9:19 AM

GAMA 1Q 08:
Nothing Can
Stop This

There isn't a day that goes by that we don't see endless news reports of our financial world falling down around us like a house of cards. With crude now selling at $126 a barrel (and rising) and as much as $130 being tacked on to your airline fare just to cover fuel costs, it is not surprising that millions of Americans are barely getting by. And those Americans seem to be buying less piston-powered airplanes.

But according to the first quarter, 2008 sales report from the General Aviation Manufacturer's Association (GAMA), apparently there are enough people left in this world with enough money to buy the seriously expensive turbine powered GA aircraft, because their member company sales are off the freakin' charts overseas, even while actual shipments dropped overall. Here is a pull from GAMA's press release to set this stage:

"GAMA announced this week that first quarter total industry billings were up 16.1 percent to $5.3 billion, an all-time high for the first quarter, while total shipments were down by 7.5 percent. Business jet shipments totaled 297 units in the first quarter of 2008, a remarkable 40.8 percent increase over the 211 units delivered in the first quarter of 2007. This past quarter's overall industry billings remain impressive, with the turbine segments showing dramatic increases. The trend of increasing market share occurring outside of North America continues for most manufacturers. It is apparent, however, that current uncertainty in the U.S. economy is having an affect on some of the offerings in the piston spectrum of aircraft."
Here are a few highlights from the report, which can be downloaded here as a pdf:
There was a total of $5.3 billion in sales, the bulk of that coming from Airbus and Boeing who sold BJs totaling $150 million, Bombardier who sold 67 units for $1.6 billion, and Gulfstream who sold $1.2 billion.

Other major players were Cessna, which sold a total 96 jets including 15 of their Mustang, contributing to overall sales of $955 million. Interesting here was that they sold 13 Cessna (Columbia) 400s and 3 Cessna 350s. Their biggest seller in their legacy line remains their 172SP with 34 units.

Eclipse seems to have their assembly line up and running just fine these days, posting sales of $64.3 million with 52 units.

Cirrus reported sales of $35 million, which includes 55 SR-22s and 18 S-20s, but only 3 SRVs.

Mooney continues to hand craft their beautiful line selling 8 M20TN Acclaims and 5 M20R Ovations for a total of $7.2 million.

As always, the Pilatus PC-12 remains a "sell 'em as fast as you can make 'em" model, with the Swiss company selling 22 units in 1Q 08 for $75.1 million.

Piper had sales of $33 million, which included 18 of their PA-46R-350T Matrix as the hottest model, with 18 units sold.

And Socata EADS sold 8 of their gorgeous TBM 850s for a total of $23.6 million in sales.
Overall, the "more billings, less shipments" scenario means the ultra rich are buying more high-end hardware, while the single-engine sector shows some signs of slowing. If this sour economy and high fuel prices continue much into 2009, U.S. single-engine makers might have to start adjusting their line-ups to keep money flowing in. An example of this would be the The Jet from Cirrus or the Piper Jet from Piper, moderately priced entry-level bizjets that will be easy to sell to high-rolling baby boomers with disposable income. These PJs will infuse cash into these companies...and while they will not seriously increase the shipment numbers, they ought to really bump up the billings.

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