Honeywell forecast: record bizjet deliveries to continue

 - May 17, 2008, 6:19 AM

Manufacturers will deliver almost 13,000 new business aircraft worth $233 billion in the 2008 to 2017 period, according to pundits at Honeywell Aerospace. The U.S. group’s 16th ten-year forecast since 1987 logged 2007 as the fourth straight year of industry expansion.

According to the report, deliveries of aircraft with gross takeoff weights of less than 100,000 pounds are expected to exceed 1,300 this year. “Industry growth has moved into unparalleled territory,” said Honeywell business and general aviation president Rob Wilson.

Although expected North American sales declined slightly, Honeywell saw that potential dip outweighed by rest-of-world expectations that “expanded significantly.”
Following interviews with more than 1,500 corporate flight departments worldwide operating over 15 percent of the global turbine fixed-wing fleet, Honeywell reported that respondents expected to replace aircraft or expand fleets by about 33 percent over the next five years, with about half of the predicted deliveries being to non-U.S. customers. The report was published on the eve of last October’s National Business Aviation Association convention in Atlanta, Georgia.

“Purchase expectations ‘trended up’ in Asia, Africa and the Middle East and rose strongly in Europe. Between 2008 and 2012, the survey forecasts [global] demand for 4,600 aircraft,” reported Honeywell. This total excludes demand from fractional-ownership programs or new branded charter operations.

Five-year purchase expectations perceived strong demand in Europe, where 47 percent of survey respondents indicated they would buy new aircraft by 2012. “Seven consecutive years of strong purchase intentions in Europe confirm the value operators receive from using business jets,” said Wilson.

A major factor has been the relative strength of the euro against the dollar, complemented by increased wealth and expected business expansion in eastern Europe and Russia. Honeywell sees “a great deal of interest” in upgrading to larger and longer range equipment.

As in previous surveys of flight departments, the principal reasons given for replacement of equipment are aircraft age, longer required range and a desire for higher speed, increased comfort and updated avionics and engines. In Europe, operators cited desires for larger cabins and greater range.

Taking into account specific new models noted by respondents, Honeywell market analysts saw “fairly balanced demand growth” across most sectors. They judged medium and medium-large aircraft collectively to represent about one quarter of requirements through 2012. Light and light-medium aircraft account for nearly 20 percent.

The largest demand–26 percent–is for long-range and ultra-long-range aircraft. This latter requirement echoes findings in 2005 and 2006 Honeywell surveys and
is driven by increased need for designs capable of transpacific flight, or for generally greater range in other regions enjoying trade and economic growth. If predictions are realized, European demand will contribute about 22 percent of the world total, according to Honeywell.

For its part, Rolls-Royce did not produce a specific 2007 forecast addressing the general aviation market, which includes business aircraft, as it has in previous years. Instead, the engine maker plans to reveal its latest thoughts here at EBACE this week, and it could be that these figures will be more indicative of the anticipated downward pressure on demand caused by the squeeze on credit in world financial markets. Nevertheless, Rolls-Royce already has teased the industry by including a passing reference to this sector in its broader market outlook covering all of civil aerospace, published last September.

Recording “surged” demand for business aircraft in recent years, that report listed the 15-percent increase in deliveries in the first half of 2007 compared with 2006, and shared Honeywell’s prediction of 1,000 shipments by year-end. “Primary drivers include corporate profits, diversity of available aircraft models, and a dramatic increase in sales to markets outside the U.S.,” the company noted.

Concluding that the traditionally strong U.S. market would continue to drive the majority of business aircraft sales, the UK-based manufacturer pointed to regional requirements in South America and in national markets such as China, India and Russia as being likely to sport an “impressive increase” in sales in the coming years.
Rolls-Royce believes that product evolution will continue to be important: “Airframe manufacturers traditionally provide incremental improvements, rather than launch all-new platforms. These enhancements have provided various range, cockpit, cabin and other efficiency upgrades.”

The report considered aircraft size, pointing out that despite “much excitement” about an emerging market for very light jets, “in value terms this is small.” It attributed much of the expected strong fleet growth– which would continue–among larger aircraft to the rapid expansion of intercontinental corporate travel requirements.

But last fall’s Honeywell analysis comes with a financial health warning, disclaiming responsibility if things turn out differently. The summary is merely a momentary “snapshot” of expected business aircraft sales that reflects fleet operators’ views of current events likely to affect expected near-term sales–but not the impact of unforeseen events such as a war, major economic shock, fuel crisis or new regulations.

At the time of last September’s forecast, Honeywell’s Wilson saw “little discernable effect from recent stock market fluctuations.” The forecasters assumed “economic growth at quarterly rates in the two- to three-percent range for the next six quarters [until at least March 31, 2009] and [more than] three percent thereafter.”