You can bet that Airbus execs are damn pleased to see the second A380 in the air at last. Obviously the event is important in its own right, but Airbus must be desperate to shift its focus to the A350 right now.
The company is in something of a perfect storm. For the first time ever it is on the back foot as it is forced to play catch-up with Boeing and the 787. That was always going to happen one day – timelines in the aerospace business are immense by industrial standards and have an inveitability all of their own. For more or less all its existence Airbus has been able to eat chunks out of Boeing’s market share by positioning itself as replacing older Boeings. But now the boot is on the other foot.
The timing is dire for Airbus. It was put in the position of having to come up with a competitor to the 787 – which Boeing has cleverly positioned as a technological leader – while at the same time seeing the A380 suck in engineering and cash resources as never before. It’s hard not to suspect that Boeing’s puzzling choice of timing in reigniting the state funding row is at least partly explained by its desire to pile on the agony while Airbus managers already have a huge load on their plates. Incredibly the Europeans even managed to turn the CEO-succession into a fiasco – something that not even Boeing can have expected.
The A350 programme has not gone well. Technically it’s in good shape, but the sales and marketing plan went badly awry while chief salesman John Leahy was hospitalised. Belatedly Airbus is throwing money at A350 marketing and stressing the type’s newness instead of its A330 roots. Bit by bit it’s scrambling back on the sales-train, but the 787 has so far been scarcely dented.
So every time the A380 passes another big milestone you can sense the relief in the EADS boardroom from all over Europe.
Technorati tag: A380 Airbus