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First quarter data confirms 2009 orders collapse

The global economic crisis has struck home with a vengeance during the first three months of 2009. A collapse in sales has pushed Airbus and Boeing's combined net orders into single figures, although output remains high, matching the levels in the first quarter of last year.

Total net orders for the first quarter stood at four aircraft, compared with the 683 that were accumulated during the same period last year.

Unlike Boeing, Airbus managed to just scrape into a positive order flow, securing eight net sales after adjustment for 14 cancellations. Boeing finished the quarter with a net order tally of minus four, after its 28 new sales were offset by 32 787 cancellations. While four 777s were sold, no new orders were recorded for the 747, 767 or 787.

Airbus had been in deficit at the end of February, but its March activity gave it a positive net order flow after securing firm agreements for 16 aircraft. During the month it secured its biggest single deal of the year so far from Irish finance house Aircraft Purchase Fleet, which ordered 10 A320s. Meanwhile, a two-aircraft deal from Korean Air in February took A380 orders to 200.

The Boeing 737 was the strongest-selling airliner during the first three months, securing 24 orders, including a deal from an undisclosed customer in March for five aircraft.

From a production perspective, Boeing's output showed a post-strike rebound, with its 121 deliveries putting it ahead of its rival's tally of 116.

A total of 91 737s and 30 widebodies were delivered, making it Boeing's best quarterly performance since shipping 126 aircraft in the second quarter of last year.

In 2008 the airframer was struck by a 57-day industrial stoppage that halted production activity for parts of the third and fourth quarters. The latest production numbers show Boeing is back on pace to achieve its goal of delivering 480 to 485 aircraft by year-end.

Airbus, which is aiming for a similar full-year shipment tally, delivered 101 A320-family jets and 15 widebodies. However, it has yet to deliver an A380 in 2009, with the first of the 15 planned 2009 shipments expected this month.

The combined order backlog has begun to contract, falling by around 3% from the 2008 year-end total to 7,196 units. Airbus retains its slight lead over its rival with a total of 3,607 orders.

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