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Latest Economic Trends

Businesses and airports that rely on general aviation as well as the manufacturing industry as a whole were hit hard by the economic downturn in 2008. While there are signs that the industry has begun to recover, manufacturing numbers still remain well below 2007 levels and ongoing misperceptions about the value of general aviation continue to fuel calls for companies and operators to scale back operations. Throughout the county, the continued struggle to overcome negative stereotypes and return to pre recession manufacturing levels has had a ripple effect throughout small towns and economies. 

According to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, general aviation shipment numbers increased in 2012 compared to 2011. However, the value of these general aviation shipments declined during this same time period.  In 2012, general aviation shipments totaled 2,133, up from 2,120 in 2011, with billings totaling $18.9 billion down from $19.0 billion during the same period. While general aviation manufacturing industry shows signs of recovery and growth, these figures still remain far below figures prior to the economic downturn.

General Aviation Manufacturing Looks to Recover

As a result of the economic down turn, general aviation production remains below pre-2007 levels.

  • According to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) 2011 General Aviation Statistical Databook & Industry Outlook, general aviation airplane shipments by type manufactured worldwide still remain below 2007 levels (2007 – 4,276, 2011 – 2,133; -49.9%).[1]
  • The increase in general aviation shipments in 2012 have continued into 2013. During the first six months of 2013, general aviation airplane shipments increased 8.9% from the same period in 2012. Manufacturers shipped 1,014 planes, up from 931 during the same six-month period in 2012.
  • According to the GAMA’s 2012 General Aviation Statistical Databook & Industry Outlook, business jet deliveries declined for a fourth consecutive year.  During 2012, 672 business jets were delivered compared to 696 in 2011, a 3.6 percent drop.

The Economic Downturn Resulted in Massive Lay-Offs for General Aviation Manufacturers Across the Country – Over 13,000 Jobs Have Been Lost

In an effort to remain in business, many general aviation manufacturing companies have been forced to lay-off thousands of workers.  As a result, cities like Wichita, KS and Savannah, GA have seen their workforce affected most dramatically.

  • In July 2013, Wichita-based Spirit AeroSystems announced layoffs of 360 salaried support and management employees at their Kansas and Oklahoma facilities. [2]
  • On May 2013, Cessna laid off about 100 salaried, non-union workers following a weak demand for aircraft in the light-jet segment during the first quarter. [3] Previously, Cessna announced 700 layoffs in September 2010 due to weakness in new aircraft orders.  The company, which had 8,600 employees at the time of the announcement, at one point employed 16,000 people back in November of 2008.
  • With a reported loss of $632.8 million in 2011, Hawker Beechcraft has seen a 7.5% drop in general aviation shipments from 2010 to 2011.[4] After continued losses, on May 3, 2012 Hawker Beechcraft was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
  • Eclipse Aircraft, a prominent Very Light Jet manufacturer, was first going to be bought out by a Russian bank on January 23, 2009, to be completed on January 30, 2009.  However, the deal fell through because the bank became insolvent, and Eclipse announced Chapter 11 bankruptcy and subsequent Chapter 7 liquidation on February 24, 2009.[5]
  • Air-tax service DayJet shut down operations and filed for Chapter 7 liquidation on September 18, 2008.[6]
  • Bombardier reduced its 10-year business jet delivery forecast by 15%.  The company states that “the industry for new business aircraft will face challenges of a negative public perception about the use of private planes and a difficult economic climate”.[7] During the first quarter of 2012, Bombardier delivered 5 Wichita –built business jets, down from 13 in the first quarter of 2011.
  • At the end of 2011, Piper Aircraft Inc. completed it’s series of layoffs, reducing its workforce to about 700, having laid off 120 regular employees.[8]
  • November 2011 saw Sikorsky Aircraft Corp. announce the lay off of 3 percent of its work force due to a weak economy.
  • On March 8, 2009, Gulfstream laid off 1,200 workers and furloughed an additional 1,500 jobs for 5 weeks.  The company is the largest employer in Savannah, with over 6,000 employees in Georgia alone, and has facilities in Texas, Wisconsin, and California. [9]
  • Wichita, KS aviation companies are laying-off at least 9,000 people. The fallout from those cuts could cost this city 25,000 more jobs, according to National Public Radio. [10]

Economic Recession Being Felt At Airports Across the Country; Turbine Operations are Down 

  • The economic recession came on the heels of near-record level prices for aviation fuel.  Robert Olislagers at Centennial Airport in Colorado stated, “Of the four FBO’s that operate out of my airport, two have told me that their margins have greatly diminished as they try to absorb the almost daily increases… Aircraft operators in turn will have to either absorb the cost or pass it on to their customers and there is evidence that some charter customers have stopped flying altogether. The ripple effect undermines everyone, including the communities that depend on them.”
  • Friedman Memorial Airport Manager Rick Baird stated, “We, like probably any airport in the country right now, are experiencing a reduction in operations…The economy’s bad, and people are using their aircraft less.”  Overall, traffic at the airport has been down 25 to 30 percent in the past year.[11]
  • According to the Austin Business Journal, general aviation operations dropped 19% in 2008.[12]
  • The Charlotte Observer states, “Federal statistics show a significant decline in flying. In November and December, the Charlotte airport had 4,226 general aviation takeoffs and landings – down 25 percent from the same period a year earlier.”[13]
  • According to the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission, fuel sales at Hector International Airport in Fargo, ND were down at 40% at in the winter of 2009.  Additionally, airport operations at the same airport were down 13% from 2004.[14]

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