In a flurry of last-minute sales deals, Boeing's order tally for 2004 finished at 272 airplanes, up 14 percent from 239 airplanes in 2003.

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In a flurry of last-minute sales deals, Boeing’s order tally for 2004 finished at 272 airplanes, up 14 percent from 239 airplanes in 2003.

That’s the first uptick in orders since the year 2000, though it still falls short of the expected total for Boeing rival Airbus.

Boeing released its final order and delivery numbers for the year late Thursday.

In the closing days of 2004, orders for 26 of the Renton-built 737 narrowbody jets were added to the total.

Hapag-Lloyd ordered ten, China Eastern six, and Air Europa three. Six extra 737 orders came from unidentified customers.

In addition, one Boeing Business Jet, a luxury personalized version of the 737, was ordered; the ultimate owners of such jets are not usually identified.

Boeing will also be buoyed by the fact that the mix of orders included a higher proportion of the more expensive widebody jets. The bigger jets are listed from $120 million up to $245 million; the most popular narrowbodies are listed at around $65 million.

In 2004, 43 percent of the orders were for widebodies, compared to just 11 percent of 2003 orders.

The widebody orders included 56 for the forthcoming 7E7. Although Boeing failed to reach the mark it had set itself of 200 7E7 orders by year end, the jet maker said Thursday that it has deposits from customers securing “nearly 250” 7E7s — which would fill up most of the first two years of production.

According to an internal company document obtained by The Seattle Times, Boeing in July had “accepted proposals” – agreements that are short of a firm order – from 16 airlines for 246 7E7s. The document noted that at that time three Chinese airlines included in the list had yet to put down deposits.

Despite the improvement in jet sales, Boeing still lags its European rival. Airbus will likely announce its annual order tally next week and the total is expected to be well above 300.

In terms of deliveries, Boeing rolled out 285 airplanes in 2004. The number of Airbus deliveries has not yet been released but is expected to reach 320.

Airbus surpassed Boeing in deliveries for the first time in 2003, rolling out 305 to Boeing’s 281.

In its release Thursday, Boeing said that it planned to increase production in 2005 to approximately 320 airplanes, with further increases expected in 2006.