Aircraft manufacturers last year were struggling to build their service networks and capabilities to help a growing number of operators worldwide keep their aircraft flying safely and efficiently. Order backlogs were at record highs and manufacturing and product support resources were stretching thin.
Everything has changed since then, and now manufacturers are struggling to balance declining backlogs with shrinking workloads in their service centers while continuing to support their extensive fleets. This year both Gulfstream and Cessna closed factory-owned service centers (in Minneapolis and Toledo, respectively) and Hawker Beechcraft and Cessna each relocated facilities, consolidating former California bases in business-friendly Mesa, Ariz. Whereas maintenance shops used to be booked months in advance, now operators can easily get multiple competitive bids with much shorter notice.
Once again, in the newer business jets (10 years or younger), older jets and the combined category, Gulfstream Aerospace’s overall average in the 2009 AIN Product Support Survey topped the charts. Readers rated Gulfstream’s overall averages for newer jet product support at 8.26, older jets at 7.77 and newer and older jets combined at 8.04. (This year, we made changes to more accurately reflect the way Gulfstream now supports the newer and older aircraft in its fleet, so the numbers aren’t precisely comparable to last year’s results.)
Cessna’s Citation fleet remains in second place this year for newer jets and jumped to second place for older jets. Cessna’s overall average for new jets is 7.81, down slightly from last year’s 7.88. Boeing’s BBJ support moved up to third place for newer jets this year at 7.80, nearly catching up to second-place Cessna with a jump from last year’s 7.47.
Bombardier’s newer-Challenger support made a substantial jump this year into fourth place with an overall average of 7.56, up from last year’s seventh place and 7.07. This pushes Dassault Falcon into fifth place at 7.52, slightly down from last year’s 7.64. Hawker Beechcraft’s Premier and 400 (née Beechjet) take sixth place with a ranking of 7.40, up from last year’s 7.36, followed closely by Bombardier’s Learjet series, making a significant jump to 7.39, up from last year’s 6.93.
Hawker Beechcraft’s midsize Hawker series is next at 7.29, up by a positive 0.20 from last year. Embraer’s Legacy support continues to improve, climbing a substantial 0.39 to 7.22 this year. Bombardier’s Global line also climbed to 6.73 from last year’s 6.56.
In the new-turboprop category, Pilatus and its single-engine PC-12 once again led the field, with a ranking of 7.72, up from last year’s 7.37. Hawker Beechcraft’s King Air series climbed to 7.41 from 7.23.
The helicopter results show Bell Helicopter at the top of the list with a rating of 6.97, up slightly from last year. Sikorsky moved into second place this year with 6.88, jumping substantially from last year’s third-place 6.45. AgustaWestland came in a close third with 6.85, also a clear increase from last year’s 6.13.
Companies that were not included in the chart this year due to insufficient responses were Airbus, Eclipse, Embraer (Phenom 100), Piaggio and Socata.