WASHINGTON -- Aerospace giant Boeing (IW 1000/53) said Thursday it delivered 601 commercial aircraft in 2012, substantially more than the previous year, while it booked the second-highest orders in company history.

Ramped-up production rates drove a 26% increase in deliveries from 477 deliveries in 2011, the Chicago-based company said, highlighting the level was the most since 1999.

Boeing booked 1,203 net jetliner orders in 2012 and unfilled commercial airplane orders at year-end stood at a record 4,373, the company said.

Boeing's 737 program of single-aisle airplanes, the aviation industry's best-selling commercial plane, set a new record for net orders in a single year: 1,124.

Driving the increase were 914 orders for the new 737 MAX, equipped with a new fuel-efficient engine and expected to make its first flight in 2016.

The Next-Generation 737 set a new annual record with 415 deliveries in 2012, Boeing said.

Boeing looked certain to overtake European rival Airbus as the world's top airplane maker this year. According to the latest Airbus figures, in the year through November 30 the EADS unit booked 646 orders and delivered 516 aircraft.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2013