A series of record aircraft orders gave Boeing a late year rally against arch-rival Airbus, but the US planemaker still trailed its European rival in both orders and deliveries for 2011.
According to figures released by the company on Thursday, Boeing tallied gross orders of 921 aircraft, led by 625 orders for its single aisle 737 and 202 orders for twin aisle 777s. When adjusted for cancellations, Boeing’s net orders for the year were 805.
Airbus reported gross orders of 1521 aircraft through November and is expected to announce an annual total well above 1600 later this month. With those results, Boeing’s share of the commercial aircraft market fell to about 38 per cent, its lowest mark in 40 years.
The numbers would have been considerably more dire for Boeing if not for a flurry of record deals late in the year, including an US$18 billion order from Emirates Airlines for 50 777-300ERs and a US$19 billion 737 order from Southwest Airlines.
Boeing officials say the tide began to turn in their favour in August with the official launch of its re-engined 737 MAX, which is slated to compete with Airbus’s A320neo when it enters service in 2017. Boeing says the 737 MAX has already garnered more than 1000 orders and commitments.
“As our current commitments become firm orders and we add even more customers, I have no doubt that 2012 will be the ‘Year of the 737 MAX’,” Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Jim Albaugh said in a statement.
Boeing also hopes the maturation of its heavily hyped but oft- delayed 787 Dreamliner will boost the company’s prospects in 2012.
Underscoring the difficult ramp-up of the carbon composite built airliner, Boeing delivered just three 787s during 2011. The company currently produces 2.5 787s per month and hopes to boost that figure to 10 a month by 2013 as it also pushes increased production of 737 aircraft.
Boeing delivered a total of 477 commercial planes for the year, up from 462 in 2010, reflecting the relative resiliency of the aircraft market despite global economic turmoil. Boeing finished the year with a backlog of 3771 unfilled orders.
Steady deliveries this year will be key for aircraft makers as they face the possibility that airlines could cancel orders if the economy falters. Boeing’s commercial business will also take on increased importance as its military division faces lean times amid US defence cuts. Boeing this week announced plans to shutter a military facility in the US state of Kansas.