Airbus’s Boeing 787 dossier could have wider implications for both airframers

Washington DC
This story is sourced from Flight International
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The revelation that Airbus has compiled a detailed dossier about the shortcomings of Boeing's 787 programme - apparently sourced from internal proprietary data and suppliers - could have a wider implications for both airframers.

The publication of alleged "Boeing Proprietary" information in an Airbus document could affect Northrop Grumman's attempt to rebid - with Airbus parent EADS as a partner - against Boeing to replace the US Air Force tanker fleet.

Former Aerospace Industries Association president John Douglass believes that this episode could have a material impact on the US Department of Defense's decision-making process.

"Obviously our government is concerned about these things and wants to see all the contractors perform in an ethical way, so it could be an issue," Douglass says. "On the other hand this could be just some charts somebody got."

Boeing's congressional allies will use this revelation to paint Airbus as "not an acceptable or trustworthy transatlantic partner when it comes to defence technology", says Richard Aboulafia, vice-president of analysis at the Teal Group.

Much of the Airbus dossier was drawn from sources across the aerospace industry, including Boeing customers and suppliers, with some cited specifically by name. Supplier "firewalls" between rival programmes have always been legally fortified through non-disclosure agreements and intellectual property protections, yet this dossier highlights the fine line that first-tier suppliers walk when serving clients with competing products.

Spirit AeroSystems, first tier supplier to both 787 and A350 programmes, is cited in the Airbus report and insists it is unaware of how Boeing proprietary data was communicated to Airbus.

In the near term, the Airbus report adds additional clarity to what is suspected to be an additional six-month delay to the 787 programme, pushing entry into service to early in the third quarter 2010 - over two years later than the original May 2008 target. Boeing is expected to issue updated guidance in mid-December.