Despite the increases in business aircraft flight hours over the past year, positive economic indicators from the business community and a strong fourth-quarter showing from aircraft manufacturers, 2010 lived up to its description as a trough year for the general aviation industry, as worldwide shipments of turbine-powered aircraft reached their lowest levels since 2005, according to year-end statistics released on February 22 by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA).
The total number of business jets handed over last year was 763, down more than 12 percent from last year and off nearly 42 percent from the industryπs high-water mark of 1,313 set in 2008. On the turboprop side, the erosion was greater, with 363 aircraft (AIN’s chart below considers only pressurized aircraft) representing a slide of approximately 18 percent from 2009’s output. “The delivery figures are down, but much less than the year before,” noted John Rosanvallon, GAMA’s chairman. “2010 was a year of stabilization for the market.”
While small-cabin aircraft deliveries continued to languish, large-cabin, long-range business jets such as Dassault’s 7X and Bombardier’s Challengers and Globals saw either increased deliveries or held their own compared with last year, while Gulfstream saw its net orders reach their highest levels since the start of the economic downturn (see article on page 18). Those high-end deliveries helped the overall industry billings grow by 1.2 percent over last year, to $19.7 billion.
In spite of the down totals, there is still growing optimism among industry leaders that the market is poised for a comeback. “If you just look strictly at the economic model that has held true in virtually every one of our other recoveries, the fact that we sit with an 18-month lag between the end of the recession and when we start our recovery, we are right about there now,” GAMA president Pete Bunce told AIN, noting that several recent legislative changes could serve as a springboard domestically. “The tax policies that were set gave us a boost with bonus depreciation in Q4 of 2010, and now the new capability for 100-percent expensing in this year and next year should also be a good injection of energy within the marketplace.”
That energy would be a welcome addition to a business aviation market that has subsisted largely on international deliveries of late. “Several OEMs have reported that 60 to 70 percent of their orders last year were coming from the international market,” said Rosanvallon, who is also president and CEO of Dassault Falcon.
“The strength has been in those emerging markets, whether it’s Latin America, Asia-Pacific, Africa or the Middle East, and thatπs really sustained us through this really bad economic time,” added Bunce. “As the economies in North America and Europe start to grow strongly again, then that’s just additive to that demand, which I don’t see lessening in those emerging markets.”