This is News Nobody Wants to Hear

3:47 PM

The General Aviation Manufacturers Association represents 66 fixed wing airframe manufacturers, and is our best benchmark for telling just how foul this economy is right now as far as general aviation is concerned.

From the looks of numbers released today, it is as foul as a a load of tufu rotting in an un-refrigerated 45-foot trailer in the hot sun in Fresno in August. Yes, I've been there, and trust me, it was plenty foul, just not as foul as GAMA's release:

Today GAMA stated that in the first three months of 2009, deliveries of general aviation airplanes totaled 462 units, a 41.1 percent drop from the same period last year, with industry billings falling 18.2 percent to $4.34 billion. “This is an extremely difficult time for our industry,” said GAMA President and CEO, Pete Bunce. “We are dealing first and foremost with the severe negative effects of a worldwide economic downturn, but also with unwarranted criticism focused on the industry. The result has been the cancellation of orders for new airplanes and the loss of more than 15,000 high-paying jobs for American workers over the last several months.

The reality is that the U.S. general aviation industry leads the world in innovation and remains one of the few American industries with a positive balance of trade.” Bunce added, “We will continue to work with governments around the world to recognize that general aviation can play a key role in propelling the economic recovery.”

The piston airplane segment was down 55.1 percent in the first quarter, with 179 units delivered as compared to 399 airplanes in the first three months of 2008. The turboprop segment was the only segment that experienced growth in the first quarter with 92 units delivered, up from 89 units during the same period in 2008 for a 3.4 percent increase. Business jet shipments fell 35.7 percent in the first quarter with 191 airplanes delivered, as compared to 297 business jets in the first quarter of 2008.
Ouch, pistons down over 55%! When we think of pistons, we think of Cessna and Cirrus, so it is no surprise both have taken quite a somber tone of late. Sure, Cirrus is ramping up again slowly, and yes, Cessna has cut the Columbus and closed their Bend plant trying to restructure and save coin. But considering that their sales could both be down roughly HALF, it is most notable that neither one has closed their doors.

And while the 3.4% increase in turboprops is a welcome bump, it has little power in offsetting these dismal 1Q09 numbers. We've all been waiting for this GAMA report (pdf), and it illustrates just how hard this fight is to keep ALL of our legacy makers in the game.

So do GA a favor, so buy a Cirrus or Cessna today. Just don't take out some screwy interest-only, adjustable-rate, annual reset loan that you can't possibly pay off...because it's that kind of crap that brought us all here in the first place.

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