Thursday, June 01, 2006

Too Little, Too Late, Toulouse

I've been busy closing out classes, grading term papers, and starting other classes for the folks who make my extravagant lifestyle possible. That, and a couple of juicy court appointed juvenile cases have kept me busy. So when my sister emailed me and said "What's up wit dat? How come no blogging?!" I figured it was time to get back on the case.

1. The A350.

There's a lot of discussion lately about the new! improved! better than ever! wait! no! really! double secret really really better than ever! A350 from Festung Airbus, and the consensus seems to be that there may well be a big splash at the Farnborough Gran Baile and Fandango Deluxe that's upcoming in July.

Of course, the report in Flight International from Festung Airbus today blames all on the customers not telling Airbus what they wanted. Charles Champion of Airbus was quoted as saying that constructive criticism came a little late.

That seems to be the play at the Festung when the post coital afterglow wears off and customers start getting hostile. Fact is, Airbus thought they could compete for orders with warmups and leftovers against the 787-something that the Dougloids could have told them wasn't such a great idea, has all sorts of bad outcomes, pisses off the clients etc etc.

2. The WhaleJet.

On the subject of the A380, there is a distinct odor of decomposition starting to emerge from that program, and the bath that Airbus takes on it will probably be the biggest thing since Caracalla built his bathhouse. Nobody's signed an order since last June, and that can't be a good sign.

3. The Peanut Gallery

Over at, a ruckus erupted when the moderators (it is a moderated site) decided that the term WhaleJet in reference to the A380 was henceforth and forever banned from the site-perhaps because a number of well known apologists and whiners were getting their feelings hurt. Never known for their sense of humor or appreciation of the well turned double entendre, the moderators banned one of my pals for referring to Airbus HQ as the Fuhrerbunker. I have served my time in the doghouse at for being a little too witty at times, and I received a plateful of slag from one moderator in particular. For all you fans of, the slag stops when you figure out who owns the domain ( a technical college in Sweden) and you start copying everything you receive of that type to abuse@ the home site.

Of course, there was something of a hue and cry from some folks, and the moderators reversed themselves.

I have a modest proposal to soothe the hurt feelings of everyone over the subject. How about we call it the Albatross, and give everyone who's interested a copy of The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner, complete with Gustav Dore etchings? That ought to keep the marketing department up at night.

4. Fundamentally Different Futures from Mike Boyd

Michael Boyd, the outspoken iconoclast and enfant terrible of the aviation business has published a trenchant, witty, satiric and ultimately on point Hot Flash a couple of days ago which is linked above. In it, he states clearly that the missteps and marketing screwups at the Festung are on a par with the Douglas DC8, the Lockheed Electra, and the CV880 and 990-all of which were well engineered (and in the case of the CV990 exquisitely beautiful) commercial flops.

He says that the measure of success in the manufacture of commercial aircraft, particularly where billions of dollars are needed to develop and field a product is not past sales or last year's successes, but the clarity of vision that the firm possesses. Boyd goes on to state that Boeing invested heavily in new production technology with the 787, where Airbus invested in developing a larger 747. Although the Albatross is a technological tour de force and can offer substantial economies if the seats are all sold, you gotta sell the seats to realize the economies of scale that Airbus bet the ranch on.

The A350, according to Boyd, 'failed miserably' to impress anyone in the airline business, thus adding to the general consensus that Airbus is a day late and a dollar short.

To the notion of clarity of vision that Mike articulates, I'd probably amend it to read clarity of the right vision for the time and the relevant market both now and in the future.

One thing Mike says that merits a lot of hard thought over is the notion of city pairs that is one of the major talking points of The Prussian Airplane Company. He says that nobody in Omaha can expect nonstop flights to Budapest and a $200 million piece of equipment is going to be used between big cities, and most big cities are hubs. This, if true, could validate at least part of the Albatross business case. Time will tell.


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