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Signals of strength, stress in aircraft market

GAMA releases quarterly industry data

The bottom-line numbers for the year to date released by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association show gains in all segments of GA aircraft sales, including strong performance by European airframers in the piston segment driving an 11.9-percent increase in piston airplane sales worldwide. Turbine deliveries held steady despite a dip for the market leader.

While demand for piston singles led to double-digit gains for many manufacturers during the first three quarters of 2023, American Champion reported zero deliveries for reasons not immediately clear. Photo by Mike Fizer.

The quarterly data compiled by GAMA based on t manufacturers’ reporting to the trade group was released November 21, along with a statement by GAMA CEO Pete Bunce urging Congress to reauthorize the FAA promptly, calling the October confirmation of FAA Administrator Michael Whitaker "a great start. It is also essential that Congress act now to pass an FAA reauthorization bill that provides the new Administrator and agency with the necessary direction and tools to strengthen and enhance the aviation system."

Turboprop deliveries increased 14.6 percent to 439 aircraft through the end of the third quarter, compared to the same period in 2022, GAMA reported. Business jet deliveries were up 2 percent to 455 aircraft comparing the year-to-date totals for 2022 and 2023. Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. retained its overall lead in business jet revenue despite a year-over-year decline of about 12 percent in both airframes delivered and total revenue. Competitor Bombardier reported a 10.8-percent increase in jet deliveries, and a 9.8-percent increase in revenue, up to $3.9 billion—just $1 million shy of Gulfstream's total.

Cirrus Aircraft continued its long run of piston airplane market dominance, with a nearly 23-percent increase in total airframe deliveries year to date, compared to the first three quarters of 2022. The SF50 Vision Jet also continued to climb in popularity, with a 15-percent increase in airframes delivered—61 Vision Jets—for 2023 to date. Piper Aircraft, another prolific producer of piston airplanes, posted a 13-percent increase in total airframe deliveries (including turboprops), moving 164 aircraft through the first three quarters.

Textron Aviation posted gains in its piston airplane deliveries, with 194 through the first three quarters, a 10-percent increase over the 176 piston aircraft delivered in the same period in 2022. The company's overall airframe deliveries were up 5 percent for the period, and billing increased by 4 percent, to $2.57 billion. Textron's reported piston totals for the first three quarters included three Beechcraft G36 Bonanzas, resuming deliveries at a modest rate after two straight years of zero aircraft. The piston twin Beechcraft Baron G58 logged five deliveries in 2023 to date, ending a similar drought for that model.

Wisconsin-based American Champion Aircraft Corp., featured in the May issue of AOPA Pilot, reported no deliveries or revenue for the year to date. Sales of the Decathlon models (Super Decathlon and Xtreme Decathlon) have typically been few in number, though the company voiced optimism that growing interest in backcountry aviation would boost total sales. In 2022, the company delivered nine aircraft of all models, including Decathlon, Citabria, and Scout series, during the first three quarters, and 14 aircraft for the full year. The company makes all of its airplanes—by hand—to order, at a modest pace, but the latest quarterly report from GAMA is the first in several years to show zero aircraft delivered for three quarters running. The company did not immediately respond to an email inquiry, and it's not clear if the report reflects a lack of data supplied to GAMA, a lack of factory activity, or both.

Data from Italian airframer Tecnam Aircraft shows much the opposite: The company posted a 22-percent increase in total airframes delivered for the first three quarters, up to 193 aircraft—all but five of them piston models. The $83.3 million in total revenue reported by Tecnam represents a 23.9-percent increase compared to the same period in 2022, and puts Tecnam a little closer to Diamond Aircraft, which delivered 195 aircraft, a nearly 15-percent increase, and reported $147.9 million in revenue through the first three quarters, up just over 17 percent compared to the same period in 2022.

GAMA's report also showed gains in the ever-volatile helicopter market, with piston helicopter deliveries up 15.3 percent, and turbine helicopter deliveries up 6.3 percent for the first nine months of 2023 compared to the same period last year. Helicopter revenue increased 5.4 percent overall.

Jim Moore

Jim Moore

Managing Editor-Digital Media
Digital Media Managing Editor Jim Moore joined AOPA in 2011 and is an instrument-rated private pilot, as well as a certificated remote pilot, who enjoys competition aerobatics and flying drones.
Topics: Financial, General Aviation Manufacturers Association

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