US aerospace giant Boeing said on Thursday it delivered 601 commercial aircraft last year, substantially more than the previous year, while it booked the second-highest orders in company history.
Ramped-up production rates drove a 26 percent increase in deliveries from 477 deliveries in 2011, the Chicago-based company said, highlighting that the level was the highest since 1999.
Boeing booked 1,203 net jetliner orders last year and unfilled commercial airplane orders at year-end stood at a record 4,373, the company said.
Boeing’s 737 program of single-aisle airplanes, the aviation industry’s best-selling commercial plane, set a new record for net orders in a single year: 1,124.
Driving the increase were 914 orders for the new 737 MAX, equipped with a new fuel-efficient engine and expected to make its first flight in 2016.
The Next-Generation 737 set a new annual record with 415 deliveries last year, Boeing said.
Boeing looked certain to overtake European rival Airbus SAS as the world’s top airplane maker this year. According to the latest Airbus figures, in the year through Nov. 30 the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co unit booked 646 orders and delivered 516 aircraft.
Boeing now has orders for 4,373 planes that it has not built yet — the most in its history.
Although it likes to have a sizeable backlog, Boeing executives have said the current backlog is too high and it has been speeding up production to bring it down.
“We have huge opportunity ahead of us if we execute on our commitments,’’ said the head of Boeing’s commercial airplane division, Ray Conner, in a message to employees. “We know we have the right products and we’ve proven we know how to increase rates.”
On its defense side, Boeing delivered 51 Chinook cargo helicopters, up from 32 in 2011. There were 48 deliveries of the F-18 fighter-bomber and variants, one less than in 2011. C-17 cargo plane deliveries fell to 10, from 13 a year earlier.