Kevin O'Toole/LONDON Graham Warwick/WASHINGTON DC

Airbus and Boeing are on course for record production levels in 1998, with the two manufacturers gearing up for a combined output of 785 aircraft. If achieved, production would improve on the peak of the last boom in 1991, when, along with McDonnell Douglas, the manufacturers turned out 753 large airliners.

Airbus has already broken its own production record in 1997, with 182 deliveries and the consortium predicts output ramping up to 235 aircraft this year. The bulk of that again comes from the A320 family, with 175 deliveries slated.

Top output has previously been put at around 220 aircraft a year by Airbus, but work has taken place to raise capacity. Airbus points out that, during the 1991 peak, Toulouse managed to produce ten A320s a month, while A330/A340 lines are now at capacity of about seven a month. Daimler-Benz Aerospace has also been expanding its A319/A321 line in Hamburg, with plans to raise capacity from just under eight aircraft a month, to ten by the start of 1999. It is still ambitious to take over A320 assembly.

Boeing, recovering from the production crisis during the second half of 1997, expects 1998 deliveries to be about 550 aircraft, including output from its Douglas Aircraft Products division.

For 1997, Boeing shows deliveries of 375 aircraft in 1997, with 13 more ready to leave the factory by year-end, representing a partial last-minute recovery attempt, with 36 aircraft being handed over in the second half of December alone.

Seattle's overall output of 321 aircraft was still down by 25 on Boeing's original delivery estimates, with the 737 accounting for the bulk of the shortfall. Some 135 of the type were handed over, including three of the new -700s, down from a forecast total of 150. The 777, with 59 deliveries, was also five down on schedule, while the 767 line was down by four, with 42 produced. The 747 was only down on target by one, at 39, while deliveries of 757s reached 46, as expected.

Boeing also completed work on eight 737s, one 747 and three 777s. These, along with one Douglas-made MD-11, are described as "tendered for delivery", meaning that customers could have accepted the aircraft before year-end, but did not.

Fifty-four Douglas aircraft (16 MD-80s, 26 MD-90s and 12 MD-11s) were handed over.

There is growing belief within the industry that orders may already have reached their cyclical peak, however. Airbus broke new ground in 1997 with the intake of 460 firm orders (438 after swaps and cancellations), with another 211 "commitments" representing orders agreed but without deposits.

A class action has been started against Boeing in the USA, alleging that the company violated the Securities Exchange Act by failing to disclose production problems and issuing "false and misleading statements" about its second-quarter 1997 results.


Source: Flight International