Buyers still clamoring for turbine-powered aircraft

 - May 30, 2007, 10:25 AM

First-quarter delivery numbers released last month by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) show a healthy and continued growth trend in both the jet and turboprop sectors. Overall, the manufacturers delivered 16 percent more aircraft in the first three months of this year than they did in the same period last year. Turboprops saw the biggest jump, with 30 percent more aircraft rolling out the door, compared with an increase of almost 12 percent for jets.

In all, 288 turbine aircraft were delivered between January 1 and March 31, compared with 247 in the same period last year. Turboprop deliveries increased to 77 this year from 59 in the first quarter of last year. Total aircraft shipments worldwide, however, were down slightly, to 842, due to weak demand for piston aircraft, compared with 847 in the same period last year. Total billings were strong, though, up 11.3 percent to $4.5 billion.

Boeing and Airbus were tied last quarter, with three deliveries each of their respective bizliners. For Airbus, this matches last year’s total in the same period; Boeing sold one fewer.

Bombardier was stagnant this quarter in terms of total deliveries, though a significant decline in the company’s high-end Challenger line hurt billings. Despite the improved number of deliveries in the company’s Global line–up from 10 to 12–the Challenger 850/870/890 line slipped from eight to three. Billings were almost $29 million lower this quarter than this time last year.

Leading the pack for deliveries in the first quarter was Cessna, which delivered 81 aircraft between the beginning of January and the end of March, though 14 of those were non-pressurized Caravans, which do not appear on the accompanying chart.

As the company continues to expand its offerings, some of the older members of the herd are falling behind. For example, while the company delivered six more copies of the CJ2 and CJ2+ in the first quarter this year compared to the same period last year, it delivered zero Encores and halted Bravo production entirely. Billings were up, however, especially because deliveries of the company’s upper-end XLS (Excel), Sovereign and X increased by six aircraft.

French manufacturer Dassault saw improved numbers as well, with 11 deliveries, compared with eight in the first quarter last year. The Falcon 2000EX EASy accounted for the majority of the increase, doubling from three to six. The introduction of the recently certified 7X will surely increase the company’s total in the future.

Newcomer Eclipse Aviation delivered four Eclipse 500s in the first quarter of this year, a small number considering that it projects delivering 250 copies by year-end.
Embraer saw a modest increase in the first quarter over the same period last year, from four to five Legacy 600/Shuttles.

Gulfstream enjoyed an increase of 20 percent in the first quarter of this year over last year’s first quarter, delivering a total of 30 jets. The low-end G100, G150 and G200 continue to impress, with 11 aircraft going out the door, compared with seven during the same period last year. The company’s other offerings were up slightly, from 18 to 19.

Hawker Beechcraft (formerly Raytheon Aircraft) saw the largest increase of any manufacturer in total deliveries, from 43 last year to 60 in the same period this year.
In all, 28 King Airs rolled off the line in Wichita between January and March, a 33-percent increase over the same period last year. But the biggest reason to celebrate at Hawker Beechcraft is clearly the Premier I, which increased from four deliveries in the first quarter last year to 15 this year.

Pilatus experienced an 82-percent increase, going from 11 aircraft in the first three months of last year to 20 this year.

Piper’s Meridian shipments echoed the performance of the company as a whole. Deliveries were down from 10 to eight, consistent with the company’s total decline from 49 in the first quarter of last year to 43 in the same period this year. Billings, however, were up by almost $1 million.

Finally, Socata saw a relatively sizeable increase last quarter, delivering three more aircraft than in the first quarter last year, for a total of seven.