Stroll amid the corporate jets on display at the National Business Aviation Association's annual convention outside Las Vegas and you'll see a troubled industry trying to regain momentum after a crushing four-year run.
"In some economies we're doing well, some economies, not so well. Europe, as an example, we have actually seen a dramatic tailoff in business activity. So I think it's a spotted world," said Steven Ridolfi, president of Bombardier Business Aircraft.
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Bombardier and other jet makers are hoping, and cautiously optimistic 2013 is when their industry finally turns the corner. In its annual forecast for corporate jets, Honeywell forecasted industry sales will grow by 8 percent this year and top $18.4 billion.
"It [business jet sales] probably is the best that it has been since prerecession, but we're nowhere near where we were back at the market peak in 2007, 2008," said Ed Bolen, the association's president. "We're well off the bottom, but we're not quite back to the top."
Uncertainty weighing on customers
Executives who sell these business jets to other executives said the number one thing keeping corporations from placing orders for new planes is the uncertainty swirling around the economy and the politics in Washington.
"All the indicators are there to say that business should be better than it is—corporate profits are [at an] all-time high, more high net worth individuals today than have ever existed," said Ernest Edwards, president of Embraer Executive Jets. "What's missing is the lack of confidence, lack of confidence in the world economy, lack of confidence in the domestic economies, and in our business."