Status Quo for World General Aviation Aircraft Deliveries in Q3 2017

U.S. Manufacturers Deliver 377 Aircraft – Down 6 Units from Q3 2016

by J. Kasper Oestergaard, European Correspondent.

Cessna delivered 29 units of its popular Grand Caravan EX turboprop in the third quarter of 2017, up from 22 in Q3 2016.  Photo: Textron Aviation

According to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), the third quarter of 2017 showed mixed results for the industry, but with some bright spots. Fixed-wing general aviation aircraft manufacturers delivered 531 aircraft worldwide in Q3 2017, down 1.1 percent from 537 in Q3 16. Revenues declined 0.9 percent to $4.1 billion, driven by lower revenues at Bombardier and Embraer.

U.S. manufacturers delivered 377 aircraft in Q3 2017, down from 383 in Q3 16 – a 1.6 percent decrease in shipments. U.S. manufacturers accounted for 71 percent of worldwide shipments in the third quarter (same as in Q3 16).

In Q3 2017, the Cirrus SR22T (piston) was the most popular fixed-wing general aviation aircraft with 41 units delivered (+3 from Q3 16). Cirrus also takes second place with its SR22 (piston) with 32 shipments – up from 26 in Q3 16. The Cessna CE-208B Grand Caravan EX (turboprop) takes third place with 29 jets delivered (+7 from 22 in Q3 16), ahead of Gulfstream’s G450/G550/G650 family of large jets, the Cessna CE-172S Skyhawk SP (piston), the TECNAM ASTM-LSA, the Piper PA-28-181 Archer III, the Diamond DA40, the Cirrus SR20, and the Bombardier Challenger 350 and Cessna CE-680A Citation Latitude midsize business jets.

When general aviation aircraft manufacturers are ranked by revenues, the business jet manufacturers take the lead. Gulfstream boasted the highest revenue of all fixed-wing aircraft manufacturers in Q3 2017 with total sales of $1.6 billion (up 10.4% from same period last year). Gulfstream has been the world’s largest general aviation aircraft manufacturer by revenue since 2013. In second place is Bombardier (was No. 1 in 2012) with Q3 2017 sales of $1.1 billion, down 11.0 percent from Q3 2016. Textron Aviation (Cessna + Beechcraft) is the overall leader by units sold but only ranks third by revenue with $714 million in Q3 2017, up from $705 million in the third quarter of last year.

When PC-24 jet deliveries commence at the end of 2017, we can expect to see a sharp increase in revenues for Swiss manufacturer Pilatus, until now a manufacturer of successful turboprop aircraft such as the PC-12. With the HA-420, Honda has secured a position among the top 10 general aviation aircraft manufacturers and is set for continued sales growth in the coming years as production ramps up.  In the years ahead, a number of new large jets will enter the market as well, including Bombardier’s Global 7000/Global 8000 and Dassault’s Falcon 8X. With these product launches, Bombardier and Dassault aim to take market shares from the successful Gulfstream G650.

Recent History & Market Dynamics

The recession from December 2007 to June 2009 had a massive impact on the general aviation aircraft manufacturing industry as the sale of business jets and piston-engine aircraft collapsed. As of 2017, sales are not even close to their 2007 peak levels. From 2007-2010, the global production of general aviation aircraft dropped a staggering 52.8 percent, from 4,276 aircraft in 2007 to 2,020 in 2010. In the United States, manufacturers experienced a 59.3 percent drop in production, from 3,279 units to 1,334, over the same period.

An important reason why deliveries of general aviation aircraft are still way below their 2007 peak levels, both worldwide and in the U.S., is that the price per aircraft has doubled. From 2007 to 2016, the average price of a piston-engine aircraft, which is the most common type, soared from $328,000 to $712,000. That increase is keeping many would-be buyers out of the market. Also, the average price of a business jet rose from $12.5 million to $22.4 million over the same period. At the same time, the average price of turboprops declined from $3.5 million to $2.9 million, resulting in a surge in shipments of this type of aircraft.

The market for general aviation aircraft is highly cyclical, and the small business jet and piston-engine aircraft segments in particular suffer in a down economy. Perhaps surprisingly to some, the large business jet segment emerged unscathed from the 2007-09 recession.

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