Business aircraft flying got off to a good–if not spectacular–start this year, increasing by 1.7 percent last month year-over-year, according to TraqPak data released late last week by aviation services company Argus. Part 135 activity rebounded by 13.5 percent from a year ago, marking its fourth consecutive monthly increase after nearly two years of turbulence in this market segment. Part 91 flying slipped last month by 2.4 percent from last January, while activity at the fractional providers dipped 6.3 percent. By aircraft category, midsize jet activity led the pack with 4.1-percent growth year-over-year, followed by light and large-cabin jets at 2.1 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively. Turboprop flying remained “essentially flat,” Argus said, dropping 0.5 percent from a year ago. In individual market segments, there were solid double-digit gains for Part 135 light and midsize jet flying, up from last year by 13.5 percent and 23.5 percent. Part 135 turboprops and large-cabin jets also posted high single-digit gains. Fractional light jets recorded the largest decline, falling 9.6 percent from a year ago. Argus TraqPak data provides “serial-number-specific aircraft arrival and departure information on all IFR flights in the U.S.”
Business aviation analyst Brian Foley believes that the Latin American market has been under-appreciated by the industry. “It currently accounts for 10 percent of all the world’s business jets, and it operates on a somewhat different economic cycle,” he said. While the European general aviation markets are essentially stagnant and the Asian markets appear to be slowing, Latin America “will continue to play a key role in sustaining what has been a troubled industry, hopefully until the U.S. market regains its strength,” he said. According to data from JetNet, the Latin American-based business jet fleet has grown by 10 percent (about 200 airplanes) in the last year, to 2,100 aircraft. Interestingly, Foley said, it was the smallest and the largest jet fleets that gained the most in the region. Very light jets expanded by 20 percent in Latin America over the past year, and large-cabin jets experienced 17-percent growth. Though light and medium jets have previously dominated the Latin American market, they recorded much slower growth last year–less than 10 percent, he said. As for regional market shifts, Foley said Brazil is moderating somewhat, while Mexico is coming back following its elections.
The global business aviation industry is anticipating a modest increase in flight utilization, according to statistics released last week by aviation information services firm JetNet at its second annual iQ Summit in New York City. Based on the results of its most recent quarterly survey of business aviation operators, the company foresees nearly 5-percent growth in flight hours worldwide over the next 12 months and a 7-percent increase in the following 12 months. Half of the survey respondents believe that the industry is currently at the low point in the business cycle, while about 24 percent say business aviation has yet to reach bottom. Those pessimists are about evenly balanced by the remaining 26 percent, who believe the industry is on an upswing. Among the respondents, 36 percent reported that they have delayed the purchase of a new business aircraft since the economic downturn began in 2008. Among the top reasons cited for the delay was uncertainty about the economy or regulatory environment, while nearly 5 percent mentioned the public opinion toward business aviation as a factor in their decision to delay their purchase.
The first quarter “was a mixed bag of results” for the business aircraft pre-owned market, indicating that “recovery still remains elusive,” according to business aviation information firm Amstat. “On the one hand, inventories generally continued to contract, but year-on-year transaction activity remained largely unchanged and average asking prices in many parts of the market continued to face downward pressure,” the Tinton Falls, N.J.-based company said. During the first three months, business jet resale retail transactions were largely flat compared with a year ago, with 2.3 percent of the fleet changing hands. On a consecutive quarter-over-quarter basis, transactions slid by 0.2 percentage points. Amstat also noted that the first-quarter performance was below its 20-year average of 2.9 percent. “The lower transaction activity in Q1 versus Q4 is typical of what we see; however, the flat performance versus Q1 2011 was disappointing and further evidence that we are in a transitional phase in the market cycle,” said Amstat executive vice president Tom Benson. The report also highlighted “incremental but continued improvements” in pre-owned aircraft inventory levels. At the end of the first quarter, 13.8 percent of the business jet fleet was for sale versus 14.2 percent in the same period last year. However, Amstat noted, this percentage represents a slowdown in the inventory contraction seen in previous quarters. Average asking prices for light and medium jets have continued to erode, though Amstat has seen “some stability” in large-cabin jet prices.
Business aircraft flying activity in the U.S. fell 2.2 percent in December, compared with a year ago, according to TraqPak data released this week by aviation services company Argus. While Part 91 flying remained in positive territory with a 2.1-percent increase over December 2010, it was not enough to offset the declines of 3.6 percent and 8.4 percent, respectively, at the fractional and charter providers. This also marks the 11th consecutive month of lower flying activity at Part 135 operators. Aircraft category results were generally negative for December; all segments, with the exception of light jets, posted year-over-year decreases. Large-cabin jets, down 6.3, led the decline, followed by turboprops (-2.4 percent) and midsize jets (-2.3 percent). Light jets eked just a 0.6-percent rise in flying activity from December 2010. Looking at individual market segments, Part 91 light jets showed a significant improvement over December 2010 with a 9.4-percent climb; meanwhile, Part 135 jet flying reported the largest drops, with activity sinking in each segment by between 11.1 percent and 12.8 percent. Argus TraqPak data “is serial-number-specific aircraft arrival and departure information on all IFR flights in the U.S.”
The Obama Administration has notified NBAA that it will continue to have a seat on the Transportation Security Administration’s Aviation Security Advisory Committee (Asac), along with 24 other industry stakeholder groups. TSA Administrator John Pistole recently noted the “vital role” the Asac plays in balancing real-world security concerns with workable implementation of policy proposals. “In previous administrations, TSA officials have valued Asac in helping address a number of general aviation security issues,” said NBAA vice president for safety, security and regulation Doug Carr. “We are pleased that the current leadership at the TSA and [the Department of Homeland Security] intends to continue including a business aviation representative on the Asac, and we are confident that federal security officials will benefit from the group’s expertise and experience.” The Asac evolved from the original civil aviation security committee, formed in the wake of the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, in December 1988. While NBAA had been a member during past administrations, the November 7 notice from the TSA was the first announcement confirming the committee’s membership during the current administration.
Gus Lira, Vice President of JetOptions, tells us that according to NBAA, the Transportation Security Administration is pushing to issue a new proposed business aircraft security program by year-end. The TSA told the association that the new proposal will be “markedly different” from the Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP) released in October 2008. That proposal was skewered by the business aviation community, which charged that the TSA is oblivious as to how this segment operates. The new proposal, which will not be called LASP, still needs to be reviewed and approved by the Department of Homeland Security and the Office of Management and Budget before being published for public comment. “TSA heard our concerns about the most egregious elements of the original LASP proposal,” said Doug Carr, NBAA vice president for safety, security and regulation. Those concerns included the low aircraft weight threshold (12,500 pounds); the prohibited items list, which would have prevented companies from carrying tools and other items related to their business; and the requirements for third-party auditors and armed security guards onboard business airplanes, even when passengers are well known by crews. Carr expects the new proposal to have a “trusted pilot” element, since this appears in all of the TSA’s other security programs. He said he also understands that the new proposal will reflect more of a risk-based approach to security.