Clobbered by the economy and by extremely poor public perceptions that began when those three Detroit CEOs swanned into Washington on their corporate jets demanding taxpayer bailouts last November, the business aviation industry has now had a frightening look at how badly things can go wrong, and how quickly.
Deliveries of general aviation airplanes fell 41.1 percent, to 462 planes, in the first quarter (compared with the 2008 first quarter), says the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. Industry billings fell 18.2 percent to $4.34 billion.
This from the trade group's chief executive, Pete Bunce:
"We are dealing first and foremost with the severe negative effects of a worldwide economic downturn, but also with unwarranted criticism focused on the industry. The result has been the cancellation of orders for new airplanes and the loss of more than 15,000 high-paying jobs for American workers over the last several months. The reality is that the U.S. general aviation industry leads the world in innovation and remains one of the few American industries with a positive balance of trade."
We're not just talking about business jets here. Deliveries of piston airplanes fell was down 55.1 percent in the first quarter. Turboprops -- increasingly popular as trade-downs by corporate flight departments who are afraid of public perceptions with jets, actually grew slightly, with deliveries up 3.4 percent.
Business jet deliveries fell 35.7 percent, to 191 airplanes compared to 297 business jets in the first quarter of 2008.