Aircraft Industry Making Comeback

Article excerpt

The fortunes of the U.S. aircraft industry rebounded in 1996 after five years of plummeting sales and job losses, an industry group reported yesterday.

A surge in commercial airplane orders helped boost industry revenues to $112.4 billion this year, up about 6 percent from 1995, according to the Aerospace Industries Association.

"Once again, the global aerospace market is expanding and international competition is intensifying," the association's president, Don Fuqua, told an industry luncheon. "We believe that we will set new annual commercial sales records for many years to come."

Since aircraft demand peaked in 1991, years of defense budget cuts and flat commercial sales have forced industry giants such as Boeing Corp. and Bethesda-based Lockheed Martin Corp. to consolidate and shrink their work forces.

But Mr. Fuqua and Wall Street analysts said yesterday that the industry is rebounding. Sales of commercial jetliners soared 54 percent to $29 billion this year, they said. The industry added about 39,000 jobs to handle demand.

Analysts expect the strong demand for commercial airplanes to continue during the next 10 to 20 years as airlines replace first-generation planes that have been in service since the 1960s and '70s.

The industry expects airlines to order as many as 15,000 new planes during the next two decades. Next year, Mr. Fuqua said, aerospace industry revenues will grow to nearly $125 billion. …