Textron Aviation Records Jump In Orders, Jet Deliveries

Textron Citation CJ4
Credit: Textron Aviation

Textron Aviation recorded a better-than expected first quarter with deliveries of 28 Citation jets, up by five from a year ago, and a $452 million jump in the value of its  orderbook, bringing it to $2.1 billion.

“You’ve got more people that are looking to acquire aircraft than we’ve seen in some time,” said Scott Donnelly, chairman and CEO of parent company Textron, on a call with analysts. “So the level of activity—the number of customer interactions—is certainly quite strong.”

One factor is the low number of pre-owned Citation jets under 10 years old available for sale, Donnelly said. “But I think part of it is . . . there’s just strong demand in the market right now.” Order activity has been strong across Textron Aviation’s portfolio of jets and turboprops in “virtually every model,” Donnelly reported, adding he expects strong activity to continue through the year.

Textron Aviation’s book-to-bill was 1.5:1 during the quarter, or the number of orders compared to the number of deliveries.

Strength in the market has come from charter operators, providers of memberships such as Wheels Up and fractional ownership providers such as NetJets, Donnelly said. “So, it seems like the growth in demand is across all those different business models right now.”

At the same time, Textron Aviation has begun to see more corporate aviation departments, which largely had shut down because of the COVID-19 pandemic, to begin to “come alive,” he said.

While business-aircraft activity has been driven predominantly by personal travel, “we are clearly starting to see some corporate travel coming back,” Donnelly said. Suppliers and customers are starting to travel again. “As that happens, we’ll see more and more corporate-level, flight-department buying activity picking up.”

During the first quarter, Textron Aviation revenue totaled $865 million, down $7 million from a year ago, primarily due to lower aftermarket sales but partially offset by higher pricing, the company said. Profit totaled $47 million in the quarter, up from $3 million a year ago.

During the first three months of 2021, the Wichita-based manufacturer delivered 28 Citation jets—including five new CJ4 Gen2 aircraft—compared to 23 a year ago, and 14 commercial turboprops, down from 16 a year ago. The 14 were seven Caravans and seven King Airs. Textron Aviation also delivered 33 piston-engine aircraft, down from 54 a year ago.

The business is executing stronger from an overall performance view, and experiencing a “nice rebound” in pricing, especially in the parts side of the aftermarket business, Donnelly said. The company also is working to keep pricing ahead of inflation.

“There’s no question that inflation is out there,” he said. “We’re seeing it in a number of cases.”

Textron Aviation will keep an eye on rising demand and production levels throughout the year and will adjust accordingly, Donnelly said. However, with a 6-9-month lead time, it may affect 2022 more than 2021, Vertical Research Partners analyst Robert Stallard said in a note to investors.

“Not only was this a very strong operating quarter from Textron, there were also encouraging signs for the future, particularly with that blowout book-to-bill in aviation in what is normally a slow quarter,” Stallard wrote. “The improving economy should also help the industrial division, and civil sales at Bell. Textron looks to be entering a ‘sweet spot’ of accelerating revenue growth, strong operating leverage, improving cash flow and sensible cash deployment.”

Molly McMillin

Molly McMillin, a 25-year aviation journalist, is managing editor of business aviation for the Aviation Week Network and editor-in-chief of The Weekly of Business Aviation, an Aviation Week market intelligence report.