GAMA: Shipments (Barely) Up Through Three Quarters, Pistons Down

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The first three quarters of 2008 showed 2,977 aircraft shipped compared to 2,918 shipped over the same period last year, but those 59 extra airplanes made a big difference. The 2 percent increase in the total number of shipments accounts for a $3.1 billion (or 20 percent) increase over the value represented by last year's shipments for the same period. And, yes, that's because they're all business jets and turboprops -- piston shipments through the first three quarters are down, year over year, by more than 11 percent. The financial windfall comes from the 30 percent increase in business jet shipments, plus the more than 13 percent increase in turboprop shipments. Even while some shipments increased, the conflux of an economic slump, curbed lending and volatile fuel prices has many businesses playing defense. General aviation aircraft manufacturers, "reacting to the lead and lag nature of this economic slowdown," have announced layoffs (Cessna, Cirrus and Hawker Beechcraft included) and according to GAMA president and CEO, Pete Bunce, "the uncertainty of financial markets worldwide is negatively impacting the entire aviation industry."

On the heavier side of light, Eclipse, which according to recent reports failed to pay its Albuquerque employees for the first two weeks of November, shipped 43 of its Eclipse 500 jets in the third quarter, versus 52 in Q1 and 60 in Q2. In contrast, Cessna (which announced layoffs for about 665 employees in Wichita, Kan., plus Bend, Ore., combined) shipped 15 Citation Mustangs in Q1, 19 in Q2, and 30 in Q3.