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For the first three months of the year, general aviation aircraft deliveries experienced a modest decline of 2.1 percent compared with the first quarter of last year, while overall industry billings shrank by 8 percent, to $3.39 billion, according to statistics released last month by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. Although the fourth-quarter delivery totals increased for most manufacturers, leading to speculation that the much anticipated climb out of the trough was at hand, those hopes were tempered by the first-quarter results.
The 2.1-percent decrease between the first quarters of 2012 and 2011 was more palatable than the 22-percent drop between the first quarter of 2011 and that of 2010, and could suggest that the market is stabilizing somewhat, but industry analyst Brian Foley believes economic fears are still playing a role in cooling the market.
“World economics and the stock market volatility and more news on the debt crises over in Europe probably caused people to delay some of their purchase decisions,” Foley told AIN. “That said, we’re still thinking there is some pent-up demand out there and that the rest of the year should be better than the first quarter at least.”
During the first three months of the year, manufacturers handed over 122 business jets, the lowest first-quarter tally since the start of 2004, when 114 bizjets were delivered, and a decrease of 4.7 percent from the same period in 2011. “The first-quarter shipment data shows mixed performance across the segments,” said Pete Bunce, GAMA’s president and CEO. That is evident among the bizjet makers. Of the six major OEMs, three increased their year-over-over year deliveries, while the remainder handed over fewer aircraft than in the first quarter of last year.
Cessna handed over six more jets in the first three months of this year than it did in the same period last year. With the exception of the very light Mustang and the XLS+, the Wichita airframer saw increases across its bizjet lineup, with total deliveries for the CJ2+, CJ3, Sovereign and X more than doubling over the previous year.
Dassault and Embraer both had better than 60-percent increases. Having trimmed its product line over the past year, the French airframer saw gains among its three offerings, while Embraer doubled deliveries of both of its Phenom models from the previous year.
According to the GAMA numbers, Gulfstream delivered fewer aircraft in the first quarter of 2012 than it did in 1Q/2011, but to align its delivery numbers with those of the other OEMs, the Savannah-based company agreed with a GAMA request to report henceforth only the deliveries of “outfitted” aircraft as opposed to green, which it had included in the past. As such, that first-quarter total does not include any deliveries to the company’s completion centers of its new G650, which is expected to earn its certification soon. According to parent company General Dynamics, in the first quarter Gulfstream overall delivered 28 green aircraft, or four more in total than it delivered in the first three months of last year.
On the other side of the coin, Bombardier experienced a decrease of more than 30 percent in its first-quarter 2012 deliveries. Shipments of its smallest offering–the Learjet 40XR/45XR–experienced a significant decrease in first-quarter deliveries year-over-year, and so, too, did its largest aircraft, the Global 5000 and 6000. During Bombardier’s first-quarter earnings call, company president Pierre Beaudoin attributed the decreased deliveries of the ultra-long-range jets to the integration process for the new Global Vision flight deck on the aircraft.
While Hawker Beechcraft wrestles with the fallout from its recently declared move into Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, the airframer delivered just six jets (three each of the Hawker 900XP and 4000) in the first quarter, a 45.5-percent decrease from the same period last year.
In the turboprop segment, although GAMA reported an increase in deliveries of 3.3 percent of the pressurized models, there was actually an overall decrease of more than 8.1 percent for all turboprop models. Hawker Beechcraft was the only OEM to increase its number of deliveries year-over-year, handing over 18 King Airs during the first three months of the year, an increase of more than 12 percent over last year’s first quarter. Daher-Socata’s delivery total for the TBM 850 turboprop single remained static, while Pilatus and Piper saw decreases of three PC-12s and one Meridian, respectively. Italian manufacturer Piaggio did not deliver any Avanti II twins in the first quarter of the year.
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