Boeing delivered a record total of 763 commercial airplanes last year and registered net firm orders for 912, the company reported Tuesday. The delivery total fell precisely within its start-of-the-year guidance of 760 to 765, thanks to an increase in production rate for the 737 narrowbody to 47 per month and a new record delivery total for the 787 Dreamliner, to 136.
Valued at $134.8 billion at list prices, the orders for 912 airplanes came from 71 customers. The total extended Boeing’s backlog to a record 5,864 airplanes at year end, equating to about seven years of production.
“The strong sales activity reflects continuing strong demand for the 737 Max family, including the ultra-efficient Max 10 variant that we launched last year, and the market's increasing preference for Boeing's family of twin-aisle jets,” said Boeing Commercial Airplanes CEO Kevin McAllister. “Our planned production increases over the coming years are designed to satisfy this robust demand.”
Speaking Tuesday with reporters on a conference call from Seattle, Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice president of marketing Randy Tinseth noted that of the 529 deliveries of 737-family narrowbodies, the new 737 Max accounted for 74, a total he characterized as “spot on” in terms of early projections. He also reported “close to 200” orders for widebodies, including 40 current-generation 777s, marking what he called significant headway in building a production bridge to the new 777X, which Boeing expects to start delivering in 2020.
Addressing the less robust order total of twenty 777Xs, Tinseth chose to highlight the fact that Boeing has drawn more than three times the number of orders for the new 777 than it had collected at the same phase of the 777-300ER’s development. “Frankly, we’re in a very good position with the 777X,” he said. “We have more work to do, but I think now is the time—2018, 2019—we’ll be focusing more on 777X; we’ll be putting the bridge behind us and that’s our future.”
Less certain appears the future of the 747-8, whose backlog of 12 airplanes represents just two years of production. The quadjet suffered a loss of net orders of two airplanes last year, even while cargo markets gained strength. Still, Tinseth expressed a positive perspective on the prospects for the airplane in the coming year. “We have a number of customers that fly the 747-400 freighter, we have customers that fly the 747-8 freighter, and they’ve seen their cargo operations turn around,” said Tinseth. “There is interest in the 747-8. The question is when will they be in a position to buy? When will they feel confidence in the upturn we’ve seen in the market in order for them to commit to the aircraft...They’re looking not only for the turnaround that we’ve seen so far, they want to make sure it’s sustained.”