2013 has been a banner year for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, the division of the Boeing Co (NYSE:BA) that builds jetliners for the civilian transport market. Sharing the world market for commercial planes equally, at roughly 50 percent each, with Airbus, the civilian jet division of Europe’s Airbus Group NV (EPA:AIR), Chicago-based Boeing delivered 648 planes in 2013 -- the most ever in a single year.
According to a statement from the company, Boeing booked 1,531 gross commercial orders in 2013, a new company record. Net commercial orders, accounting for cancellations, stood at 1,355, the second-largest total ever for Boeing. The order book shows 5,080 unfilled orders at the end of the year, which is also a Boeing record.
Boeing’s mainstay models, the narrowbody 737 and widebody 777 and 787, also had record years for deliveries. The Renton factory, on the outskirts of Seattle, delivered 440 Next-Generation 737s; the nearby Everett plant, where Boeing builds long-range widebody jets, delivered 98 777s and 65 787 Dreamliners. (The 787’s delivery record is in fact not a very meaningful figure, since the newest Boeing jet entered service only in 2011 and production at the Everett and Charleston, South Carolina, sites is still ramping up to full capacity.)
But news last year was not good for the 747. The iconic Jumbo Jet had only 17 orders, which fell to 12 after some cancellations. 24 were delivered, leaving 55 unfilled orders on the books, most of them for the cargo variant. Germany’s Deutsche Lufthansa AG (ETR:LHA) remains the only airline flying the latest passenger version, the 747-8i. Those dismal numbers led Boeing in October to slow down the production rate of the 747-8 to just 1.5 airplanes per month through 2015.
The Jumbo Jet is dying a slow death because its four engines burn more fuel per passenger than the new, large twin-engined jets that carry almost as many people over the same long distances. And that’s where it’s back to good news for Boeing, which makes exactly that kind of twinjet -- the 777X, which cleaned up at the recent Dubai Air Show with a monster total of 259 orders. That is another record -- the biggest launch of a commercial airplane ever in terms of sales volume, at more than $95 billion at list prices.
The 767, a legacy model from the early 1980s now superseded by the Dreamliner, had just two orders and is now down to 49 unfilled orders. Airlines ordered a few in recent years to make up for the delays in the Dreamliner program, but now the program is winding down.
A Milanese transplanted to New York, Alberto Riva is the International Business Times senior world news editor. He began his career in journalism as a news agency reporter in...