Much has been made in the American media of the rivalry between Airbus and Boeing. Airbus has been aggressively courting Boeing's core customer base, and Boeing is working hard to maintain its position. Given all the attention the rivalry has received, it's natural to wonder, is there actually a difference between the two aircraft manufacturers? Or can we chalk this up as pure marketing strategy?
According to the pilots who fly them, there truly are differences between Boeing and Airbus aircraft. For starters, many Airbus and Boeing planes have different control systems. Boeing offers a 'fly-by-wire' system which allows pilots to control the plane via a joystick and foot pedals, which transmit electrical signals that adjust the plane's controls. By contrast, Boeing planes predominantly employ a traditional 'yoke' system, which allows pilots to directly affect the plane's controls without electronic mediation. Boeing and Airbus also employ slightly different aircraft designs. For example, Boeing's jumbo jet, the 747-81, holds up to 467 passengers and has a range of 11,443 miles, while the Airbus A380 can hold up to 853 passengers (though it usually carries only 500) and has a range of 9,756 miles.
There are many more differences such as these between the various aircraft offered by Boeing and Airbus, and, ultimately the deciding votes go to the manufacturer's #1 customers: the airlines.