In an economic climate where "flat is the new up" for general aviation manufacturers, there was plenty of good news to report at GAMA's annual state of the industry media briefing in Washington, D.C., this morning. You guessed it, 2012 was another flat year for makers of GA airplanes.
Total billings last year were nearly identical to 2011 figures, in fact, as GAMA-member companies delivered $18.9 billion worth of aircraft (versus $19 billion the year before) spanning sales of piston airplanes, turboprops and business jets.
Piston deliveries were about the same last year as in 2011, tallying 881 airplanes sold compared to 898 the year before. Bizjets saw a slightly bigger dip as manufacturers delivered 672 airplanes in 2012 versus 696 in 2011. Turboprop sales were up 10 percent to 582 airplanes sold last year, although the increase can be attributed to the inclusion of certain agricultural airplanes this year for the first time. Without those additional airplanes, turboprop sales would have stayed flat.
But what the numbers do not reflect is the pace of new product development that is happening now as aircraft makers prepare for increasing sales, especially in emerging markets such as Asia and South America, said GAMA Chairman Brad Mottier.
"While the 2012 shipment and billing data were mixed, the numbers don't reflect the amount of development work in progress in general aviation," Mottier said. "The general aviation segment is poised for resurgence in the next few years as these new technologies certify and enter the market."
Another first in this year's GAMA report was the inclusion of helicopter deliveries. And here there truly was good news: Total helicopter billings for 2012 were up 21 percent, with single-engine turbine helicopters leading way, followed closely by piston helicopters and twin-turbine models.
Predicting how quickly the market for GA airplanes will come back is difficult, said GAMA President Pete Bunce, and will depend on what happens in Washington with planned sequestration cuts as Congress works to iron out a budget agreement. But what seems clear, he said, is that the market is poised for an upsurge, and when that happens, GAMA-member companies will be ready.