Aircraft shipments in the third quarter of 2017 continued an industry pattern described as “mixed, with some bright spots that continue trending upward, particularly in the rotorcraft market,” said the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.
Rotorcraft shipments increased by 7.7 percent year-to-date, and general aviation airplane shipments increased 1.7 percent, GAMA said in its newly published "2017 Third Quarter Aircraft Shipment and Billings" announcement.
Business jet shipments rose 1.4 percent, with 434 units shipped. Turboprop shipments declined 2.1 percent, from 382 to 374 airplanes.
GAMA President Pete Bunce framed his optimism for the future in the context of global initiatives to make aircraft manufacturing more nimble.
“We’ve been very focused on streamlining certification and validation processes around the world, which will help our member companies continue bringing new and safer products to the market and hopefully spur growth in future quarters,” he said.
The continued momentum in the rotorcraft segment registered most significantly with piston-helicopter shipments that increased from 168 to 190 units, a 13.1-percent rise, in the first nine months of 2017 compared to last year, GAMA said. Turbine helicopter shipments increased by 5.6 percent to 471 units, up from 446.
Airbus Helicopters shipped the most rotorcraft overall, its 242 units representing a wide range of models. A manufacturing standout for its piston-helicopter shipments was Robinson Helicopter of Torrance, California, which shipped 220 units in the first three quarters. Of those, 163 were piston R22 and R44 models, with 57 turbine-powered R66s also shipping. Robinson’s total billings came to approximately $117 million, according to the figures released.
Noteworthy in the four-percent increase in piston airplane shipments, from 696 to 724 units, were several individual company results.
Italian airplane manufacturer Tecnam shipped 132 airplanes for $31.5 million in billings across the first three quarters of the year, with light-sport models and the twin-engine P2006T accounting for more than half of the total.
Textron Aviation’s Beechcraft Corp. shipped 13 Baron G58 twins, and nine G36 Bonanza single-engine airplanes, along with 55 turboprops in the King Air line.
Cessna Aircraft Co. shipped 140 piston airplanes (of 317 total airplanes shipped) including 75 CE-172S Skyhawk SP airplanes, or 53.5 percent of the piston products shipped. Cessna also shipped 25 CE-182T Skylanes, 28 CE-T206H Turbo Stationairs; and 12 CE-240 TTx singles.
In an upbeat announcement, Piper Aircraft predicted continued sales expansion, especially of primary trainers. The company noted that 42 third-quarter aircraft deliveries—worth $48.6 million—contributed to a total of 99 units for the year to date, of which 68 were piston airplanes. They included 45 PA-28-181 Archer IIIs, and 12 PA-44-180 Seminole twins. Piper also shipped 23 of its PA-46-600TP M600 and eight PA-46-500TP M500 turboprop singles, for total billings of $124.1 million.
Archers are leading the company’s sales expansion, Piper said, with 55-percent more units delivered than in 2016.
"In Q3, our continued investments across all of our products as well as our commitment to a made to order business model has helped drive another quarter of strong growth and sales expansion and has also resulted in the lowest dealer inventory levels that we have seen in 5 years," said Piper President Simon Caldecott. "As we look forward to the last quarter of the year, deliveries of our value leading products are expected to continue to increase with deliveries of our robust primary aircraft trainers expected to reach their highest level in 14 years."