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Airbus to Pass Boeing

2003 Should See More Jets Delivered by Toulouse

For a couple years now, Airbus has been beating Boeing at the game of booking airliner orders, but Boeing has wisely concentrated on reality -- delivering airplanes.

It's not that orders, per se, are a bad indicator of future deliveries; it's just that some firms are more -- how does one say this nicely -- optimistic in what they call "orders."

Race was over in December

In December, Boeing lost a heart-breaker to Airbus: a long-negotiated 120-plane order, by EasyJet, went for A319s and A320s. That put the "orders" category clearly in Airbus's 'win' column.

For the first time, though, Airbus is planning on actually delivering more airplanes than Boeing.

In 2002, Boeing still held a commanding lead in that race: the Chicago giant shipped out 381 big 'uns, vs. Airbus's 303. Airbus, though, has just called attention to its 300-jet order book for the year, vs Boeing's announced 251. [Net orders were 233 vs 176 --ed.]

Airbus also expects to deliver about 300 of its backlog of 1500+ this year; Boeing is saying it expects to deliver at least a dozen fewer than that.

Depending on the climate for the new-airliner market, it is quite possible that some of the announced orders may drop off the books of both manufacturers.

Air wars:

Both plane-makers are looking to enhance their overall status with military orders. Airbus, having announced all kinds of orders for its ephemeral A400M transport, has seen a lot of infighting and attrition, as it attempts to firm up what may turn out to be an unprofitable program; Boeing is trying to close as many orders from the supposedly burgeoning heavy-lift market, as it can. With proven, existing airplanes that bracket the A400M in all parameters, expect fierce fighting, and a lot of nationalism, in this arena, as the year unfolds.

FMI: www.airbus.com; www.boeing.com

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