Sales of piston aircraft dropped 58 percent in the first half of 2009, compared to the same period a year before, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) reported in their quarterly update on Tuesday. Shipments fell from 1,034 airplanes last year to just 434 units in 2009. Business jets were also down, by 38 percent (from 663 to 412), and turboprops showed a relatively upbeat trend, with a drop of only 14 percent (221 to 191). "These are extremely challenging times for all general aviation manufacturers and suppliers," GAMA CEO Pete Bunce said in a news release. "Layoffs continue and our industry has been forced to slow, and in some cases, temporarily halt production lines." However, Bunce added that he is seeing some encouraging signs. "The overall economic picture is showing some signs of improvement, which is a crucial condition for recovery in the general aviation market," he said. "Flight hours are stabilizing, used inventories are beginning to shrink, and our manufacturers are seeing signs of renewed interest in airplane purchases."
Bunce added that he is also encouraged by reports that accelerated depreciation, passed by Congress earlier this year, is stimulating some new orders, and he's hopeful that positive momentum will continue through the end of the year. The total shipments, for pistons, turboprops, and business jets in the first half of this year came to 1,037, a drop of 46 percent from last year's total of 1,918 for the first six months. Total billings fell from $12 billion to $9.26 billion, a drop of 23 percent. Some manufacturers have had to cope with dramatic changes -- Cirrus, for example, delivered 549 airplanes in 2008. In the first half of this year, the total was 121. Mooney delivered 65 airplanes in 2008, and so far this year the total is 5. For the full text of GAMA's news release and a PDF copy of their complete report, click here.