The first nine months of 2008 were terrific for general aviation. The same time frame this year has been a disaster, by comparison. Manufacturers shipped close to 3,000 aircraft through Q3 last year (2,982 to be exact — according to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association). This year's total through September is 1,587 — off by close to half. GAMA blames the overall economy for the downturn, but President and CEO Pete Bunce also pointed a finger at the negative publicity business aviation has endured. In a glimmer of good news, overall billings are off by only 23.5%, since the hardest hit segment has been the lower-cost piston market. Shipments of piston aircraft fell from 1,646 through Q3 last year to only 679 this year. High-ticket jets are down, too, but not as profoundly at a dip of 37.8%. And a report from UBS Investment Research shows business jets are flying more — an increase of 18% in activity since March. Short-range business travel (involving aircraft with less-than-2,000-nm range) has increased the most, with activity up by 22 percent since the deepest dip at the end of Q1 this year. Returning to GAMA shipment numbers, turboprops suffered the least through this year's third quarter, down by only 15.8 percent on admittedly lower overall numbers. Still, their showing represents a not-so-dark cloud in otherwise turbulent economic skies.