The Haze Lifts on a New Year as Business Aviation Industry Recovers

A shell-shocked business aviation industry is peeking out from behind the bulwarks and wondering if the lull in gunfire signals the beginning of an end to the battle.


“Flying has picked up again in a meaningful way, which is a good sign for everybody,” said Steve O’Neill, CEO of CitationAir, which announced last month it would be recalling 16 furloughed pilots and accepting its first two Citation Xs by the end of the year.

At Gulfstream Aerospace, senior v-p of sales and marketing Larry Flynn described the previous three months as an “awakening” for both new aircraft sales and services. “In the past two quarters,” said Flynn, “we have seen net positive orders versus cancellations.” He also noted that large-aircraft sales have definitely been stronger.

Looking forward to a recovery with more enthusiasm than at any time since the bottom fell out of the economy in November 2008, Gulfstream has two new aircraft that will be in a good position to take advantage of a healthier market. Both the super-midsize G250 and large-cabin G650 are now in certification flight test. Both are expected to enter service by 2012, which industry observers and analysts seem to agree is the year in which the recovery will begin in earnest. Meanwhile, Gulfstream is moving ahead with plans for a “grand opening” of its new service center in Savannah, Ga., early this year.

A number of analysts are indicating that the recovery has begun.

The UBS Business Jet Update released December 3 forecasts 8- to 10-percent growth in business jet flight activity this year, with a 12- to 14-percent increase in movements for the first half, based on recent trends.

Most recently, ARG/US TraqPak data on business aircraft activity released on December 16 reflected “a continued trend toward recovery.” Activity was up 22.7 percent from November 2008 to November 2009, said the report. “The large-cabin sector led the improvement at 28.1 percent, with the Part 135 market segment showing the strongest overall results at 34.1 percent above November 2008.”