While other segments of the general aviation industry remain strong, a slowing U.S. economy is continuing to hurt the sale of piston-powered aircraft, new figures released last week show.
Piston aircraft deliveries in the first six months of the year fell 16 percent from the same period a year ago, according to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, a Washington trade group.
That continues a trend from 2007, where overall piston sales declined year-over-year for the first time since 2002.
"A lot of it is obviously fuel prices and the economy," said GAMA spokeswoman Katie Pribyl.
At Cessna Aircraft, which builds more piston-powered planes than any other company, deliveries of its 172, 182 and 206 models fell 16 percent in the first half of the year. The planes are built at its Independence plant.
Cessna delivered 278 single-engine piston planes in the past six months, down from 332 a year ago.
At Cirrus Design in Duluth, Minn., one of Cessna´s competitors, deliveries fell 11 percent in the first half of the year.
Cessna officials attribute the softening market to higher fuel prices and concern by buyers about committing discretionary income in an uncertain economic environment, said Cessna spokesman Doug Oliver in a statement.
"On the other hand, the training market around the world continues to be fairly robust, and we have made some large fleet sales with our 172 model this year," Oliver said.
The softening in the piston market, however, is not an indicator of what could happen in the business jet market, said Teal Group analyst Richard Aboulafia.
The piston aircraft market, for the most part, encompasses mainly North America. The market for business jets and turboprops is much more global.
Worldwide deliveries of business jets are up 39 percent this year. And turboprop deliveries are up 19 percent.
"What´s saving the business jet industry from a downturn right now is internationalization," Aboulafia said.