In some ways, the year 2019 was a remarkable one in aviation, but when it came to new plane introductions, it was, well, a continuation of a familiar trend. In the Part 23 world, there were no newly certificated planes, though at least one looks like an outside shot at getting approved by the end of the calendar year. Other emerging designs look as though they won’t make it. Some are being pushed out to 2020 and beyond, which is the way things are in the brave new world of airplane manufacturing.
The days are gone when each year brought a handful of clean-sheet airplane designs, high-flying models launched at Paris or Oshkosh (or Wichita or Vero Beach). Almost every new plane these days is a derivative of a former successful model. With the cost of designing, certifying and then producing a clean-sheet design being so astronomically expensive, while simultaneously the market for those designs has shrunk, it should surprise no one that companies overwhelmingly choose to rework existing designs instead of starting from scratch. This path not only cuts the risk of unpleasant surprises of the aerodynamic kind, but it also helps ensure a market for the new model—if the older version was a hit, then the new, improved one should make an even bigger splash. It often works exactly like that. And, to their credit, many of these updated models feature spectacular new capabilities, often as a result of incorporating a new safety system or powerplant upgrade.