Analysts continue to waffle on bizav recovery

 - October 19, 2010, 3:08 PM

Conditions for general aviation businesses “have noticeably improved” in the year since the last NBAA Convention, according to New Jersey-based aviation consultant Brian Foley. “There’s an entire spectrum of the industry seeing these better results, including MRO, FBO, charter and fractional companies,” he said. “These types of companies were the first affected by the downturn and are now the first out.” Foley doesn’t anticipate a return to prior peak business levels anytime soon, however. “It’s far more likely we’ll eventually return to something akin to 2005 to 2006 activity levels, which were healthy but not peak,” he predicted. Foley’s industry analysis was one of several issued as NBAA began its 63rd annual convention here in Atlanta. Like Foley, most of these reports sounded a cautiously optimistic note. Aviation data supplier Amstat, for example, reported that 2.3 percent of the worldwide business jet fleet changed hands in retail transactions in the third quarter, a slight decline from 2.4 percent in the previous quarter. The worldwide inventory of used jets for sale held steady at 15.5 percent. Amstat executive vice president Tom Benson said he is hopeful that transaction activity has “improved from the bottom [and] settled into a consistent range” and that 2011 will be “a year of steady improvements.” The latest investment survey from UBS, meanwhile, showed a “weak although less worse” market for business jets, with the firm’s Business Jet Market Index suggesting that conditions have deteriorated since August. The good news is that–ostensibly because of declining prices–UBS’s customer-interest score stands at 56, up 15 percent from August. Another positive sign comes from the FAA, which reported that flight activity in August was up 3.2 percent from the previous month and up 12 percent from August 2009. Year to date, flight activity is up 11 percent over 2009. Nevertheless, year-to-date activity remains down 17 percent from the same period in 2008 and down 23 percent from the same period in 2007. Fletcher Aldredge, publisher of the quarterly newsletter from aircraft and sales data provider Vref, isn’t ready to predict a turnaround in aircraft values, however. “There is no way to tell where we are in the current cycle–middle or end of the recession, or beginning of the recovery,” he wrote. Aldredge reported that turboprop prices are nearly flat, down less than a percentage point in the last quarter. Light jet values declined an average of 3.8 percent while midsize jet prices were off 4.1 percent and large-jet prices dropped 3.3 percent.