US industry has posted record sales of $155 billion this year, but forecasts a $6 billion decline next year, largely because of a drop in commercial aircraft shipments, says the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA).

The AIA end-of-year performance analysis predicts that civil transport exports should start rising again in 2001 and 2002 when the Asian market strengthens.

The lobby group says its members posted record profits of $11 billion for the year, the fourth year in a row the industry has earned profits in excess of $7 billion.

The end-of-the-century boom has been fuelled largely by the civil-aircraft sector, particularly large commercial transports, sales of which have risen $2.3 billion to about $38 billion this year. General aviation also saw rising sales during the year, with billings projected to eclipse last year's record of $5.6 billion by $1.4 billion. Civil helicopter sales dropped by $80 million to $172 million.

AIA's analysis also shows gains in military aircraft sales, from $34.1 billion last year to $35.8 billion in 1999. US Department of Defense (DoD) aircraft procurement rose from $14 billion in fiscal year 1996 to $16 billion this year. Increased foreign sales of fighter aircraft and military rotorcraft helped the rise.

Commercial space activities generated $7 billion in sales, up by $962 million from 1998, despite a 41% drop in exports. AIA says spacecraft sales are projected to drop from last year's $670 million to $395 million this year because of unfavourable US export licensing requirements.

AIA predictions for next year foresee sales to the DoD rising by $2.3 billion, to $46 billion, as the Pentagon spending shifts from research and development to aircraft procurement.

Shipments of US-made civil aircraft are expected to total 3,300 units, including 480 large civil transports, worth $37 billion.

Source: Flight International