Airbus edges ahead in gross orders as year-end nears

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Although Airbus and Boeing are neck and neck in gross orders after 11 months, the European airframer is way ahead in net terms due to its rival's high cancellation rate. Meanwhile, their delivery levels are almost identical.

At the end of November Airbus held a slight advantage in gross orders - 225 against 204 - but it has a lead of 120 net orders thanks to Boeing's 111 cancellations. These were mostly for the troubled 787 and their effect was to push the manufacturer's January-November net order total to 93 (this had risen to 98 by 8 December). Airbus had suffered 31 cancellations during the first 11 months.

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The European airframer has been striving to reach its 300 gross orders target set by Airbus boss Tom Enders and his chief salesman John Leahy in January. To reach the target, Airbus must haul in 75 orders in December.

Such a flurry at year-end is not unusual, as Airbus traditionally includes last-minute contracts and sometimes wraps up extra deals from undisclosed customers.

It is unlikely that the final contracts will be signed for United Airlines' major order for 25 A350 XWBs and 25 787s in time to be included in either airframers' final 2009 numbers.

Although Boeing tends to provide regular order updates during the month, Airbus will not publish any further 2009 order data until its annual press conference in Seville on 14 January.

Meanwhile, output is set for a photo finish as the two rivals head for record deliveries in what is widely expected to be the peak of the current production cycle. Airbus delivered 437 aircraft during the first 11 months - just seven more than Boeing.

Between them, the two companies are on course to deliver at least 960 airliners for the full year - an all-time industry record.

Airbus and Boeing will together ship over 960 aircraft in 2009