Like most companies, EADS strives to be exceptional. Unlike most companies, it also expends a great deal of energy in pursuit of normality.
This apparent contradiction is rooted in the creation of EADS, with the welding together of medium-sized national aerospace champions in a bid to keep Europe alive in an industry dominated by US giants. The result has been exceptional - as chief executive Louis Gallois said last week, EADS competes "eye-to-eye" with the titans across the Atlantic - but, self-evidently, the parent company of Airbus and Eurocopter has been a political project since before its birth a decade ago.
Today it is publicly traded, it pays dividends and it no longer has a politically dictated dual-management structure that pairs every German with a Frenchman. But with almost half its shares owned or controlled by the governments of France and Germany, EADS is far from being a normal company.
The issue matters, as EADS operates in a competitive and rapidly changing world and may suffer if management is hamstrung by political interference.
Still, Gallois makes a valid point when he says it is natural for governments to push for jobs and investment in their countries.
In that respect, EADS is as normal as, say, arch rival Boeing. Washington DC does not own that company, but surely has the ear of management.
(This first appeared as our second leading article in 13 March Flight International)