Kevin O'Toole and Max Kingsley-Jones/LONDON

AFTER A POOR SHOWING of aircraft orders in 1995, Airbus Industrie appears to have held its own against Boeing in the first half of 1996, while the overall jet-airliner market continues to recover for both manufacturers.

Although the headline figures show Boeing taking a clear lead over its European rival in winning new business, the market is still being affected by order swaps and cancellations as airlines juggle with their fleet strategies.

After taking these into account, Boeing emerges with 138 net order gains, while Airbus is close behind with 136 net orders.

The biggest switch came from Delta Air Lines which started the year by swapping 52 Boeing 737-300 orders for 12 767-300ERs. Garuda also swapped six 747-400s for 777s. While such swaps do not necessarily affect the value of orders, they do give a distorted picture of the volume of business which is being done.

Boeing also suffered from the continued shake-out of orders by Irish lessor GPA, which shed another 26 aircraft: 11 737s, seven 757s and eight 767s.

By comparison, the Airbus orderbook was relatively free of cancellations. Narrowbody sales continued to forge ahead, while, in stark contrast to 1995, Airbus also came close to keeping abreast of Boeing's 777 order intake with its A330/340 family .

Despite the encouragement for Airbus, Boeing is still in poll position with its backlog comfortably back over the 1,000 mark and a rising tide of lucrative 747 business.

Both manufacturers improved on their overall performance in the first half of 1995, although the latest figures suggest recovery rather than boom. McDonnell Douglas actually saw its order intake down on a year ago, as it continues to inch along with a handful of MD-11 and MD-90 sales.

Source: Flight International