2016 – a year best forgotten?

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The numbers are in and the year-end statistics from GAMA (The General Aviation Manufacturers Association) show an overall decline of 3.9% in unit aircraft shipments for the industry compared with 2015 and a revenue slump of 14.1%.

The business aircraft manufacturers had hoped for growth in 2016 – but, for some, this was probably a year best forgotten. The rotorcraft manufacturers also felt a similar chill, although final figures will not be available until Leonardo publishes its numbers.

Overall the General Aviation fixed-wing manufacturers shipped 2,241 aircraft in the year compared with 2,331 in 2015, but this includes all types from ultralights up to airliner business jets – and there were winners as well as losers. For the business aviation sector, success meant having new models and Textron ramped up production of the Citation Latitude to an impressive 42 units, Honda had its first full year, delivering 23 of its HA420s, and Embraer kicked up its performance by handing over 33 Legacy 450s and 500s. At the tiny end, Cirrus gained certification for the SF50 Vision personal jet and handed over three units in December.

Also read: New CEO takes the wheel at Embraer

The popularity of single-engined turboprops became even more evident with Piper producing 22 of its new M600 and Daher getting a good reception for the TBM 930 which left the Tarbes factory at a rate of one a week. However, the outstanding performer was, again, Pilatus which churned out 91 PC-12s – up from 70 the year before. This aircraft has found a sweet spot and operators are clearly attracted by its flexibility, performance and keen economics which must bode well for future sales of the jet PC-24.

Also read: TBM 930 enters Asian airspace

There were mixed fortunes for the major business jet manufacturers. Having enjoyed a strong market for large cabin aircraft during the post-recession years, Bombardier deliveries slid from 199 down to 163, largely due to a 30% fall in Global 5000 and 6000 units and they are clearly keen to get a boost from deliveries of the first Global 7000s. Learjet 75s were also suffering with only 24 delivered but the Challenger 350 and 650 were close to previous totals. Dassault recorded quite a strong second half year, thanks to the ramp-up of the Falcon 8X, and came in just under its 2015 total with 49 deliveries. Perhaps the big surprise was market icon, Gulfstream which delivered just 115 aircraft in the year – compared with 154 in 2015. This drop was mainly in the large cabin aircraft and was undoubtedly caused by inertia due to the order backlog for the new G500 and G600. This certainly hit Gulfstream revenues which fell by 24% compared with the previous year. Airliner bizjets were also in the doldrums with just one executive A330 recorded by Airbus and a slide in Boeing deliveries from 11 in 2015 to four last year.

Also read: G650, G650ER ready for China

Finally, looking at the other General Aviation sectors, Cirrus increased its sales of the SR20/22 range. However, Textron’s Cessna unit saw a drop in Caravan sales from 102 to 84, probably under pressure from Quest Aircraft which upped its Kodiak deliveries to 36 units.

“The 2016 year-end results were disappointing overall, although we did see some blue sky in the turboprop sector,” GAMA President & CEO Pete Bunce commented. “As we look toward 2017 and beyond, we are optimistic about the future and encouraged by the number of companies investing in innovative research and development programs and planning to bring new products to market.”

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