This first appeared as a Comment in the 13 May issue of Flight International
Of course, we’ve been here before. Ever since the global financial crisis knocked the stuffing from the business aviation sector, industry observers have searched mostly in vain for signs of recovery – whether Fortune 500 firms’ growing cash reserves, a slowing in the inventory of used jets or the opening of China’s skies.
Although things have long stopped getting worse, the recovery is faltering, and orders and shipments remain well below the giddy totals of the mid-noughties.
As we approach EBACE, however, there is – whisper it – some encouraging evidence. Shipments of business jets are up almost one-fifth, year on year, in quarter one. That is mostly down to demand for large-cabin, long range types, which was less affected by the downturn.
However, the companies behind two of the biggest light to mid-size jet brands – Textron and Bombardier – have also reported that at their end of the spectrum, market conditions are improving – although not by enough to spark a surge in orders, yet.
The most encouraging sign is that airframers – which have been through huge pain – have held their nerve and continued with product development, even at the lighter end. We will see some of that in Geneva.
The underlying reasons that make business aircraft a smart business tool – time-saving, privacy and security – have not gone away. Manufacturers know that at some point the customer – new and lapsed – will return.