World General Aviation Aircraft Market off to a Mixed Start as Revenues Slump

U.S. Manufacturers Delivered 311 Aircraft in Q1 2017 – up 32 from 2016

by J. Kasper Oestergaard, European Correspondent.

The Cirrus SR22 (piston) was the best-selling general aviation aircraft worldwide in Q1 2017 with 25 units delivered – up from 20 in Q1 2016. Photo Courtesy: Cirrus Aircraft.

According to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), the first quarter of 2017 showed mixed results for the industry – with several bright spots appearing. Fixed-wing general aviation aircraft manufacturers delivered 434 aircraft worldwide, up 2.8 percent  from 422 in the Q1 2016. However,  revenues declined as much as 10.9 percent  (to $3.6 billion), due to increased competition and lower prices.

U.S. manufacturers delivered 311 aircraft in Q1 2017, up from 279 in Q1 2016 – an impressive increase of 11.5 percent. What’s more, they accounted for 72 percent of worldwide shipments, compared to 66 percent in the first quarter of last year.

In Q1 2017, the Cirrus SR22 (piston) – with 25 units delivered (+5 from Q1 2016) – was the most popular fixed-wing general aviation aircraft.  The Cirrus SR22T (piston) followed closely behind  with 24 shipments – down from 27 last year. Gulfstream’s G450/G550/G650 family of large jets took third place with 23 jets delivered (+4 from Q1 2016), ahead of the Cessna CE-172S Skyhawk SP (piston), the TECNAM ASTM-LSA (piston), the Air Tractor AT-802A (turboprop), HA-420 HondaJet, Cessna CE-T206H Turbo Stationair (piston), Pilatus PC-12 (turboprop), and the Piper PA-28 Archer III (piston).

When general aviation aircraft manufacturers are ranked by revenues, the business jet manufacturers took the lead. Gulfstream boasted the highest revenue of all fixed-wing aircraft manufactures in Q1 2017, with total sales of $1.5 billion (up 8 percent  from the same period last year). Gulfstream has been the world’s largest general aviation aircraft manufacturer by revenue since 2013. In second place is Bombardier (number one in 2012) with Q1 2017 sales of $1 billion, down 21 percent from 2016. Though the overall leader by units sold, Textron Aviation (Cessna + Beechcraft) only ranks third by revenues, with $516 million in Q1 2017 down from $621 million in the first quarter last year.  Honda has secured a position among the top general aviation aircraft manufacturers with the HA-420 and, as production ramps up, is set for continued sales growth in the coming years.  We expect a sharp increase in revenues for Swiss manufacturer Pilatus when PC-24 deliveries commence at the end of 2017.  We will also see a number of new large jets – including Bombardier’s Global 7000 / Global 8000 and Dassault’s Falcon 8X – entering  the market in the coming years.  With these product launches, Bombardier and Dassault aim to take market shares from the very successful Gulfstream G650.

Recent History & Market Dynamics

The recession from December 2007 to June 2009 had a massive impact on the general aviation aircraft manufacturing industry.  The sale of business jets and piston-engine aircraft collapsed and, as of 2017, are not even close to their 2007 peak levels. From 2007-2010, global production of general aviation aircraft dropped a staggering 52.8 percent, from 4,276 aircraft in 2007 to 2,020 in 2010. Over the same period, U.S. manufacturers experienced a 59.3 percent  drop in production, from 3,279 to 1,334 units.

An important reason why deliveries are still so low, both worldwide and in the U.S., is that the price per aircraft has doubled. From 2007 to 2016, the average price of a piston-engine aircraft – the most common type – has soared from $328,000 to $712,000,  keeping many would-be buyers out of the market. The average price of a business jet is also up – from $12.5 million to $22.4 million over the same period. However, the average price of a turboprop has declined, from $3.5 million to $2.9 million, resulting in a surge of shipments.

While the market for general aviation aircraft is highly cyclical, the small business jet and piston-engine aircraft segments, in particular, suffer in a down economy. Perhaps surprising to some, the large business jet segment emerged unscathed from the 2007-2009 recession.


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