HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Private jet sales are rising again, climbing out of a deep recession when the company plane was an easy target for spending cuts.
The chief executive of General Dynamics Corp., maker of Gulfstream jets, says corporate customers are back and wealth creation is bringing out shoppers for private jets. The president of jet engine maker Pratt & Whitney says deliveries for private planes are growing after hitting bottom in 2011.
The improving market has not been universal. Signs of strength have been in large-cabin planes, while sales of small and mid-sized planes stall.
Credit markets also have not fully recovered, making it harder to finance some private-plane purchases.
Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace consultant, compared the industry's uneven improvement with the bumpy economic recovery.
"In its own very high-end way, it mirrors what's going on," he said. "It's the haves and the have-nots, but it's all haves."
General Dynamics CEO Phebe Novakovic told investor analysts in May that corporate customers have returned and "the world has experienced enormous wealth creation," with the rich shopping for planes.
Pratt & Whitney Canada, a business jet engine manufacturer that laid off more than 400 workers in 2009 and 2010 — about 4.5 percent of its workforce — has a "very solid pipeline of products," President Paul Adams told reporters in May. The subsidiary of Hartford-based United Technologies Corp. has "steady growth in product deliveries," he said.
Improvements in the top part of the business — jets costing $26 million or more — have driven the market's recovery, he said. Total business jet deliveries were valued at $20.9 billion in 2013, compared with a peak of $24.7 billion in 2008, Aboulafia said. The industry hit bottom at $18 billion in deliveries in 2012, he said.
Shipments of business jets peaked at 1,313 in 2008 and tumbled to 672 in 2012, a 48 percent drop, according to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association. The number rose in 2013 by a tiny 0.9 percent, but it was the first time in five years that shipments had increased from one year to the next.
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