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GAMA Numbers Show Decline in 2011 Deliveries, but Encouraging Signs Ahead

Februrary 27, 2012

The theme of a gradual, continuing rebound for general aviation was highlighted during the February 22 release of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association's (GAMA's) 2011 delivery numbers.

Although total deliveries fell in each segment over 2010 totals, there are several encouraging signs the aircraft industry continues to recover from a devastating global recession.

"Last year, the indication from the closing months of 2010 pointed at 2011 being a year when the general aviation manufacturing industry would begin a recovery," said GAMA Chairman Caroline Daniels, chairman and CEO of ATP, at a press conference held at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. "Unfortunately, the resurgence did not take place for the industry as a whole. However, 2011 did finish with signs of a sustained recovery and some reason for optimism."

Worldwide shipments of general aviation airplanes in 2011 totaled 1,865 units, compared to 1,932 airplanes delivered in 2010 - a 3.5% drop. Shipments were down in all industry segments from the previous year, though Daniels noted those declines were all in single digits, which she termed an encouraging sign that a "trough in the industry cycle" has been established. Worldwide general aviation billings did grow slightly, by 0.4 percent, to $19.1 billion in 2011.

Piston deliveries fell from 873 units in 2010 to 860 in 2011, a 1.5% drop, while 324 turboprop aircraft were delivered, a decrease of 2.4% from the previous year. The biggest decline came in the business jet category, with 681 aircraft delivered compared with 724 in 2010. The biggest drop in that segment was in light jets - deliveries of which Daniels noted have fallen over 70% since 2008. Once again, however, there was reason to be optimistic, as Daniels also noted a rise in orders from fractional operators that will increase deliveries of medium-size business jets in the years ahead. Deliveries of large business jets weighing over 50,000 lbs. remained steady, with particular interest from emerging markets in that category.

Of note, North America's overall market share in each segment grew for the first time in several years. "Manufacturers tell us that bonus depreciation is a key factor in many of their customer purchase decisions," Daniels said. "We believe the provision allowing 100 percent bonus depreciation of capital investment, including aircraft engines, avionics and other upgrades to aircraft during 2011, had the positive effect that Congress and the [Obama] administration were hoping for when the provision became law."

Daniels also noted that general aviation manufacturing is "one of the only sectors in U.S. manufacturing that contributes positively to the nation's balance of trade," adding the segment plays a "critical role" in the Obama administration's goal to double the number of U.S. exports within five years. "We hope that the President will focus on this positive aspect of our industry, and work with us to help drive economic growth," she said.

The totals released Wednesday do not include fourth-quarter deliveries by Hawker Beechcraft Corporation (HBC). That data will be available when the company's 10K is filed on or about March 31, 2012.

In his comments following the release of the 2011 delivery data, GAMA President and CEO Pete Bunce noted the industry's efforts to promote general aviation throughout the world. His presentation highlighted a host of effective advocacy intiatives that have helped advance the industry's agenda not only in North America, but also in Europe and Asia.

Bunce also looked to the press conference as an opportunity to remind the reporters in attendance of the important humanitarian role served by general aviation. Echoing one of the main themes of NBAA's "No Plane No Gain" campaign, he pointed to the role GA plays in helping people and communities in crisis.

As just two examples, he praised the Corporate Angel Network, which has transported over 40,000 cancer patients free of charge onboard business aircraft, and spotlighted the Veterans Airlift Command, which provides free air transportation to wounded veterans and their families.

That mission becomes even more important as U.S. forces in Afghanistan return home, Bunce noted, and – like CAN – would not be possible were it not for the generosity of the entire general aviation community, including business aviation.