Boeing (NYSE:BA) investors, give your company another round of applause -- because it just beat Airbus again. On Thursday, we got our latest glimpse at Boeing orders placed by its customers through the second month of this year. As of early March, Boeing says it has now received a total of 79 "gross" plane orders from its customers. These include orders for:
- 69 single-aisle 737s
- five larger 777s
- three 747 jumbojets
- a pair of 787 "Dreamliners"
Minus cancellations -- four 737s and a single 787 -- this leaves Boeing with a net order book of 74 commercial aircraft for calendar year 2015, year to date.
By way of comparison, Boeing rival Airbus (OTC:EADSY) also reported its latest order book last week. Unlike Boeing, which updates its order book weekly, Airbus updates only at month's end. Its tally through the end of February included:
- 32 A320 jets ordered
- plus five A330s
- minus cancellations of nine orders for conventionally engined A320 aircraft, some of which, presumably, were immediately substituted for A320neo aircraft, boosting gross orders
This equals net new orders for 28 planes total... or less than half the orders Boeing has taken in so far.
What this means for Airbus
This isn't necessarily a bad thing for Airbus. As we discussed over the weekend, with a backlog of plane orders awaiting fulfillment that stretches to more than 10 years in length, Airbus' bigger problem these days isn't bringing in new business -- it's executing on the orders it's already won. And in that regard, February was a good month for Airbus. While the company netted 28 orders in February, it actually delivered 46 jetliners, whittling down its backlog ever so slightly.
What this means for Boeing
February's news was even more unqualifiedly good for Boeing, however. In addition to "booking a win" over its archrival in both gross and net plane orders year to date, Boeing picked up 737 plane orders from customers General Electric -- actually, its "GECAS" airplane leasing business -- and confirmed that three 737s previously known only to be destined for "unidentified customer(s)" are, in fact, going to Irish discount airliner Ryanair.
More important still, Boeing landed three orders for 747 jumbojets from Azerbaijani cargo liner Silk Way Airlines. In addition to the cash money that order will bring in -- more than $1.1 billion at advertised list prices -- Silk's purchase throws a lifeline to one of Boeing's longest-lived production lines. With Boeing slowing down 747 production to just 1.3 planes per month, Silk's order could extend production of the plane past August 2017 -- closing the gap between the date Boeing might have to shutter production of the 747 and the date the U.S. Air Force would like to buy two new 747s to serve as Air Force One.
The moral of this story? When the U.S. Air Force finally places its order for a pair of "747-8s," this will likely be the last hurrah for Boeing's iconic jetliner. But the real thanks should go not to the Air Force, but to Silk Way Airlines, for making those last two 747 sales a bit easier for Boeing to land.