Developing economies offer some hope for a rebound in business aviation
Can growing demand from Brazil, Russia, India and China—the so-called “BRIC” economies—come to the rescue of a business aviation industry that is under sustained pressure in its mainstay markets of the U.S. and Europe?
's annual buyer survey shows continued strong demand in the BRIC countries over the next five years, while purchase expectations in North America, Western Europe, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific continue to decline.
But the U.S. and Europe remain the biggest buyers and the best the BRIC nations can do is offset the stubborn softness in traditional markets. “Flat is the new up,” joked a Honeywell executive unveiling their latest forecast in October at the National Business Aviation Association convention.
For an industry that suffered a massive collapse in sales after the 2008 global economic downturn—business-jet deliveries dropping from a peak of more than 1,200 that year to around 700 in 2012 (a slight uptick from 2011)—stability is an improvement. Orders are still slow but enough to tempt manufacturers into a cautious restart of their product development pipelines, anticipating a return to growth in 2014-15.
And while volumes remain flat, the value of shipments is growing as the mix of aircraft skews to the higher end. Larger-cabin, longer-range aircraft account for a growing percentage of sales, with BRIC countries China and Russia leading the trend. As a result, while deliveries may never return to the high of 2008, their value could quickly outstrip their past peak once recovery begins.
Forecast International projects production of 4,474 business jets, valued at $109.2 billion, over the five-year period 2013-17.will account for 28% of deliveries, but Gulfstream's larger aircraft will give it 29% of the value. will account for 20% by volume and 25% by value.
BRIC nations Brazil and China have a growing role in business aviation not just as buyers, but manufacturers.has shaken up the light-jet sector with the Phenom and is targeting the mid-size market with the Legacy 500, which flew in late 2012, and the smaller Legacy 450 a year later.
Business aviation is just getting started in China, and faces both infrastructure and industrial challenges, but the intent is clear. A Chinese attempt to buy U.S. manufacturerout of bankruptcy failed, but Cessna is continuing negotiations with AVIC and municipal governments to build the Citation XLS+, Latitude and Sovereign in China.
AVIC subsidiary China Aviation Industry General Aircraft (Caiga) owns Cirrus in the U.S., which is developing the SF50 Vision very light jet (VLJ) for certification in 2015. Caiga also acquired rights to designs from U.S. company Epic Aircraft and is developing the single-turboprop Primus 100/150 and Starlight 100/200 light jets, as well as the Y15-2000 utility turboprop.
Turboprops constitute one of two market segments that held up through the downturn. The other is large-cabin jets, exemplified by the Mach 0.925, 6,000-nm Gulfstream G650, which entered service at the end of 2012 with a five-year production backlog. The largest and fastest purpose-designed business jet, the G650 will not face direct competition until Bombardier's 7,300-nm Global 7000 arrives in 2106, followed in 2017 by the 7,900-nm Global 8000.
and are reengining their narrowbody airliners, with implications for their corporate models. Boeing Business Jets plans to offer the 737-8-based BBJ MAX 8—with 6,325-nm range, 14% more than the BBJ 2— and larger BBJ MAX 9 and is studying a smaller BBJ MAX 7. Airbus's family will not include the small , so a reengined ACJ318 Airbus Corporate Jet is not planned.
With recovery still a few years away, most companies are focused on refreshing existing products.'s 3,350-nm Falcon 2000S, a large-cabin jet at a lower super mid-size price, will enter service early in 2013, followed shortly after by the 4,000-nm 2000LXS.
Cessna's has revamped the mid-size Citation Sovereign and Mach 0.935 Citation X for 2013, while it develops the mid-size Latitude for 2015 and super mid-size Longitude for 2017.
The light-jet market will be slowest to recover, but the product pipeline is beginning to refill. In 2013, Bombardier plans to begin delivering the70/75 (revamped 40/45) and all-composite Learjet 85, as the company studies the market for a smaller version of its all-new jet. Cessna will introduce the Citation M2 in 2013, and is test-marketing a new light jet to replace the CJ series and fight back against Embraer.
Eclipse aims to begin delivering the improved Eclipse 550 in mid-2013, Honda hopes its HondaJet will enter service by year-end, and Diamond plans to certificate the single-engined D-Jet in 2014, although few expect a VLJ air-taxi market to reemerge. But the turboprop sector is looking stronger, with Beechcraft and Cessna studying pressurized singles to compete with thePC-12.
Download expanded specifications on in-production and under-development business jet and turboprop aircraft and search more than 3,100 other systems at AviationWeek.com/specs
Speed sells in business aviation, and so does size. To see a video of those vying for top spot in the business aviation market, check out the AW&ST digital edition on leading tablets and smartphones or go to AviationWeek.com/video