Interest, some sales at NBAA

Despite a down market for business jets, Wichita planemakers said they found a lot of interest in their aircraft during last week's National Business Aviation Association show in Orlando, Fla.

And they sold some aircraft.

"I think it was a very good show considering the environment we're in," Cessna Aircraft spokesman Bob Stangarone said.

In the past year, the economic downturn has led to thousands of layoffs and production cuts at Cessna Aircraft, Hawker Beechcraft and Bombardier Learjet.

There were 9 percent fewer exhibitors at NBAA and 22,980 attendees, down from a record 30,000 a year ago.

"At least there's life out there," Stangarone said.

Cessna, Hawker Beechcraft and Bombardier Aerospace officials said the companies sold some aircraft, but they declined to say how many.

Cessna had good attendance at its static display at the Orlando Executive Airport.

There were fewer gawkers at the show this year, Stangarone said. Attendees were doing research and seriously looking at their next purchase.

Hawker Beechcraft officials, meanwhile, went to the NBAA "cautiously optimistic," said marketing director Ron Gunnarson.

But it was "a little bit better than we expected in both quantity and quality out at the static (display)," Gunnarson said.

There was a lot of interest in the Hawker 4000, and the level of traffic from international attendees was strong, he said.

In some aspects, this year's NBAA was better than the one last year, a time when the stock market was plunging and there was a lot of uncertainty in the economy.

Today, at least "we know where we are," Gunnarson said. "We're starting to see brighter days ahead."

Bombardier Aerospace also received good traffic in terms of customers and prospects, said company spokeswoman Danielle Boudreau.

The company was pleased with the reception it received for its Learjet 85, which is under development, and for two new interiors available on its Learjet 60XR, Boudreau said.

"We're really happy with NBAA and our presence at the show," Boudreau said.