GAMA Report: Aircraft Sales Way Down in First Half of 2011

Report shows manufacturers continue to struggle.

Economic hardship continues to challenge general aviation aircraft manufacturers, and a disappointing first six months of 2011 underscored that point.

According to aircraft shipment and billing figures recently released by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), airplane shipments worldwide dropped 15.5 percent during the first half of 2011 compared to the same time frame last year, while total billings dropped 22.3 percent.

The sector to take the biggest hit was business jets, which saw total shipments of 261 during the first half of 2011, down from a total of 355 in the first half of 2010. The total shipments constituted a substantial decrease of 26.5 percent since last year, and a drop of well over 50 percent from the bizjet shipment total seen three years ago.

Piston-powered airplanes took a hit as well, albeit a smaller one, with shipments decreasing 8.7 percent since last year. Turboprops, likewise, sustained a decrease of 8.9 percent.

In response to the low numbers, GAMA president and CEO Pete Bunce had some harsh words for President Obama, who recently brought the issue of business aircraft tax breaks into the political spotlight.

“This Administration has singled out business aircraft owners with political demagoguery,” Bunce said. “It is simply astonishing that they cannot connect the dots back to manufacturing jobs and realize they are doing more damage to an industry that has not yet clawed its way out of this recession. Instead of demonizing our industry, President Obama should stand up for general aviation manufacturing jobs.”

Obama recently proposed changing the depreciation rules for owners of business aircraft, who currently can write off the cost of their aircraft over a five-year period. Obama suggested extending that period to seven years, triggering a heated debate over the issue.