Gulfstream is seeing signs of a business-aviation recovery, taking 34 new orders in the fourth quarter of last year - 26 for large business jets. Parent company General Dynamics (GD) says Gulfstream delivered 74 aircraft last year, down from 94 in 2002, and is to deliver 75 this year.

Excluding fractional activity, orders last year totalled 78 aircraft - 57 large and 21 mid-size business jets, the same as in 2002 - but there were 12 cancellations, up from six a year earlier, for a net total of 66 firm orders. In addition, fractional customer NetJets cancelled seven orders last year, after placing 55 orders in 2002.

Two-thirds of new orders - but only one-third of cancellations - came in the second half of last year, says GD, ending a year-long dip in sales. Gulfstream ended 2003 with seven unsold aircraft, all mid-size G100/G200s, compared with 23 a year earlier.

GD chairman and chief executive Nick Chabraja says Gulfstream's planned 2004 production of 55 large and 20 mid-sized aircraft is 70% sold out, with no completed G400/G450 or G500/G550 large business jets available until 2005.

The company was concerned the launch of the G450 would kill sales of the G400, but Gulfstream now holds deposits or letters of intent for the final four G400s. The first five G450s are set to be delivered in the fourth quarter. Gulfstream has yet to book any firm orders for the G450, but is in negotiations on all five aircraft, says Chabraja.

Gulfsteam sold 31 pre-owned aircraft for a $61 million loss last year, compared with an $81 million loss selling 36 used aircraft in 2002. The company has $229 million in trade-in commitments, $120 million due this year and the balance in 2005.

Source: Flight International