CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- With the world hungry for aircraft, both Boeing ( BA) and Airbus set new records for plane orders in 2007. Boeing said late Thursday that it took 1,413 orders, surpassing its previous record of 1,044 net orders set in 2006 by 35%. Gross orders, excluding cancellations and conversions, totaled 1,423. Airbus will not report its final tally until Jan. 16. At the end of November, it had 1,204 orders, already exceeding its record 1,111 orders set in 2005. "It has been another strong year for commercial aviation," said Scott Carson, Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO, in a prepared statement. Boeing listed a series of milestones. It reached 1,000 orders for the third consecutive year, set new order records for the 787, the 737 and for freighters, and it had orders from 80 different customers. Boeing's unfilled order list now exceeds 3,400 airplanes. In addition, the 787 is the fastest-selling new airplane program in history with a total of 817 orders since 2004. Customers continue to order the aircraft even though Boeing announced in October that initial delivery would be delayed by about six months. The target is now November or December 2008, rather than May. "Clearly we've had our share of challenges during the past year, but our customers understand the issues," Carson continued. "With strong orders across our product line, we are now focused on executing this strong backlog position." In a report, Bank of America analyst Robert Stallard said Boeing's sales for the year would be worth about $165 billion at list prices, but he noted that discounts of about 30% are typical.
The order numbers tell two stories. The first is that because the world needs aircraft so desperately, it eagerly forgives missteps by its two aircraft makers. Along with Boeing's 787 postponement, deliveries of the Airbus 350 and 380 have been delayed for a couple of years. Second the data show that Airbus is experiencing a resurgence. As the year started, Airbus appeared to be a company overwhelmed by problems, including cost overruns and the delivery delays for two lines, as well as a meltdown at parent company European Aeronautic Defence & Space Company. A turning point came when the A380 went on tour, starting in the spring. The biggest passenger aircraft in history became a "rock star," in the words of spokesman Clay McConnell. It generated positive media coverage wherever it landed, moving the needle on the corporate image away from bumbler and toward innovator. Now, the first A380 is flying the Singapore to Sydney route for Singapore Airlines. "Dispatch reliability is excellent," McConnell says. Meanwhile, EADS is trying to get well, although it faces a challenge from the weak dollar, because it generally records revenue in the U.S. currency but incurs costs on a euro basis. The pace of orders is expected to slow this year. In a recent interview with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Carson said he believes Boeing and Airbus will likely combine for around 1,000 to 1,200 orders in 2008.