Shipments of business and general aviation aircraft rose modestly in the first quarter, but performance across the sector was mixed.
In its latest quarterly review, released on 11 May, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) records total deliveries of 434 fixed-wing aircraft between January and March 2017, compared with 422 pistons, turboprops and business jets during the same period last year. Total shipments were valued at $ 3.6 billion – $ 400 million less than in the first quarter of 2016.
The business jet sector was the best performer for the period, recording a 6.6% increase to 130 units. This compares with 122 shipments in the first three months of 2016, GAMA data shows. Boeing delivered three of its BBJ VIP airliners – a 777ER, 787-8 and 787-9 – compared with a single 737-derived BBJ in three months ending 31 March 2016.
Gulfstream boosted its output from 27 to 30 aircraft during the period, with its large-cabin family – the G450, G550, G650/ER – making up the bulk of the shipments.
Embraer was the worst performer in this sector. Strong competition in the crowded light and midsize markets led to a 35% fall in shipments for the Brazilian airframer, from 23 in the first quarter of 2016 to 15 aircraft this year.
GAMA’s quarterly report does not include shipments of Dassault Falcon business jets, as the French airframer releases its deliveries and earnings at six-month intervals. However, Flight Fleets Analyzer records 10 Falcon deliveries for the period, one less than 2016’s first-quarter tally.
The piston-engined sector recorded an uptick in deliveries of 6.3%, thanks largely to a strong performance from Cessna’s single-engined family, which climbed from 27 units in the first three months of 2016 to 42 units this year. Shipments of the 172 Skyhawk SP more than doubled during this period, from nine to 20 units, due to a strong take-up for the six-seat all-metal type from international flight training schools. The debut on GAMA’s 2017 shipment report of light aircraft maker Pipistrel also helped to boost the piston-sector’s performance during the quarter. The Slovenian company recorded five shipments of its Virus piston-single.
But it was a weak first quarter for the turboprop sector. Deliveries plunged year-on-year by more than 7%, from 109 to 101 aircraft, almost entirely as a result of poor Beechcraft King Air performance. Textron’s strategy to stop offering discounts on its 350i/R, 250 and C90GTx twin-engined turboprops resulted in a 14-unit slide in shipments between January and March to 12, GAMA reports.
Single-engined turboprops fared well,due to continued steady demand for these rugged, versatile, utility types. Quest Aircraft almost doubled deliveries of its Kodiak 100 in the first quarter from five to nine units. Shipments of Daher’s high-performance TBM-series climbed from five to seven units. Although the flagship TBM 930 – introduced in April 2016 – accounts for the bulk of the deliveries, Air Tractor also reported a hike in shipments of its AT-family from 28 to 36 units, reflecting a turnaround in the agricultural aircraft sector.
GAMA president Peter Bunce describes the industry’s first quarter performance as “mixed, but with several bright spots”. He is hopeful that the introduction of new programmes such as the Citation Longitude, G500 and PC-24 – all set for service entry this year – will help to stimulate the market.