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Boeing vs. Airbus

The two giants of aviation have been battling for years in the US versus Europe showdown. But who’s on top right now? Read Kipps head-to-head to find out.


Boeing was founded in 1916 as Pacific Aero Products by William Boeing. According to the company’s website, he was an engineering graduate who had a taken a keen interest in the new field of aviation. He ended up flying his very first plane himself after the pilot showed up late. By just 1917 the company became Boeing Airplane Company, and when the First World War broke out they secured a big order for navy seaplanes. The company had to diversify into other products after the war, including boats and furniture. Later it designed fighter planes, and then passenger planes.

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Companies like Boeing were too big for European manufacturers to effectively compete, so they formed a consortium, agreed in 1967 and launched in 1969 to begin working on the first Airbus. It was a twin engine wide body passenger jet – the world’s first – and it was named the A300. The country’s involved were France and Germany principally, and also the British and Dutch. Despite each country’s respective heritage, Kipp has to give this one to Boeing, which was over 50 years old before Airbus saw the light of day.

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Boeing’s latest plane has been a long time in the making. A long, long time in the making, in fact – it has been delayed numerous times. In fact it was due to start commercial services in 2008. When it arrives, however, it is bound to cause a stir – it’s more efficient, quieter and can fly further than most competitors. The website says it will bring “big jet range to mid-size airplanes.”

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Meanwhile, Airbus’s proud new addition is the famous A380, pretty much the biggest thing in the sky after the moon. Launched in 2005, this double decker, wide body, four engine beast is better known as the super jumbo, and is the largest passenger plane in the world. Typically it can hold 525 of the great unwashed. There was a bit of an engine failure (a Qantas flight was forced to turn back after a blast), but that seems to have been a problem with the Rolls Royce engine. While it may have problems at least it is flying. Most of the time.

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Boeing is the star of the 2011 Dubai Airshow, with its record-breaking $18 billion deal with Emirates and a not to shabby order from Qatar Airways. Between 2000 and 2009, Boeing apparently received 5,927 orders, although Kipp has struggled to verify that because of complicated cancellation numbers. Anyway, in 2010 the company managed to have a good year, bagging a healthy 625 orders in 2010.

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Airbus executives are breathing a mixed sigh of relief and indignation right now. During the 2011 Dubai Airshow, it received a very public tongue-lashing from Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker saying the European planemaker is "still learning how to build an airplane" and then a couple of hours later the Qatar Airways announced it has signed a $6.5 billion deal with Airbus.

According to its website, Airbus topped Boeing last year, with 644. Good for them. And through Kipp’s rather dubious calculations, for the 2000 to 2009 period, they scored 6,452 orders – once again trumping Boeing. Seattle Times says the numbers confirm Airbus as the world’s number one plane maker.

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Boeing was an early success story that ate up its competition and dominated the market early, so it apparently has more than 9,000 commercial planes in operation. That’s 8,999 more than Kipp, since we went to the toy shop the other day.

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By comparison, Airbus has little more than 6,194 airplanes in service at time of writing. Once again, it’s more than Kipp has got, but not enough to top Boeing.

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The 2011 figures aren’t ready to be served yet, of course, but we can tell you that in 2010 the company's profits jumped to $3.3 billion  from a 2009 net income of $1.3 billion. That is more than Kipp makes in two months, possibly three…

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Airbus is a subsidiary of EADS, and getting hold of the financials turned out to be a complicated business. But we gather that in 2010, the company did post profits of $768 million (553 million euros), compared to the 763 million euro loss in 2009. In fact, the company's been yoyo-ing these past few years, with a loss in 2007 and then a gain in 2008. Sorry, not good enough, even if you convert it to dollars. Boeing gets the point.

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Boeing had 171,448 employees as of October this year…

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…while Airbus can only manage 52,000, by 2010 figures.  And some 11,000 of these employees went on strike just this October over negotiations for a new wage. Mind you, parent company EADS boasts some 119,500 employees total, which is a bit more impressive. Still not impressive enough to top Boeing, mind you. For providing the most jobs (valuable at this difficult time), Boeing grabs the point.

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Ah, Kipp wouldn’t be Kipp without a scandal section. On Boeing’s side, how about this: In 2003 it was forced to fire its CFO after news broke that he had offered a job to a serving Air Force official, just as that official was reviewing a $21 billion contract with Boeing. Not enough? What about when the Pentagon took $1 billion worth of business from the company after it was revealed to be using trade secrets stolen from competitor Lockheed Martin. Okay so this is military stuff, but still – it’s not on. Oh, and the CEO had to resign in 2005 due to an “improper relationship” with a female co-worker.

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But at least Boeing doesn’t have its own “affair.” According to allegations, secret commissions were paid to members of the Canadian Government in exchange for Air Canada’s purchase of a large number of jets from Airbus back in the early 90s. The accusations are too complex to cover here, but read for yourself about a scandal that was still rumbling on in 2009.

More importantly though does your head being served to you on a plate by one of your largest clients considered a scandal? We think so. Point. Set. Match.

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  1. ahamed on January 19, 2011 8:37 am

    On your Boeing Vs Airbus , logos are interchanged….

  2. Ronman on January 19, 2011 10:08 am

    Cool rundown, but you have to remember that the 380 was also massively delayed, so once the 787 hits the skies on a commercial basis you can comapre which one was more delayed, as the 380 project started more than a decade ago…years before it was published…


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