Every year since the start of the great economic downturn of 2008, the business aviation industry has watched business jet deliveries dwindle and searched for signs that the market might have finally hit bottom. The downward slide was finally arrested last year, according to year-end numbers released last month by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. For the first time since 2008, worldwide deliveries of business jets were higher than the previous year, with manufacturers handing over 678 jets last year, six aircraft (1 percent) more than in 2012. Of those 678 business jets, 52.4 percent went to North American customers. Pressurized turbine aircraft deliveries rose by more than 6 percent overall, buoyed by the turboprop segment, which saw a year-over-year gain of nearly 24 percent.
Textron subsidiary Cessna, for 25 years the top business jet manufacturer in terms of number delivered, handed over 139 private jets last year–fewer than both Bombardier and Gulfstream. For every aircraft in its lineup but the M2, deliveries of which began in the fourth quarter, Cessna tallied either the same or fewer deliveries year-over-year; the Mustang VLJ declined 47 percent from the 2012 tally. “It’s indicative of an ongoing shift in the market,” said industry analyst Brian Foley. “We know that the big cabins have been doing better than the smaller cabins lately, and Cessna plays almost exclusively in the small and midsize cabin arena, which has been hit the hardest,” said Foley. He described last year as a “quirk” for Cessna and predicted the company “will catch up again next year as those two segments gain traction.”
Bombardier delivered 180 business jets last year, just one more than in 2012, and saw gains in the numbers of Globals and Challenger 300s it handed over. The Canadian OEM began deliveries of the midsize Learjet 70/75 in the fourth quarter, with 18 handed over to customers.
Gulfstream ramped up its output year-over-year and delivered 144 aircraft last year. The General Dynamics-owned company saw a surge in its large-cabin products, delivering nearly 39 more last year than in 2012. While the OEM delivered eight fewer aircraft than in its peak production year of 2008, when it handed over 152, its billings last year exceeded the 2008 total by more than $2 billion.
Beechcraft, which exited the business jet segment last year, noted six final deliveries of its remaining super-midsize Hawker 4000 inventory in the first quarter of the year.
Outside North America, Embraer exceeded its 2012 numbers by more than 20 percent across the entire product range, led by deliveries of an additional 12 Phenom 300s. The Brazilian airframer had a fourth-quarter push, with more than 44 percent of its 119 deliveries coming at the end of the year, including half of its 60 Phenom 300s.
Led by the entry into service of two new Falcon 2000 derivatives, Dassault also posted gains in 2013. The Falcon 2000LXS and 2000S accounted for 15 of the French airframer’s 77 deliveries last year, while it handed over six more of its flagship long-range Falcon 7X trijets year-over-year.
Among the bizliners, both Airbus and Boeing delivered fewer aircraft last year than in 2012. The European consortium handed over three fewer ACJs last year than it did in 2012, and Boeing, despite introducing the private version of the 787-8 Dreamliner, saw its totals fall by nearly half. The U.S. company delivered eight 747-8s in 2012, but none last year. Embraer, on the other hand, saw increases at the high end of its lineup, doubling the number of Lineage 1000 deliveries from the previous year, and adding another ERJ shuttle.
The pressurized turboprop segment saw healthy gains on the previous year, with 277 aircraft delivered last year, 53 more than in 2012. Much of the improvement came from Beechcraft, which at 72 nearly doubled the number of King Air 350s it delivered in 2012; the company also handed over 14 more King Air 250s. The Wichita airframer accounted for 135 of the 137 multi-engine turboprops delivered, the remaining two coming from Piaggio, which saw a 60-percent decline from the previous year.
In the sphere of single-engine pressurized turboprops, Piper, Daher-Socata and Pilatus all saw gains ranging from 4.8 percent to 6.3 percent. More than half of Pilatus’s 65 deliveries last year came in the fourth quarter. Extra delivered one EA-500, half its 2012 tally. o