Analysts: brief, shallow dip in deliveries likely

 - October 27, 2008, 11:05 AM

With the U.S. economy rattling world markets, one might forgive industry prognosticators for revising their annual business jet forecasts radically, yet many of the predictions have become only slightly conservative in light of recent events.

Even taking into account the most recent upheaval on Wall Street, engine and avionics supplier Honeywell’s annual forecast calls for deliveries of up to 17,000 new jets worth approximately $300 billion through 2018. “New aircraft sales have remained at record levels,” said Rob Wilson, Honeywell’s president for business and general aviation. He added, “2008 will add to the string of record years the industry has experienced and order intake across most business jet categories remains strong, consistent with last year’s forecast. Aircraft backlogs currently equate to nearly three years’ worth of deliveries, so 2008 and 2009 still shape up to be strong years for the industry.” In terms of bizliners, such as BBJs and ACJs–while not specifically included in the forecast–the outlook expects another 250 deliveries over the next 10 years. As for VLJs with a price tag of less than $2.5 million, a category heretofore excluded from its forecast, Honeywell sees potential demand for 4,000 to 5,000 through the survey period.

Honeywell’s outlook–released at last month’s NBAA Convention– calls for a record delivery of around 1,200 new business jets this year, up from 1,020 last year. The prediction represents a 15-percent year-over-year increase, but it is still below last year’s prediction that more than 1,300 airplanes would be delivered. According to Honeywell’s forecast, deliveries next year could reach 1,400 business jets, depending on how quickly some new programs ramp up.

Connecticut-based Forecast International’s latest annual report predicts this year’s deliveries will reach nearly 1,400 and exceed 1,600 next year. The company then foresees a three-year drop, reaching a low of 1,515 deliveries in 2012. The analysts anticipate a relatively shallow decline, about 7 percent over the three-year slowdown, on the strength of the OEM order backlogs–especially for models still under development, with entry into service dates after 2010–and the geographic diversity of the market. Growth is expected to resume thereafter, reaching a high of more than 1,700 jets annually by the end of the 10-year outlook. Overall, including VLJs–which Forecast International describes as a “dynamic portion of the market”–the report nonetheless calls for deliveries of 15,936 business jets with an estimated value of $223 billion through 2017.

The Teal Group last month updated the annual overview it released this spring, moving its peak for aircraft deliveries to 2009 from 2010, predicting that the market would hit bottom in 2012 with a 25-percent drop in the value of deliveries from the 2009 high. Analyst Richard Aboulafia predicts that over the next 10 years manufacturers will deliver 13,457 jets–including VLJs–worth approximately $212 billion, down from May’s estimate of 14,289 jets valued at $218 billion.

Teal Group also predicts the delivery of another 776 bizliners, a category in which it includes the ERJ 135 regional jet-based Embraer Legacy 600. Those numbers are tied to a conservative market recovery of 10-percent annual growth following the through. With the current financial meltdown imparting little in the way of historical perspective, there are no guarantees as to how quickly the market could rebound. “We’re kind of in uncharted waters,” noted Aboulafia.

From an OEM perspective, Embraer released its own forecast, which took an even more conservative view, calling for deliveries of 13,150 new executive jets over the next 10 years, worth just over $200 billion, including between 3,500 and 4,400 VLJs. The Brazilian airframer sees a peak of around 1,400 deliveries reached between 2009 and 2010, before a dip that is expected to end around 2013.