Media Keeps Pushing Aviation Recovery

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Like an overdue train, we keep craning our necks trying to see if economic recovery for the aviation industry is just around the corner. But rather than wait for it to pull into the station, some media outlets can't wait for that whistle to blow. Florida Today recently devoted a big chunk of its business section looking for signs of hope. It found some in the avionics industry (Avidyne and Rockwell Collins are both doing well with their glass cockpits) but the best New Piper could say is that more people are visiting its showrooms. Certification of the Liberty XL-2 also made it as one of the paper's signs that recovery is imminent. Although things do seem to be looking up for the airlines, at least one analyst believes observers are looking at the wrong data in making their predictions. Boeing economist William Swan told CNN that load factors, often cited as the primary indicator of airline performance, are "an absolutely worthless indicator of what's going on." He said aircraft utilization is a much better measure and only new 737s are getting a real workout. Other factors, including higher fuel costs and cutthroat pricing spawned by new no-frills entries to the market, like Delta's Song and United's Ted, make the profitability picture bleak for many airlines.