Boeing’s total aircraft orders tumbled by roughly 800 jets in the last 12 months, bringing an abrupt end to the company’s remarkable sales successes in the preceding decade.
The backlog losses reflect a pile of cancellations offset by far fewer orders, at a time when the pandemic sunk new-jet demand and Boeing worked to overcome the 737 Max’s travails.
At the end of March, Boeing’s number of total orders stood at about 17,000 aircraft, including jets already delivered and 4,054 aircraft in its backlog.
That is down from the 17,835 total orders, including 5,049 in the backlog, that Boeing held at the end of March 2020, company data shows.
The one-year change reflects the removal of firm orders for about 1,200 jets, including cancelled orders for some 670 aircraft and another 550 that Boeing shifted from its backlog into an accounting bucket. That bucket is reserved for sales that Boeing suspects will not close due to factors including customers’ financial condition.
Boeing partly offset those losses with new orders for 417 aircraft during the last year.
The backlog slide contrasts sharply with Boeing’s stream of sales successes in the decade preceding the March 2019 737 Max grounding. Its total number of aircraft orders nearly doubled from 9,597 at the end of 2008 to 18,229 at the end of 2018, equating to an average annual gain of some 860 orders, regulatory documents show.
Meanwhile, Boeing continued ramping production of the 737 Max, hitting a high of 52 jets monthly in 2018.
All that changed when an Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max crashed shortly after take-off in March 2019 – the second crash of the type. The regulatory grounding that ensued would last 20 months, until November 2020.
Of the 1,200 cancellations and accounting adjustments made to Boeing’s order total in the last year, more than 1,000 were deals for 737 Max, data shows. That figure includes about 640 cancellations and more than 400 negative accounting adjustments.