Boeing again sold more aircraft than Airbus Industrie in 1998, but its high delivery rate, combined with cancellations, saw it lose ground to its European rival in terms of firm order backlog.

Provisional figures from Airbus suggest its share of the total backlog in the 100-seat plus sector grew by 5%, moving it past the important 40% mark for the first time.

Firm orders in the 100-seat plus category for 1998 stood at 1,200 units, 656 of which were taken by Boeing, which also delivered 563 aircraft. This record delivery total, combined with 51 cancellations, saw the manufacturer's backlog grow by just 2% from the end of 1997 total, to 1,786 units.

Although Airbus had not released official figures as Flight International went to press, the consortium is understood to have sold around 550 aircraft during 1998 and delivered about 230, which has seen its own backlog increase by 30% to some 1,300 units.

Airbus' continuing backlog market share growth, which has gone from 32% at the end of 1996 to 37% in 1997 and 42% in 1998, emphasises an underlying trend by the European consortium as it aims for 50% early in the next decade.

Boeing's sales figures reveal that cancellations of existing 747 contracts outstripped new orders during 1998, resulting in net sales of minus four units being recorded for the year. The softening of the 747 market, with carriers such as British Airways, Varig and Philippine Airlines cancelling orders, has forced Boeing to slash production to one a month from 2000.

Twenty-eight orders for the 737 Classic (-300/400/500) were also dropped in 1998, cutting the backlog to 32 aircraft as production of the type is wound down in favour of the Next Generation models.

The Boeing order tally was boosted by the last-minute addition of TWA's deal for 50 717s. Airbus has commitments from the US airline for 75 A318s and A320 family models, but is not expected to include these in its 1998 firm order total.

Source: Flight International