Despite facing the gravest economic slowdown in decades, officials for Gulfstream Aerospace (Chalet No. 24) say they remain optimistic about the long-term health of business aviation and point to the Middle East market as an enduring bright spot.
“In this uncertain time people are slowing down” purchases of business airplanes, noted Larry Flynn, senior vice president of marketing and sales for Gulfstream. “But this region is doing better for us than some others. You can see the evidence here at MEBA with the number of aircraft on static display, the exhibitors and the visitors. This is a very significant show.”
Flynn said the percentage of Gulfstream’s order backlog that could be at risk in the face of tightening credit and massive losses in world financial markets is anticipated to be quite small. Gulfstream, he said, experienced only one order cancellation this year and two last year. The Savannah, Georgia company is in the midst of an unprecedented period of growth, he noted, saying Gulfstream took 257 orders last year and expects to deliver 159 airplanes in 2008. Its order backlog currently stands at about $22 billion.
There are now 100 Gulfstream jets operating in the Middle East, the vast majority of them large-cabin models. Gulfstream maintains a $10 million pool of spare parts here in Dubai and also relies greatly on its parts warehouse in London to support Middle East customers.
Downplaying the impact of the global financial downturn on Gulfstream’s business, Flynn said orders for the manufacturer’s jets continue to materialize, although not at the same super-heated rate as in the last five years.
A little more than half of new sales are coming from buyers outside North America, Flynn said, calling the shift an emerging trend that will help Gulfstream weather the economic storm in the U.S. Conceding that tight credit is forcing would-be buyers to delay aircraft purchases, Flynn said Gulfstream’s multibillion-dollar backlog will soften the effects of the slowdown.
Gulfstream launched two new airplanes this year, introducing the ultra-large-cabin G650 last March and adding to its family the G250 super-midsize jet last month. Sales of the G650 have been strong and, in an encouraging sign, have not affected orders of the G450 or G550. “We have created a new market with the G650,” Flynn said. The G250 updates the G200 with a new T-tail, more powerful Honeywell engines, the PlaneView 250 cockpit from Rockwell Collins and a larger wing reminiscent of the G550’s wing.
Here at MEBA, Gulfstream is exhibiting a G550, G200 and G150.