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Boeing, Airbus Grab Record Orders in 2005
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Fuelled by demand in Asia and the Middle East, Airbus and Boeing last year clinched the largest number of orders in their respective histories.

Airbus, based in France, received 1,055 net orders, which nearly doubles its previous record year in 1998. Chicago-based Boeing achieved 1,002 net orders, surpassing its previous record of 877 orders in 1988.

"Last year was a record year for the whole industry and for Airbus in particular," Gustav Humbert, Airbus president and chief executive officer, said when announcing the results on Tuesday.

"Airlines have never, ever placed so many orders, a sign that they are very optimistic about the future of air transportation, with also a lot of new carriers emerging and bringing cheap air travel to an increasing number of consumers," he said. "But it also reflects the need for more modern equipment to face the rising fuel prices."

Analysts said a key driver for the record high orders was the strong demand from Asia and the Middle East.

"China and India, two developing economies in Asia, are the markets that need to be closely watched. With their economies growing fast, the two countries witnessed surging demand for air transportation," said Liu Weimin, director and professor with the Aviation Laws Research Centre at the Civil Aviation Management Institute of China.

Nearly 40 percent of Boeing's orders came from Asia and the Middle East last year. The aircraft giant received 120 orders from China. It also signed a deal with Air India for 68 jets, which is the largest commercial airplane order in India's civil aviation history. Air carriers from the Middle East handed Boeing 43 orders during the Dubai Air Show in November.

Airbus received 72 orders from China last year, rising 50 percent year-on-year. During the Dubai Air Show, the European aircraft company confirmed 30 orders from India and 23 from Middle East air carriers.

"What this says to me is, the recovery is in full swing," Randy Baseler, vice-president of marketing for Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said on Boeing's Website.

"Air travel is growing in leaps and bounds, and airlines and nations are investing in new aircraft to accommodate that growth. Regardless of Boeing versus Airbus issues, this is good news for everyone who works in or supports the commercial aircraft industry," Baseler said.

While struggling with rising aviation fuel costs, airlines are searching for the best balance point between cost control and quality improvement, Liu said.

"It's true that buying new aircraft means new investment, but new aircrafts are more efficient in fuel consumption and require less maintenance," said Liu.

Airbus continued to outsell its competitor Boeing in terms of orders for the fifth consecutive year. It also maintained its leading position in terms of deliveries for the third year in a row. Airbus delivered 378 airliners, bringing the Airbus turnover to approximately 22.3 billion euros. Boeing's delivered 290 aircrafts in 2005.

(China Daily January 19, 2006)

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