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May 26, 2024
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GAMA released its report on business aircraft shipments and billings for the first quarter 2023. The GAMA report can be downloaded here. Business aircraft deliveries were flat year over year for business jets, but the helicopter market improved substantially. The following table summarizes first-quarter deliveries over the last five years and illustrates that the business jet industry has not yet returned to pre-pandemic production levels.

Despite a significant increase in the use of private aviation during the pandemic, that growth has not yet translated to deliveries. With a downturn in business aircraft activity in early 2023, the question now becomes the degree to which the pandemic-induced increase in traffic will translate into long-term customers, whether through charter, fractional ownership, or full aircraft ownership. While manufacturers remain confident, it is difficult to predict the percentage of new business aircraft customers that will remain versus return to first-class airline travel post-pandemic.

Virtually all of the market growth in general aviation came from smaller piston aircraft, which accounted for 81.8% of the growth in shipments for the first quarter of 2023 compared to 2022. The business jet market remained relatively flat, down five units from 2022 and near the pandemic low point of 113 first-quarter units in 2021. Supply chain issues remain for business jets, continuing to impact production rates negatively. While those issues are slowly improving, industry executives at EBACE recently did not see the full resolution of all issues before 2024.

Surprisingly, the helicopter market had a significantly higher first quarter, exceeding shipments for the last four years and solidly above pre-pandemic levels in the first quarter. Turbine helicopter shipment rose from 100 to 153 units, and total helicopter billings increased by 59.9% over the first quarter of 2022. The rotary wing market has rebounded strongly, and supply chain constraints are no longer problematic.

Business Jets

The business jet market has not yet returned to the pre-pandemic levels of 2019 and is unlikely to catch up until supply-chain issues are resolved from late 2023 to early 2024. In the first quarter, deliveries dropped by five units from 2022, a 4.2% shipment decrease. The mix also shifted to smaller models, impacted by Gulfstream’s changeover from the G650 to the G700, requiring production facility adjustments. Billings decreased by 3.5% for fixed-wing aircraft year over year, remaining about 14.2% below 2019 levels. Our AirInsight forecasts show the general aviation industry finally catching up with 2019 billings in 2025.

The following chart shows business jet deliveries by the manufacturer. With its popular Cessna line of small business jets, Textron is the leader in deliveries, followed by Bombardier and Gulfstream. Cirrus popular single-engine jet is in fourth place, followed by Pilatus with its successful PC-24, Embraer, and Honda, which has fallen precipitously to only a single aircraft delivered in the first quarter of 2023. Several industry leaders, including Gulfstream, Textron, Bombardier, and Embraer, remain behind their delivery levels from 2019.

author avatar
Ernest Arvai
President AirInsight Group LLC