A Mid-Year Look at How 2021 is Shaping up

 

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Business and General Aviation aircraft flight numbers rebounded faster than airline flights since the Covid-19 restrictions began

Mid-Term Report For the Year 2021 By your Assignment and Content Editor

We, the combined groups of writers, reporters and photographers here at Photorecon.net, ClassicWarbirds.net and CivilAviationWorld.com, are coming to grips with another subdued North American air show season… but with a renewed enthusiasm as a number of venues return to present aviation to the masses.

As the Covid-19 crisis exploded in 2020, wholesale cancellations of aviation shows, conventions and – in general – flying occurred, much to our chagrin. Commercial flying, specifically the airline sector, reduced operations by half or more, depending upon your geographical focus.

American Airlines MD-80… the type is now retired from the airline

Waves of layoffs and furloughs leaned out large companies for long-term, low intensity survival operations. Grounded were fleets of older McDonnell Douglas, Airbus and Boeing airliners, while newer ones were parked in storage until it was sound to activate them again as passengers declined to travel in droves. It didn’t take long for airlines to ground their MD-80 families, Boeing “Classic” families of B-737s and their larger jets like the Queen of the Skies B-747s and Airbus A-380s – many of whom didn’t make economic sense to operate.

Large events, whether outdoors or indoors, were either outlawed or cancelled due to the possibility of them becoming “mass spreader events”. Air shows became a major casualty, as only a handful of them modified their venues, becoming bravely-held fly-by events.

Bombardier Challenger 300 Biz Jet

As unfortunate as these events were, some good did shine through the chaos of 2020. General Aviation and Business Aviation became more critical to those business and leisure travelers who did find a reason to travel. In fact, business and shared-ownership flying have already reached “pre-shutdown” levels according to flight tracking providers like Flightaware.

Cathay Pacific cargo B-747-8i version is seeing a big demand for international trade

Air cargo resources were stretched thin due to the sudden demand of priority freight, including precious and fragile vaccine supplies. Canada’s Westjet just ordered some Boeing-converted B-737-800 freighters for their domestic market, showing the need for more cargo space, besides what is already in use for belly cargo on scheduled passenger flights.

Some air shows did continue in 2020, with the fledgling “in-the-air-only” format with pre-assigned parking and spectator spaces marked out. Most that occur in 2021 will follow that new format, although the old way of doing things – with a robust static display – are being announces as mask wearing restrictions are slowly lifted in many states.

C-17A from active Air Force and Air National Guard units flew priority cargo during the pandemic

Military aviation assets were used for critical supply flights too. 

As the year 2021 dawned, another round of event cancellations were announced throughout the continent, and the world. However, through the advent of vaccinations and other deterrents, the 2021 season will contain a fair amount of air shows and conventions, plus a return to commercial flying. A pent-up demand for travel, mainly in the leisure market, is promising a busy summer season in the Northern Hemisphere, even with numerous international travel restrictions still in place. American Airlines just cancelled a small percentage of summer flights due to the backlog of their planes and aircrews that still need to return to work after a long furlough.  

Southwest Airlines B-737 Max8

Older versions of airliners remain grounded and retired, but new generation transports like the Airbus A-220, A-350 and A-320/321Neo, and the Boeing B-787 and B-737 Max continue to replace these less efficient jets worldwide. Passenger airlines are recalling crews to begin an almost-pre-Covid schedule around the world. Some of the jumbo-sized A-380s are being used again for combined passenger/freight flights too. Many airlines are calling for almost “back-to-normal” levels of flying for the busy North American summer season due to leisure and discretionary travelers’ pent up demands. 

The air cargo marketplace has grown substantially, even calling for idle passenger jets to be used as modified freighters in the short term until additional freighters can be procured (either new builds or converted from retired passenger jets).

While our pages presented very few aviation “current events” in 2020, our 2021 season is beginning to pencil in air shows that will be held live throughout the year… like Reading, PA’s Mid-Atlantic Air Museum’s recently held World War II Weekend, and upcoming shows like the 2021 EAA AirVenture, and upcoming flying displays like the late-summer New York International Air Show, Airshow London (Ontario), Portsmouth NH’s Thunder Over New Hampshire and Brunswick ME’s Great Stater of Maine Air Show.

We’ll continue to present legendary planes, people and events of the past in our “Photo Scrapbooks” and “Looking Back…” features while we begin to display up-to-the-minute reporting of current events too.

As always, thank you for your continued support by reading and sharing our views of aviation, while we climb out of this crisis!

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Ken Kula

Assignment and Content Editor, writer and photographer A New Englander all of my life, I've lived in New Hampshire since 1981. My passion for all things aviation began at a very early age, and I coupled this with my interest of photography during college in the late 1970s. I spent 32 years in the air traffic control industry, and concurrently, enjoyed my aviation photography and writing adventures, which continue today. I've been quite fortunate to have been mentored by some generous and gifted individuals. I enjoy contributing to this great site, and working with some very knowledgeable and equally passionate aviation followers.

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