- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 17, 2012

In a battle of aerospace giants, Europe’s Airbus bested Chicago-based Boeing in 2011 with more sales, as the two rivals continue to dominate the industry.

The European planemaker drew 1,419 new orders and made 534 deliveries, compared with Boeing’s 805 new orders and 477 deliveries. Both companies had record years.

“They did a fantastic job of maintaining total dominance of this market,” said Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis at Virginia-based Teal Group. “In other words, this is a very well run duopoly. It’s remarkable.”

Airbus had the most successful year in company history.

Airbus was responsible for 54 percent of total aircraft sales (of aircraft with more than 100 seats) across the industry. The planemaker’s 1,419 orders — worth $140 billion — topped Boeing’s previous record of 1,413 orders set in 2007.

The 534 deliveries also broke a 2010 record of 510 deliveries, including another record, 421 single-aisle deliveries.

Boeing’s performance wasn’t too shabby, either. The company had a strong second half of the year, selling a record number of twin-aisle 777s and launching its single-aisle 737 MAX in August.

“Going forward, I think it’s going to be very positive for both Airbus and Boeing,” said Robert Herbst, founder of the industry website www.airlinefinancials.com. “There’s so much pent-up demand.”

The two aerospace giants could fight over new orders from a couple of top U.S. airlines in 2012, he said. United Airlines and Delta Air Lines have old fleets they want to replace. The companies also are coming out of recent mergers and will want to “streamline their whole operations.”

“I believe United and Delta will both be placing very large orders sometime in the near future,” he said.

Despite a strong year, Boeing continues to trail Airbus in both new orders and deliveries. The European planemaker’s A320neo, a single-aisle aircraft, resulted in the company’s success last year, while Boeing’s comparative 737 MAX kept being delayed and didn’t hit the market until August.

Airline analysts point to this as the reason Boeing is losing to Airbus, but expect the U.S. planemaker to overtake Airbus in 2012 with stronger single-aisle sales for its 737 MAX.

Boeing kept delaying their launch,” Mr. Aboulafia said. “That wasn’t good. They’ll catch up.”

Boeing is still reeling from problems with its 787 Dreamliner — a two-aisle plane that was about three years behind schedule when the company started delivering it last year, Mr. Herbst said.

Boeing’s still trying to unbury itself from that mess,” he said. “Boeing has just been so consumed with the 787 that they just didn’t have enough resources to work on the smaller 737 MAX. I think that’s what put them behind Airbus.”

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