General Dynamics officials have indirectly acknowledged weak sales for Gulfstream's newest mid-cabin business jet, the G250, but are confident orders will rebound before the aircraft nears its service entry date in late 2011.
"I'm confident, if you look at the market and the movement we're starting to see - even in the mid-cabin prior-owned sales and white tails - that by the time we get to where orders are really important to the 250, we're going to be in the sweet spot," says General Dynamics chief executive Jay Johnson.
During the roll-out of the G250 at Gulfstream's mid-cabin production partner, Israeli Aerospace Industries' facility on 6 October, IAI officials said that there were just nine orders so far for the $24 million eight- to 10-passenger twinjet.
Johnson, discussing General Dynamics' third quarter earnings, says that the mid-cabin market continues to be "unsettled" and represents most of the defaults Gulfstream is receiving, although he has not provided numbers.
Overall, mid-cabin activity "represents a small portion of Gulfstream sales and earnings", he says.
Johnson says Gulfstream may further reduce its G150 and G200 mid-cabin output from the planned 24 aircraft scheduled for this year.
By contrast, the company's large-cabin business is fairing quite well. Johnson says the book-to-bill ratio is 1.5, and that production is sold out for all models in 2010 and is sold out further for certain models through 2012.
Overall sales for the third quarter were down $295 million to $1.1 billion, in large part due to a planned five-week furlough at Gulfstream's large-cabin production plant in Savannah, says Johnson, who adds that the company is on schedule to meet its planned goal of building 73 large-cabin aircraft this year, down from 94 in 2008.
Output for 2010 will also be "in the low 70s", but with "some potential upside".