Turbine Aircraft Deliveries Continue to Slide in Third Quarter

 - December 3, 2011, 1:55 PM
Business aircraft were well represented in the static display at the 2011 Dubai Air Show in November. (Photo: David McIntosh)

While the trend of declining worldwide aircraft deliveries didn’t stop in the third quarter of the year, its pace did slow, according to statistics released last month by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA).

Deliveries dropped by 9.8 percent during the first nine months of this year compared with the same period last year, while industry billings fell 10.2 percent to just over $12 billion from $13.5 billion. This marks the 12th consecutive quarter that GAMA members have reported a slide in deliveries.

“These shipment and billings numbers show some improvement over the sharper decline experienced in the first half of 2011,” said Pete Bunce, GAMA’s president and CEO, who used the occasion to draw attention to perceived political attacks on the industry. “Considering the fragility of the economies in the traditional markets of North America and Europe this is not the time for new, undue government burdens to be imposed on general aviation.” For the first three quarters of the year, global shipments of business jets eroded by 13 percent, falling to 427 this year from 491 in the first nine months of last year. This year’s January to September output is the lowest since the first nine months of 2004, when the OEMs produced fewer than 400 bizjets.

Glimmer of Hope

Despite the overall decrease there were some bright spots among the manufacturers. Cessna increased its output over the previous year by 16 percent. While the Wichita airframer continued to pare down production of its Citation Mustang from 48 to 32 year-over-year, the VLJ was its only model to see a decrease in deliveries over the previous year. The OEM ramped up the pace on its newest offering, the CJ4, handing over 27 copies, 20 more than in the same period last year. Delivering 13 Sovereigns in the first three quarters of this year, Cessna more than doubled its output of the midsize jet from the same period last year. Among the company’s third-quarter deliveries were a quartet of Citation Encore+s, production of which ceased nearly two years ago. According to a Cessna spokeswoman, original orders for the four aircraft were cancelled because of the downturn. The whitetails were subsequently sold again and delivered to new customers.

Bombardier saw a 7.5-percent increase in overall deliveries, buoyed mainly by increases in its Learjet products. The manufacturer delivered five more Learjet 40XRs and 45XRs and two more 60XRs during the first nine months of this year than in the same period last year, while shipping nearly the same total of its larger aircraft as in last year’s first three quarters.

Hawker Beechcraft continued to retrench as its business jet deliveries slid by a further 19 percent year-over-year. In the first three quarters, the Wichita-based company delivered 30 jets compared with the 37 it handed over between January and September last year. While it more than doubled the number of Hawker 750s it delivered year-over-year, this year so far saw five fewer Hawker 900XPs shipped to new owners. 

Though it actually increased deliveries of its large-cabin offerings by three aircraft in the first nine months, Savannah-based Gulfstream slashed deliveries on its lower-end products, with the number of G150/200s delivered dropping to 12 from 22 in the first three quarters of last year.

While the airframers outside North America continued to report robust delivery numbers even during the height of the doldrums, the trend of drastically declining delivery totals has now reached their factory doors. Dassault saw the largest erosion, with a drop of nearly 48 percent from the same period last year. The French manufacturer, which describes China as its “number-one market this year,” delivered just eight2000LXs, down from 21 in the first nine months of last year. While shipments of its 900LX increased to five so far this year, up from one this time last year, it has not delivered any 900EX EASys this year; it handed over 14 during the first nine months of last year. Though the large-cabin/long-range classes of aircraft have generally seen demand hold steady, Dassault so far this year has shipped seven fewer Falcon 7Xs than it did from January to September last year.

Embraer also reported a decline of more than 40 percent in deliveries year-over-year. The softness in the VLJ market has meant fewer deliveries of the Phenom 100 this year–less than a third of the number it delivered last year. However, the number of Phenom 300s and Legacy 600/650s it shipped doubled compared with last year.

Though it delivered three Lineage 1000s last year, the Brazilian OEM has not delivered any of its top-of-the-line bizliners this year.

Likewise, bizliner manufacturers Airbus and Boeing posted decreases of more than 45 percent and 33 percent, respectively, in their business aircraft deliveries so far this year.

Turboprops Hard Hit

In the turboprop sector (pressurized and non-pressurized), the 223 singles and twins handed over so far this year represented a nearly 6-percent decline from the same period last year, but the pressurized-turboprop category actually saw a modest increase of nearly 3 percent, from 142 to 146 deliveries year-over-year. Hawker Beechcraft King Air deliveries remained virtually static. Between its business jet and turboprop businesses, Hawker Beechcraft was six aircraft off the pace set during the first three quarters of last year.

The latest tally shows Italian airframer Piaggio handed over one more Avanti II turboprop than it did during the first nine months of last year.

While Daher-Socata and Pilatus both reported approximately 10 percent fewer deliveries year-over-year for their single-engine turboprops, Piper handed over eight more Meridians than it did in the first three quarters of last year.

Piper delivered more aircraft internationally in the third quarter, but domestic deliveries generated more revenue, said Piper president and CEO Simon Caldecott, who attributed those stats to stronger U.S. deliveries of its Meridian.

GAMA: Not Just Fixed-wing Anymore

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) board of directors has voted to expand its membership to include helicopter makers. “We are excited about working formally to represent this vital and growing sector of the industry,” said GAMA president and CEO Pete Bunce.

Textron subsidiary Bell Helicopter was accepted as the first GAMA member from the helicopter industry. Bunce said GAMA welcomes the opportunity to strengthen ties with the growing rotorcraft industry and with its trade organization, the Helicopter Association International (HAI), on matters such as safety and increasing the industry’s economic reach. “Rotorcraft are a vital component of general aviation across the globe, and working more closely with HAI will only enhance our ability to tackle the tough challenges before us.” HAI mounted a large presence at this year’s EAA AirVenture Oshkosh to show solidarity with the fixed-wing community on issues of vital mutual importance and to draw attention to the importance of helicopters to general aviation.

Bell Helicopter, founded in 1935, was the first manufacturer to obtain certification for a commercial helicopter. Over the years, the Texas-based manufacturer (now a sister company of Cessna at Textron) has delivered more than 35,000 rotorcraft to customers worldwide.