John Douglass, president and CEO of the US Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), is a man with a mission and a message. His mission here in Paris is to work with AIA's European equivalent AECMA to ensure that governments on both sides of the Atlantic "do not go overboard" in reacting to the strained relations between the US and Europe.

The message is that the US wants fewer European air shows. "There is a definite feeling among the leadership of the US industry that there are too many European air shows," says Douglass. "We are bound and determined to cut back. The big losers are Paris and Berlin - the two countries that caused problems for the USA [over Iraq]."

Numerous buy-American proposals have been introduced in Congress in retaliation for French and German opposition to the US-led war in Iraq. "We spend a lot of time persuading Congress not to enact anti-European legislation," says Douglass. "The story has not played itself out. The degree to which European nations cooperate to help ensure a positive outcome [in Iraq] will determine how long the US stays angry."

Relations strained by Iraq have been further stressed by the outcome of the competition to power the Airbus Military A400M airlifter. US lawmakers were incensed by the selection in May of a European turboprop over a less-expensive offering from Pratt & Whitney Canada, a subsidiary of US giant United Technologies.

Douglas says it is understandable that Europe wants to support its industrial base, but regrettable that the A400M engine choice was portrayed as an open competition when the ultimate decision was political, and not technical or financial.

"The long-term issue is that, unless Europe vastly increases its defence expenditure, there is not enough business to maintain its defence industrial base," Douglass says. "If it is government policy to mandate a European solution that is understandable. But if it is the policy, they should not try to have it in secret and ask [non-European] companies to compete when it is hopeless."

Douglass acknowledges the US military almost exclusively buys American, but argues the policy is clear to everyone. "We told EADS that the US will never order an Airbus tanker, and to think there is a chance to bid in the future is nonsense."


The hardening US attitude to European air shows has been "aggravated" by the A400M engine decision, says Douglass. "If they come to the conclusion that Europe will never buy US equipment, then there is no point in going."

Last Paris, Europe and the USA were embroiled in a dispute over hushkitted airliners. That argument was settled at the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), with help from the little-known International Coordinating Committee of Aerospace Industries Associations (ICCAIA), which includes AECMA and AIA. Douglass wants to see the ICCAIA empowered to bring joint technical solutions to ICAO. "We've used it before to coordinate things like hushkits. We'd like to see it get more active in solving policy problems," he says.

Looking ahead, Douglass expects a substantial reduction in the US presence at ILA in Berlin, while US participation in the Dubai and Singapore shows will depend on the global security situation.

Source: Flight Daily News