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Boeing profits on demand for jets and a NASA contract

This Dec. 19, 2013 photo shows workers assembling a Boeing 787 Dreamliner at Boeing's assembly plant in North Charleston, S.C. Construction at Boeing sites in South Carolina will continue during 2014 with, among other projects, construction of a plant to make jet plane engine air intakes and groundbreaking on a facility to paint Boeing 787s that are assembled in South Carolina. Boeing announced earlier this year that it would invest another $1 billion creating an additional 2,000 jobs in South Carolina during the next eight years. (AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
AP Photo/Bruce Smith
Orders for the 787 Dreamliner have climbed.
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The numbers: Good. Boeing said today it earned nearly $1.36 billion in the third quarter, up 18% from a year ago. Revenues rose 2% to $23.78 billion.

The takeaway: Demand for aircraft lifted Boeing. The company delivered 186 jets in the quarter, 9% more than a year earlier. Boeing booked orders for 501 planes, an increase of 151% from a year ago. The company’s backlog grew 14.6%, to 5,500 airplanes.

What’s interesting: Healthy traffic and high fuel prices have combined to drive demand for gas-sipping (rather than guzzling) jets. Orders during the quarter for Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner, which is made of composite materials to save fuel, climbed 35% from a year ago, to 31 planes. In September, Ryanair, the low-cost Irish carrier, agreed to buy 100 Boeing 737 MAX 200 jets with an option to purchase 100 more.

In September, Boeing also became one of two companies selected by NASA to build the next generation of shuttles to ferry US astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The other, Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies, can build a vehicle for about 40% less than Boeing.

A couple of clouds in the otherwise sunny report: The high cost of building the Dreamliner narrowed margins at Boeing’s commercial airplane unit by fourth-tenths of a percent. And revenues at Boeing’s defense division fell 2% from a year earlier, to $7.9 billion.

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