Three OEMs buck the delivery downward spiral

 - August 5, 2008, 11:06 AM

With the exception of Raytheon Aircraft and Embraer, jet manufacturers suffered significant delivery losses in this period. Shipments of new business jets in the first half of this year tumbled nearly 37 percent compared with the first half of last year, according to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.

But Raytheon delivered 42 jets in the first six months, only one fewer than it did in the same period last year. And the company’s King Air deliveries didn’t slip at all.

Embraer delivered one more Legacy Executive than last period, and Piper increased shipments of its Meridian turboprop single.

U.S. and non-U.S. manufacturers delivered 222 business jets in the first half versus 352 in the same period last year. However, this year’s first-half delivery numbers
do not reflect Learjet deliveries or (if there were any) Airbus ACJ deliveries. Learjet parent company Bombardier did not release its figures, according to GAMA, “due to changes in accounting policies.” The company delivered 35 Learjets in the first six months of last year. Bombardier temporarily suspended production at the Wichita Learjet plant in December to adjust to reduced demand and furloughed 500 employees. It did not begin recalling workers until April.

In addition to a relatively decent delivery picture, Raytheon Aircraft had a healthy increase in net sales. The Wichita-based aircraft manufacturer had net sales of $627 million in the first six months, up from $562 million for that period last year. But aircraft backlog at the end of the second quarter was valued at $2.2 billion, down from $4.7 billion a year ago. According to Raytheon, backlog was affected by the consolidation of fractional provider Flight Options, which reduced reported backlog by $834 million, and NetJets’ cancellation of its order for 50 Hawker Horizons, resulting in an $895 million backlog reduction.

Overall, Raytheon Co. president and CEO William Swanson expressed satisfaction with the aircraft manufacturing side of the house, saying, “We are pleased that Raytheon Aircraft continues to execute on its balanced operating plan in the face of tough market conditions.”

Meanwhile, both General Dynamics and Textron reported declining deliveries and earnings from their respective business jet subsidiaries in the first half of the year, compared with the same period last year. According to GD’s latest published financial results, Gulfstream delivered 19 jets in the second quarter versus 24 in the same period last year, bringing this year’s first-half deliveries to 34 compared with 51 in the first six months of last year. The company declined to break down delivery figures for specific models, presumably for competitive reasons. Gulfstream’s profit plunged from $150 million in the second quarter of last year to $45 million in the second quarter of this year.

Textron reported Cessna’s first-half profit was $125 million, versus $198 million a year earlier. Revenues also dropped from $1.5 billion in the first six months of last year to nearly $1.2 billion in the recent first half. Cessna delivered 57 Citations in the second quarter for a first-half total of 106, down from the 149 jets delivered in the same six-month time frame last year. Cessna’s backlog of $4.2 billion was down from the first quarter by $150 million. No Citation Xs were delivered in the second quarter. The company still stands by its prediction of delivering between 180 and 195 business jets this year.

Deliveries of the Embraer Legacy will be significantly affected by the shutdown of quasi-scheduled charter operator Indigo. The Brazilian manufacturer repossessed two aircraft being leased for Indigo and a remaining Indigo order for 23 more Legacy business jets has been canceled.

Dassault, which at the start of this year disclosed that it would cut production to between 50 and 60 Falcons this year, said in early summer that the number will actually be “about 50” and it plans to reduce production even further next year to about 48.

In stark contrast to the nearly 37-percent decline in deliveries of business jets, the turboprop market is holding its own. Piaggio, Pilatus, Piper, Raytheon and Socata combined delivered 69 turboprops in the first half. That’s just three aircraft fewer than the same time frame last year. Interestingly, the 710 piston singles and twins shipped during this year’s first half was only 3.1 percent fewer than the 733 shipped in the equivalent six months last year.

In terms of all the manufacturers and models reported, GAMA said first-half shipments of 1,031 piston and turbine general aviation airplanes in total fell 13.8 percent from the same period last year. Billings for the first six months were $4.05 billion, down 32.3 percent from last year.

“The shipment numbers are largely in line with the production schedules our manufacturers announced for the year, and they reflect the continued weakness in the economy,” said GAMA president and CEO Ed Bolen. On a brighter note, Bolen said, the industry is beginning to see some indications that the accelerated depreciation schedule “is stimulating some new orders.”