It’s been a tough year for some Wichita’s plane makers so far, according to third-quarter production figures released Thursday by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.
Both Cessna and Learjet deliveries were down by double digits.
The good news is that Beechcraft Corp., which shed jet production during bankrutpcy proceedings this year to focus on its piston and turboprop products, is seeing strong gains.
Beechcraft reported the most deliveries for its piston and turboprop lineup over the first three quarters of this year since 2008. Those deliveries were up 77 percent compared to the first nine months of 2012.
The biggest reason for increased demand, said Shawn Vick, Beechcraft’s executive vice president of sales and marketing, is demand from businesses.
The company’s Bonanza and Baron piston aircraft as well as a good portion of its King Air tuboprop line are in demand as companies around the world invest in capital equipment, even as lighter aircraft aimed more at the personal flying market and the much more expensive small-jet markets remain down.
Vick said Beechcraft has already exceeded this year’s sales targets and expects to exceed its delivery targets. And its executives see that momentum increasing in the fourth quarter and into the coming year.
“The business is already creating backlogs for 2014, and we see a fair amount of activity in the sales pipeline, so we believe that we will go into 2014 with a lot of momentum,” Vick said.
Because of the sharp increase in piston and turboprop sales, the value of the Beechcraft’s deliveries is down only 2.9 percent year over year, despite the loss of jet sales in 2013.
But Cessna and Learjet are having tougher years.
Cessna’s overall deliveries by unit are down 22 percent and its billings are down 26 percent through the third quarter, according to the GAMA data.
Bombardier’s Learjet deliveries are down 55 percent. GAMA’s billings aren’t broken out by model, so billing numbers also include Bombardier’s Canadian-built jets.
But Jens Hennig, vice president of operations at GAMA, said that there was a sense of optimism at the recent National Business Aviation Association convention.
The issue for light jets, he said, is that they are sold almost solely in the United States, Canada and western Europe, so the potential market is smaller than for other planes.
And those regions have been plagued with uncertain business climates. But the economic background appears to be settling somewhat for the upcoming year.
“They want to buy, but they have not been willing to sign on the dotted line,” he said.
He said both Cessna and Bombardier have models that will be upgraded or replaced next year or in 2015, which is essential to sparking interest from buyers.
Overall, according to the GAMA report, the number of general aircraft for all companies delivered through the third quarter was up 6.6 percent to 1,513 total aircraft, and billings were up 24.4 percent to $15.4 billion.