Aircraft delivery figures stumble in first half

 - August 25, 2009, 7:45 AM

Following several months of reported production slowdowns, staff layoffs and furloughs from the major OEMs, general aviation industry deliveries shrank by more than 45 percent during the first half of this year, compared with the first half of last year, according to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA). The trade association reported that all segments of the industry experienced double-digit declines. “These are extremely challenging times for all general aviation manufacturers and suppliers. Layoffs continue and our industry has been forced to slow and, in some cases, temporarily halt, production lines,” said GAMA president and CEO Pete Bunce.

The business jet category saw a nearly 38-percent decline in deliveries in the first half of this year, with a total of 412 jets delivered, compared with 663 in the first six months of last year. The 2008 total was boosted significantly by the 112 Eclipse 500s delivered in the first six months; the now-defunct VLJ manufacturer made no deliveries this year. While following through on its plan to ramp up deliveries of the Mustang VLJ, nearly doubling its first-half 2008 output of 34, Cessna reported a more than 28-percent decrease in 2009 deliveries, down from the record pace in the first half of 2008 that saw the Wichita OEM ship 213 jets. The increase in Mustang production came seemingly at the expense of Cessna’s larger jet offerings, which all saw a decline in deliveries.

Despite a decrease in the number of deliveries of its Legacy 600, Brazilian airframer Embraer saw its total deliveries rise from 16 in the first half of 2008 to 29 for the first six months of this year, bolstered by the first deliveries of the Phenom 100 and Lineage 1000. Hawker Beechcraft jet deliveries fell by more than 43 percent, seeing a reduction from to 39 jets for the first six months of this year versus 70 in the first half of 2008.

More Stability among Turboprops

The turboprop segment in general held up comparatively better, with 191 deliveries of pressurized and unpressurized aircraft in the first half of the year as opposed to 221 in the first six months of last year, representing a decline of 13.6 percent. Pressurized turboprops fared slightly worse, with 36 fewer examples shipped this year, for a decrease of more than 21 percent year over year. Bucking the trend, Swiss builder Pilatus actually increased its PC-12 output, delivering 44 of the single-engine turboprops in the first half of the year, bettering last year’s tally of 35 in the same period.

Despite the depressed numbers, some see slight gains in the short-term outlook. “We are encouraged that the overall economic picture is showing some signs of improvement, which is a crucial condition for recovery in the general aviation market. Flight hours are stabilizing, used inventories are beginning to shrink, and our manufacturers are seeing signs of renewed interest in airplane purchases,” said Bunce.