The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) released its third-quarter delivery numbers last month, and while shipments of both business jets and turboprops this year have set records, the organization is warning of rough skies ahead. “Notwithstanding these positive third-quarter numbers for turbine-powered aircraft deliveries, our industry is experiencing difficulties due to the weakness of the global economy,” said GAMA president and CEO Pete Bunce. “Reacting to the lead and lag nature of this economic slowdown, several companies have announced layoffs and are working aggressively to retain orders and encourage new ones. Even as the price of fuel has declined from the debilitating high levels we saw this past summer, the uncertainty of financial markets worldwide is negatively impacting the entire aviation industry.”
Deliveries of Bizjets and Turboprops Remain Strong
During the first three quarters, 990 business jets were delivered, compared with 761 in the same period last year, an increase of more than 30 percent. Leading the increase was troubled VLJ manufacturer Eclipse, which improved its output by 223 percent over the previous year’s total. Although the company delivered 155 EA-500s during the first three quarters, speculation now swirls over the future of the Albuquerque-based airframer (see 'Eclipse struggles to stay aloft in turbulent skies').
Among the major traditional bizjet OEMs, Dassault saw the lowest delivery increase, rising by 9 percent, buoyed mainly by the new 7X, as production of the fly-by-wire trijet ramped up from two in the first three quarters of last year to 12 during the same period this year. Among the major business jet airframers Cessna saw the largest increase in output–25.4 percent–due mainly to the rise in production of the Citation Mustang VLJ, which more than doubled from 25 in the first nine months of last year to 64 during the same period this year. Cessna expects to deliver 100 of the twinjets by the end of the year.
Pressurized turboprops also enjoyed a modest 8.4-percent increase, up 20 aircraft to total 259 delivered this year to date. Italian manufacturer Piaggio saw a 117-percent increase in output of the Avanti II, boosting its production from six to 13 in the three quarters. Socata– whose pending sale from EADS to French-based aerostructure specialist Daher was recently announced– also saw a nearly 45-percent spike in deliveries of its TBM 850, moving 42 of the turboprop singles during this year’s first three quarters. Pilatus and Piper saw slight declines in the deliveries of their PC-12 and Meridian, respectively.
Piston-powered aircraft continued their slide, with deliveries at their lowest since 2004. So far this year, the segment saw 1,646 delivered, versus 1,857 for the first three quarters of last year.