- The Washington Times - Monday, July 10, 2006

PARIS (AP) — Airbus said yesterday that it received 117 plane orders in the first half of the year, less than a quarter of the orders announced by U.S. rival Boeing Co.

Orders fell from 276 a year earlier, a sharper drop than the broad full-year decline that both jet makers predicted after record sales in 2005. Boeing’s orders rose to 480 for the year as of Wednesday, after 439 in the first half of 2005.

Airbus still turned out more jets than Boeing in the first half of the year — as it has each year since 2003 — delivering 219 planes, up from 189 in the year-earlier period. Boeing delivered 195 planes, up from 155.

But the latest orders suggest that Airbus may lose its lead in coming years. The Toulouse, France, jet maker is struggling with production delays to its A380 superjumbo, and weak sales of its planned A350 have forced a costly rethinking about the midsized jet’s design.

Both companies are expected to announce further sales at Britain’s Farnborough International Airshow, which opens Monday. Jet makers often put some of their order announcements on hold for major industry events.

Airbus has won more orders than Boeing for five straight years, but fell behind on overall order value in 2005 as it sold fewer large, more profitable jets. Higher oil prices have made less-efficient, four-engine, wide-body planes like the Airbus A340 less attractive than twin-engine alternatives, such as Boeing’s 777.

Boeing has won 69 orders so far this year for its 787 Dreamliner, the long-range, fuel-efficient wide-body jet scheduled to enter service in 2008.

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