By Mary Grady, Contributing editor
Although delivery numbers for general aviation aircraft manufactured in the U.S. were down by 3.5 percent in 2011 over the year before, the numbers do show "reasons for optimism," Caroline Daniels, chairman of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, said on Wednesday. At the annual news conference for the release of industry data, Daniels said the hoped-for turnaround did not take place last year, "but we did see signs of recovery." Total billings were up about 0.4 percent. Deliveries were down in all segments, Daniels said, but the declines generally were in the "single digits." A few companies did show their deliveries were flat and several showed improvement, Daniels said.
Cessna, for example, showed 183 jets delivered in 2011, compared to 178 the year before; Gulfstream and Bombardier also showed some growth. Cessna piston deliveries also grew from 239 to 245, and Diamond was up from 120 to 182. Piaggio and Piper showed growth in the turboprop segment. Demand overall for new airplanes continues be suppressed by extensive inventories of used aircraft, Daniels said. Used inventories showed some decline in 2011, she said, but used prices also continued to fall, by an average of 14 percent. Financing is still difficult to secure. "Easier credit would help to release some of the pent-up demand [for new aircraft]," she said. Pete Bunce, president of GAMA, also spoke at the news conference, and emphasized the importance of expanding global markets for GA. The full report (PDF) is now available on GAMA's website. GAMA noted that Hawker Beechcraft's fourth-quarter numbers were not included in their analysis, due to financial regulations that govern their release. Those numbers are expected to be available soon.