Boeing Co on Thursday reported an industry record of 1,413 firm commercial plane orders for 2007, setting up a photo-finish with rival Airbus, which reports its annual order tally later this month.
Boeing's net total -- which excludes orders that were subsequently canceled and takes account of orders converted into different plane models -- beats its previous record of 1,044 in 2006 and tops Airbus' industry record of 1,055 net orders in 2005.
Airbus, a unit of European aerospace group EADS, had 1,204 gross orders at the end of November, not adjusted for cancellations or conversions. It is expected to announce its tally of net orders over the next few weeks.
Between them, Boeing and Airbus are set to post more than 2,500 orders for the year, an industry record smashing the previous best of 2,057 net orders in 2005.
The massive tally marks the third year of the boom in commercial plane sales, as a resurgence in travel after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 pushed airlines to expand and update their fleets.
For each of the last three years Boeing and Airbus have posted more than 1,800 net orders combined. In 2004, they barely had 600 orders between them.
Boeing's orders alone this year are worth more than $150 billion at list prices. The single-aisle 737 remains its most popular plane, followed by the new, lightweight 787 Dreamliner, which is set to fly in the next few months.
The boom has been led by carriers from the oil-rich Middle East, expanding Asian airlines and aircraft leasing firms. Large European and US airlines -- the traditional cornerstones of the market -- have played a smaller role.
Industry analysts do not expect this year's orders to set new records, as many big buyers have made large orders and high oil prices are already forcing some airlines to cut capacity.
Boeing said earlier on Thursday it delivered 441 commercial aircraft in 2007, its best performance in six years and up 11 percent from 2006.
The year tally is in line with Boeing's forecasts, and the highest since it delivered 527 planes in 2001. But it may fall slightly short of rival Airbus, which had delivered 410 aircraft in 2007 through the end of November, three more than Boeing at that time.
The deliveries tally is closely watched by investors and analysts as that is when plane makers receive most of the payment for a plane. Firm order figures, expected from Boeing later on Thursday, give a more forward-looking idea of market share. (Reuters)
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