Even as the industry rushes to ramp up supply chain, some jet makers worry about a bubble.
Manufacturers of private business jets are encountering a problem of plenty. Demand pickup has been faster than expected as domestic and international skies open up following easing of travel restrictions. As economies revive after the prolonged COVID-induced slump, so too has business travel. Traffic has risen past 2019 levels and some experts predict that business flight hours in 2021 might be 50 per cent more than that in 2020.
Not surprisingly, order books of prominent private jet manufacturers like VistaJet, General Dynamics, Bombardier, Dassault, and Textron Aviation are swelling. The buzz at the ongoing 2021 NBAA Business Aviation Convention & Exhibition (NBAA-BACE) in Las Vegas, USA, is that they expect to sell up to 7,000 business jets this year at attractive prices. But it’s not all hunky-dory. Supply chain challenges are showing up. Companies that pruned investments and laid off pilots in 2020 are scrambling to restore both. While the ramp-up plays out, private jet makers have had to prune their services to maintain service levels.
As most of the industry tries to get its act together in nervous excitement, a few manufacturers are wary. They hark back to the halcyon days of 2008 when 1,300 business jets were delivered. But the global economic crash of that year resulted in expensive inventory that remained largely unsold. The jet manufacturing business is hugely capital-intensive.