Airframers reported steady sales across all categories in the first half of 2023, and the General Aviation Manufacturers Association used the occasion of the latest data release to call for Congress to reauthorize the FAA and confirm a permanent administrator.
GAMA President Pete Bunce said in a news release that growth remains “strong” across all sectors. Piston airplane deliveries rose 11.4 percent in the first half of 2023, compared to the same period in 2022, while turboprop deliveries increased 17.4 percent, and business jet deliveries ticked up 2.4 percent, according to data compiled by GAMA from member companies. The helicopter segments showed even greater increases, with deliveries and revenue up close to 30 percent for all, and total helicopter sales revenue (billing) up 29.9 percent for the first half of the year, to $1.9 billion.
“We are encouraged by the bipartisanship we have seen throughout the legislative process and hope that the momentum to finalize an FAA reauthorization bill continues to build so that the agency can enhance its ability to deliver critical activities that promote safety, innovation and efficient promulgation of rules, policy and guidance that preserve global aerospace leadership,” Bunce said, also noting the agency's need for “an effective permanent leader during this transformative time for aviation.”
The agency has been led by a rotating cast of senior officials appointed to serve as acting administrator while the White House searches for a nominee. Acting Administrator Polly Trottenberg, a longtime Transportation Department official and most recently a deputy to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, was appointed in June. Various outlets reported in July that former FAA deputy chief Mike Whitaker (currently working for a subsidiary of Hyundai that is developing electric vertical takeoff and landing aircraft) was poised for nomination, though no formal announcement has been made.
Other actual or potential headwinds loom, beyond the potentially disruptive arrival of electric aircraft and turnover at the top of the FAA.
Gulfstream Aerospace, the market leader in business jets in recent years, posted $2.5 billion in revenue from the delivery of 45 aircraft, down slightly from 47 in the first half of 2022. Bombardier, steadily regaining lost ground after a turbulent few years, nearly closed the gap, however, posting $2.485 billion in revenue from the sale of 51 aircraft, up from 49 in the first half of 2022. Aviation Week recently reported that Gulfstream will not exhibit at the National Business Aviation Association’s Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition in Las Vegas in October. The company cited business conditions, and its ability to attract customers to smaller company-run events as the reason. It did not reference the protests at the European Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition in Geneva in May, when about 100 climate activists from various groups rushed the gates. A few protesters attempted to handcuff themselves to parked aircraft for a photo opportunity, and other jet makers noted the need for enhanced security at events.
Textron Aviation, which posted 8-percent growth in airframe deliveries for the first half of 2023, with a slight decline in billing (for all aircraft types) to $1.67 billion, told Aviation Week the company plans to exhibit in the hall at the Las Vegas Convention Center, and among the static displays at Henderson Executive Airport during the NBAA event.
At the lighter end of the business jet market, Honda Aircraft Co. bounced back from a lackluster first quarter (one delivery) to match the 2022 total of 10 HondaJet deliveries in the first half of 2023. Sales of the upgraded model generated an increase in billing of just over 20 percent, to $69.5 million for 10 aircraft.
Cirrus Aircraft continued its long run of piston airplane dominance, with overall deliveries of 267 aircraft for the first half of 2023, up from 211 in the same period of 2022. That included a steady climb for the single-engine SF50 Vision Jet, from 30 delivered in the first half of 2022 to 44 deliveries in the first half of 2023. Cirrus reported a nearly 40-percent increase in total billing for the first half of the year, up to $363.6 million.
While piston airplane deliveries drove much of the 26.5-percent increase in Cirrus airframe deliveries overall, European rivals Tecnam and Diamond Aircraft also posted double-digit gains. Diamond increased total deliveries from 116 aircraft to 134 (15.5 percent), and revenue was up 22.8 percent to $103 million, according to the GAMA report. Tecnam increased total first-half airframe deliveries from 108 to 135 aircraft, a 25-percent jump that nearly matched the 26.3-percent increase in billing to $62.4 million.
Piper Aircraft posted a 12.65-percent increase in total revenue, up to $121.4 million for the first half of 2023, despite delivering a nearly identical number of aircraft: 100, compared to 99 in the first half of 2022. Piper’s M-class turboprops drove much of the revenue, accounting for 27 of those deliveries in the first half of 2023.