Author : Flight Global

Deliveries of business and general aviation aircraft continued their resurgence last year thanks to the rising demand for midsize jets and piston-engined types, according to the latest statistics from the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), released on 11 February.

Worldwide shipments between January and December climbed by over 4% to 2,454 units, compared with 2,353 units in 2013.

Last year’s deliveries also yielded a $24.5 billion book value compared with $23.4 billion in 2013, and the second-largest billings tally since 2008, when it hit $24.8 billion.

The piston-engined sector was the top performer. Thanks to the growing global market for flight training piston aircraft, shipments were propelled from 1,030 units in 2013 to 1,129 units last year – the highest level since 2011 – with all the major airframers recording a hike in deliveries.

Business jets also fared well. Deliveries climbed from 678 aircraft in 2013 to 722 units between January and December 2014 – a hike of 6.5%. Although the tally is well below the 1,145 shipments recorded during the market’s 2008 peak, the midsize has recorded its strongest growth for five years. Deliveries of both midsize and super-midsize business jets climbed from 140 units in 2013 to 159 last year. This is due in part to the introduction of a slew of new and upgraded models throughout 2014 – notably the Embraer Legacy 500, the Bombardier Challenger 350 and the Cessna Citation X+ – and a surge in demand for these transcontinental types, particularly in the USA, the largest business aircraft market.

The strengthening US economy coupled with the introduction of fresh designs such as the Citation M2 also helped the light business jet sector to record its strongest growth since 2009. Deliveries of both superlight and light jets climbed from 185 in 2013 to 220 last year – a 19% hike. With the service entry of a number of hugely anticipated aircraft expected this year – the HondaJet, the SyberJet SJ30, the Citation Latitude and the Embraer Legacy 450 – this sector will be hoping to sustain the positive growth trend in 2015 and beyond.

“The revival of the US market will be one of the key developments to watch for in 2015,” says aviation analyst Rolland Vincent. “Light and midsize business jet owners are now feeling more confident in business aviation’s recovery, surpassing the sentiment of large jet owners for the first time in several years. This bodes well for increased sales of light and midsize jets in 2015, especially in the US where about two thirds of this fleet is based,” he continues.

The other end of the spectrum, however, did not fare as well. After a banner year in 2013, the large-cabin, long-range shipments fell by over 10% to 269 units. Although this tally is still the second highest on record for the sector, airframers have been hit by the waning appetite for big, long-legged business jet from the previously lucrative markets of China and Russia. Dassault, for example, saw shipments of its 7X fall from 33 in 2013 to 27 last year. Likewise, Gulfstream shipped 117 large-cabin, long-range business jets in 2014, including the first G650ER, compared with 121 in 2013. Shipments of Embraer’s Legacy 600/650 and Lineage 1000 fell by four units to 25 during the same period. Bombardier, in contrast, saw deliveries of its Challenger 605 and Global family nudge forward from 94 in 2013 to 96 last year.

The turboprop sector will also be hoping for a market recovery this year after experiencing its first annual fall in shipments since 2009. Deliveries of single- and twin-engined designs fell from 654 units in 2013 to 603 units last year. This 6.5% decline, however, is almost entirely due to the fall in sales of agricultural variants. Thrush Aircraft, for example, saw deliveries of its S2R series fall from 174 units in 2013 to 146 last year. Air Tractor too recorded a drop in shipments of its AT-family from 51 to 36 units during the same time frame.

If the agricultural segment is excluded, however, the core business turboprop market has remained flat, although the introduction of new and upgraded models has helped to stimulate sales. For example, following the introduction of the TBM 900 in January 2014, Daher Socata saw its annual shipment tally jump from 40 to 51 aircraft.

“With the exception of the Piaggio Avanti Evo, which is scheduled to enter service imminently, there has been little research and development in this segment by either the airframe or engine manufacturers,” Vincent says. “Therefore buyers who would otherwise consider a new turboprop have stayed on the sidelines. New and refreshed models will encourage them to get back into the market,” he adds.