Friday, January 08, 2010

Putting Your Money Where Your Mouth Is: the Last Angry Man Speaks Out

Every once in a while, if you live long enough, you have one of those moments of clarity that explains everything-well, it's food for thought maybe.

I've been thinking about aviation this morning, particularly the sparring going on between the twins of Orwellian duopoly, Boeing and Airbus over the air force's future tanker program.

And, I've got a small axe to grind-otherwise why would I be rapping about this?

Some symbology is appropriate. You can figure out which image belongs to which player....

In considering the ruckus that's gone on with the Air Force's requirement for a future tanker, we're confronted with two flawed producers and some bit players.

You can count Northrop Grumman out as they're merely the stalking horse for Airbus, the French aviation combine. (Parenthetically, anyone who thinks Airbus is not a French combine run from Toulouse can now leave the room.) You can also count out the Alabamians-they're noisy teabaggers who've bought into the notion that the French are actually interested enough in what goes on in this country to put their money where their camembert hole is.

So-Airbus and Boeing.

As we already know, a few years back, Boeing had the tanker contract sewed up, in the bag, deal done, and all they had to do was tote the cash to the bank. Then, there was that unfortunate business of people going to jail, malfeasance in high office, suborning perjury, bribes-you get the picture.

The takehome was that the KC767 contract got cancelled. And there things stood for a while, until an allegedly squeaky clean new regime of management people who had "seen the light"arrived to restart the process.
Airbus, on the other hand, has trailed its skirts with a canard of dangling a 'production facility' in front of the Alabamians who, showing that they're as dumb as they were back in 1865, actually believe that this is something that's going to happen as advertised.

We here at the Dougloid Towers are not uninformed about such matters-there was the "second 737 line" for Long Beach, there's the "second 787 line" for what? South Carolina?, there's the Chinese Airbus plant and the Chinese MD80 plant-you see where this is going, right?

We're confident that if Uncle bites the Airbus cyanide capsule, a building will be erected in Alabama for a "production facility". What that means is that shortly thereafter someone will "announce" that Toulouse is actually a county in Alabama, a Confederate flag will be raised there to convince doubters, and newly naturalized Alabamians in berets, brandishing baguettes and reeking of brie and garlic will be adding "y'all' to everything-"après moi, le déluge , y'all."

The airplanes will be flown in to Alabama green with a ferry pack of avionics, and they'll be outfitted with the rest of the tanker gear and a paint job. It may be a completion center but it most definitely will not be building airplanes, and when the order's completed the "aircraft plant" will be "repurposed" to a chicken farm quicker than Cinderella's coach turned into a pumpkin.

Why is this going to happen? For the same reason we'd do it if the shoe was on the other foot, and for the same reason there was really no chance at all for that "second 737 line". The workers won't have it-and I can respect the French aircraft workers for it. They're not going to train Americans to do their work for them in any substantial way-to do what? To lose work they'll never get back once it goes offshore?

Which brings me to my main point. Boeing, for all its flaws, is an American company. It builds most of its planes here, it spends money on infrastructure, it pays its workers well, and it's here for the long haul. It hasn't tried to insult the French people with transparent charades like this 'Alabama aircraft plant'.

Hell's bells, as my father would have said, they had the chance to buy McDonnell Douglas' commercial operations at a fire sale price in the early nineties when even Taiwan Aerospace-whatever that is-got cold feet. They would have had their assembly line and their tanker program right there.

Even now, I think it's a lead pipe cinch that if Airbus was really interested in the American market as a place to tap expertise and skills, and actually construct aircraft from the keelsons up, and had made that investment in Alabama or anywhere else-they'd already have the tanker contract in hand.

That's the view from here.


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