Boeing secured its position as the top airplane maker in the world for another year, delivering more jets than Airbus

Share story

Boeing secured its position as the top airplane maker in the world for another year, surpassing Airbus in 2015 by delivering a record number of airplanes as production climbed relentlessly higher.

Boeing said Thursday it delivered 762 jets last year. That’s 39 more aircraft than in 2014.

Boeing also announced it had won 768 net firm orders in 2015, on par with management projections, though considerably fewer than the sales Airbus booked.

Boeing’s jet sales, moderating after three boom years, lagged in two critical areas.

It continued to trail Airbus by a wide margin in sales of the next generation of single-aisle jets.

Not counting Airbus sales in December — those figures are still to come — the European jet maker’s A320neo in 2015 had already won two-thirds of sales in that market against Boeing’s 737 MAX.

In addition, Boeing didn’t sell enough current-model 777s to stay on track to maintain production at existing levels.

That raises the likelihood of an announcement, as soon as this year, that 777 production in Everett will have to be cut back.

Still No. 1 in production

Of the planes delivered in 2015, 44 were 787 Dreamliners assembled in North Charleston, S.C., according to Uresh Sheth, who tracks 787 production jet-by-jet on the All Things 787 blog.

The remaining 718 aircraft delivered were all built in Boeing’s Puget Sound-area factories.

The Renton workforce delivered a total 495 single-aisle 737s, 10 more than last year and another record.

The Everett workforce built 91 Dreamliners, plus 98 large widebody 777 jets, 16 mid-size widebody 767 jets and 18 jumbo jet 747s.

Airbus won’t release its final delivery total until next week, but it’s clear the figure won’t approach Boeing’s tally, because the European jet maker’s production lagged Boeing’s by more than 150 deliveries at the beginning of December.

In 2003, after the downturn caused by the Sept. 11 attacks, Airbus wrested the No. 1 crown from Boeing and kept it for nine years by delivering more airplanes through 2011.

But Boeing finally got production of the 787 Dreamliner going in 2012 to regain the top position and has held it four straight years.

In a statement, Boeing Commercial Airplanes chief Ray Conner praised the workforce for this strong performance.

“Our team did a fantastic job achieving higher deliveries and getting our products to our customers as quickly and efficiently as possible,” he said.

Sales fall short

However, Airbus will comfortably win the sales race in 2015.

At the end of November, Airbus sales chief John Leahy had already booked 1,007 net firm orders, and his team typically adds hundreds more in a flurry of year-end orders.

Boeing had net orders for 588 single-aisle 737 jets in 2015, including 409 of the forthcoming 737 MAX models.

Airbus in 2015 extended its strong sales lead in that market segment. Through November, Airbus had sold a net total 876 of its rival A320 family, including 822 of the forthcoming A320neo models.

Boeing also fell short of its sales target for current-model 777s.

Faced with analyst predictions that Boeing will have to slash 777 production within the next few years, Boeing sales chief John Wojick previously said he needs to sell 40 to 60 current-model 777s a year to maintain production at existing rates through the end of the decade and the introduction of the new 777X.

But in 2015, Boeing sold just 38 current-model 777s, down from 63 in 2014.

On Thursday, Boeing narrowed that shortfall when it announced a new firm order for six 777-300ERs, booked in the first days of 2016.

Despite the MAX and 777 misses, last year’s total net sales of 768 aircraft certainly isn’t bad.

Having won six more orders than planes delivered, Boeing fractionally extends its giant backlog, which ended the year at 5,795 jets.

Conner said that’s enough to “ensure a steady stream of deliveries for years to come.”

He said Boeing will continue to focus on keeping production humming, even as it prepares to deliver three new jet models between 2017 and 2020: the 737 MAX, the 787-10 and the 777X.

“Our newest development products are on schedule,” said Conner. “We could not have accomplished all we did in 2015 without the support and hard work of our employees, suppliers, partners and the community.”

Airbus will release its final 2015 sales and delivery figures Tuesday.