A rebound in the small and medium-size business jet market is expected this year and could be good news for Wichita, which manufactures the aircraft.
An upswing has been predicted a few times in the past five years, and experts say increasing consumer confidence and low oil prices point to probable growth in the industry.
“2015 is the first year people are going to say, ‘Wow. There’s a recovery,’” said Rolland Vincent with Rolland Vincent Consultants. He forecasts that sales will grow to nearly 800 planes this year, up from the 715 planes he expects will be the final figure for 2014.
Richard Aboulafia with Teal Group projects orders to increase to around 770 jets this year after topping out at 650 for 2014. He adds that nearly 50 jetliners and regional jets probably will be converted to business aircraft this year.
Aboulafia said he is “extremely optimistic” that Wichita will benefit from a likely turnaround. Bombardier Learjet and Textron Aviation, which includes Cessna Aircraft and Beechcraft, have plants there.
Vincent thinks orders will plateau in 2019 with about 1,000 units delivered, partly because analysts “don’t have a good understanding of what the manufacturers are going to be doing and what the engine manufacturers are going to be doing.”
Looking even further ahead, Vincent said there is a need for more pilots in the industry. He said flight training and getting a pilot’s license are expensive.
“Technology is not very affordable for a lot of people,” Vincent said. “I think it’s limiting the pipeline of talent coming into the industry and limiting the number of pilots.”