GA Rides Tide of Steady Orders, Improving Supply Chain

The momentum may be lost, however, if FAA leadership waivers, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association said in its market report.

Cirrus Aircraft saw shipments of its SR22T increase in the second quarter of 2023. [Credit: Cirrus Aircraft]

The general aviation market rode through the second quarter of 2023 on a tide of consistent orders, with the clear relaxation of supply chain constraints adding to a nice bump in the numbers over Q1 and Q2 a year ago. 

The net gain through the first half of 2023 puts the industry on even footing for measured growth year over year.

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) released the figures Tuesday in its Second Quarter Aircraft Shipment and Billing Report, pointing to good trends overall for the year. However, the association tempered its enthusiasm with a distinct warning of rough times ahead if the FAA cannot secure steady leadership—and if the reauthorization bill currently in play fails to make good on the current spirit of bipartisanship shepherding its passage through Congress.

“The growth of our industry remains strong as manufacturers continue to deliver and take orders for new aircraft,” said Pete Bunce, GAMA’s president and CEO. “As we look towards the future, it will be imperative that we have stability, accountability and sound direction from regulatory authorities, particularly in the United States. Not only does the FAA need an effective permanent leader during this transformative time for aviation, but the agency is in the process of being reauthorized by Congress. 

“We are encouraged by the bipartisanship we have seen throughout the legislative process and hope that the momentum to finalize an FAA reauthorization bill continues to build so that the agency can enhance its ability to deliver critical activities that promote safety, innovation, and efficient promulgation of rules, policy, and guidance that preserve global aerospace leadership.”

Improving Numbers Across the Segments

The news is positive in each of the primary segments: piston, turboprop, jet, and helicopters. With jets registering the smallest percent increase in deliveries, the total rise for that segment over the first half of last year (2.4 percent) is reflected in the little nudge the total billings received for the period (up 1.4 percent). However, that’s still $100 million more overall in total airplane billings.

With the piston segment, numbers went up 11.4 percent over last year’s first half, with leadership from Cirrus Aircraft—delivering 84 SR22Ts in Q2—Diamond, Piper, Tecnam, and Textron Aviation. Deliveries of Textron Aviation’s single-engine piston line gained from the fact it shipped twice as many 172s in Q2 as in Q1—happy news for the numerous flight schools with the Skyhawk on order. 

But at nearly $1.7 billion in billings for the first half of 2023, that wasn’t enough for TextAv to jump the ring to contest Gulfstream and Bombardier for total overall take. Gulfstream stands ahead by a nose on the year, with $2.508 billion (on 45 total units shipped), against Bombardier’s $2.485 billion (51 units shipped).

Rise in Rotorcraft Shipments, Too

While over the first six months of 2023 numbers improved across the board, significant progress took place in the rotorcraft sector. A bump of nearly 30 percent in total helicopter billings reflected good news for a segment that struggled a bit, particularly in its piston segment. Those days seem to be over, at least for now, with the growth showing evenly across the rotorcraft market.

“The helicopter industry continues its rebound from the pandemic period, and I expect that helicopter sales will continue to climb," said James Viola, president of Helicopter Association International, in response to the report. "Because most helicopter crews fly public service missions, most of our aircraft continued to operate during the pandemic, so our recovery has been quick and positive. Advanced air mobility (AAM) is on the way, but helicopters will continue to fly vital missions until suitable replacement AAM aircraft are available.”

Six-Month Aircraft Shipment and Billing

Segment20222023Percent Change
Piston Airplanes64071311.4 %
Business Jets2892962.4%
Total Airplanes1,1761,29910.5%
Total Airplane Billings$9.1B$9.2B1.4%
Piston Helicopters8711228.7%
Turbine Helicopters26033930.4%
Total Helicopters34745130%
Total Helicopter Billings$1.4B$1.9B29.9%
Source: GAMA

Based in Maryland, Julie is an editor, aviation educator, and author. She holds an airline transport pilot certificate with Douglas DC-3 and CE510 (Citation Mustang) type ratings. She's a CFI/CFII since 1993, specializing in advanced aircraft and flight instructor development. Follow Julie on Twitter @julieinthesky.

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