Honeywell bizjet forecast predicts boost by 2012

 - October 30, 2009, 8:27 AM

On the eve of last month’s NBAA convention, engine and avionics manufacturer Honeywell released its 18th annual 10-year market forecast, projecting a serious near-term dip in business jet deliveries but a gradual climb back to the heights reached during last year’s production peak.

Despite the more than year-long downturn in usage and the scaling back of flight departments, the engine and avionics manufacturer sees signs of optimism and is predicting an uptick in worldwide demand starting in 2011. “The biggest thing is that as we look at five-year purchase plans for new aircraft, purchase expectation has increased to 40 percent, meaning 40 percent of existing fleet operators indicate they are going to buy a new or replacement or addition to their fleet in the next five years,” said Rob Wilson, Honeywell’s president for business and general aviation. “It’s tempered by the fact that the people cited their intention to purchase more in the latter part of that five-year horizon. It says people have a positive view, but the positive view is more long term in that five-year view, and that there’s still a strong robust demand for business aviation.”  

In last year’s forecast, Honeywell predicted a record 1,139 business jet deliveries for 2008, but even that ebullient estimate proved low as the industry logged a final tally of 1,313 jets, according to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.

The economic downturn and consequent layoffs by OEMs prompted Honeywell this year to expect a 30-percent cut in output to between 750 and 800 jets this year and fewer than 700 next year. “If we look back to the 2008 forecast and the 2009 reduction in output, a big piece of that was the availability of credit, which dried up faster than anybody believed,” Wilson told AIN. “That left potential buyers with tough decisions regarding cancellation [and stiff fees] and switching to a lower-priced alternative in the used market. The fact that credit availability is still characterized as spotty at best gives us a challenge looking at near-term deliveries.”

Honeywell’s latest forecast calls for deliveries of up to 11,000 new business jets through 2019, a rollback from the up to 17,000 predicted in last year’s 10-year window. The company’s survey methodology involves interviewing 1,200 randomly selected flight departments worldwide about their usage and purchase plans over the next five years. Using production data from OEMs and market analysis, the forecasters then formulate the 10-year outlook. The responses showed that many operators are deferring purchases and banking on better days ahead, fueling predictions of pent-up demand by 2012.

While North and Latin American purchase expectations declined slightly, the rest of the world’s was more upbeat, in keeping with the trend that has seen more new aircraft purchased internationally than domestically. “Clearly operators around the world are looking beyond the current economic climate and anticipating a return to improved business conditions,” said Wilson. Respondents overall said they expect to purchase new aircraft as replacements and for fleet expansion equivalent to 40 percent of their current fleets over the next five years.

In North America, the fact that purchase expectations–at around 25 percent–changed little since last year came as a welcome surprise, according to Wilson, based on the economic and policy concerns voiced by respondents. “Despite negative economic growth in the U.S. and some adverse domestic publicity, the survey indicates that purchases over the five-year period will maintain at levels similar to those reported in our 2008 survey,” he said. North America is expected to account for 48 percent of business jet deliveries over the next five years.

Expectations were much higher in Europe, which logged its ninth consecutive year of strong purchase intentions. Based on the survey results, respondents expected to purchase an all-time high of nearly 59 percent of the current fleet during the survey period. The resurgence of the European currencies against the dollar is expected to act as a strong incentive, along with predicted economic growth and business expansion in Russia and Eastern Europe after 2010.

In Africa, the Middle East and Asia, purchase expectations are still high, according to the survey, with those in Africa and the Middle East increasing 10 points over last year’s response to 55 percent. While respondents in these regions indicated plans to purchase sooner than in other regions, the relatively smaller fleets will yield fewer new jet purchases until expansion is considered. Asian total replacement and expansion plans are just over 58 percent for the region after approaching 50 percent in last year’s forecast.

While purchase plans for Latin America dipped by five points from last year’s survey, they still remained strong at more than 40 percent.

Aircraft by the Numbers

Based on the operator responses, the survey considers the next five-year period, while Honeywell’s forecasters extend those numbers out to 10 years. According to the respondents, the demand for new aircraft will be balanced across the spectrum of aircraft types. Through 2014, light and light-medium aircraft will account for the largest demand share at 24 percent. Honeywell predicts that roughly 2,400 aircraft in this class, which includes the Hawker 450,  Cessna Citation XLS, Embraer Phenom 300 and Learjet 45, will be delivered by 2019.

The next largest group, the medium and medium-large jets, which includes new designs such as the Embraer Legacy 450 and 500, Learjet 85 and Gulfstream G250 as well as current aircraft such as the Citation Sovereign, Challenger 300, Learjet 60, Hawker 850XP and 900XP and Gulfstream G150 and G200, is expected to garner 23 percent of sales in the next five years, with deliveries of approximately 2,400 aircraft over the life of the forecast.

Large aircraft, a group that includes the Challenger 605, Gulfstream G350, Falcon 2000 series, Embraer Legacy 600 and the recently shelved Citation Columbus, will earn 18 percent of the demand through 2014, according to the survey respondents. Honeywell’s forecast predicts deliveries of some 1,000 aircraft in this class during the next decade.

The long- and ultra-long-range category also received 18 percent of the potential market demand over the next five years. The class is represented by Bombardier’s Globals and Challenger 850, Gulfstream’s G450 through G550 and Dassault’s Falcon 900 and 7X and is projected to top 1,500 deliveries through 2019, while a new subset of high-speed ultra-long-range aircraft, primarily Gulfstream’s new flagship G650, would add another 500 to the total.

The very light jet segment–which has been relatively insulated from the declining flight hours trend, according to Honeywell’s survey–is represented by the Embraer Phenom 100, Cessna Citation Mustang, CJ1+ and CJ2+, Hawker Beechcraft Premier I and Emivest SJ30-2. Deliveries in the group are expected to exceed 2,800 over the next 10 years.

Honeywell’s annual forecast also examines aircraft in what it calls the personal jet category, which includes the Eclipse 500, PiperJet, Cirrus SF50, Adam A700 and Diamond D-Jet. Last year, Honeywell’s prognosticators envisioned 10-year deliveries of between 4,000 and 5,000 of the diminutive jets, but based on delays and program cancellation within the class, that number has been downgraded to between 1,000 and 1,500 deliveries by 2019.

Used Prices Slide

After several years of gradual increases in the price of used jets, the market has seen significant erosion, with prices dropping by 15 to 18 percent from where they were a year ago, says Honeywell. According to the forecast, that trend could continue as survey respondents indicated a further decline in used jet purchases over the next five years. The survey also noted clear intentions by operators to shift to flat or lower jet usage in the near future.

While the growth of the fractional-share market has been one of the driving forces in the industry’s recent prosperity, Honeywell’s forecast sees demand for the shared ownership model eroding. “In 2009, we’re probably going to see only about four percent of the total output going to that fractional and jet card customer base,” Wilson noted. “In the longer term, over the forecast horizon, we are probably looking at on the order of 50 to 90 aircraft per year as opposed to the 100 to 120 that we have traditionally seen.”