European plane maker Airbus on Wednesday said it delivered a record 688 jetliners in 2016.
But even in setting its own record – it delivered 635 airplanes in 2015 – Airbus’ delivery total for the year still put it behind rival Boeing, which announced last week it delivered 748 airplanes in 2016.
On new airplane orders, however, Airbus remains ahead of Boeing: 731 orders in 2016 compared with Boeing’s 668.
It also had a fatter backlog at the end of the year: 6,874 airplanes compared with Boeing’s 5,715.
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“I’m confident that we’ll have a new record in deliveries” in 2017, Airbus commercial planes sales chief John Leahy said Wednesday in Toulouse, France. However, he added, “That doesn’t mean that orders are going to be strong.”
Racing with Boeing for business in post-sanctions Iran, Airbus made the symbolic move of delivering an A321 jet to Iran Air on Wednesday, the first of 100 planes planned in a deal worth more than $18 billion at list prices.
Iran’s flag carrier also ordered 80 Boeing jetliners that won’t start arriving until 2018.
Fabrice Bregier, president of Airbus commercial planes, said Airbus would continue work on the Iran planes despite concerns that President-elect Trump could threaten the international nuclear agreement that led to the orders.
Airbus also shrugged off concerns of protectionist measures threatened by Trump, noting that it’s manufacturing in the U.S. now, too – and delivered its first U.S.-assembled plane last year, an A321 made in Mobile, Ala.
Mark Bobbi of IHS Markit said Airbus is likely to enjoy sustained demand for narrow-body planes this year and remain dominant over Boeing in that market, while the U.S. manufacturer will keep the lead in wide-body planes.
But Bobbi warned demand for wide-body planes is “coming to a slump.”
Airbus in Wichita operates Airbus Americas Engineering, which employs 300 people. It also is a customer of Wichita-based Spirit AeroSystems, which manufactures parts of Airbus’ A320, A350XWB and A380 airliners from sites in Kinston, N.C., and in Europe.
Contributing: Associated Press