The Commercial Aviation Association of Southern Africa (Caasa) on Thursday officially launched its Caasa Aviation Activity Index (CAAI). This is a composite index of aviation activity, developed to improve knowledge about conditions in the sector. “We decided we’d really like to know what is going on in this segment of the aviation industry,” explained Caasa Board of Directors member Dr Roelof Botha.
“I hate to tell you, but the first quarter [of 2017] was a disaster,” he reported. “Most of our indicators took a tremendous dip in the first quarter.”
Imports of larger helicopters fell by 43%, imports of small aeroplanes collapsed by 80%, imports of aeroplanes with a weight of between 2 t and 15 t dropped 71%, imports of undercarriages declined 68%, exports of smaller aeroplanes fell by 70% and exports of medium-sized aeroplanes dropped 62%. Also, air traffic movements at East London airport declined by 27%.
“I’m not 100% sure what went wrong,” he admitted. “It is a pretty volatile industry.” There are, however, a number of very likely reasons for the decline. These are the weak growth of the South African economy, the falling levels of business confidence and high domestic interest rates. These last “have eroded the competitiveness of the domestic aviation industry via the high cost of capital”.
However, some indicators showed “solid” performance. These were: imports of smaller helicopters, imports of aircraft spares, exports of helicopters, and air traffic movements at Cape Town and Durban airports.
“The good news is that the annual average growth [in the sector] has been 6.3% since 2014,” affirmed Botha. In comparison, the national economy has performed much worse, with an average annual growth rate of a little less than 1%.
The first quarter of 2014 serves as the base for the Index. It is composed of 25 indicators organised into seven groups. These groups, with their weight in the complete index, are: air traffic movements at Airports Company South Africa airports (30%), spares imports by value (20%), aircraft exports by value (15%), aircraft imports by value (13.4%), air traffic movements at other airports (10%), helicopter imports by value (6.6%) and aircraft imports by quantity (5%).