MIAMI — Boeing delivered 195 aircraft in the fourth quarter of 2014 and 723 for the year ended December 31, 2014. The numbers were up around 12 percent from the 648 aircraft delivered in 2013.

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Scott Hamilton is the managing director of Seattle-based Leeham Co. and editor of the Leeham News and Comment website. He took a closer look at the numbers for each of Boeing’s commercial aircraft lines for AirwaysNews, from the most to the least successful in 2014.

The Boeing 737 Next Generation is a plane in transition despite 126 deliveries in the fourth quarter and 485 deliveries in 2014, said Hamilton. “It will be phased out for the Boeing 737 MAX by 2019. There will be a two-year overlap, but it continues to be the workhorse of the Boeing fleet,” he said.

A Boeing 737 on the production line in Renton, Washington.
A Boeing 737 on the production line in Renton, Washington.

The current production rate for the 737 is 42 aircraft a month and will rise to 47 in 2016, said Hamilton. “It will go up to 52 aircraft a month in 2018 and although Boeing hasn’t announced it yet, they are looking at 57 aircraft a month by 2019,” he said.

The 787 still has some production challenges, but its fundamental problems are past and it has a bright future, said Hamilton. “Boeing had projected 110 deliveries in 2014 and did 114. Some of them continue to be reworked aircraft, but they met their guidance,” he said. “This year I see no reason why they can’t produce 10 aircraft a month for 120 in 2015. We’ll get guidance from Boeing on the final number at the end of the month.”

A Boeing 787 at Seattle’s Museum of Flight. (Credits: JDL Multimedia)
A Boeing 787 at Seattle’s Museum of Flight. (Credits: JDL Multimedia)

The 777 is challenged despite posting 24 deliveries in the fourth quarter and 99 for the year, said Hamilton. “Boeing needs to sell between 40 and 60 aircraft a year to keep the line going, and this assumes they keep their existing orders and options,” he said. “As the program gets older, less options are converted, so it will be interesting to see its performance this year.”

A Boeing 777 fuselage under construction at the Everett plant
A Boeing 777 fuselage under construction at the Everett plant

The 747 — with seven deliveries in the fourth quarter and 19 in 2014 —  is a program that’s dead, said Hamilton. “There were only two net orders and two cancellations during the year,” he said. “At this point, Boeing is just holding on for the Air Force One order, hoping to get it in 2016 or 2017, for deliveries in 2021.”

A Boeing 747 under construction. (Credits: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren)
A Boeing 747 under construction. (Credits: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren)

Another issue with the 747 is it’s position in the industry, said Hamilton. “Even before the launch of the 777X, the 747 was bracketed by the 777-300ER on one end and the Airbus A380 on the other end, which is a niche within a niche. The 747 has had a great run for 45 years, but that’s all she wrote for it.”

Boeing’s six 767 deliveries in 2014 was not a surprise, said Hamilton. “This is nothing but freighters, back orders for FedEx. Once that order is done it will be nothing but the [Air Force] tankers,” he said.

An Air Astana Boeing 767-300. (Credits: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren)
An Air Astana Boeing 767-300. (Credits: Jeremy Dwyer-Lindgren)

Hamilton predicts that orders for Boeing and Airbus will be down in 2015. “Backlogs are up to 2020 for most of the production lines, so who else is out there to buy aircraft?” he asked.