15 January 2008

Boeing vs Airbus - Tanker (PR) Wars

Monday was a great day for people who read and write blogs. Boeing and Airbus were having a bad PR haircut day.

Airbus is trying to win (against the odds) the Tanker contract based on the A330 Airframe. Boeing is trying to keep the contract based on the 767 Airframe they already won once but were disqualified due to some rather nefarious practices which resulted in Jail time for two of their former execs.

So Airbus thought they could raise the stakes by offering some political value in a backdoor offset. The offer is to position an additional A330 civil production line (for Freighters only) at the same plant in Alabama. Currently Airbus has a backlog of 65 of these aircraft.

So back to the war - yesterday was Airbus's big announcement. All the politicos who wanted news ink showed up. Hoping for some good positive stories to put the pressure on the Tanker Selection Committee to choose the European subsidiary of EADS rather than the normal US Contractor choice.

Some little dickie birdie decided yesterday was the perfect day to look at Airbus's first military program - the A400M and see how well they are doing. Or not doing as the case may be. So rather than Airbus scoring a nice PR coup - the focus in the papers this morning was on Airbus's problems not the positives.

The article that appeared in the Wall Street Journal today was less than complementary about EADS's Airbus division. Pointing to Project Management, Politics and Technology complexity as the chief causes of the A400M's woes.

In here is a little nugget that everyone should be paying attention to; a global supply chain for aircraft is by no means a trivial task even for experienced hands such as at Airbus. For Boeing there is a lesson here too. The long software integrated supply chain has incredible complexity and is very hard to get right particularly when politics and expedient choices are made.

Lessons learned. I think we will all so some more rhetoric before the decision is announced. Even then it is likely to get appealed.

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