Boeing Narrowly Surpasses Airbus As World’s Largest Plane Maker

Can you be a winner when you’ve actually lost? You can if you’re Boeing. The US plane maker delivered record numbers of commercial jets in 2018, beating Airbus by a narrow margin, but failed to meet its own targets.

Boeing have won the race to produce the most aircraft in 2018, but only just!

Boeing has capitalised on the rising demand globally for air travel, delivering 806 aircraft for the year. That’s up 43 on last year’s number and is a whole six planes more than European rival Airbus managed.

Although they beat Airbus, Boeing are still down on their forecasted targets, which aimed to deliver 810 aircraft by the end of the year. Boeing Commercial Airplanes President Kevin McAllister commented:

“Boeing raised the bar again in 2018 thanks to our teammates’ incredible focus on meeting customer commitments and continuously improving quality and productivity. In a dynamic year, our production discipline and our supplier partners helped us build and deliver more airplanes than ever before to satisfy the strong demand for air travel across the globe.”

A tale of two plane makers

As really the only two notable commercial aircraft makers in the world, all eyes are always on Boeing and Airbus as the annual performance is announced. Deliveries rather than orders have become the marker of their success, as most of a jet’s price is paid upon delivery.

Together, the two plane makers delivered a combined total of 1,608 aircraft in 2018, compared to 1,481 the year before. The surging demand for aircraft is clearly apparent when you consider just 1,000 aircraft were delivered in 2011.

boeing vs airbus orders and deliveries
Boeing vs Airbus orders and deliveries

Both companies will be announcing plans for the coming year pretty soon, and we’re expecting them to be aiming even higher in 2019. For Boeing and Airbus both, they are somewhat reliant on the abilities of engine manufacturers to keep pace with the demand if they are to continue ramping up production this year too.

They’ve both hinted at increased production already, particularly in regards to their best selling single aisle jets. Boeing plan to increase the monthly output of the 737 family from 52 to 57, and Airbus have said they will raise the production of the A320 family from 52 to 60.

Together, the two manufacturers have order books for more than 13,000 jets outstanding, scheduled for production over the next seven years.

Boeing take the crown

Despite winning the race, Boeing hasn’t been without its problems this year. Throughout 2018 they’ve been struggling to build the 737 fast enough to meet demand, even roping in retirees to try and fix production delays.

Shortages of fuselages, engines and other parts have been putting the brakes on Boeing’s production since the summer, causing the company to miss their delivery targets for the first time in seven years.

Despite this fact, we’re pretty sure there’ll be some champagne corks popping at Boeing HQ, as overall, it’s been a pretty successful year for the company. As well as opening their first Chinese factory, the first western production facility in Asia, and opening a factory in Sheffield, UK, the 777 has recently become the bestselling widebody of all time.

The 737-9 will be unveiled later this year

With a fat order book and the 797 due to be revealed at the Paris Air Show next year (not to mention 2020’s launch of the 777X), the future at Boeing is looking brighter than ever.

How did Airbus do?

It’s been seven long years since Airbus outstripped Boeing for aircraft deliveries. Prior to that, they held the crown for a decade. However, for 9 out of the last 10 years, Airbus have beaten Boeing or orders, so the potential for the plane maker to overtake its counterpart is all there for the taking.

airbus family
Airbus achieved their target, but only because they revised it downwards

Although 2018 was something of a troubled year for Airbus, they had lots of big wins too. Thanks to the former delays with their Pratt & Whitney engines being all caught up, production has seriously ramped up in the latter half of the year.

However, the manufacturer has continued to have issues with the A320 production. Supplier issues and internal problems meant they revised their annual target down by 20 aircraft in October, and only just met the lowered guidance of 800 aircraft at the very last minute.

Although there have been rumours that Airbus could be facing production delays after a fire in one of their factories, the airline remains confident that 2019 will be a big year for them. Their backlog of orders is larger than Boeings, at 7,500 aircraft compared to the 5,900 of their US rival.

airbus factory
The Airbus factories will be working overtime to beat Boeing this year (although probably not on the A380)

With plenty of orders on their books and the new A220 proving highly popular, could 2019 be the year we see the European company unseat Boeing from it’s throne?