Aerospace Rebounding from Effects of 9/11

 - October 9, 2006, 2:30 PM

The U.S. aerospace industry has not only battled back from the effects of the terrorist attacks, but in several areas it has eclipsed pre-9/11 levels.

According to statistics compiled by the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), the industry took a marked economic hit after the attacks, mainly from delayed or cancelled orders from airlines as travel slowed. But today, key economic indicators–including airliner deliveries and orders–show the manufacturing sector has rebounded and surpassed pre-2001 levels.

“Orders for new airliners–perhaps the best way to gauge the industry– plummeted after the attacks, falling from 585 in 2000 to 174 in 2002,” the association said. “They trended upward in 2003 and 2004, then skyrocketed in 2005, reaching a remarkable 1,004.”

Airliner deliveries fell from 526 in 2001 to a low of 281 in 2003. That number has started increasing again, with 400 expected this year. General aviation aircraft deliveries dipped by 488 airplanes between 2001 and 2003, but have increased by 723 over the following two years.

The value of U.S. airliners delivered dropped from $34 billion in 2001 to $20 billion in 2004–a total loss of $14 billion. But the value grew from 2004 to 2005, increasing $1.6 billion, and it is expected to climb further this year.

Aerospace overall sales were $152 billion in 2001 and increased less than 1 percent in 2002, much less than expected. The full effect of the attacks came in 2003, when sales dropped to $147 billion. But they increased in 2004 and 2005, reaching $170 billion. AIA estimates that that figure will be $184 billion by year-end.

AIA president and CEO John Douglass said the turnaround has implications beyond economics. “Our industry’s recovery is a reflection of the strong will of the American people, who refused to let the terrorists prevail,” he said. “As we healed as a nation, we decided that returning to normal activities like traveling was a way to show the terrorists they would not change our way of life.”

Aerospace accounts for the single largest positive trade balance of any U.S. manufacturing sector, but that measure saw a reduction after the attacks. Exports dropped $6 billion between 2001 and 2003, but have rebounded by $15 billion, to reach a record $67 billion last year. The total surplus last year was $40 billion.

Meanwhile, aerospace employment fell from 665,800 in September 2001 to 579,700 in February 2004. Since then it has been trending upward, hitting 634,700 in June.

“We expect the aerospace industry to continue rebounding from these attacks, helping bolster our national security and economic prosperity,” Douglass said.