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ANALYSIS: Shipment hike boosts first-half business jet billings

Business and general aviation manufacturers saw half-year billings climb by $1 billion year on year, as output increased across the industry, with the lucrative jet market registering its strongest performance for five years.

In its latest industry review, released on 12 August, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) recorded deliveries of 1,116 aircraft, valued at $9 billion, in the six months ended 30 June. This compares with 1,033 aircraft, worth $8 billion, in the same period a year earlier.

Business jet deliveries rose by 12.5% year on year, to 316 units, compared with 281 shipments in the first six months of 2018, GAMA data shows. This marks the strongest first half for the segment since 2014, when 318 business jets were delivered.

Key to the performance, is the production ramp-up for the Pilatus PC-24. Deliveries of the superlight twin began in February 2018 and three examples were handed over in the first half of that year, rising to 16 for the first six months of 2019. Pilatus expects to deliver 40 of the type over the course of 2019.

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Cirrus Aircraft, another company making its debut in the jet market, recorded a 24% rise in deliveries of the SF50 Vision Jet over the period, growing from 25 to 31 units. With a backlog for the single-engined type approaching 600 aircraft, the Duluth, Minnesota-based airframer is preparing to ship 80 Vision Jets in 2019, before reaching full-rate production in 2020 of 100 aircraft.

Embraer’s output rose over the first six months from 31 to 36 aircraft, GAMA data shows. While the increase is almost entirely as a result of an increase in Phenom 300E shipments – from 17 to 21 aircraft – the report also records the first delivery of the Praetor 600 during the period. The super-midsize Legacy 500 derivative was launched in 2018 alongside its midsize stablemate, the Legacy 450-based Praetor 500. That aircraft secured Brazilian certification on 13 August and is scheduled for service entry in the second half.

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Embraer

Rival Textron Aviation shipped 90 Cessna Citation-series business jets between January and June, six more than the same period last year. The strongest performers were the CJ4 and Latitude, with shipments climbing from 13 to 16 units, and from 24 to 27 units, respectively.

GAMA's report lists the final delivery in the first quarter of the Citation X+ after a 23-year run. The Mach 0.935 twin has been replaced in the product line by the slower but larger-cabin Longitude, for which Textron has a substantial order backlog. Service entry for the flagship super-midsize twin is expected during the third quarter.

Strong demand for the clean-sheet G500 helped to boost Gulfstream's output from 52 aircraft in the first six months of 2018, to 65 units this year. The airframer has delivered over 20 of the super-large-cabin business jets since the type entered service in September. It was joined in service in August by its longer-range stablemate, the G600, and the airframer is now accelerating production of both models to keep pace with demand.

Bombardier will also boost its output of high-end models this year, on the back of new aircraft programmes. The Canadian airframer had a lacklustre six months, recording shipments of 59 Challenger 650/350s, Global-series aircraft, and Learjet 70/75s, against 65 units the previous year, GAMA data shows. Its flagship model, the Global 7500, entered service in December 2018 and while only two units were shipped between January and June, Bombardier has targeted deliveries of up to 20 examples in 2019, from a backlog of around 110 aircraft.

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Bombardier

Continued weak demand for the Learjet family, persuaded the Canadian airframer earlier this year to revamp, reposition and rebrand its entry-level product in an effort to boost sales. The newly named Liberty 75 is scheduled for certification and service entry in 2020.

Dassault is hoping its in-development, super-wide-cabin 6X will have a positive effect on its Falcon output, as fierce competition at the top end of the market resulted in a flat six-month performance. Although GAMA's report does not include Falcon shipments – the French airframer will release delivery numbers as part of its half-year earnings on 4 September – Cirium's Fleets Analyzer records 16 deliveries for the period – five for the flagship 8X, four 7Xs, one large-cabin 900LX, and six 2000LXS jets – against 15 shipments during the same period last year.

At the top end of the market, the Airbus ACJ320neo has made its GAMA debut, with two examples of the re-engined narrowbody delivered to their owners in the first quarter. The initial aircraft was handed over in January to UK luxury charter company Acropolis Aviation and is now undergoing cabin outfitting at AMAC Aerospace's completion centre in Basel, Switzerland. Redelivery is scheduled for the end of the year. Comlux Aviation received its ACJ320neo in March and the narrowbody is now being outfitted by sister company Comlux Completions, for redelivery in 2020.

The turboprop sector was the worst performer during the first six months of the year, GAMA data shows, with output falling by 11%, from 260 to 233 units. Piper's M600 accounts for more than 50% of the slide, with deliveries falling from 15 units in the first half of 2018 to only one aircraft this year.

The airframer says the low output follows "a very busy fourth-quarter delivery period" for its flagship turbine-single and points to a "very strong" backlog; deliveries will ramp up again in the second half, it says. Lagging demand for agricultural aircraft also resulted in a 12-unit fall in Air Tractor output during the period, to 54 units.

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Piper Aircraft

In contrast, the piston-engined sector was the industry's strongest performer. Thanks to the growing global market for single- and twin-engined training aircraft, deliveries climbed by over 15% year on year, to 567 from 498 aircraft. Gains were made by several airframers: Diamond saw shipments of its DA series of singles and twins nearly double from 53 to 98 units; Tecnam delivered 106 aircraft – five more than last year – including the first two P2012 Travellers; while Cirrus Aircraft shipped 203 of its SR series of high-performance singles, compared with 190 over the first six months of 2018. The SR22 accounted for the bulk of Cirrus's deliveries.

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