A tale of two industries

This first appeared as a Comment in the 7 May issue of Flight International:

Size certainly matters when it comes to the fortunes of business jet manufacturers during the past four years. Demand for super-midsize types and larger has remained robust since the start of the global financial crisis; that for medium, light and very-light aircraft sluggish or worse.

For those in the latter segments, it is difficult to detect any light at the end of the tunnel, and there is a serious question over whether these segments are victim to a permanent structural shift in market demand.

Citations, Learjets and Hawkers – for decades the workhorses of the North American corporate world – and a new breed of very-light and personal jets which promised to smash entry barriers to business aviation have simply not taken off in the markets that matter: Asia, the CIS, Middle East and Africa.

Meanwhile, demand for these types of aircraft in their backyards is struggling to recover, partly due to a glut of for-sale signs on unwanted, nearly-new jets because makers were slow to put the brakes on production lines as the downturn deepened.

As a time machine for busy executives, the business case for the compact business jet remains compelling. Their manufacturers must be hoping that – as spending power and corporate confidence return in the West and newer markets broaden their tastes beyond large-cabin status symbols – that message gets through.


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