Business aircraft shipments soar in ’05

 - October 25, 2006, 5:11 AM

Manufacturers delivered 738 general aviation turbine airplanes in the first nine months of this year, some 28 percent more than the 577 delivered in the same period last year, according to data released by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA).

GAMA reported that U.S. and non-U.S. companies shipped 228 turboprops and 510 business jets in the first three quarters of this year, versus 194 and 391, respectively, in the same period last year. Total billings–including 1,685 piston airplanes–were $10.3 billion, about 28 percent more than the $8 billion in the first nine months of last year.

Compared with last year’s figures (shown in parentheses), the following business aircraft deliveries were made in the first three quarters of this year: Bombardier 136 (94); Cessna jets and turboprops 244 (158); Dassault 30 (38); Gulfstream 65 (57); and Raytheon 77 jets and 68 turboprops (70 and 58). Total shipments of 2,423 piston and turbine airplanes in the first nine months are just 540 short of the 2,963 deliveries in all of last year.

GAMA figures also showed that deliveries of the Embraer Legacy 600 more than doubled, while Avcraft and Dassault were the only business jet manufacturers to score fewer deliveries period over period. Turboprop shipments were also up, except for the TBM 700 turboprop single and Piaggio Avanti.

The number of Avanti deliveries–five–was half what it was last year, yet the Italian OEM said it had orders for 70 aircraft at the end of the third quarter with plans to deliver 20 this year (compared with 16 last year), 26 next year and 30 in 2007.

Cessna Exceeding Expectations

Cessna booked orders for 71 Citations in the third quarter, bringing the order book to just under 230 for the first nine months of this year, according to parent company Textron. Cessna delivered 61 Citations in the third quarter of this year compared with 41 a year ago and one more than its forecasted range of 55 to 60. In the first nine months of this year, the Wichita manufacturer shipped 180 Citations, compared with 118 a year ago.

The company told the financial community in late October that it is planning to deliver between 240 and 245 Citations this year compared with 181 last year and 196 in 2003. Earlier this year Cessna predicted deliveries next year would be in the 270 to 290 range. “We have been working with our supply chain and we are now comfortable with the high end of that range– 290–for next year,” said Textron chairman, president and CEO Lewis Campbell. Cessna delivered a record 305 Citations in 2002.

“For 2007, Cessna already has orders for 210 Citations, including about 50 for the Mustang,” Campbell said. “If you would have said that we were going to have that many orders in 2007 when we began this year, I would have said no.” According to Campbell, “You can’t get a CJ1+ or a CJ2+ until the second quarter of 2007 or an XLS until the fourth quarter of 2007.”

‘Very Strong’ Yearfor Gulfstream

Gulfstream’s third-quarter results showed double-digit improvements in net sales (14.3 percent) and operating earnings (34.3 percent), as well as an increase in backlog and a marked jump in aircraft deliveries, compared with the first three quarters of last year.

In its ninth-month earnings report, issued last month, General Dynamics said its Gulfstream division delivered 46 large aircraft (G350, G450, G500 and G550) and 19 midsize jets (G100 and G200) in the first three quarters versus 41 large jets and 16 midsize jets in the same period last year.

“Gulfstream’s order activity remains strong, in both a dollar and unit basis,” said General Dynamics chairman and CEO Nicholas Chabraja. “Gulfstream’s book-to-bill ratio exceeds one to one.” According to Chabraja, at the end of the third quarter, 90 percent of large aircraft and more than 62 percent of midsize aircraft production slots were sold. The company had no forecast figures for 2007, “but there are no green deliveries available until the fourth quarter of next year,” Chabraja said.

He added that in the first two weeks of the fourth quarter Gulfstream received orders for five aircraft and letters of intent funded with deposits for another 19. “So, we are further along than we were a year ago at this time by quite a bit.”

Raytheon Increases Forecast

Raytheon said it delivered 29 business jets and 27 King Airs in the third quarter, bringing turbine airplanes delivered in the first nine months of this year to 145, compared with 128 in the same period last year.

Based on improved earnings, overall bookings and sales expectations, Raytheon Aircraft has increased this year’s delivery forecast from 256 turbine airplanes to 267 (compared with 217 for all of last year). This means that in the fourth quarter Raytheon will have to ship nearly 46 percent of its annual deliveries if it is going to meet this year-end forecast.

Raytheon executives appeared unconcerned, saying the fourth quarter of this year is not “extraordinarily different from what we have seen in the past. This is pretty typical for us.” Helping with deliveries in the fourth quarter will be the upgraded Premier IA, which has just received FAA certification.

Although bookings for 69 aircraft in the third quarter were off 11 units from a year ago, Raytheon noted that the period’s sales were comparable to the 71 Citations booked by its main competitor, Cessna.

Raytheon Aircraft said that by the end of this year it will be 50 percent sold out for next year, “by a fairly wide margin the best position we have been in in a long time.”

“Our industry is satisfied with the positive numbers so far this year. This is an affirmation that the efficiency and advanced capabilities of general aviation products are attractive to markets around the world,” said GAMA president and CEO Pete Bunce.

“Even though we have reasons to believe that general aviation will continue to experience positive growth, we remain concerned about challenges; the high price of fuel, access to airports and airspace and the FAA reauthorization debate are issues that can impact our continued recovery,” Bunce added.    o