Boeing delivered 601 airliners to its customers last year, the best production since 1999, the company said today.
The company delivered 620 jetliners in 1999, the last time the company enjoyed a big surge in demand.
While deliveries were up, so were orders, the company said. Boeing booked 1,203 net commercial airplane orders in 2012, the second-largest number in company history.
Only 2007, when Boeing posted 1,413 net orders, exceeded last year’s total.
The total announced today likely put Boeing ahead of its chief rival, Airbus, in both deliveries and orders.
Airbus doesn’t announce totals until later this month. It had said it would produce and deliver about 580 planes in 2012. Through November, it has said it booked orders for 585 planes and delivered 516.
Boeing’s yearly orders rise and fall steeply with the economy and with the introduction of new aircraft. As recently as 2009, as the economy worldwide was still deep in recession, Boeing won just 142 orders. Last year, Boeing posted 805 orders for new commercial aircraft.
Last year’s orders were driven largely by the availability for order of the new 737 Max family of planes. That updated version of the company’s popular single-aisle 737 is promising to cut fuel consumption over Boeing’s present 737s by 13 percent.
Airlines last year ordered a net of 1124 737s, most of them the new Max versions of the plane. The first 737 Max is due for delivery to Southwest Airlines, the plane’s launch customer, in 2017. All 737s are built in the company’s Renton plant.
The second most popular of Boeing’s family of jets last year was the 777 with 68 net orders. The 777 is a long-range, twin-engine jet carrying some 350 passengers in a typical seat arrangement.
Third most popular in 2012 was the company’s venerable 767, which won 22 net orders, many of them for the freighter version of the aircraft. The 767, a mid-sized twin-engine plane, first went into commercial service in the early ’80s.
The company’s newest plane, the 747-8, won only a single net order in 2012. The 747-8 is an undated version of the original jumbo jet with a new wing, new engines and an improved interior.
Sales of extra large planes including Airbus’ A380 have been slow in recent years as airlines hesitate to order such large planes because they fear they won’t be able to fill them without large fare discounts.
The last member of Boeing’s family of airliners, the composite-bodied 787 Dreamliner, won 50 new orders last year, but saw 62 cancellations, giving the plane a net loss of 12 orders for the year. Deliveries of 787s are running three years behind schedule, and some airlines have lost patience with Boeing or have seen their business plans change.