World General Aviation Aircraft Shipments Up 5% in 2017 – Revenues Slip

U.S. Manufacturers Deliver 529 Aircraft in Fourth Quarter – Up 20 Units from Q4 2016

by J. Kasper Oestergaard, European Correspondent, Forecast International.

In 2017, for the fifth consecutive year, Gulfstream was the largest general aviation aircraft manufacturer in the world by revenues. The company delivered 120 business jets worth a total of $6.6 billion. Photo: Gulfstream Aerospace Corp

According to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), in the fourth quarter of 2017, manufacturers worldwide reported higher deliveries than in 4Q 2016, but on lower revenue. Fixed-wing general aviation aircraft manufacturers delivered 792 aircraft worldwide in Q4 2017, up 4.6 percent from 757 in Q4 2016. Revenues declined 3.0 percent to $7.3 billion, mainly due to lower revenues reported by Bombardier and Embraer.

U.S. manufacturers delivered 529 aircraft in Q4 2017, up from 509 in Q4 2016 – a 3.9 percent increase in shipments. U.S. manufacturers accounted for 67 percent of worldwide shipments in the fourth quarter (same as in Q4 2016).


In Q4 2017, the Cirrus SR22T (piston) was the most popular fixed-wing general aviation aircraft for the third consecutive quarter with 59 units delivered (+22 from Q4 2016). The Cessna CE-172S Skyhawk SP (piston) took second place with 54 shipments – up from 38 in Q4 2016, followed by the Cirrus SR22 (piston) with 48 units delivered (+5 from 43 in Q4 2016). In fourth place is the PC-12 manufactured by Swiss company Pilatus Aircraft, ahead of the Piper PA-28-181 Archer III (piston), the Embraer Phenom 300 (jet), Gulfstream’s G450 / G550 / G650, the Bombardier Challenger 350 (jet), and Cessna’s CE-182T Skylane (piston) and CE-680A Citation Latitude (jet). For the full-year 2017, the Cirrus SR22T is also in the lead with 174 shipments, ahead of the SR22 (135 deliveries) and Cessna’s CE-172S Skyhawk SP (129).

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 Q4 2017 with total sales of $1.7 billion (up 5.9% from the same period last year). Gulfstream has been the world’s largest general aviation aircraft manufacturer by revenue since 2013. In second place is Bombardier (#1 in 2012) with Q4 2017 sales of $1.6 billion, down 10.3 percent from Q4 2016. Textron Aviation (Cessna + Beechcraft) is the overall leader by units sold but only ranks third by revenue with $935 million in Q4 2017, down from $963 million in the fourth quarter last year.

On February 7, 2018, Swiss manufacturer Pilatus delivered its first-ever PC-24 business jet, and the company’s revenues can be expected to sharply increase in 2018. Until now, Pilatus has been a successful manufacturer of turboprop aircraft such as the PC-12. The first PC-24 was delivered to fractional ownership provider PlaneSense. PlaneSense has six PC-24s on order and has been a Pilatus customer for 22 years. The company currently operates a fleet of 36 PC-12 turboprops.

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 coming years, a number of new large jets will also enter the market, 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 Gulfstream’s G650 and G650ER.

Recent History & Market Dynamics

The recession from December 2007 to June 2009 had a massive impact on the general aviation aircraft manufacturing industry as sales of business jets and piston-engine aircraft collapsed; as of 2017, they 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 2017, the average price of a piston-engine aircraft, the most common type, soared from $328,000 to $662,000. That increase is keeping many would-be buyers out of the market. Also, the average price of a business jet has increased to $26.6 million, from $12.5 million, over the same period. At the same time, the average price of turboprops has declined from $3.5 million to $2.6 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. However, and perhaps surprisingly to some, the large business jet segment emerged unscathed from the 2007-09 recession.

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