Slower-than-expected business jet sales in the third quarter that hampered both deliveries and revenues are leading executives from Cessna parent Textron to prepare for another flat year in 2013. At the same time, though, the commercial sales of Textron’s Bell Helicopter unit continue to pick up steam and helped buoy Textron’s overall third-quarter results.

Cessna’s profit declined $3 million to $30 million in the third quarter. Business jet deliveries dropped to 41, compared with 47 in third quarter 2011, and backlog slid $196 million to $1.3 billion. But Cessna’s revenues of $778 million were up $7 million thanks to an additional $30 million in used aircraft sales.

Textron Chairman and CEO Scott Donnelly told Oct. 17 that the business jet market suffered particularly weak demand in July and August, but picked up in September. “The third quarter was fairly light in terms of gross orders,” he says. While cancellations continue to improve, “we need to get better gross orders.”

Cessna does expect the fourth quarter to improve – it is historically a strong quarter. “If we can maintain the order rate we saw in September through the balance of the year, we will meet our guidance of being up modestly,” Donnelly says.

The fourth quarter, though, is full of uncertainties from Washington, including the elections, the prospect of sequestration and possible new talks of taxes, he notes. These all could sway results.

And while the fourth-quarter results could change the company’s outlook next year, the lack of recovery in the third quarter positions Cessna’s overall results to remain flat again in 2013, he says. Cessna will get some bump by year’s end with the introduction of two new models – the Citation “Ten” follow-on and Mustang step-up model M2. But Donnelly says the market did not rebound enough to “build a lot of the momentum going into 2013 that [we] would have liked to have seen.”

The used market is picking up with more transactions, and Cessna’s used sales buffered the third-quarter performance. But Donnelly says that for Cessna, most used sales are trade-ins that net a zero margin, and he calls results that relied on used sales “a bad mix.”

Even with sales of new aircraft, pricing remains difficult, he says. “It’s still a thin market and very, very competitive.”

While Cessna remains in a tough market, Bell sales continue to improve, primarily in the commercial markets. Bell revenues increased $181 million in the third quarter to $1.075 billion, in part from a jump in commercial deliveries to 46 units. This compares with 26 commercial helicopters delivered in third quarter 2011. Profits were up $22 million in the most recent quarter.