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News / Business

Airbus pulls further ahead as Boeing struggles

By Dominic Gates, The Seattle Times
Published: April 12, 2024, 7:38am

Airbus delivered more than twice as many commercial jets as Boeing in March, with the U.S. aerospace giant slowed by efforts to contain quality issues at its 737 Max assembly plant in Renton, Washington.

Adding to Boeing’s woes, it delivered none of its widebody 777s in the first three months of the year due to a separate supply chain issue.

Airbus delivered 63 jets last month, while Boeing delivered just 29, according to data released this week.

Boeing’s tally included 24 Maxes. However, eight of those went to Chinese airlines, and those were likely taken from the large store of 737s parked since the grounding in 2019.

China began taking deliveries again only this year and Boeing has begun clearing that large backlog, with a total of 17 going to China since January.

This means that in March no more than 16 newly built Maxes rolled off the Renton assembly line, less than half of the production rate of 38 per month that had been an earlier target.

Boeing has had stand-downs in Renton, stopping the line for a day for employees to discuss quality issues, and has slowed the pace of production to ensure that unfinished jobs don’t pile up as the planes move through assembly.

In contrast, Airbus delivered 51 of the A320neo jets that compete with the Max, and of those more than half were the largest A321neo model.

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The component supply issue with the 777 has left Boeing with now 10 newly built “gliders” — an industry term for finished aircraft that are lacking engines — stashed in and around the Everett assembly plant, Jefferies analyst Sheila Kahyaoglu said in an April 5 report citing data from Aero Analysis Partners/AIR.

Six 777 freighters were built in March but not delivered, Kahyaoglu said. Then on Monday, the first 777 delivery of the year finally happened when a 777F cargo plane for Eva Air took off from Paine Field in Everett on its delivery flight to Taiwan.

GE Aerospace makes the GE90 engines for the 777. GE spokesperson Paul Bergman said, “We are coordinating with Boeing and our airline customers on GE90 engine delivery timing and production schedules.”

In the first three months of the year, Boeing has delivered a total of 83 commercial airplanes, consisting of 66 Maxes, one military version 737, three midsize widebody 767s and 13 midsize widebody 787 Dreamliners.

In the same quarter, Airbus delivered a total of 142 commercial airplanes, consisting of 116 A320neo family jets (including 62 A321neos), 12 smaller A220s, seven mid-size widebody A330s and 7 large widebody A350s.

On the sales front, Airbus won a total of 137 net orders in March while Boeing won 111 net orders.

American Airlines split a large order in March, buying 85 A321neos from Airbus and 85 of the largest 737 Max 10s from Boeing.

Other significant sales in March include Korean Air’s order of 33 Airbus large widebody A350s. Ethiopian Airlines also ordered 28 Boeing widebody 777-9Xs. Meanwhile, Ethiopian canceled orders for two 777F cargo jets.

In the first three months of the year, Airbus has won a total of 170 net orders and Boeing 126.

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