Boeing will not wait for the US government to move before taking unspecified action against alleged unfair subsidies for Airbus. "This is not about the US government, this is about us, and the US government will decide how they want to do it and when they want to, and whether they want to, do it," Boeing chief executive Harry Stonecipher has told Flight International.

Stonecipher earlier this year promised to "raise the rhetoric" on the issue of government launch aid for Airbus. Boeing believes the 1992 agreement between the European Union and the USA limiting government launch aid to 33% of development costs is outdated given Airbus's market success.

"The [agreement], which was intended, I think, to help a start-up industry get going, has come to set the floor for subsidy," says Stonecipher. "As soon as it came to launching the A380, then all the hosepipes were hooked up to the treasuries of three countries in particular and $4 billion came zooming through.

"Airbus by their own characterisation are making more than we are. If they are making all this money and have all the market share that they describe, then why do they need the subsidies? This whole subsidisation thing has gone on long enough. They keep trying to turn it into a globalisation issue. But this is about transparency and subsidy."

Airbus maintains it has stuck rigidly to the 1992 agreement. "These are not subsidies, but refundable launch aids, fully compliant with the 1992 bilateral," it says.

Stonecipher says Boeing is willing to talk to Airbus about business incentives provided by Washington state to secure 7E7 final assembly, and about the extent to which its military contracts underwrite the commercial business. "We are willing to have that conversation about Eurocopter, Eurofighter, Tiger, any of their [military] platforms," he says.

High-level talks on the issue between US and European officials "are making some progress", says Patty Murray, US senator for Washington state. It is unclear whether the US government is prepared to take the subsidy issue to the World Trade Organisation.



Source: Flight International