For the third consecutive year, The Boeing Co. has won orders for more than 1,000 jetliners and already has eclipsed its own sales record set last year, when it beat rival Airbus for the first time since 2000.
Boeing announced Wednesday that it has won 1,057 gross orders, or 1,047 net, so far in 2007.
That makes 2007 the best order year ever for Boeing. Its previous high came last year when it won 1,050 gross orders, or 1,044 net. The net figure includes cancellations. The gross total is the actual number of firm orders won in a given year.
In the past week, Boeing added 72 new orders, all but one from unidentified customers. They were for 15 777s and 57 737s.
For the year, Boeing has won 584 gross orders for its 737, and its order count for the more profitable widebody jets is nearing 500.
But keeping the title of order king is likely to be short-lived. The crown appears almost certain to go back to Airbus at the end of 2007 because Airbus is having a record year, too - an industry record.
Over the past three years, Boeing and Airbus have combined for well more than 6,000 orders. Backlogs are at record levels.
And the jetliner buying frenzy could continue into 2008, although both airplane manufacturers are predicting a falloff next year.
In 2004, with the airline industry still in a tailspin from the Sept. 11 attacks, Airbus and Boeing combined for only 638 orders. It was even worse the previous year.
Then airlines, starting with those in Asia and later Europe, went on a spending spree the likes of which the industry has never seen before.
Boeing won more than 1,000 orders in 2005, as did Airbus.
But it was not until last year that Boeing finally topped Airbus for the first time in six years. And Airbus still had an excellent year, winning 824 gross orders, its second-best year ever. But the year was marked by serious delays with its A380 jumbo jet and senior management changes.
This year, Airbus has come back strong. The A380 has entered service with Singapore Airlines, and Airbus is winning orders and praise for its A350, which will challenge Boeing's 787.
Through October, Airbus had won orders for 1,021 planes, but that figure will go up substantially when orders are added from this month's big Dubai air show.
With five weeks remaining in 2007, Boeing's order total will grow, too, especially when deals announced in Dubai are finalized. But Airbus won far more orders and commitments at the show than Boeing.
Boeing and Airbus do not count commitments in their order totals. They must first be turned into firm orders.
At the air show, Dubai Aerospace Enterprise, a newcomer to the aircraft leasing business, said it will order 70 A320s and 30 A350s from Airbus, as well as 70 737s, five 747-9 freighters, 10 777-300ERs and 15 787s from Boeing. Those orders are not yet firm.
And Qantas recently announced that it will order about 100 more jets from Boeing and Airbus. Those orders, of which about 60 percent are for Airbus planes, could become firm before the end of the year
Until 2007, the best order year for Airbus was 2005, when it sold 1,111 planes. Its net total for that year was 1,055.
That broke what was believed to be the industry order record set by Boeing and McDonnell Douglas in 1989.
After merging with McDonnell Douglas in 1997, Boeing changed its historical order charts to include planes sold by McDonnell Douglas. By that measure, the companies combined for 1,107 gross orders in 1989, according to Boeing's historical order numbers. But Boeing has said it was not really sure how many planes it and McDonnell Douglas sold in 1989, and the number 1,107 might have been based on bad information.
Regardless, Airbus will easily beat its 2005 order total this year. It won 163 firm orders at the Dubai air show, along with an additional 132 commitments, many of which could be turned into firm orders before the end of the year.
And the orders keep coming.
OceanAir, a Brazilian carrier that plans to add domestic and international flights in Latin America, said Wednesday it has agreed to buy seven A330-200 widebody planes from Airbus, as well as 14 A319s and seven A320s.
Heading into 2007, neither Boeing nor Airbus expected to have the kind of year both have enjoyed. But the current industry boom - the industry's best ever - has not slowed. It followed the industry's worst-ever downturn, which tarted even before the Sept. 11 attacks sent airlines, especially those in the United States, into a financial tumble.
In recent interviews, top executives at Boeing and Airbus have said they believe orders could peak this year and drop sharply in 2008.
But they have said that before.
Still to be heard from in the current heated order cycle are the legacy U.S. carriers that held off buying large numbers of new jets to replace old ones because they needed to first recover financially. Delta, Continental, American and United all could place sizable orders in 2008 or 2009.
"We all thought 2005 was a once-in-a-lifetime experience," Scott Carson, chief executive of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, told Bloomberg news in an interview after the Dubai air show. "All of us walked into 2007 believing we'd have a more moderate year, but it's been on pace with what we've seen in the last two years. If you asked us to forecast, we'd probably say next year will be more moderate."
P-I aerospace reporter James Wallace can be reached at 206-448-8040
Read his Aerospace blog at
blog.seattlepi.com/aerospace. %% BOEING ORDERS
Boeing is having a record year for orders. The tally as of Wednesday:
Model Gross orders
Total 1,057 %%