Airbus and Boeing's annual contest to announce the most orders is just like cricket (OK, stay with me on this one my American friends, but if you're one of our many Indian readers you'll know exactly what I mean.) At time of writing Boeing is 1,029 declared. A declaration is a cricket tactic in which the batting side decides it's set a target that it doubts the opponents can reach before the same number of players as it used are bowled out, and in the remaining time allotted for the game. Often leads to a draw - but not this time.
For ages now Boeing has declared in December and Airbus has cleverly said it won't announce its total until mid-January. Trivial of course, but crucially, in essentially a neck-and-neck race (OK - enough sporting metaphors), it gives them a last few orders that they can probably persuade customers to announce either in the year just gone - 2005 - or the one coming up - 2006.
This year the situation is particularly entertaining to the spectators. On the face of it Airbus has an awful lot to do to make up the ground. But it's well known that there are several big orders of uncertain status that could change everything. Airbus has a lot of clout with some customers who it might be able to persuade to help it along, but I doubt that the Chinese government - which has revealed 150 commitments for Airbus aircraft that don't currently appear in the order book - is one of them. And that could be the clincher.
Years ago, when Airbus was a distant number two, it turned the order contest into an annual battle of operatic magnificence, knowing of course that one day it would duly catch up. And it did, and the world was duly impressed. But conceding second place again now would have suitably Wagnerian overtones.
In fact Airbus absolutely loathes losing marketing battles, and in fact more or less never loses them. (Sales is not the same thing of course.) So if I were a betting man, which as it happens I am, I would say Airbus has kept something up its sleeve and I'm going to predict they will somehow or other sneak this one.
So there's something you can copy and paste and have a good laugh at my expense by adding it to the comments here on 17 January - which is when the final Airbus number comes out. But if I'm right...boy you can be sure I'll remind you.
As the BBC's magnificent Peter Snow says as he manipulates his graphics on British election nights, predicting the career-ending moments of a couple of hundred politicians - "remember, it's just a bit of fun".