Zut Alors!

Boeing and Airbus compete for the top spot

I have to admit, it's been kind of painful over the past two years to watch hometown hero Boeing get its bell rung by Euro-conglomerate Airbus.

While the folks in Toulouse reveled in the imminent success of their two-deck A380 superjumbo, eclipsed Boeing in annual sales for the first time in history, and relentlessly slagged their competitor's own biggie (the older but vastly more elegant 747), the Americans played it cool—and played their cards. They cut production of aircraft that weren't selling, announced a new version of the 747, and unveiled the superefficient 787 Dreamliner.

Then they quietly began taking more and more orders for the Dreamliner. For the first six months of this year, Boeing has sold 496 airplanes in total, compared to Airbus's paltry 117. Now comes word—the latest in what is proving to be a terrible year for Airbus—that the A380 is delayed a full two years due to production problems at the European giant, which has also suffered multiple financial scandals this year.

The delay is huge news. It's not like it's merely a disappointment for the airlines that they won't get their shiny new birds as soon as they thought. The airlines who have ordered them—Emirates, Qantas and Virgin among them—must put into motion many enormously complicated and hugely expensive systems to accommodate the beasts, including lobbying airports around the world to upgrade their facilities to handle the A380's massive size and passenger complement, which will always be well north of 550. This is a politically volatile industry, and the airlines are furious. Many are canceling orders. Meanwhile, Boeing will happily be coughing up as many of its on-schedule Dreamliners and tried-and-true 747s as the industry wants to buy. Perhaps the tables have turned, non? —Eric Adams