- Associated Press - Monday, January 17, 2011

TOULOUSE, France (AP) — Airbus said Monday it took in 574 net new aircraft orders last year, beating rival Boeing Co. for the third year running as the international aviation market rebounded more strongly than expected from the steepest drop in its history.

The Toulouse-based plane-making consortium said that 2010 orders were worth $74 billion at list prices and that it delivered a record 510 aircraft last year. Airbus predicted even more deliveries this year.

A year earlier, Airbus took in just 271 net orders as the global economic slowdown led airlines to cancel or delay existing orders and stop making new ones.

Boeing this month reported that it took in 530 net orders in 2010 and delivered 462 aircraft.

Airbus‘ 2010 order book was boosted by a late-December order by Richard Branson’s Virgin America for 60 A320 single-aisle aircraft. Airbus said half of the order is for its new version of the aircraft, the A320neo, which is being designed to save carriers money by being more fuel efficient.

Airbus CEO Tom Enders said the European jet builder will deliver between 520 and 530 aircraft this year, and he said orders will be higher than that.

“We’ve made tremendous progress, it makes me more optimistic on 2011 than I was for 2010,” Mr. Enders said in a statement.

Airlines that cut back during the downturn now are scrambling to add jets to handle rising traffic as the international economy rebounds. Soaring jet fuel prices are also forcing carriers to look for newer, more efficient planes to replace gas-guzzling older models.

Speaking to reporters ahead of the company’s press conference Monday, Airbus’ top salesman, John Leahy, said fuel prices were “a small negative on the horizon” for Airbus.

He called Airbus‘ planned A320neo “the solution,” saying the upgraded version of the workhorse single-aisle A320 is planned to launch in 2016, offering 15 percent better fuel efficiency than the current model.

Airbus delivered 18 of its A380 superjumbo last year. It expects to deliver between 20 and 25 this year before ramping up production to three per month in 2012.

Last year, Airbus took in 32 new orders for the A380.