Earlier this week, general aviation industry movers and shakers met in Washington, D.C., for the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) Annual Industry Review and Market Outlook Briefing. And everyone was smiling: 2006, it turns out, saw the all-time high for general aviation aircraft billings: $18.8 billion, a 24.1 percent increase over 2005. All that money was spent on 4,042 units shipped -- err, flown to buyers -- worldwide. That figure, too, is up by 12.9 percent over 2005s total of 3,580 units, but is nowhere close to the record number of airframes built by U.S. manufacturers in one year. That record -- 17,811, in 1978 -- likely will stand for a very, very long time. Of those totals, piston airplanes experienced an 11.6-percent rise over 2005; from 2,465 to 2,750 in 2006. Turboprop shipments increased by a similar percentage, 11.5 percent, up from 365 units in 2005 to 407 units in 2006. New business jets shipments also climbed in 2006 to a total of 885 airplanes, up 18 percent over last years figure of 750 units. GAMA Chairman Dr. John J. Grisik noted, Worldwide economic growth, a strong export market, and increased use of general aviation for both business and personal use all played a part in this outstanding year for general aviation. He added, As our manufacturers continue to fill their order books, GAMA anticipates another robust year for general aviation in 2007 and beyond.
For the current year, GAMA and its airframe-manufacturing members expect the good times will continue. Factors the association cites to support its upward projections include sustained growth in national, regional and local economies, which increase demand for business transportation; the airlines' inability to satisfy that demand; and technology improvements that will continue to enhance safety and efficiency while providing greater performance. Although the good times likely will continue rolling for U.S. manufacturers, foreign manufacturers will produce an increasing number of competitive aircraft. But the major dark cloud on the horizon for 2007 and beyond, according to GAMA, is the FAA's user-fee scheme, which is part of the agency's proposal for its own reauthorization later this year. How will it all come out? Check back in early 2008 for the next edition of GAMA's Annual Industry Review and Market Outlook Briefing.