Saturday, February 24, 2007

Memo to Britain: All Animals Are Equal, But Some Are More Equal Than Others

The Telegraph reports today that Germany has demanded future wing programs as the price that Airbus will pay to go ahead with the restructuring that everyone knows is coming.

Herr Bischoff of EADS has said that Britain has not invested in the composite technology necessary to build the next generation of aircraft and has lost its place in the queue as a result.

According to reports ,the work will be taken from Broughton and the A350 wingset program will be shifted to Germany.

Apparently, it has occurred to the Germans that the way that they can save jobs and paper over their screwups on the A380 program (which precipitated the crisis within Airbus in the first place) and their general lack of productivity is by making war on Britons-again.

This should have a lot of appeal to the French as well. It offers a resolution to the problem of implementing the restructuring program that everyone except three guys up on the polar icecap know is necessary for Airbus to survive as more than a maker of single aisle aircraft. It also offers a resolution that is without pain for Germany or France, and it's payback of a sort for BAE dumping its chunk of EADS last year.

In short it is the easy way out for France. Whether it would be the smart way out remains to be seen.

One wonders whether Herr Bischoff has any real understanding of the business of making wings and implementing composite technology or whether he is merely bloviating and posturing.

Stade, the German Airbus plant that produces composites for Airbus is, according to Airbus, building airfoils and skin although there's a lot of self promotion going on. The composite center wing structure for the A380 is produced in Nantes, which, as we are reliably informed, flies the Tricolor. And the A400M wing. containing significant composite structure, is being manufactured in BAE's Filton plant-still under the Union Jack, we hear.

The fact is, the center point of excellence and technology in the production of composite aerostructures is right where it has been for the last 20 years-in the United States. Airbus, for whatever reasons, did not believe in the technology, attacked it when it was being adopted by the competition, and has now adopted a watered down version that surrenders much of the rationale for using the technology in the first place, for an aircraft that won't fly for six or seven years, if ever-the A350XWB. It sounds like NIH-not invented here to me.

As a famous Briton once observed in a little book called Animal Farm, "All animals are equal-only some are more equal than others."

Stay tuned.


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