Aug. 5--The painful year for the makers of general aircraft can be quantified in the numbers released Tuesday by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association.
General aviation shipments in the first half of 2009 were 45.9 percent below those of the first half of 2008, from 1,918 to 1,037, according to GAMA.
Industry billings were down 22.7 percent in the first half, to a total of $9.26 billion.
The declines were a function of disappearing disposable incomes by small-business owners and wealthy plane enthusiasts, by falling corporate profits and by the yearlong credit crunch, said Katie Pribyl, GAMA's communications director.
Planemakers in Wichita saw similar declines in shipments and billings.
Cessna recorded billings of $1.2 billion in the first half, compared with $2.2 billion in the same period of 2008. That's a drop of more than 45 percent.
Hawker Beechcraft had billings of $773.7 million in the first half, compared with $1 billion, a 26 percent decline.
Bombardier also saw its billings fall, but the association does not release specific figures for the Wichita-made Learjet models.
The steepest declines occurred among piston-engine planes, which fell 58 percent from the first six months of 2008.
Business jet shipments totaled 412 units, a 37.9 percent decrease from the 663 units delivered during this same period last year.
GAMA chief executive Pete Bunce said the plunge in aircraft sales may be bottoming out.
Flight hours are stabilizing, used inventories are starting to shrink, and plane companies are starting to hear renewed interest from customers, Bunce said.
Also, he said that the accelerated depreciation, passed by Congress earlier this year, appears to be stimulating some new orders.
Some experts say it takes two years after corporate profits start growing again for companies to begin ordering jets. Corporate profits started growing again in the first quarter, but it's hard to say whether that is a trend.
It's hard to call the bottom of the plunge, but the indicators appear positive, Pribyl said.
"We may have seen the bottom, but we're not positive," she said.
Reach Dan Voorhis at 316-268-6577 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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