A surge of narrowbody business kept the order boom going for Airbus and Boeing over the first half of 1998, although both will be watching for signs of a slowdown in the second half, when the full impact of the Asian recession is likely to be felt.

The two together booked more than 550 orders, almost doubling the tally at the half-way stage last year and apparently putting the market on track for another full-year total above the 1,000 mark.

So far there has been little visible impact from the downturn in South-East Asia. Despite a round of delays and deferrals from the region, the only major outright loss of business came from Asiana Airlines slipping a couple of Boeing 737s, two 777s and six Airbus A321s. Ordering elsewhere compensated, but it could begin to tell over the next year if deferrals turn into cancellations.

A surge in business for the A320 family, with major orders from Latin American carriers, Sabena and a top-up from United Airlines, not only gave Airbus a lead over the 737 in the first half, but helped the European manufacturer take pole position for the period. It reverses a dire performance a year ago, when Airbus managed only 80 new orders over the six months.

The launch of the new A340 types has also helped stimulate Airbus widebody sales, while the US Airways A330-300 deal agreed in July is still to appear on the books.

Boeing's performance relied equally heavily on narrowbody sales of the New Generation 737 family, with a series of major US deals led by Southwest Airlines. The backlog for other Boeing types was down from the start of the year, despite a couple of large US orders for the 777.

Source: Flight International