Who's the biggest planemaker on the planet?

One month ago, a massive hundred-plane order from AIG's (NYSE: AIG) leasing arm helped Airbus to leapfrog Boeing (NYSE: BA) in the race for first place. But while it's technically the leader in plane sales for 2011, Airbus was already slipping as more and more customers canceled orders for its planes. Already, Boeing is battling back to recapture the "lead" from its rival -- however you define it.

As we head into the Paris Air Show (June 20-26), Reuters reports that Boeing's got a six-plane edge over Airbus on gross plane sales for the year. The original Seattle Seahawk does even better when you factor out canceled orders. For the first five months of the year, Boeing's net 133 new orders, versus just 97 for Airbus.

Foolish takeaway
Bragging rights aside, does it really matter to investors who's biggest? Shouldn't we really focus on who's more profitable? Of course.

More sales don't just mean more revenue, after all. They mean greater economies of scale -- the ability to buy more parts in bulk, and to spread out fixed costs among more units, theoretically making each unit more profitable. In short, more sales mean higher profit margins.

That's why Boeing's lead is important. That's why we'll be watching like (sea)hawks to see how the two planemakers fare at this month's fair.

Who will win the most orders at the Paris Air Show? Who will win the race in aerospace this year? Add Boeing and Airbus-parent-EADS to your Fool Watchlist, and find out.

Fool contributor Rich Smith has no position in any company named above. Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.