2011: The Year Boeing Turned the Corner

In these waning days of 2011, there's a chill in the air and snow in the forecast. What better time of year to curl up by the fire and ponder: What went wrong with the stocks you picked back in January? What went right? And should you keep these stocks in your portfolio, or go out and find something new?

That's what we aim to do today, as we flip back the calendar, and consider the year that was at Boeing (NYS: BA) .

A few Foolish facts about Boeing

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Source: S&P Capital IQ. LTM = last 12 months.

What happened at Boeing this year?
I don't know about you, but when I look back at Boeing in 2011, three events jump out at me as pivotal. The first came in February, when after working with subcontractors Spirit AeroSystems (NYS: SPR) , United Technologies (NYS: UTX) , and Honeywell (NYS: HON) for years, Boeing finally won a $30 billion Air Force contract to build KC-76 refueling tankers. This was a big victory on a contract Boeing had fought for years to win. But winning required that Boeing make a "very, very, very aggressive" bid -- so aggressive that it's entirely possible Boeing will end up losing money on the project.

And speaking of losing money... you probably haven't heard about this (it didn't get much press), but Boeing finally got its 787 Dreamliner airborne in 2011. Airborne, approved for flight by the FAA, and delivered to its launch customer, All-Nippon Airlines. Granted, the plane's currently unprofitable. Granted, too, Boeing doesn't expect to break even until it has delivered at least 1,100 units. Granted, three, Boeing probably owes penalty payments to customers like Delta (NYS: DAL) and United Continental (NYS: UAL) , who've been kept waiting for the plane. Just getting the 787 done, though, after years of missteps, makes 2011 a year to remember.

And speaking of remembering... did you know Boeing sells other commercial aircraft, besides the 787? It's true. In fact, demand for the plane maker's 737 single-aisle jet is so strong that there's a waiting list seven years long to receive the plane. Recently, Boeing freshened up the line with a new 737 "MAX" variant, equipped with fuel efficient engines from General Electric (NYS: GE) -- and it's a runway success. Recent weeks have seen Boeing announce a series of "biggest ever" contracts -- one after the other.

On balance, 2011 was a grand year for Boeing. Here's hoping 2012 will be even better.

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At the time thisarticle was published Motley Fool contributor Rich Smith owns no shares of any company mentioned here.Motley Fool newsletter serviceshave recommended buying shares of Spirit AeroSystems Holdings. Try any of our Foolish newsletter servicesfree for 30 days. We Fools may not all hold the same opinions, but we all believe thatconsidering a diverse range of insightsmakes us better investors. The Motley Fool has adisclosure policy.

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