The latest results from the General Aviation Manufacturers Association show that the business aviation industry may be regaining altitude after what looked like an imminent dead stick landing. Deliveries of new business jets and turbine-powered aircraft are up from last year while piston-powered airplanes haven’t declined by much.
According to GAMA: “Business jet deliveries increased 13.1 percent to 294 airplanes in the first half of 2012 compared to the same period last year. Turboprop airplane deliveries also improved by 10.4 percent to 243 units from the 2011 shipment level of 220 units. The piston engine airplane segment was basically flat at 381 deliveries or a 1.6 percent decline compared to the first six months of 2011.”
We’ve seen the cycles before, and life at the bottom of the trough just isn’t as good as it is at the top. But I have been noticing for many years that the sine wave is flattening out – while the troughs are still bad the upsides just don’t seem to reach the height or last as long as prior recoveries. After all, an annual report at the top of the sine wave in the late 1970s listed nearly 18,000 aircraft deliveries.
I guess things just can’t get as high as they did in the 1970s. Foreign sales, this year like in past cycles, make the bottom only slightly more palatable. But I have also been noticing a positive trend – perhaps because of my work for Piper Aircraft, which is recommitted to its growing market for pilot training aircraft. Pilot shortages around the world, especially in the commercial sector, are driving significant increases in recent fleet sales of piston-powered training airplanes.
That phenomenon is a plus for business aircraft because more pilots will create a demand for more aircraft. The market is also seeing the sale of a surprising number of single-engine turbine-powered airplanes. That is especially true in Europe as businesses resize aircraft fleets to focus on fuel efficiency because of the high cost of jet fuel due to the uncertain Euro-based economies. The Europeans continue to value business aircraft; some are just looking for ways to economize.
While we certainly won’t ever see the level of business aircraft deliveries we saw in the 1970s, the value of these airplanes to business is just as strong, maybe stronger, as riding the airlines without trauma and disruption is much more difficult today. The airline travel passenger lines are longer, the seats smaller, and the refreshments meager. Any maybe it is just my generation, but some airline pilots, like the airline food, require a little more seasoning.
Those of us who have experienced both the corporate jet lifestyle and the airlines