By Gabriel Araujo
SAO PAULO (Reuters) - The pandemic surge in demand for executive jets has not softened and Brazilian planemaker Embraer still has a two-year backlog for the aircraft, an executive told Reuters.
Embraer expects to deliver as many as 130 private jets in 2023, a 27.5% jump from last year to the highest since 2010. Private aviation boomed during the COVID-19 pandemic as wealthy travelers sought to minimize exposure to the coronavirus.
But even after that threat receded, Embraer has maintained a book-to-bill ratio of more than 2.5, said Latin America head of sales Gustavo Teixeira in an interview before the annual LABACE air show in Sao Paulo.
Many charter clients are now looking to buy their own aircraft, he said.
"We've been increasing production to meet this high demand," Teixeira said, noting that about 30% of Embraer's clients are purchasing their first private jet.
"They used to fly commercial, then executive by charter and now are going for their first plane," he said. These customers will remain private plane owners and upgrade to more expensive jets from here, he said.
Embraer's jets range from entry-level, such as the Phenom 100EV, to super mid-size, such as the Praetor 600.
Its best-selling Phenom 300E is the global leader in the light jet class, and Embraer recently won a huge 250-plane order from Berkshire Hathaway's NetJets for its mid-size Praetor 500 aircraft.
The business jet boom was a lifeline for the company during the pandemic, when orders for commercial aircraft dried up as global travel restrictions hit that market heavily.
Executive aviation as a share of Embraer revenue peaked at 28.5% in 2020, up from 22.3% in 2018. It stands around 27% now as commercial aviation gets back on track.
The firm has delivered 38 executive planes so far in 2023, but that figure will jump in the second half for seasonal reasons.
"Demand has been keeping momentum," Teixeira said. "There was that very strong expansion cycle in 2021 and 2022, and now we see that it is holding on to that level."
Other major players in the business jet market include Cessna's Citation, General Dynamics' Gulfstream, Dassault Aviation's Falcon and Bombardier.
(Reporting by Gabriel Araujo; Editing by Brad Haynes and Cynthia Osterman)