Industry Struggles With Sluggish Economy

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First-Quarter 2003: Bizjet Sales Fall, Single-Engine Pistons Hold Steady...

Shipments of GA aircraft decreased 16 percent in the first quarter of this year, compared to the same period last year, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association reported on Thursday. Billings in the same period fell 33 percent. Total deliveries for the quarter fell from 531 aircraft last year to 444 this year. Business jets were hardest hit, with deliveries down 42 percent, from 169 to 98. "These are very tough times," GAMA President Ed Bolen said in a news release. "Lost in all the noise about the troubles of the airlines has been the fact that, since 9/11, many general aviation manufacturers have had to lay off workers and slow or even temporarily halt production lines. The only segment of the market that was able to hold its own in the first quarter was the single-engine pistons." First-quarter shipments of piston-powered airplanes remained stable at 315 in 2003, down just one from last year's 316. Turboprop shipments decreased from 46 airplanes in the first quarter of 2002 to 31 this year. Biggest sellers of piston aircraft were Cessna, with 129 shipments, Cirrus with 90, and New Piper with 49.

...As Boeing Follows Airlines' Trajectory

Boeing last week reported a large -- but not its largest-ever -- quarterly loss, down $478 million, as its biggest customers, the airlines, continued their steep downturn. Deliveries of commercial aircraft decreased 35 percent compared to the first quarter of 2002, to 71 airplanes. Boeing said it would deliver about 280 airplanes in 2003. The delivery forecast for 2004 remains between 275 and 300 airplanes, but Boeing said it expects a gradual market recovery to start in 2005. In its press release, the company said: "In the commercial aviation market, the war in Iraq, increased security costs, the emergence of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and airline industry restructuring together create a dynamic environment; it is too early to reach conclusions regarding the ultimate impact. However, the downturn remains severe, with trends varying between carriers and regions, and has reduced demand across all airplane models."