associated with air transport.

    Avionics, one of branches in aviation known for leading innovation, has similarly been dealt a blow. On average, the market is anticipated to register a CAGR of 5.44% from 2021 to 2025, but this still significantly lags behind the rest of the world.

    Red Tape Tying Down the Industry

    According to Andre Koch, Managing Director of AMKA Aviation, one of the biggest stiflers to the avionics industry is the highly restrictive regulatory red tape. “Compared to the rest of the world, Southern Africa, and South Africa in particular, are severely restricted by the over-complicated and risk-sensitive CAA.”

    In fact, South Africa is so over-regulated that it is the only country in the world that needs a Supplemental Type Certificate (STC) for an Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) – just one indication of how much paperwork needs to be completed, and how many hoops must be jumped through to do basic installations.

    One of the biggest hindrances to the industry is the extension of the implementation of the ADS-B mandate. This mandate requires new aircraft with a maximum take-off weight of 12,500lbs or greater, or a maximum cruise speed of more than 250kts to be equipped for ADS-B Out broadcasts, as a more effective method of tracking aircraft.

    The ADS-B mandate requires more efficient, and cost-beneficial Surveillance Technologies such as Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) and Mode Select (Mode S) transponders to be installed in affected aircraft.

    The mandate was scheduled to roll out in April 2020, but that original mandate was suspended. Now, almost two years on, South African aviation is still waiting in anticipation for the new date to be confirmed, leaving avionic suppliers out of pocket, and out of patience.

    So, What Can We Expect?

    Glass cockpits are becoming increasingly popular, and with the various mandates (such as ADS-B), will become compulsory for safety purposes.

    This naturally sounds exactly like the news players in the avionics field want to hear. However, with the various restrictions placed on the industry by the various authorities, fears are growing that avionics and the MRO industry will miss out on their piece of the pie.

    Whether it be the result of recurring delays, unnecessary costs, or various penalties, the frustrations are not expected to lessen within the next five years in Southern Africa’s avionics sector.

    However, with necessitated changes to the cockpits to comply with the ADS-B mandate, aircraft owners will need to seek out the correct avionic equipment to comply. And they are encouraged to do so as soon as possible. 

    Garmin has been at the forefront of ADS-B development in Europe and the United States, and has perhaps the simplest and most comprehensive solutions. Garmin’s transponders all operate on both ADS-B frequencies, making it easier with an AML STC to have any aircraft comply with all regulations.

    The Bottom Line…

    While the avionics and MRO industries in Southern Africa remain relatively small, still, and infrastructure is somewhat undeveloped, there is still potential for extensive growth.

    As travel restrictions are laxed and aircraft orders start up again, the need for these suppliers will begin increasing again. That, together with the rising popularity of glass cockpits, will necessitate these players to remain relevant, competitive and innovative in their field.

    AvBuyer Africa is our new aircraft site for the whole continent. Check out the latest aircraft for sale in Africa.

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