The world's dominant plane makers scored new orders as Airbus put the finishing touches to a record 2011, cruising peacefully for now above debt turmoil and new airline cutbacks in Europe.
Airbus and its US rival Boeing unveiled more than 70 orders for new aircraft worth USD$7.5 billion as industry insiders confirmed the trans-Atlantic rivals had delivered a combined total of more than 1,000 airliners in 2011 for the first time.
The latest orders included confirmation of a 44-plane Airbus deal from Mexican low-cost carrier Volaris and an order for 10 Boeing 787 Dreamliners from an unidentified buyer.
The Volaris order will count toward a 2011 tally to be announced by the European manufacturer next week, putting it on course for well over 1,600 orders and a big win over Boeing, which sold 921, but has pledged to turn the tables in 2012.
Airbus will also announce that it delivered 534 aircraft in 2011, industry sources said, a record for the European manufacturer and a ninth successive victory over Boeing in the number of aircraft placed into service in a single year.
Civil plane makers have for the most part avoided the European debt crisis and warnings of contagion to other regions as emerging markets drive growth.
Standard & Poor's said on Thursday the commercial aerospace industry was entering what could be a "prolonged period" of increasing deliveries.
So far, the industry says dollars needed to pay for about USD$100 billion in annual aircraft deliveries will be available from other sources such as lessors and Asian lenders, though the debt crisis may undermine or delay a handful of deliveries.
In Europe, Air France-KLM said it would defer some deliveries of Airbus and Boeing jets including two A380 superjumbos to help with a turnaround plan.
AirAsia X, a long-haul, low-cost offshoot of Airbus's largest Asian customer AirAsia, said it would close unprofitable routes to Europe and India.
"Aerospace companies are reporting large order backlogs and should benefit from new models despite the headwinds of a weak global economy, high fuel prices and the possibility of reduced availability of aircraft financing," S&P said in a note.
Industry sources disclosed last week that Airbus had exceeded its 2011 financial target of 520-530 aircraft deliveries.
Its record deliveries of 534 might have been two or three aircraft higher if it had not been for some last-minute snags.
Airbus declined to comment ahead of an annual presentation on January 17.
Boeing delivered 477 commercial aircraft last year, roughly in line with a target of around 480 deliveries.
Both leading manufacturers increased their deliveries to airlines by around 3 percent versus 2010, and have set out plans for record production of short-haul passenger jets to meet demand from emerging markets despite economic gloom in the West.
In 2012, the focus will be on ensuring enough financing is available to keep up the momentum after European banks scaled back a significant involvement in the dollar-denominated sector to help relieve pressure on overstretched balance sheets.
Gravity always wins!