WASHINGTON - The US economy may be coming in for a landing, but the demand for private jets is still flying high.
The bustling economies of China and India, and newfound oil wealth in countries such as Russia, have helped keep sales of small executive jets strong. Despite the weakening of corporate profits in the United States, North American plane makers are reporting record orders, many of them from overseas.
"There is a lot of demand worldwide," said Raymond Jaworowski, an aerospace analyst with the market research firm Forecast International in Newtown, Conn.
Overall demand for jets is expected to remain strong in the coming years, said Jaworowski, who forecasts nearly 15,000 business jets worth a total of $192 billion will be sold industrywide over the next decade.
New planes may be in the works to satisfy companies hoping to free top brass from the hassle of commercial air travel. Some analysts expect General Dynamics Corp., the owner of Gulfstream Aerospace Corp., to reveal plans as early as this week for its largest plane yet, a jet that could carry about 20 people across the Pacific Ocean on one tank of fuel.
General Dynamics would not comment on speculation about its new jet, but the company plans an event Thursday at its Gulfstream facility in Charleston, S.C., that it said will affect "the future of the business-aviation industry."
The North American market has traditionally been the biggest consumer of private jets, but Falls Church, Va.-based General Dynamics said 2007 orders for Gulfstream jets overseas surpassed its North American totals for the first time. The company sold its first large-cabin jet in China last month.
Canada's Bombardier Inc. said earlier this year that it had a record 452 orders in its fiscal year ended Jan. 31, up from 274 in 2006.
Wichita, Kan.-based Hawker Beechcraft Corp. said the Chinese business-aircraft operator Deer Jet, one of China's largest charter companies, ordered two midsize business jets last year.