Sunday, May 20, 2007

Airbus Bust

It's official. The Airbus venture is a mess. That doesn't come as a surprise to anyone who has followed the saga. Airbus chief executive Louis Gallois says national pride has been the downfall of the European aircraft manufacturer in which France and Germany are the biggest partners in an interview in the New York Times-owned International Herald Tribune.

Airbus airliners are assembled in France with parts made also in Germany, Britain and Spain. Gallois said the technical problems with the A380 had revealed the extent of the problems in building aircraft in a number of different sites in different countries, with engineers attempting to correct problems working in different ways. Well, duh.

When rear fuselage sections of A380s built in the German city of Hamburg began arriving at the main Airbus site in Toulouse, France, in 2004 they lacked the correct wiring for the aircraft's in-flight entertainment system.

It was discovered that the computer modelling softwares used by the company's German and French sites were incompatible.

Those are not national pride issues but political interference in the project with both Germany and France vying for portions of the contract. The Airbus was supposed to cure the problem of high unemployment in Europe but jobs and job security became paramount concerns, with engineering and production a distant priority. Couple all that with the usual socialist corruption, graft, union-management collusion that rivaled even Chrysler and Ford deals, and you have an idea of why the Airbus is lucky that the wings fit on the plane.

Reportedly Gallois said the changes would involve transferring some jobs to different locations in Europe. That's something unions in France and Germany won't handle well, if at all. The "restructuring" frequently referred to is the loss of some 10,000 jobs.

In the tradition of throwing good money after lost money, French President Nicolas Sarkozy has promised to inject new cash into EADS, the parent of struggling European plane-maker Airbus, if new shares are issued. He also said France would sell their stake in EADS. Eventually.

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