Signs of Life

While it’s too early to celebrate and analysts caution that the economy is still shaky, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association released one of its strongest reports since the effects of the downturn eroded the business and general aviation markets.  Through the first six months, business jet shipments were up double digits (13.1%).  Turboprop shipments were up double digits (10.5%).  And billings were up double digits (13.2%).

In fact, the only sign of weakness in the macro numbers comes from the piston market, which was down just slightly (1.6%).  That, however, can be largely attributable to a significant drop in deliveries of Cessna’s Skycatcher light-sport aircraft – which fell from 61 units in the first half of 2011 to just 12 in the first six months of this year.

GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce says that when coupled with used aircraft trends, “We may finally be witnessing the start of our recovery.”  This was especially true in North America.

But the emphasis has to be on “may” since the market is still volatile, particularly in Europe.  And Asia, which propped up the large jet business last year in particular, softened this year.

And while the numbers are improved, they are still from a much lower threshold.  Morgan Stanley’s Heidi Wood believes 2012 deliveries at Cessna and Gulfstream will be roughly 40% and 75%, respectively, of their peak in 2008.

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Aviation Week is approaching its 100th anniversary in 2016. In a series of blogs, our editors highlight editorial content from the magazine's long and rich history.


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