The general aviation market showed signs of improvement in the first quarter, with total airplane shipments inching up by 12 units, to 447, and billings climbing by $120 million, to $3.8 billion, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association reported today. The helicopter market, meanwhile, showed even more resiliency, with total shipments increasing by 17 percent, to 219, and billings jumping correspondingly by more than 18 percent, to $673.7 million.
“We are pleased to see the industry is, overall, trending positively,” said GAMA president and CEO Pete Bunce. “Training needs are driving the demands in the rotorcraft segment, while a stabilizing used market, overall global economic growth, and aviation innovation are driving the other segment increases.”
Turbine aircraft led the increase in fixed-wing deliveries, with an increase of 15 units overall. Most of these came in the turboprop sector, up by 13 units to a total of 115, a 12.7 percent improvement, counting both pressurized and unpressurized aircraft. Textron Aviation’s Beechcraft King Air line helped propel that total, showing a rebound in first-quarter deliveries to 17 units. That compares with 12 in the first quarter a year ago. Piper’s M-series turboprops were up six units, to 10, and Piaggio delivered three of its Avanti Evos, compared with none a year earlier. Daher delivered one more TBM in the first quarter (eight) than a year earlier, and Pilatus’s PC-12 remained stable at 12 shipments.
Pilatus also marked the first two PC-24 twinjet deliveries in the first quarter. This was exactly the difference of first quarter deliveries overall in the business jet segment. Manufacturers in the first quarter delivered 132 business jets, compared with 130 in the same time frame last year.
Cirrus also helped prop up the business jet totals, with deliveries of 10 of its SF50 Vision single, compared with none in last year's first quarter. Bombardier’s Global and Challenger deliveries offset a slight slide in Learjet deliveries, leading the manufacturer to hand over 31 aircraft in the first quarter, two more than a year earlier. And Textron Aviation delivered an additional jet in the quarter for a total of 36, including 12 Citation Latitudes. Also adding to the totals was an additional Boeing Business Jet, for four in the quarter.
But Embraer business jet deliveries were down four units, to 11, in the quarter, as were Gulfstream’s shipments, to 26 jets. The drop in Gulfstream deliveries came from its large-cabin product lines. The financially struggling One Aviation had delivered three Eclipse very light jets in the first quarter of last year, but none this year. Also, Honda Aircraft's deliveries of its HondaJet ebbed in the first quarter, with 12 handed over. This compares with 15 a year earlier. (Dassault reports mid-year and full-year totals only.)
Piston aircraft sales, however, lagged in the quarter, down three units to an even 200 deliveries. Textron Aviation’s piston single lines were down by more than half; the company delivered two of its Beechcraft pistons, compared with eight a year earlier, and 21 of the Cessna models, compared with 41 a year earlier. Diamond Aircraft helped offset that with 10 additional pistons, to 21. Piper and Mooney also were among those with improved piston results.
Of the total 447 fixed-wing aircraft shipped, 343 went to North America and another 92 to Europe. South America and the rest of the world accounted for just 12 deliveries.
Meanwhile, both piston and turbine helicopter deliveries made notable gains. Piston helicopter deliveries took a 40 percent leap in the first quarter, to 81 units, while turbine helicopters were up 7 percent, to 138.
Robinson Helicopter reported a 22-helicopter jump in its piston deliveries, while Bell ramped up on its 505 program, delivering 25 of the light turbine in the quarter, compared with two a year earlier. Leonardo delivered 11 AW139s in the quarter, compared with none a year earlier, and its total reported deliveries soared from 12 in the first quarter of 2017 to 29 in the most recent quarter.
However, Airbus H125 deliveries were down by 10 units, among the 25 fewer deliveries that Airbus Helicopters reported in the quarter. In all, Airbus Helicopters delivered 49 helicopters in the first quarter and reported billings were down by a third, to $207 million.
GAMA is optimistic about the prospect of future growth across the industry, driven by new products, Bunce said. But, he added, this “underscores just how important it is for the U.S. Congress to pass a long-term FAA reauthorization bill and the executive branch to carefully implement trade policies to avoid adversely affecting industry growth in future quarters.”