Boeing raised the bar for commercial aircraft deliveries in 2013 with a regrouped production system and a record level of sustained demand that overcame several major distractions.
Boeing delivered 648 commercial aircraft through 31 December, setting both a company and industry record for output in a single year. Meanwhile, the sales team set a record for gross orders booked with 1,531, including a last-minute booking of 164 new 737s to at least one unidentified customer. Boeing also reported net orders 1,355 in 2013.
By comparison, Airbus delivered a company record of 588 aircraft a year in 2012, and will likely fall short of Boeing’s order lead again 2014.
The production rate for the A330 began rising in April 2013 from seven to 10 aircraft per month, but that increase is not enough to overcome Boeing’s deliveries advantage.
Boeing’s tally is the result of significant delivery growth on three programmes – the 737, 777 and 787. The 767 and 747 stagnated or declined in 2013.
In the fourth quarter alone, Boeing delivered 172 commercial aircraft, including 110 737s, 25 777s and 25 787s.
The 787 is on track to reach 10 aircraft deliveries a month in early 2014, or double the output of early 2013.
Boeing managed to keep 787 production steadily increasing despite numerous programme challenges, including a four-month-long worldwide grounding of the entire fleet because of over-heating lithium-ion batteries. Boeing also introduced the stretched 787-9 into the final assembly process in June, leading to a first flight of the 290-seater in September.
The manufacturer also maintained the record production levels despite several tense weeks of negotiations with Seattle-area machinists over the location of 777X assembly. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers agreed finally on 3 January to freeze pensions starting in 2016, in exchange for retaining 777X assembly in the Seattle area.
After two years of rapid increases, most Boeing production rates will hold steady in 2014 except for the 737 programme, which is growing to 42 deliveries per month. The production rate for the 747-8, meanwhile, will be closely watched after Boeing reduced output twice during 2013. The focus will turn instead to keeping new aircraft development and testing programmes on track.
"The year ahead will be exciting as we prepare to deliver the first 787-9, continue the design work on our newest programs – the 737 MAX, 787-10 and 777X – while increasing our production rates on the 737," says, Boeing commercial airplanes chief executive Ray Conner. "We'll remain focused on meeting our customer commitments by delivering the best products and services."