Business Airplanes

By Fred George
Source: Business & Commercial Aviation

New models in other sectors are making their debut this year. GA8 Airvan (Pty) Ltd.'s piston single GA-8 Airvan, offered in both normally aspirated and turbocharged versions, is an eight-seat, high-utility hauler that is gaining popularity with air tour and law enforcement operators. Beechcraft is introducing the King Air 300HW, short for "heavy weight," that features a 1,500-lb. increase in MTOW for operators who need to fill the tanks and fill the seats with 300+ lb. passengers. Most 350HW customers, though, are more likely to pull out the seats and use the aircraft to carry 3,600+ lb. of freight with full tanks.

The Falcon 2000LXS is a large-cabin aircraft that's appearing for the first time in the Handbook. Similar to the Falcon 2000S, it is equipped with the Falcon 900LX's high-lift system, including full span leading edge slats, recalibrated trailing edge flaps and Aviation Partners winglets. The result is an aircraft that retains the Falcon 2000LX's cruise speed, range and fuel efficiency while offering considerably better takeoff performance.

This year's Handbook, though, reflects the realities of the current market. Looking closely, readers will notice that several OEMs, especially light jet makers such as Embraer, have sharpened their pencils when quoting prices. Most manufacturers held down price increases to 2-3% for 2013.

In the long term, though, the U.S. economy seems to be on the mend and that bodes well for an improvement in new aircraft sales. Research conducted by Bessemer Trust, a firm that derives 98% of its revenues from providing wealth management services to high-net-worth individuals and families, indicates that the U.S. housing market improved markedly in the second half of 2012. Inventories are drying up, prices are firming and new housing starts are increasing. Bessemer Trust executives believe that a world economic recovery very much is dependent upon an improvement in the U.S. housing market.

Improvements in the housing sector in turn influence upticks in the purchase of household appliances and home improvement items. That won't create many manufacturing jobs in the U.S., but it will help to stimulate manufacturing in Asia, particularly in China and South Korea as well as other parts of the developing world. As those economies improve, demand for commodities and petroleum will increase.

Gas and oil shale exploration is booming in the U.S., fueling a rebound in the energy sector. Notably, Bessemer Trust projects that the U.S. will actually surpass Saudi Arabia as the world's largest crude oil producer in 2013. Natural gas is becoming so plentiful in the U.S. that gas exports are expected to boom.

Bessemer Trust management also holds hope that Washington politicians will see the necessity of reaching a compromise on taxes and spending that will break the chronic gridlock and make most Americans more confident about the nation's future. But political polarization and campaign spending are at an all-time high, so there are significant challenges for politicians seeking a middle ground.

Last year, only large-cabin OEMs were smiling. This year, manufacturers of smaller business aircraft are more confident about improving sales trends.

Most manufacturers now are poised to ride out the rest of the storm as the economy struggles to recover. China and the Asia-Pacific region now account for nearly 12% of new aircraft sales, with Brazil and Latin America in close trail, according to GAMA statistics. The Middle East and Africa have fallen off to slightly more than 6% of the market. By the end of the decade, the future looks much brighter for business aircraft sales in North America and Europe. But the halcyon days of 1,200 to 1,300 new business jet deliveries per year may be gone forever. The new normal is expected to be 600 to 700 shipments per annum for several years to come.

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