GAMA: 2009 'One of the Toughest Years Ever'

General Aviation Manufacturers Association reports dismal numbers.

At its Annual Industry Review and Market Outlook Briefing on Tuesday, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association delivered expected bad news about last year.

It was awful. "One of the toughest years ever for general aviation manufacturers," according to a GAMA statement. Overall industry billings dropped 21.4 percent to $19.5 billion from $24.8 billion in 2008 — a record high water mark. In 2009, GAMA member companies delivered a total of 2,276 aircraft, down 42.6 percent from the 3,967 delivered the year before.

Pistons suffered the most, with deliveries declining more than half — by 54.5 percent, to 965 aircraft from 2,119 in 2008. Turboprops were least affected by the perfect storm of economic downturn, credit crisis and cutbacks in flying spurred by negative publicity. They saw a decline of only 17.6 percent — 441 delivered in 2009 compared with 535 in 2008. Business jets were down 33.7 percent — 870 jets shipped compared with 1,313 in 2008, the first decline in half a decade.

And for the first time in history, more business jets were delivered outside North America than inside. North American deliveries lagged to 49 percent (down from 54 percent in 2008), while Europe notched 26 percent; Asia Pacific 9 percent; Middle East/Africa 7 percent and Latin America 9 percent. And the shift also covered billings, with 50.8 percent of total billings for U.S. companies coming from offshore. GAMA does see signs of optimism, in particular the used aircraft inventory, which is down to about 15 percent of the fleet from a high of 16.5 percent in the second quarter of last year. And flight hours are recovering from their low ebb, early in 2009. For more information, go to gama.aero.