Boeing: Still the Largest Jet Maker in the World?

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Despite a myriad of problems plaguing the 787 Dreamliner, end-of-year uncertainty over whether the jet manufacturer would locate a major new assembly line for the redesigned 777X in the Puget Sound area, and concerns regarding the growing might of Airbus (EADSY.PK), Boeing (NYSE:BA) still was able to maintain its crown as the world’s largest planemaker in 2013.

Overcoming fierce opposition from local leaders of Boeing’s largest machinist union, the eight-year labor contract extension proposed by the jet manufacturer was accepted by a narrow margin in Friday’s vote, meaning the 777X program will be located in Washington state. That means that Boeing will likely be able to continue the long stretch of labor peace at its manufacturing headquarters in the Seattle region into the coming decades. Without strikes, which likely follow any Boeing decision to locate the assembly line outside the Seattle area, there will be one less reason for missed production deadlines for the 777X — a redesigned version of the company’s best-selling jet. Had the contract extension been voted down, as was an earlier version, Boeing would have been forced to vet locations in other states, build new plants, and train a new workforce by 2017, the date production is slated to begin.

The 777X — which boasts the largest engines ever put on a plane and key costs-saving technologies that could change trends in modern aircraft design — is considered a pivotal to Boeing’s future profitability and a crucial component in the company’s fight against Airbus for dominance in the long-range, twin engine market. On November 17, Boeing officially launched the 777X program at the 2013 Dubai Airshow, with a record number of customer orders and commitments made for the jet manufacturer’s latest twin-aisle aircraft. According to a company press release, it was the “largest product launch in commercial jetliner history by dollar value.” Orders and commitments included Lufthansa’s (DLAKY.PK) 34 planes, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways’ 25 plans, Qatar Airways’ 50 planes, and Emirates’ 150 planes. The combined value of those agreements was more than $95 billion at list prices.

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