This story is part of AIN's continuing coverage of the impact of the coronavirus on aviation.
In the wake of a turbulent 2020, which has already left much of the aviation industry shaken, aircraft systems manufacturer Honeywell, in its 29th annual Global Business Aviation Outlook, noted some slight retrenching from last year’s forecast. Nonetheless, it ultimately concluded that the market remains optimistic and prepared to ride out any near-term Covid pandemic headwinds.
“Business jet usage is expected to rebound to 80 to 85 percent of 2019 levels in the fourth quarter of 2020, indicating demand for business jet travel is returning after a slowdown as the pandemic began,” said Heath Patrick, Americas aftermarket president for Honeywell Aerospace. “The information we gleaned from operators shows a less than one percent decline in five-year purchase plans, so despite the short-term effects of the pandemic, we don’t expect long-term changes to purchase plans or the overall health of the business jet market.”
The survey report, traditionally released on the opening day of NBAA’s annual conference and exhibition, predicts deliveries of 7,300 new business jets over the next decade, down 4 percent from a year ago, while the total value of the sales dipped by 5 percent from $248 billion to $235 billion. “Business jet deliveries are expected to recover to 2019 aircraft and expenditure levels in the first half of the decade,” said Shantanu Vaish, Honeywell’s director of strategic marketing. “New future platforms in the medium-large, large and very-high-speed/ultra-long-range classes will stimulate long-term growth.”
Among the questions asked of more than 1,000 non-fractional business jet operators this year starting in July were some regarding how the Covid pandemic has impacted their purchase plans for new aircraft. Those interviews, along with information from aircraft manufacturers, are used to shape the first half-decade of the outlook, while economic models weigh more heavily in the latter half.
Honeywell found that 80 percent of those surveyed this year indicated their purchase plans have not been affected by the Covid slowdown, and of the remaining 20 percent, the vast majority said that they plan to hold on to their existing aircraft for a longer period of time. “Fortunately compared to the last recession, we’re not seeing the urge to sell [aircraft] Vaish told AIN, comparing this crisis to the aftermath of the global economic downturn in 2008. About 82 percent of the respondents in North America said they expected to operate their jets less frequently this year than they did in 2019, with a bounce back to last year’s levels expected by the end of next year.
In terms of the five-year purchase plans for new jets, based on survey responses, they equate to approximately 16 percent of the global installed fleet, which is in line with the 2019 survey results. Of those who have indicated that they will be purchasing an aircraft in the next five years, 30 percent are planned to take place in the next two years, five percentage points lower than the results last year, indicting those purchases, while still planned are being moved further into the future. “The good thing is we’re seeing a quick recovery towards the end of that five year time, and at the end of the 10 years we’re seeing a one percent, very minimal change,” said Vaish.
Through the end of the 10-year window, Honeywell projects a 4 to 5 percent annual growth rate in deliveries, aligned with an expected worldwide economic recovery. That is higher than last year’s expectation due in part to Covid-related declines in 2020. In terms of cabin size, despite the border shutdowns that hobbled much of the long-range, large-cabin aircraft earlier this year, the category still has the industry’s focus, with the segment predicted to account for more than 40 percent of new private jet deliveries and nearly 70 percent of the value over the next five years, followed by the small cabin aircraft, which rose six percentage points this year to approximately 35 percent, and the midsize at 19 percent.
North America continues to be the area of greatest demand for business aircraft and will account for an estimated 64 percent of worldwide demand for new jets over the next five years, according to Vaish, an increase of four percentage points from last year’s results. Purchase expectations remain unchanged from last year’s survey, with approximately 15 percent of the fleet being replaced over the next half-decade, with 32 percent of North American operators planning to schedule their new purchases within the next two years, down 4 percent from last year.
In Europe, the global share of demand is expected to be at 18 percent, with operators there slowly replacing aging aircraft in the fleet over the next five years. The region shows the highest purchase expectations in this year’s survey, equating to 24 percent of the fleet planned for replacement, which while down by four points from last year remains within the average of the past five years worth of surveys. Of those, 24 percent plan to make their purchases in the next two years, below the global average of 30 percent.
Latin America saw a drop of six percentage points year-over-year in its planned new jet purchases, declining from 21 percent last year to 15 percent this year, representing a five-year low and reflecting the economic pessimism in the region. In last year’s outlook, Latin America was expected to account for 7 percent of the new jet demand over the next five years. That number has slipped to approximately 3 percent this year. Only 19 percent of the anticipated purchases are expected to come within the next two years, well below the global average.
In the Asia-Pacific region, new jet acquisition plans call for 14 percent of the fleet over the next years, a rate largely unchanged from last year’s survey. Based on those responses, Honeywell’s forecast gives it a 10 percent share of global new jet demand through 2026. The percentage of those planning purchases within the next two years declined from 40 percent in 2019 to 30 percent this year.
Among the respondents in the Middle East and Africa, 16 percent indicated they will replace or add a new jet to their fleet over the next five years, which is up four percentage points from last year’s survey. That would give the region 4 percent of global demand for the first half of the survey period. Of those intending a purchase during that timeframe, more than a quarter said that it would happen within the next two years.
While the Honeywell outlook delves mainly into new jet purchases and deliveries, the company also inquires about used aircraft and found that plans to acquire preowned jets over the next five years declined by six percentage points from last year, with estimates that 25 percent of used business jets will be sold over the next half-decade. While that number is down from the 31 percent registered a year ago, Vaish noted that 2019 saw a spike in such plans and that the resulting number this year is more in line with historical averages for used aircraft intentions.