Airplane makers report weak sales for 2009

 - March 29, 2010, 7:47 AM

If it is true that an event becomes history when it is no longer referred to in the present tense, then the Great Recession still has some receding to do, despite recent suggestions by industry analysts that we are now in the market trough and the only direction is up.

Annual reports for last year are in, and the results aren’t particularly good.
Bombardier’s delivery numbers fell from 235 in its 2008/09 fiscal year to 176 in 2009/10. The company is forecasting that deliveries in 2010/11 will be approximately 15 percent down on the previous fiscal year.

Cessna delivered 289 business jets last year, a dramatic drop from the 466 it shipped in 2008. Analysts note that this year the lower- margin Citation Mustang is likely to account for nearly half the total deliveries. On the other hand, Frank Connor, CFO and executive v-p of parent company Textron, said the Wichita-based OEM has reduced inventory and consolidated facilities with the goal of returning to double-digit margins.

Dassault Falcon saw a slight increase in deliveries, from 72 in 2008 to 77 last year, but it also saw its revenues slump. (See Dassault 2009 story below) More bad news came from the company’s Little Rock Completion Center, where workers can expect a two-week shutdown this summer.

Embraer enjoyed a jump in deliveries from 38 business jets in 2008 to 122 last year, but analysts caution that those numbers include the new lower-margin Phenom 100. Of the 122 business aircraft it delivered last year, 97 were Phenom 100s.

Gulfstream had good news, closing last year with first flights of its G650 and G250. On the down side, the Savannah, Ga.-based OEM revealed that its delivery numbers fell to 94 last year from 156 in 2008.

Hawker Beechcraft posted an operating loss of $712 million last year, a significant reversal from the operating income of $140.3 million in 2008. Deliveries of jets and turboprops fell to 217 last year from 332 in 2008.

One bright spot was Piper Aircraft. The Vero Beach, Fla.-based OEM announced it has hired 60 engineers since last June as it moves closer to production of its new PiperJet. Another 107 people laid off earlier have been rehired and the first customer PiperJet is scheduled for delivery in the second quarter 2013.

Away from the manufacturing segment, fractional ownership pioneer NetJets posted a “staggering loss” of $711 million last year. NetJets was not the only troubled fractional operator. Based on data provided by Paris-based author and fractional industry researcher Pierre Parvaud, the five largest fractionals–Avantair, CitationAir, Flight Options, Flexjet and NetJets–in 2009 saw an overall change in total fleet size of minus 28 aircraft. The U.S. fractional fleet shrank to 806 aircraft as of Dec. 31, 2009, down from a fleet high of 834 aircraft in mid-2008.

As they look ahead, analysts predict modest growth in business jet deliveries. Aviation market consultant Brian Foley forecasts deliveries to rise at “a steady 2.7 percent per year (compound annual growth rate) between now and 2019.” His forecast calls for manufacturers to deliver 8,900 business jets worth $170 billion in the 10-year period. He notes a “major shift,” forecasting that approximately 48 percent of these airplanes will go to markets outside North America, compared with a historical 30 percent.

A white paper report by Aircraft- Post president Dennis Rousseau notes that pre-owned business jet prices are down 40 percent from the heights of 2008 and
are now on average 15 percent below “market value.”

Despite the turbulent economy and some difficulty in finding financing, “Business jets are selling,” he said. In the medium- and long-range jet categories, Rousseau said 50 percent more aircraft were sold last year than in 2008, but most are selling at an average 50 percent less than the price they commanded at the height of the market.