According to the company, the 1,203 net orders -- gross orders from customers, minus orders canceled -- that Boeing took in last year made 2012 its most successful sales year in history, barring only the gangbusters pace set in 2007, when Boeing sold 1,413 planes. Boeing also delivered the most planes in a single year in the past 13 years -- 601 planes in all.
Meanwhile, the company says it has 4,373 commercial orders for planes still in backlog, awaiting completion. The company noted that it is its largest backlog ever. At the current production rate of roughly 50 planes per month, that amounts to a staggering 87 months' worth of work to be done, and explains why Boeing has announced plans to go to 42 planes per month on its 737 production line by early next year, and to ramp 787 production to 10 planes per month by late this year.
The company may face difficulties in maintaining the production pace, however. Negotiations with its engineers union, the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, have hit a roadblock, and progress has been slow in coming. If the union calls a strike, as it's threatening to do, Boeing's backlog could grow even bigger -- but not in a good way.
Fool contributor Rich Smith has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. The Motley Fool has no positions in the stocks mentioned above. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We 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.