Boeing, Airbus battle intensifies in boom year
For Boeing , the stakes keep rising along with its shares. The stock, a component of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, hit an all-time high last week on the strength of its boom in orders for passenger planes.
"They would do anything in their power to hurt the other," said Darryl Jenkins, an airline industry consultant.
It's as much a competition between continents as it is boardroom against boardroom, where a ceremony for a big airplane order may find executives rubbing elbows with heads of state.
At the same time, European-owned Airbus is going to out-jumbo the 747 with the A380. The largest passenger plane ever made will boast seating capacity for 800 people. Airbus, based in Toulouse, France, is also marketing a plane built with new-age composite materials in its wings, which is intended to give airlines interested in Boeing's 787 second thoughts.
More orders can be expected in the coming weeks as deals from earlier in the year are finalized and made official.
After such strong demand abroad, the key to another successful year may lie closer to home.
"I think '06 might hinge on U.S. airlines," said Matt Collins, an analyst at Edward Jones. "I think that's what it's going to take to make '06 as strong as '05."
And after decades of fighting over airline contracts, there's a new American front for the two rivals.
The contract to supply the U.S. Air Force's next air-to-air refueling tanker, which once looked to be in Boeing's hands before an ethics scandal scotched the deal, is a prize for the European contractor.
To help win the work, EADS is even planning to assemble the plane within the U.S.
"That," said Collins, "will sort of put a new twist on the rivalry as Airbus goes after the tanker order."