1Q business jet deliveries nosedive

 - October 11, 2007, 6:24 AM

Shipments of new business jets in the first quarter plummeted nearly 43 percent compared with last year’s first quarter, according to figures compiled by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.

The figures show that manufacturers delivered just 98 business jets in the first quarter versus 173 in the same period last year. In stark contrast–thanks mainly to the significant increase in shipments of the Socata TBM 700–deliveries of business turboprops in the two comparable periods remained essentially the same–27 in the first three months of this year and 28 in the same time frame a year ago.
Interestingly, the 316 piston singles shipped in this year’s first quarter exceeded last year’s first-quarter shipments by three airplanes.

In terms of all the manufacturers and models reported, GAMA said first-quarter shipments of general aviation airplanes in total fell 16.4 percent compared with the same period last year, from 531 aircraft in 2002 to 444 this year. First-quarter industry billings were $1.87 billion, down 33.2 percent from the first quarter of last year.

“Unfortunately, a decline in general aviation shipments and billings was not unanticipated,” said GAMA president Ed Bolen. “Lost in all the noise about the troubles of the airlines has been the fact that, since 9/11, many general aviation manufacturers have had to lay off workers and slow or even temporarily halt production lines. These are very tough times.”

First-quarter exports of U.S.-produced general aviation airplanes fell 20 percent, from 84 units to 64 units. Export billings declined from $383.1 million in last year’s first quarter to $249.3 million this year.

Numbers Skewed by ‘N/A’
It seems that in these difficult economic times for the airframers, GAMA figures are not as complete as they typically have been. For example, starting late last year Gulfstream decided it would no longer provide a delivery breakdown of its models–presumably for competitive reasons–preferring instead to provide just a total number.

Even more upsetting for GAMA in its quest to report accurate and complete data is Bombardier’s unprecedented action in not providing any delivery quantities at all for its Learjet series, figures for which typically are not an insignificant amount. A Bombardier spokes- man told AIN that the company did indeed deliver Learjets from the Tucson facility in the first quarter, but no green ones because the Learjet production line in Wichita was in a four-month shutdown that ended in April, after the first quarter closed.

Airbus also declined to provide delivery numbers, if in fact there were any Airbus Corporate Jetliners handed over to customers in the first three months of the year. Without hard delivery numbers for the ACJ or Learjets, GAMA’s total figures do not reflect the actual delivery count. That’s disconcerting to GAMA because not only are the total figures not completely accurate–if the delivery figures for these aircraft, mainly the Learjets, were counted– the total jet delivery figure certainly would have been a less anemic-looking three-digit number.

Gulfstream, Cessna Curtail Production
Gulfstream Aerospace will shut down its primary manufacturing operations in Savannah, Ga., from June 30 through July 27, placing more than 1,000 workers on furlough. The period of unpaid leave mainly involves management and hourly workers in manufacturing departments, but Gulfstream also plans to furlough some employees in support departments. Yet “deliveries and customer service will
not be affected,” according to a company statement. The company still expects to build 77 airplanes this year but will lay off as many as 1,000 employees, according to a spokesman. Gulfstream delivered 85 jets last year and 101 in 2001.

Earlier this year Cessna disclosed it will implement a seven-week shutdown, placing some 6,000 workers on furlough from June 2 through July 18 and forcing layoffs of another 1,200 employees. Cessna estimates it will deliver between 180 and 195 Citations this year. The company delivered 305 Citations last year and 306 in 2001.

Bombardier, also in the midst of major layoffs, predicts that initial deliveries of its new Challenger 300 will help it end the year with about the same number of shipments–108–as last year. Raytheon Aircraft believes it will deliver more than 180 King Airs and business jets this year, compared with 157 last year, thanks mainly to Premier I shipments finally increasing to rates that were supposed to have been realized last year.

Separately, Bill Boisture resigned as chairman of GAMA, less than a month after his surprise departure as president of Gulfstream. Because he is no longer employed by a GAMA-member company, Boisture is not eligible to remain as a member of the board. Clayton Jones, chairman, president and CEO of Rockwell Collins (and elected vice chairman of GAMA last November), is assuming the role of association chairman for the remainder of the current term, which ends next year.