GA Deliveries Still Down; but ‘Glass is Half Full’

General aviation is still in the doldrums, reflected by low third quarter numbers from the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA). Deliveries dipped to 420 aircraft, that's 23.4 percent lower than Q3 2009. Stacked up against the same time period in 2008, it's even more depressing — down by almost 60 percent. But that was the last quarter before the big financial meltdown. Billings in Q3 2010 were down only slightly from last year's third quarter, indicating that the fewer aircraft delivered were at least of the higher-priced variety. Gulfstream and Dassault both report increases in delivery numbers — Dassault up to 67 deliveries from 51 in Q3 last year. That bucked the bizjet trend, however, where deliveries were down by 20.3 percent, overall. Deliveries of piston aircraft were fundamentally flat compared with July, August and September 2008, down by not quite 7 percent to 634 aircraft. But the doom and gloom is offset by less tangible evidence of recovery. Manufacturers cite increases in interest from buyers, spurred by bonus tax depreciation legislation, low interest rates and a generally less pessimistic outlook for the economy. The slow but steady climb of the stock market is another positive sign. GA pundits are also watching the decreasing inventory and stabilized pricing on used aircraft — one of the first bellwethers of an upswinging market for new aircraft. FAA air traffic reports, fuel sales and sales of spare parts also indicate increases in flying hours. And airframe makers have not been idle when it comes to innovating with new and improved models. GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce said, "Recovery indicators continue to fluctuate, but one positive indicator, the investment in new airplanes and technology, is solid. GA manufacturers are clearly looking toward the future and will be poised for a strong return when the economy fully recovers."

Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

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