On the Rise

 

On the Rise by Chris Reynolds   As summer continues to slip towards Labor Day, one of aviation’s most anticipated gatherings is on short final. AirVenture in Oshkosh is here. Regardless of GDP charts or economists pointing to an end of the worst recession in recent memory, for most people, it is still quite prevalent. Although GDP grew a positive 3 percent in the first quarter of 2010, that growth was about half as fast as the fourth quarter of 2009. Unemployment remains a tough topic for many Americans and the aviation industry especially. Wichita, Kan., the self-proclaimed “Air Capital of the World” has lost some 10,000 aviation jobs. A recent announcement from Hawker Beechcraft indicated a possible cut of 75 percent of its workforce — not exactly welcomes news. Even with a sluggish economy and consumers pulling back on discretionary purchases, there seems to be a broader consensus that market stabilization is continuing and some areas are seeing small growth. Reports of serious buyers picking up have been increasing all year, but most dealers still report a slow to average market assessment with lots of interest but still on the soft side. The silver lining appears to be simple. Consumers still want to buy airplanes, but time, condition and price are all key factors. Cessna began deliveries of the long-anticipated Skycatcher in December 2009 and delivered two aircraft to the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) in May 2010 (both will be on display at Oshkosh). With more than 1000 orders for the Skycatcher, Cessna was recently awarded the Piper General Aviation Award by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA). A press release on Cessna’s Web site indicates that the company is working on increasing the LSA deliveries through the remainder of 2010 as well as continuing to work toward European approval for the Skycatcher. The Amphibious Icon A5 LSA that debuted at Oshkosh in 2008 also appears to be enthusiastically awaited. The company required a $100,000 deposit for the Icon A100, and its website has delivery dates for those first 100 customers beginning in the fall of 2011. The standard Icon A5, which required a $5000 deposit, is scheduled to deliver in the fall of 2012 with position No. 500 estimated for 2014. With Oshkosh attendance up more than 10 percent last year versus 2008, keep an eye on this year’s attendance as a measure of the public’s interest in aviation. Regardless, the promising evidence that light sport has seen decent growth during otherwise tough conditions coupled with Cessna and Icon’s order backlogs for their new LSAs highlight the public’s interest. Once the economy returns to a more nominal state, general aviation and the LSA market could be positioned for substantial opportunities.   Chris Reynolds Aircraft Bluebook-Price Digest® 9800 Metcalf Avenue Overland Park, KS 66212 chris.reynolds@aircraftbluebook.com