The worst is over for business aviation after a "brutal" 12 months since the last NBBA show, but recovery in 2010 will be slow, according to Cessna chief executive Jack Pelton.

The sector's biggest manufacturer by volume has been one of the worst hit, shedding half of its 16,000 employees this year and dropping output from a planned 500-plus aircraft to fewer than 300. Production next year will fall further.

However, Pelton said the cuts had been necessary and had equipped the Wichita-based company to operate profitably and match output to demand for the next two years.

Pelton pointed to "good indicators" in the market. Used aircraft inventories are falling and prices have stabilised in the past few months. "Phones are starting to ring and this is giving us solace," he said.

"I'm far from ready to call it a turnaround, but we do continue to see some encouraging developments".

Roger Whyte, senior vice-president of sales and marketing, echoed his boss's cautious optimism. "Liquidity has returned and banks are now looking for opportunities to invest. In September we saw strong retail sales on our single-engined aircraft", he said.

He added that the number of used Citations for sale had decreased in September for the fourth month running, and fuel companies were reporting strong sales to the general aviation community.

Pelton also left the door open for a relaunch of the large-cabin Columbus, which was suspended and then formally cancelled earlier this year. The cancellation was made for contractual reasons, but he said Cessna's biggest model is "still on our planning horizon" for when the market eventually recovers.

Cessna also launched at the show a service offering call-out maintenance to operators' premises. Called ServiceDirect, the program brings "Cessna service to the customer, changing not only the types of service we provide but also how we provide it", says Mark Paolucci, senior vice-president customer service.

Source: Flight Daily News