General Aviation’s Lost Decade?

The downcast economies of North America and Europe are continuing to weigh on the general aviation piston and turboprop markets, which now aren’t anticipated to bounce back to pre-recession production levels for several years or perhaps an entire decade, according to a new industry forecast released this week.

The GA industry’s presumed savior – namely growing markets in places like China, Brazil and India – won’t emerge quickly enough to replace lost orders from customers in North America and Europe, according to the report released this week by Forecast International. As a result, the recovery many expected to take root next year now probably won’t begin in earnest until 2013, the company says.

Production of GA piston and turboprop airplanes is forecast to climb only slightly from 2011 through 2012, with growth then rising slowly but steadily from a little over 1,900 aircraft in 2013 to more than 3,100 in 2020, according to the forecast. Of the 24,385 aircraft forecast for production between 2011 and 2020, piston aircraft will account for just over 18,400 aircraft worth $8 billion. Production of turboprops will total almost 6,000 aircraft worth about $20.5 billion.

Although the numbers are pointing up, they’re still a long way from the 2,600 piston airplanes delivered in 2007 before the downturn. It will take years before that level of growth returns, forecasters say, with production finally reaching 2,400 piston aircraft in 2018 or 2019. Around 1,000 piston airplanes are expected to be produced this year, up from about 900 in 2010.

"There have been signs of strengthening demand in the piston market, but the increase has been from a very low base," said Douglas Royce, an aerospace analyst at the company. "Getting production back to pre-recession levels will take years, if not the entire decade."

Based in Newtown, Connecticut, Forecast International provides market intelligence, forecasting, research and consulting services. Its general aviation forecast does not include business jets or light sport aircraft.


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