February 19, 2014
The strength of the large business jet market has returned industry billings to near the record-high level of 2008, but unit shipments are still almost half of what they were before the economic downturn, according to the latest General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) report.
GAMA, which released its 2013 yearend aircraft billings and shipment results on Feb. 19 during its annual State of the Industry press conference, reports billings jumped 24% from $18.9 billion in 2012 to $23.4 billion last year, marking the second-highest level on record. The highest level was reported in 2008, when billings totaled $24.8 billion.
General aviation aircraft shipments overall were up 4.3% over 2012, reaching 2,256 in 2013. And in welcome news to industry leaders, GAMA-tracked shipments were up over 2012 levels, even if slightly, across pistons, turboprops and business jets.
“While it’s nice all elements of fixed-wing are up … it’s still not stabilized on the light and midsized end [of business jets],” GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce says.
Despite the surge in billings, unit deliveries are still substantially down from the 2008 levels of 3,970 shipments. This dichotomy reflects the wide, ongoing divide between the large business jet market and that of midsize and light business jets.
For the year, the business jet deliveries, as reported by GAMA, were up just 0.9% in 2013 to 678. But the overall billings improvement skewed heavily toward large business jet makers in 2013; Bombardier’s and Dassault’s billings each were up by about $500 million, while Gulfstream’s increase was more than $3 billion.
Bombardier posted that increase on the strength of its Challenger and Global family. Its light business jet deliveries were down by 10 units, or by about one-quarter of the 2012 deliveries. Cessna’s business jet deliveries were also down by 25% in 2013. This weakness was reflected in billings; Cessna’s billings were down by about $200 million.
The weakness in the mid and light categories are still a drag on the overall business jet delivery numbers, which are still down by almost half of the 1,313 reported in 2008. The heads of Bombardier, Cessna parent Textron and Gulfstream parent General Dynamics all recently reported encountering a continued hesitant market in the mid and light end of the business jet market.
The piston market again continues to improve, up 2.7% over 2012 to 933 shipments in 2013. This has been a slow climb from the recent trough of 770 logged in 2009, when the industry hit bottom. Most years since have had incremental improvements. But the 933 shipments are still only a third of the “post-GARA” high of 2,755 that was reported in 2006. GARA, or the General Aviation Revitalization Act, adopted in 1994, implemented a rolling, 18-year statute of repose on general aviation aircraft, jump-starting an end of the industry that was slowly dying.