ITA) to target a combination of big name aircraft manufacturers and parts suppliers. Top holdings underlying ITA include Boeing, United Technologies ( UTX), Precision Castparts ( PCP) and Lockheed Martin ( LMT). It is also possible to gain exposure to popular airlines. The Guggenheim Airline ETF ( FAA) is headlined by firms including Delta ( DAL), United Continental ( UAL) and Southwest Airlines ( LUV). Aside from these U.S.-based goliaths FAA also taps into the global airline industry. ANA, Singapore Airlines ( SIA) and Deutsche Lufthansa can also be found among its top 10 positions. Of these two categories of funds, conservative investors would be best off sticking to the former. Although it has run into its fair share of headwinds as global economic turmoil weighs on investor confidence, ITA has managed to outperform broader-based industrial ETFs like the Industrial Select Sector SPDR ( XLI) over the most recent three-month period. FAA, on the other hand, has been unable to find footing, dramatically underperforming broad market indices. Year to date, the fund has tumbled nearly 30%. The skies do not look clear for the industry looking ahead, either. Issues including rising fuel prices and economic turmoil could make 2012 a rough year for these firms as well. Aside from their paltry performance in 2011 and the gloomy outlook for the months ahead, airline ETFs are inherently volatile and have also struggled to gather investor interest; FAA's average daily trading volume currently sit just slightly above 11,000.
The limited investor interest surrounding airline ETFs has recently led one fund sponsor to shutter a product. Citing declining interest in their fund, during the middle of last week, Direxion announced that it was closing down its Direxion Airline Shares ETF ( FLYX) after less than a year of trading. FLYX was the firm's first venture into the realm of non-leveraged and non-inverse ETF products but failed to generate interest. As of Sept. 27, the fund had less than $3 million in assets. FLYX's liquidation process is scheduled to take place between Oct. 10 and 17. News that Boeing's 787 Dreamliner is at last being delivered could help to provide the aerospace and airline industries with some lift in the near term. While both will likely be exciting to watch, I encourage investors to do their homework before taking any action. Aerospace will be the better bet here. Written by Don Dion in Williamstown, Mass.