Report: Airbus thwarts industrial espionage at Tianjin plant


French newspaper La Tribune reports this morning that Airbus has thwarted multiple attempts at industrial espionage at its Tianjin A320 facility.


Airbus reportedly foiled in recent months several attempts atindustrial espionage at its plant in Tianjin, which opened its doors inAugust 2008, according to our information. The President of Airbus, Tom Enders, has even mentioned several times internally inToulouse. According to some sources, it would be theft of patents.Criminals have gained access to the computer system for Airbus inTianjin, gateway access to records of certain patents.

These attempts at intrusion into the secure computer system provides fuel to opponents of the creation last year of an assemblysite for Airbus in China, the first outside Europe. Is the person on Airbus contract or an outsider? It’s a mystery. Tom Enders was reassured in this manner. For him,the discovery of these attempts proved the successful surveillance systemsestablished for the plant. However, nothing says that the thieves were making their first attempt or whether others have passed through the net.”Everything is secure. We have no problems of this type,” assures those in Tianjin.

Today’s report comes just a week after Airbus flew the first Chinese built A320 from Tianjin on May 20th with first delivery set for next month.

Flight reported last month that Airbus was exploring moving some of its A350 XWB workshare to the facility, but declined to specify what work could be done there. Airbus announced in 2007 it aims to give China 5% of the A350 work.

The Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) is currently developing its narrowbody model 919 aircraft in time for a 2014 first flight and 2016 entry into service, seating between 130 and 200 passengers.

15 Responses to Report: Airbus thwarts industrial espionage at Tianjin plant

  1. WingBender May 27, 2009 at 12:27 pm #

    No surprise here. The Chinese learned well from the master of industrial espionage — Airbus itself. Remember the infamous “Lessons Learnt” presentation, in which Airbus didn’t even bother to erase the “Boeing Proprietary” tags from the stolen Boeing documents they used? One of Airbus’s core competencies is Situational Ethics, and now it has turned around and bit them in the ass. Good riddance.

  2. CBL May 27, 2009 at 12:42 pm #

    Patents are public documents

  3. Vero Venia May 27, 2009 at 1:08 pm #

    CBS is absolutely right. Patents are public.

  4. Osiris30 May 27, 2009 at 1:22 pm #

    Well this is hardly a surprise. The question is, what *didn’t* Airbus catch and how much has been stolen? It’s one thing to say someone tried to break down your door and the door stopped them, mean while they’ve been sneaking in through the bedroom window all week.

    One only needs to look at the experiences of companies who have set up production like this in China to see where this is going to end up.

    In an effort to secure at most a couple hundred frames Airbus has gone and shot themselves in the foot.

    A bigger concern is any potential Mil information that may have been contained in those systems or connected systems.

  5. RobH May 27, 2009 at 1:29 pm #

    A patent is a flag planted on an idea, not a how-to document. Anyone doing business with the Chinese (the govt and a few shady individuals) do so at their own risk, but this is nothing new: Chinese industrialization is fundamentally based on ‘why invent when you can steal’, It’s a whole lot cheaper that way. I think it’s called ‘economical innovativation’.

  6. Sanchez May 27, 2009 at 2:28 pm #

    LOL@WingBender – if you can`t distinguish espionage from competition analysis you`d better let it be.

    Dear Airbus financial strategists, did you add the stealing of knowledge to your calculations when figuring out that it`s cheaper to outsource work to China?
    No company strategy error that Western industries have ever learnt from seems big and expensive enough for Airbus not to run into it, too. Congratulations.

  7. WingBender May 27, 2009 at 3:50 pm #


    Competitive analysis is a recognized and accepted practice in the industry. Publically available information is synthesized into a forecast or projection of how the competitor’s product will perform.

    When you brazenly use your competitor’s proprietary documents in your analysis, you have crossed the line into industrial espionage.

    To put the shoe on the other foot, if someone at Boeing gave a presentation that contained materials clearly marked “Airbus Proprietary”, they would immediately be instructed to stop the presentation, collect any hard copies they may have made, and then call Boeing’s Ethics hotline and ask for instructions on how to proceed. Boeing got burned by a couple of well-publicized ethics scandals, and as a result they are now absolutely vigilant about not letting one happen again.

    Airbus is simply experiencing what the software industry always has with the Chinese. The old Socialist dogma of “what’s yours is mine” still prevails.

  8. TEXANS FOR BOEING May 27, 2009 at 4:23 pm #

    If anyone thinks they are getting something worth while from AIRBUS isn’t very smart! AIRBUS builds the best disposable aircraft in the world.

    It’s hard to belive but I bet they have “patent” on the tearm disposable airliner!

    Built with cheap materials, sold cheap and cost a fortune to maintain.

  9. Howard May 27, 2009 at 5:06 pm #

    By Vero Venia on May 27, 2009 1:08 PM
    CBS is absolutely right. Patents are public

    Only if filed, and even then only after about a year.

  10. Vero Venia May 28, 2009 at 2:51 am #

    You build an assembly line in China or somewhere else. Then all documents needed for the good operation of the said assembly line need to be accessible on site.

    However, there is not any reason to see classified documents at the assembly that are not needed for the operation of the plant. The question is then why those unnecessary documents are there.

  11. JayPee May 28, 2009 at 3:03 am #

    there is a difference between using documents, garnered from the internet (whether or not I believe that is irrelevant, I still haven’t read anywhere that Boeing has refuted this claim nor taken any other action on this) and being caught with technical documents illegally obtained from the Pentagon and competitors (google the names Winder and Robert Gerard, Richard Fowler, Kenneth Branch, Kenneth Erskine) for which one is fined and/or suspended from bidding on further programs or to have programs/contracts awarded to be taken back. I trust you also haven’t forgotten the original tanker ethics scandal.
    A “couple” of scandals is quite funny. In 5 minutes research, I found 4 scandals going back to the early 70s (including the rabid overcharging for hammers, pliers, ashtrays and toilet seats). It would behoove you to come down from your holy “Boeing” pulpit. Judging from Boeings past, it is only a matter of time before they will be caught in another ethics scandal.
    Airbus, at worst, has merely taken a page from the book of the masters.

  12. JayPee May 28, 2009 at 3:14 am #

    This bashing of the Chinese for industrial stealing and how Airbus might be naive is quite amusing.

    Boeing is going out of its way to give the japanese information on how to not only build, but actually design a wing. A composite one at that.

    The irony is amazing!

    At Texans for Boeing, your comments immediately bring to mind the phrase, “Garbage in, garbage out”.

  13. WingBender May 28, 2009 at 6:51 pm #

    @Jay Pee

    I am quite familiar with Boeing’s history of ethical lapses, but thanks for playing. The “couple” of scandals I alluded to were specifically the original tanker contract (which earned Mike Sears and Darlene Druyun time at Club Fed) and the Lockheed rocket documents. I cited then because they were the two most recent, and probably biggest. And if you only found four Boeing ethics scandals going back to the early 70′s, you didn’t look hard enough.

    Not sure why you differentiate between proprietary documents obtained from the internet and those obtained through other means. If a document is marked “XYZ Proprietary”, then it is a proprietary document. End of story. The path it takes before it lands in your lap is irrelevant.

    There is nothing holier-than-thou about the way Boeing now teaches ethical practices. It just is what it is. And based on the “Lessons Learnt” presentation, it is my observation that Airbus does not adhere to those same standards. Sometimes you just can’t candy coat the truth. I’m sorry.

  14. BingWender May 29, 2009 at 2:44 am #


    Do your homework. How ethical was Boeing’s move when US air defence chose Airbus’s technologically superior products ? Cried to mommy then nationalist government for help.

    As for the stolen Boeing documents, again, do your homework. Original idea by Airbus.

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