A top Rockwell Collins executive predicts another flat year for business jet sales, with a return to growth in the aftermarket, leading the sector back into health after a three-year decline.

"Year to date, we're seeing double-digit increase in utilization of the business jets out there, which will drive some level of our aftermarket maintenance repair and overhaul business," says Kent Statler, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Rockwell Collins commercial systems.

"As some people look to update their fleets as profitability continues to improve, we'll see retrofits continue to improve throughout 2011," Statler adds. "But on the OEM side of new deliveries, we think the number of planes delivered in the marketplace will be relatively flat with no appreciable increase until 2012."

An exception to the flat sales projection for new aircraft is on the high-end of the market, Statler says, where the largest business jets continue to exceed the industry standard.

"High-wealth individuals really are the predominant users of that high-end - that, and corporations," Statler says. "I think if you look at corporate profitability, it has rebounded and it has continued to be strong."

Those trends have posted favourable results for Rockwell's ProLine Fusion avionics suite, which is being introduced on Bombardier's Global Express XRS and the Cessna Citation CJ4.

"There's a remarkable amount of discussion and formal request for proposals from OEMs across the board in the business jet market, which is a little counter-intuitive," he says. "But I think they know because they've been through these cycles before that at the very low point of the market, where you have to be investing because the market will come back and the last thing you want to be is with a platform that's out of date.

"So we are seeing a tremendous amount of activity in new development, new potential launches across all of our OEMs as they position for just the inherent recovery that will happen over the next few years," Statler says.

Source: Flight Daily News