Aircraft Billings Reach Record

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Ah, it's great to be in the aviation business ... at least for now. Virtually every economic indicator is soaring out of sight as companies revel in record numbers of orders and shipments. "All segments of the general aviation manufacturing industry are continuing to increase at strong levels," said Pete Bunce, president of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, in a news release announcing that billings hit $4 billion in the first quarter of 2006, up a staggering 40 percent over the $2.9 billion recorded in the same period last year which prompted dancing in the streets at that time. "Based on the encouraging market activity throughout the industry in this first quarter, and the exciting new technologies and products on the horizon, it is hard to not get excited about the future of general aviation," said Bunce. Far be it from us to pluck the bloom from this particular rose but it's worth mentioning that when times are a little tougher the industry folks hasten to mention that aviation is cyclical and recent history adds credence to that perspective. In fact it was a scant three years ago, practically to the day, that GAMA was pouring red ink all over its news releases. In the April 28, 2003, edition of AVweb's NewsWire, then-President Ed Bolen sang a much more somber tune. "These are very tough times," Bolen said at the time. "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." Even mighty Gulfstream was bleeding badly. Shipments of its mega-dollar bizjets were down by more than 40 percent.