Boeing reported that it had outsold Airbus in February and recorded more new jet deals than cancellations for the first time in 14 months, ending a slump that began when the 737 MAX was engulfed in crisis after two deadly crashes.
But the U.S. planemaker didn’t deliver any 787 Dreamliners for a fourth straight month — a reminder that the company still faces a tough slog as it tries to curb deep losses in its all-important commercial aircraft business amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Airlines are starting to plan for an upswing in travel as COVID-19 vaccinations gain steam, and United Airlines led the way in February by ordering another 25 of Boeing’s MAX planes. That’s finally creating some sales momentum for Boeing as the workhorse single-aisle aircraft emerges from the longest jetliner grounding in U.S. history.
Boeing booked 82 jetliner sales in a February flurry that spanned its commercial lineup, from the narrow-body 737 to the behemoth 777X. Boeing also found a home for its last unclaimed 747-8 jumbo, lining up a VIP buyer for an Everett-built passenger jet built years ago that had languished in storage.
The company’s backlog inched up less than 1% to 4,041 orders last month, which was enough to end a slump that began in late 2019. During the first two months of this year, Boeing has recorded 86 gross orders and 29 sales net of deals that were scrapped or converted to other models.
The order spurt is a contrast to Airbus’s negative order tally of 81 so far this year. The European planemaker, which dominated sales during the MAX grounding, booked 11 new orders against 92 cancellations.
Airbus handed over more jets to customers in February, however, with 32 compared with 22 for Boeing. All but four of the U.S. manufacturer’s deliveries were MAX aircraft. More than 160 out of 195 global regulators have cleared the jet to return to the skies after a flight-control system linked to the crashes was redesigned, Boeing said. China is among the countries still banning the MAX.
Boeing hasn’t delivered any Dreamliners since October, as it inspects and repairs manufacturing flaws in more than 80 jets stashed around its factories and in storage lots. The company reiterated Tuesday that it expects to resume deliveries by the end of this month. But it hinted that the timetable could slip.
“We will continue to take the time necessary and will adjust any delivery plans as needed,” Boeing said in an email. “We remain in constant and transparent communication with our customers and regulators.”
Dreamliner production has ended at its Everett factory, and the last of the jets rolled out of that plant on Feb. 26. Now, Boeing will manufacture the twin-aisle planes only at a nonunion factory in South Carolina.
The freed-up factory bays in Everett are being converted into maintenance stations where mechanics inspect and repair tiny flaws that have cropped up on the interior lining of the jets’ airframes.
The process, which can take weeks, involves ripping up the Dreamliner’s cabins to search for dimples about the width of a human hair around the circumference of where carbon-fiber barrels are joined to form the jet’s frame.
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