For the past twenty years, the skies have seen huge jet airliners from only two companies; Boeing and Airbus. It is unlikely any other competition will take off to challenge these two anytime soon. For the meantime, their intense rivalry can almost be likened to two dogfighting planes, each one just waiting for the right opportunity to shoot the other down and gain dominance of the skies.
Their rivalry does not end with plane design and delivery; the companies are constantly trying to one up each other in technology and price. They have also come before the World Trade Organization to accuse the other of receiving state funding from their respective governments.
Airbus started out as Airbus Industrie in 1970. However, the company as it is known today was formed in 1999 out of a consortium of aerospace manufacturers, the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company and the British BAE Systems. The stock sharing scheme was then EADS with 80 percent and BAE with 20 percent. It was not until October 2006 that BAE sold its shareholding to EADS.
The company currently employs around 63,000 people working in sixteen sites in Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain and France. They have final assembly production plants in Toulouse, France; Hamburg, Germany; and Seville, Spain.
Since 2009 they have also had a plant in Tianjin, China and now also have subsidiaries in Japan, India and the United States.
Airbus has the first commercially viable fly-by-wire airliner, the Airbus A320 and currently the world's largest passenger airliner, the A380.
Boeing goes back a long way to 1910 when the company was first established by William Boeing to build wooden-frame airplanes. They made planes for the U.S. during WWI and then went on to make metal planes in the 1930's and 1940's. By the 1950's Boeing developed jet engine aircraft.
In the 1960's, Boeing came out with the twin-engine 737, what would later become the forerunner to their most famous plane.
It survived hard times in the 1970's before finally coming out with the Boeing 747, then the plane with the largest seating capacity in the world.
Through the 1980's until the present Boeing has since seen its stock rise, it has even ventured into other fields like defense and the space program.
Boeing currently hires around 172,000 employees. All its plants are in the U.S. in places including Alabama, Arizona, California, Kansas, Missouri, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Texas and Washington.
Their most successful planes are currently the Boeing 747-8 and the Boeing 777F.
4 Research & Development Wars
With Boeing already at a head start in the passenger airline industry, Airbus had to offer airlines something better. It eventually came up with fly-by-wire technology, where the manual flight controls of a plane are replaced with an electronic interface. This technology enabled the addition of a computer that could automatically adjust to stabilize the aircraft even without input from the pilot.
Airbus was also the first to use composite materials in their planes, making them lighter, although Boeing would later up the ante, using composite materials for 50 percent of its 787 Dreamliner.
Airbus is now working on fitting composite materials in at least 53 percent of its planes.
Each company used engines from varied developers before settling on a favored manufacturer. Since their 737-300 series, Boeing has favored General Electronics while Airbus has stuck with Rolls-Royce since the A340-500.
3 Airbus A380 vs. the Boeing 747
The two rival planes are not so dissimilar when it comes to dimensions. The A380 is 8.4 meters high and 7.15 meters wide while the 747 is 7.81 meters high and 6.5 meters wide.
Each company claims the better plane. Airbus says the A380 consumes eight percent less fuel per passenger compared to the 747 and needs 17 percent less runway for takeoff and landing. The A380 is also touted to have a cabin floor space of 478 square meters, almost half more than the 747-8.
However, Boeing claims the 747-8 is over 10 percent lighter per seat and saves 11 percent in fuel consumption per passenger. They also said their plane has a trip-cost reduction of 21 percent and a seat-mile cost reduction of more than six percent.
Their customers got in on the act, Singapore Airlines CEO Chew Choong Seng sided with the A380 saying it was performing better than the airline had anticipated, consuming 20 percent less fuel per passenger than the 747-400's in their fleet.
However, Time Clark of Emirates said the A380 is more fuel economic at Mach 0.86 than at 0.83. Observers have also noted that the A380 is 50 percent quieter than a 747-400 on takeoff.
2 Best-Selling Planes and Other Figures
Since Airbus became a major competitor in 1974 it as delivered 8,075 aircraft while Boeing delivered 15,559 aircraft from the same year up to present.
For Airbus it was their first airliner, the A300, that saw production for the longest time with 34 years, the first coming off production in 1974 and the last in 2007. However, it was the A320 in most demand, with 5,755 demands from 1988 until present.
Next in demand for models still being manufactured are the A330 with 1,106 delivered and the A340 with 377.
For Boeing the 737 is still in most demand since 1974 until the present with 7,755 deliveries.
Next in demand for models still being manufactured are the 747 with 1,474 delivered and the 777 with 1,139.
As to what models are still in the air, according to the 2013 World Airline Census, for Boeing there are still 148 717's flying; 109 727's; 5,438 737's; 627 747's; 855 757's; 821 767's; 1,094 777's; and 84 787's.
For Airbus it was 234 A300's; 84 A310's; 5,170 A320's; 927 A330's; and 106 A380's.
1 What the World’s Biggest Airlines Prefer
Some of the world’s biggest airlines prefer a mix of the two, although they might have more of one brand than the other.
Delta Air Lines posted the most scheduled passengers carried last year at 164.6 million. They currently have 57 A319's, 69 A320's, and 28 A330's. They have more Boeings with six 717's, 87 737's, 16 747's, 1360 757's, 95 767's and 18 777's. They have also ordered a 787 and expect it in 2020.
FedEx posted the most cargo flown last year. They almost strike a balance between the two. Their fleet consists of 71 A300's and 30 A310's for a total of 101. They have 77 Boeing 757's, one 767 and 24 777's for a total of 102. However, it should be mentioned the airline is also ordering a further 43 757's, 49 767's and 19 777's.
United Air Lines is currently the airline that flies with the most destinations with 399. They have 55 A319's with orders for 16 more, 97 A320's with orders for 14 more and 35 orders for A350. As for the Boeing planes they have 248 737's, 24 747's, 144 757's, 561 767's, 74 777's and seven 787's.
Note that this article does not insist that the overall preference is for Boeing planes. The three airlines above are just but some of many airline companies operating in the world.
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