The General Aviation Manufacturers Association announced delivery and billings data for the first two quarters of 2018. How did the numbers stack-up for business jet and turboprop deliveries? Mike Potts explores...
Total aircraft deliveries were up from 1,001 aircraft in the first half (H1) of 2017 to 1,054 in H1 2018. Billings, however, continued to lag, indicative of continuing weakness in the upper ends of the jet market. Total billings were $8.5bn, down approximately 5% from the $9.03bn recorded last year.
Jet deliveries were flat at 296 units, matching the total delivered in H1 2017. Turboprops were up 9.7% (the strongest gain among the segments) while piston products were up 6.4%. In raw numbers the turboprops were up from 237 units to 260 while the piston growth was from 468 units in H1 2017 to 498 this year.
The Jet Market
Looking at the specifics of the business jet market in H1 2018 is not an uplifting experience. Of 11 jet OEMs reporting to GAMA only three enjoyed better results than a year ago. But the news isn’t even that good because two of those three are brand new and weren’t delivering jets in H1 2017.
It’s not that anyone has had a horrible year so far – most firms saw results very similar to what they had a year ago. In general, though, it's just not been quite as good.
The leader in business jets so far this year, by a wide margin, is Cessna, which reported delivery of 84 jets in H1 2018, compared with 81 in H1 2017. For Q2 alone, Cessna was up from 46 to 48. Cessna was the only traditional jet manufacturer with gains.
Bombardier came second in jet deliveries with 65 units, matching its six-month total from a year ago although its Q2 total of 34 was down from 36 in Q2 2017. Bombardier’s Challenger 350 model was the largest selling single business jet model in H1 2018 with 26 deliveries. (Cirrus’ new SF50 model was a close second with 25 shipments, followed by Cessna’s new Citation Latitude with 24.)
It’s possible that the big Gulfstream models also figure into this mix, but Gulfstream doesn’t segment out its sales by model. Collectively the big Gulfstream models (G450, 550, 650 and 650ER) totaled 37 units for the first half of the year. Combined with the 15 smaller cabin Gulfstreams delivered, Gulfstream came third among business jet OEMs in H1 2018, with 52 units (down from the 60 units Gulfstream shipped in H1 2017).
Number four in business jet deliveries was Embraer, with 31, down from the 39 it delivered last year. Both Embraer’s Q1 total of 11 and its Q2 total of 20 were off from the 15 and 24 they reported last year.
Newcomer Cirrus was the fifth largest maker of business jets YTD, with 25 shipments; 10 in Q1 and 15 in Q2. Cirrus only began delivering jets in the Q2 2017, when it started out with two. If Cirrus continues to accelerate in the delivery department it could challenge the established jet OEMs for the top positions in a year or two.
Honda was next with 17 shipments, down from 24 in H1 2017, followed closely by Dassault with 15 (off from the 17 reported in 2017). Boeing reported four deliveries for H1, all coming in Q1, while newcomer Pilatus shipped three, and seems committed to a measured delivery schedule, at least initially. But we can look for steady output from Pilatus that will likely place it in the middle of the current crop of jet OEMs.
Bringing up the rear in the jet market for the first half of 2018 were One and Airbus, both with no reported deliveries.
In looking at the overall health of the jet market today, it is significant to note that while three new players, Cirrus, Honda and Pilatus, have recently entered the market, the total of jets sold this year is still flat compared with last year. Had these new players not joined the fray, I doubt the market would be even where it is today.
We have a way to go before we can hope to achieve a jet market near the 800-unit range (such as we enjoyed in 2014).
The Turboprop Market
By comparison to the jet market, the turboprop market is going 'gangbusters', and is up 9.7% (but is actually doing quite a bit better). Based just on business turboprops the turboprop market is up 14.67% over a year ago – a huge increase.
On a percentage basis, twin-engine turboprops are having a great year, up 38.71% over a year ago at 43 units (from 33).
The turboprop market is only about two-thirds the size GAMA says it is, totaling only 172 airplanes in H1 2018. That's because GAMA’s total includes 88 agricultural airplanes.
The leader among those business turboprop-producing OEMs is Textron’s Beechcraft, with 40 shipments, up from 31 in H1 2017. Closely challenging for the title of Number One Turboprop OEM, however, is Textron’s Cessna segment, with 36 deliveries (up from 22 a year ago).
Third place in business turboprop deliveries went to Pilatus (32), up fractionally from 31 last year. In fourth place was Piper (23, up from 19 in 2017) followed closely by Daher with 22, one unit off its prior year pace’s pace of 23.
Next in turboprop shipments was Quest at 14, down from the 17 it enjoyed last year, and finishing out the turboprop segment was Piaggio with three, up from none a year ago, Pacific Aerospace (two, down from six), and Chinese manufacturer AVIC (no turboprop deliveries yet this year but had two last year).
So there you have it... Some markets like the turboprops are thriving but lack the size to be really meaningful. The all-important jet market is still mired in recession, although new products are making an industrious effort to revive it. For almost five years we’ve been waiting for the market to accelerate. It looks like we’re going to have to continue to wait for a while longer.