Despite the recent economic downturn manufacturers at AOPA Expo have reported that they’re still selling aircraft.
Icon Aircraft, manufacturers of the Icon A5 light sport aircraft, reported that two orders were placed at Expo. Craig Bowers, vice president of Icon sales, said that recent orders, which require a $5,000 initial deposit, have been coming in fairly regularly. The order book now stands at 325 aircraft.
“We don’t usually get many sales or orders at conventions,” Bowers said. “Prospects go home, think about it, and then make a yes-no decision about three to four weeks later.” Representatives from Diamond Aircraft, Cirrus, and Cessna said they experience basically the same chain of events—although there was a strong rumor that Diamond sold two of its new Lycoming-powered DA42 L360 TwinStars at the show.
Piper Aircraft, for example, reported that two orders for its Meridian single-engine turboprop had been placed at Expo, as well as one Matrix and one PiperJet. Piper vice-president of sales and marketing Bob Kromer was bullish about the company’s experience at Expo, saying “we got 380 qualified sales leads here at Expo, just in these three days.”
Cirrus reported taking four orders during Expo.
Perhaps the most uplifting news came from aftermarket suppliers. CAV Aerospace president Kevin Hawley, who heads up the distributorship of the TKS weeping-wing ice protection system, said that his company “hasn’t been affected at all” by the economic troubles.
“We’ve licensed three more service centers to install the TKS system, and our sales of retrofit kits for Cessna 400s have reached 50 airplanes. An STC for the Cessna 350 should be approved soon, and Cessna Caravan retrofits will be approved soon.” A confident Hawley went on to say that the downturn has been “hard on OEMs” but that “people are not going to quit flying. It’s an integral part of their lives and their businesses. So while they may not be buying new airplanes, they’re sure fixing up the ones they already have.”
At weather provider WSI Corporation, a company official said that general aviation business has been down by 50 percent or so recently, but that airline business is starting to ramp up quickly. “I think that’s because the airlines believe that we’ve seen the bottom of the market, and they want to be positioned for an upturn that’s soon to come,” he said.
Bottom line: General aviation manufacturers and vendors are cautiously optimistic right now, holding their collective breaths for a resurgence in business, and can’t wait for any sign of a return to “the way things were.”