For the first time since the end of 2006, quarterly deliveries of business jets, turboprops and piston-powered aircraft finished in the positive, according to first-quarter 2013 statistics released last month by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA). “We are pleased to see a shift to the positive for GA airplanes, which extends across all airplane segments,” said GAMA president and CEO Pete Bunce. “However, the performance was mixed within the segments, which demonstrates the need for industry’s continued engagement with elected officials and regulators throughout the world as we seek to strengthen the GA sector.”
Year-over-year total industry shipments rose by 9.6 percent, while total billings climbed nearly 32 percent, to $4.6 billion, based on the strength of the large-cabin/long-range business jet segment. “One quarter does not a trend make,” cautions industry analyst Brian Foley, who nonetheless expects to see continued growth, citing recent milestones hit by major market indicators. “I’m optimistic that the following quarters will show the same good news primarily based on ongoing economic recovery in North America,” he added.
The 129 business jets delivered in the first three months of the year represented a 4-percent increase over the 124 handed over in last year’s first quarter. Gulfstream, which increased its year-over-year output by 10 aircraft for a gain of more than 52 percent, handed over eight more large-cabin twinjets than it did in the first quarter of 2012, bolstered by the addition of its G650 flagship. The Savannah airframer did not disclose exactly how many of the new ultra-long-range jets it handed over during the first three months of the year.
Bombardier delivered 13 additional long-range bizjets, delivering 17 Global 5000/5000s, a 325-percent increase from the four it delivered in the first quarter of 2012, when it was slowing Global deliveries in preparation for the switch to the new Vision cockpit. The Global ramp up contributed to an overall rise of more than 34 percent in year-over-year deliveries. The Montreal-based manufacturer told AIN the increase is in line with its projected 190 business jet deliveries this year, which would represent an approximate 6-percent increase over its 2012 yearly total.
Those two airframers were the only private jet manufacturers to show an increase from the previous year. Dassault delivered little more than half the number of jets it did in last year’s first quarter, with the number of 7X trijets decreasing from nine to four in the first quarter. A company spokesman attributes the decrease to “normal fluctuations” in the company’s production schedule. The French airframer expects to exceed last year’s delivery total.
Cessna saw a decrease of nearly 16 percent in deliveries year-over-year, handing over two very light Citation Mustangs, down from seven in the first quarter of 2012, and no Citation Xs, compared with three in the first three months of last year. In the first-quarter earnings call for parent company Textron, chairman and CEO Scott Donnelly said Cessna is reducing its 2013 business jet deliveries outlook. Customers in the light jet market, who tend to be small business owners, continue to defer purchase decisions, “reflecting continued concerns about their financial outlook,” said Donnelly. As a result, he added, the Wichita-based manufacturer has adjusted its production schedules and is implementing other appropriate cost actions.
Embraer saw a slight decrease, delivering one fewer jet this year than it did in last year’s first quarter. The five fewer Phenom 300 deliveries were partially offset by increases in the number of Phenom 100s and Legacy 650s handed over.
While the Hawker line of jets met its demise with the restructuring of Beechcraft, the Wichita manufacturer continued to pare down its inventory with the first-quarter deliveries of six Hawker 4000s, equaling its bizjet delivery tally from the first quarter of 2012, when it handed over three each Hawker 900XPs and 4000s. As of early May, the company said it had liquidated its remaining jets.
Among the bizliners, Airbus delivered two ACJs (the same as last year), while Boeing delivered a single BBJ in the first three months. The U.S. company handed over a private 747-8 and a BBJ2 in the same period last year.
On the turboprop side, GAMA for the first time separated single-engine and multi-engine turboprops, with the former showing a nearly 15-percent increase. Combined, both for the quarter rose nearly 26 percent over the previous year, while higher-end pressurized models alone saw a 53-percent increase. Focusing on its now-core turboprop business, Beechcraft (which solely accounted for the multi-engine turboprop deliveries in the first quarter) boosted its King Air production by nearly 79 percent year-over-year, delivering 11 more 250s and 10 more 350is than it did a year ago.
Pilatus added two PC-12s to its tally from the first quarter of 2012, while Daher-Socata (five TBM850s), Piper (six Meridians) and Piaggio (zero Avanti IIs) all remained static from their first-quarter 2012 delivery totals.