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Boeing wins 1,413 orders in 2007

Boeing Co. blew past an order record it set two years ago, selling 1,413 commercial jets in 2007 while delivering 441 planes, its best showing in six years.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Boeing Co. blew past an order record it set two years ago, selling 1,413 commercial jets in 2007 while delivering 441 planes, its best showing in six years.

The single-aisle 737 remains its best-seller, followed by the new midsize, long-haul 787 Dreamliner, which is scheduled to begin flight testing by spring.

Analysts expect rival Airbus SAS to come out ahead on both orders and deliveries.

The Toulouse, France-based company had delivered 410 planes and logged 1,204 orders as of the end of November, the latest update available. However, that order total does not factor in cancellations or conversions; Boeing's does.

Airbus, which set an industry record three years ago with 1,111 orders, is scheduled to release its 2007 order and delivery totals in two weeks.

Chicago-based Boeing, which assembles its commercial jets in the Seattle area, won 1,044 orders in 2006, handily beating Airbus _ which pulled in 790 orders _ for the first time in six years. Those figures are adjusted for cancellations and conversions.

Boeing had predicted it would deliver 440 to 445 planes in 2007, up from 398 the year before and the most since 2001, when it delivered 527 planes. Airbus has projected it would deliver 450 to 460 planes last year, compared with 434 in 2006.

Together, Boeing and Airbus will set an industry record for orders in 2007.

Sales are expected to slow down next year, partly because analysts say orders have been rolling in at an unsustainable pace.

Peter Arment, an analyst with American Technology Research Inc., said in a research note he expects orders to drop in half this year, echoing predictions other analysts have made recently.

Some industry watchers also worry that plunging consumer confidence and other U.S. economic woes might spur a decrease in air travel.

Most plane orders have been coming from carriers in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, which are updating and expanding their fleets.

U.S. airlines have largely remained on the sidelines, and while some have old planes they badly need to replace, they may hold off until their finances and the economy at large show stronger signs of recovery before making any significant orders, analysts say.

"The U.S. legacy carriers have yet to have sustained recovery," said Scott Hamilton, managing director of the Seattle-area aerospace consultancy Leeham Companies LLC. "We've seen some profitability, but I think it's best described as tenuous."

While deliveries do not grab as many headlines, analysts often argue that orders do not mean much until a customer gets the keys.

"The general joke is that if an airline makes money it orders planes, and if it keeps making money it takes delivery of those planes," said Richard Aboulafia, an analyst with the aerospace consulting firm Teal Group, Corp.

Boeing shares gained 36 cents to close at $86.98 Thursday.