The depth of the downturn in business aviation has become apparent with the release of figures that show business jet deliveries fell 42% in the first quarter. Overall, worldwide shipments of general aviation aircraft fell 16.4% in the first three months of the year, to 444 units, says the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA).

First quarter shipments of piston-powered aircraft were stable at 315 units, while turboprop deliveries declined 32.6% to 31 aircraft. Only 98 business jets were delivered in the first quarter, down from 196 in the first quarter of last year. Contributing to the decline was Bombardier's decision to book Learjet sales on delivery of completed, rather than green, aircraft, which meant no shipments were recorded for the first quarter.

Piston shipments were propped up by the continued ramp-up in production at Cirrus Design, which delivered 90 SR20/22s in the first quarter, compared with 60 a year earlier. Production increased slightly at Cessna, Mooney and OMF, and Australia's Gippsland was included in GAMA's totals for the first time. New Piper delivered fewer pistons, and expects to produce between 200 and 250 aircraft this year - down from 290 in 2002.

Raytheon shipped four King Airs in the first quarter, compared with 12 a year earlier. The company is forecasting deliveries of 69 turboprops this year, up slightly from 2002. Turboprop shipments were down slightly at Cessna, EADS Socata, Piaggio, Pilatus and Piper.

Learjet shipments aside, Bombardier's business jet shipments fell to 11 aircraft in the first quarter, from 19 a year earlier. The company is expected to deliver about 70 aircraft this year, down from 108 in 2002. Cessna Citation deliveries fell from 60 to 49, and the company expects to deliver 195 business jets this year, down from 305 in 2002. The biggest reduction is due to cancellations by fractional-ownership operator NetJets. Dassault Falcon shipments dropped from 17 to eight.

Gulfstream first quarter deliveries slid to 15 from 27 a year earlier. It expects to produce 75 aircraft this year, down from 85 in 2002. Raytheon has removed 14 Hawker 800XPs for NetJets from its backlog. First quarter business jet shipments were down to 14 from 20 a year earlier.

Source: Flight International