Aircraft Manufacturing Down in 2011

Unexpected trends continue to define complex market.

Gulfstream G650

Gulfstream G650

Amidst all the numbers and trends reported at the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) annual press event in Washington D.C. on Wednesday, the recurring message was, “it could have been worse.”

It could have been. GAMA member companies delivered 1,865 airplanes in 2011, a 3.5 percent decline compared to the 1,932 delivered in 2010. Dollar figures were actually slightly improved in 2011 with 19.1 billion in billings, a half percent better than the previous year.

The improvement in billings comes as a result of continued strong performance of large jets. Unexpectedly, sales of mid-sized jets were slightly improved, with 375 deliveries in 2011, an increase of around 50 units. Deliveries of light jets, on the other, were down substantially, with only 106 units delivered in 2011, barely more than half of the previous year’s figures and a 47 percent decline since 2008, when the industry handed over the keys to more than 700 light jets. Manufacturers delivered slightly fewer turboprops last year with 324 deliveries, a drop of 2.4 percent from 2010.

Sales of piston powered airplanes were off substantially, with 860 orders, a figure that included 168 Skycatchers that Cessna delivered last year. This represents a decline of nearly 2,000 units over 2007, when the industry delivered around 2,700 piston airplanes.

Another interesting trend is the shift of business from North America to other parts of the world. 2011 might wind up being, in fact, the last year that North America accounted for the majority of the sales, and it was a bare majority, at just over 50 percent. For the first time the Asian Pacific region accounted for more sales, at around 16 percent by units, than did Europe. This is likely not the last time this will be the case.

GAMA president Pete Bunce said his organization continues to work with the Obama administration to get officials there to recognize the disconnect between the administration’s focus on creating new jobs and its continued bashing of business jets. In responding to a question from _ Flying_, Bunce said that it continues to point out the export surplus that aviation provides the U.S. economy — last year it was $4.3 billion — paired with the industry’s known ability to create good paying jobs makes it a natural for the support of the President and expressed frustration that the message still hasn’t sunk in.

Bunce and GAMA chairwoman Caroline Daniels each pointed to the positive good GAMA rallies have done, drawing attention among lawmakers to the connection between business aviation and jobs. “Once they’ve seen that sea of faces of workers building airplanes,” he said, “it’s hard not to make the connection.”

2011 GAMA Report Takeaway
· Pistons flat
· Light jets fell off a cliff
· Midsize is up slightly
· Large cabin bizjets are hot
· Turboprops are flat
· FAA funding bill a big win for business aviation
· $100 per flight fee not a present threat
· Used bizjet inventory still too high, used prices still too low