Bizjets Continue to Rise as Turboprops Stumble

 - June 1, 2014, 2:30 AM

Business jet makers continued to build on their delivery momentum from last year, while total industry billings increased by 9 percent year-over-year, according to first-quarter delivery statistics released last month by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA).

OEMs handed over 154 private jets worldwide in the first three months of the year, an increase of 19.4 percent over the 129 deliveries in last year’s first quarter. While the large-cabin/long-range class of business jets has continued to maintain its strength, due primarily to international orders, the smaller business jets are beginning to show signs of growth as well. All the major bizjet manufacturers saw increases year-over-year, led by Embraer, whose 11 additional Phenom 300s helped it post a nearly 67-percent increase over last year’s first-quarter total. Gulfstream added 10 twinjets over its first-quarter 2013 total, for a 34.5-percent increase. Bombardier noted a year-over-year boost of better than 10 percent, mainly to deliveries of the new Learjet 70/75, which commenced late last year. Cessna, buoyed by the certifications of the light Citation M2 and super-mid Sovereign+ at the end of last year, experienced a 9.4-percent rise in deliveries compared with the first three months of 2013, while Dassault posted a one-unit increase over its first-quarter 2013 tally. Eclipse Aerospace, which rose from the ashes of Eclipse Aviation, began deliveries of its Eclipse 550 in March, handing over five of the newly manufactured VLJs in the first quarter of the year.

Industry Not There Yet

“We are very happy that we’re up in business jets, but we need more sustained health in the light to mid segment of the market before we can claim major success in the recovery,” said GAMA president and CEO Pete Bunce. “Those aircraft use the infrastructure in the established markets–mainly North America and Europe–and those economies still haven’t recovered to where we would like to see them.”

In the turboprop segment, overall deliveries saw a decrease of more than 8 percent in the first quarter year-over-year, while high-end pressurized models experienced a 23-percent decline in deliveries. Though Daher-Socata, Pilatus, Piper and Piaggio reported no changes between their 2013 first-quarter deliveries and those from this year, Beechcraft, which was acquired by Cessna and Bell Helicopter parent Textron in March, handed over 12 fewer King Airs in the first quarter of this year, a decline of 35 percent. “The difference in King Air deliveries quarter-over-quarter is primarily attributed to a pent up demand of deliveries from 2012 as Beechcraft emerged from bankruptcy in the first quarter of 2013,” a Textron Aviation spokeswoman explained to AIN. “Some customers elected to wait until the restructuring was officially complete before taking delivery of their aircraft.”

In a traditional recovery cycle, piston aircraft deliveries would be considered a bellwether for better times for the industry as a whole, and that segment saw a gain of better than 21 percent in the first quarter year-over-year, but industry experts who have anticipated a turn-around over the past few years have learned things have changed from what had been seen in the past. “There is nothing traditional about this recovery or lack of recovery,” said Bunce. “Traditionally…when you get those three consecutive quarters of [GDP] growth you start to see the uptick of pistons and then the other segments of the industry follow. We have not had that whatsoever in the type of GDP growth, so that normal indicator is not part of this equation.”

While he acknowledged the first quarter numbers are encouraging, Bunce noted the industry remains a “long way from being out of the woods.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed that this sustains itself and hopefully we will see recovery in the North American marketplace that is robust,” Bunce told AIN, “and if we do that then perhaps we are going to enter into a more traditional phase.”

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