Worldwide deliveries of turbine business airplanes in the first quarter plunged more than 24 percent, to 201 units, compared with the 266 units shipped in the first quarter last year, according to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, which now reports deliveries of non-U.S. as well as U.S. manufacturers.
All 34 turboprop and jet models from 13 manufacturers tracked by GAMA tallied fewer deliveries in the last quarter, versus the same period a year ago, except for the Challenger 604, Citation Encore, Citation X, Gulfstream 100, Piaggio Avanti and TBM 700. Recip deliveries dropped 15 percent. “We expected a drop in shipments and billings,” said GAMA president Ed Bolen. “Last year, in response to the slowing economy and the terrorist attacks, nearly all of the manufacturers announced reductions in their 2002 production schedules. That is now being reflected in the first-quarter numbers. Our hope is that the strengthening economy will improve things as the year progresses.”
It’s the first time in eight years that the industry suffered a quarterly drop in both units and billings.
Most major airframe manufacturers have said they will level off or even reduce production this year and next. But beyond next year, manufacturers were less sure about what changes to make to output levels.
Even the customary soothsayers can’t come close on what the future holds. Fairfax, Va. aviation analyst Teal Group, in its just-released 12th annual forecast, predicts a total of 6,908 business jets will be produced over the 2002 to 2011 decade. On the other hand, Honeywell Aerospace of Phoenix projects deliveries of 8,400 business jets during the same 10-year period. Forecast International in Connecticut split the difference with a prediction of 7,300 jet deliveries from 2001 through 2010.
Teal’s forecast excludes corporate variants of airliners and regional jets, thus omitting the ACJ, BBJ and Embraer Legacy. Although deliveries of the BBJ are off, the corporate jetliner is still expected to continue as a major player. As of the end of the first quarter, 67 BBJs had been delivered and 46 were in service.
The FAA’s latest 10-year forecast is particularly conservative, projecting the delivery of 3,600 jets for the U.S. fleet from 2002 through 2013. Pratt & Whitney Canada’s outlook is similar to Honeywell’s. Manufacturers delivered 909 business jets in 2000 and 790 last year, according to figures compiled by AIN. Perhaps the veracity of the predictions is best summed up by the last sentence of the Teal forecast, “If you don’t like our numbers, make up your own. We did.”
Pre-owned turbine marketers held an optimistic outlook for the next three months, according to a survey of 1,500 brokers and dealers by Aircraft Shopper Online of Corte Madera, Calif. In the turboprop segment, 50 percent of respondents anticipated a 10- to 25-percent increase in sales. Only 25 percent expected less than a 10-percent change. Light jet sales were also expected to increase, as reported by 42 percent of respondents. Thirty three percent of participants expected little change in light jet sales in the second quarter.
Medium jet and heavy jet sales were projected to remain steady in the upcoming months, as cited by 43 percent and 38 percent of brokers/ dealers, respectively. While 31 percent of heavy jet dealers anticipated a 10- to 25-percent increase, only 29 percent of respondents expected the same in medium jet sales.
Used aircraft prices are falling, and availability is up, according to the Teal Group. One broker told AIN, “The pre-owned market last year virtually stopped. Now we are busier than ever. The last business upswing lasted eight or nine years. How long this one will last is anybody’s guess.”
Teal maintains that the values of existing business jets peaked in 2000 and have fallen since, so sellers are “getting less than they originally paid.” There is a one-year supply of used jets “in almost every class.”
Sales transactions for 372 pre-owned business jets were recorded in the first quarter, compared with 276 in the same quarter a year earlier, according to business aircraft sales analyst JetNet of Utica, N.Y. Sales activity for pre-owned turboprops was close to even for the two quarters, at nearly 230 transactions.