EC says Washington-funded research boosts Boeing and demands open tender process

European negotiators have demanded US research contracts be opened up to Airbus as part of negotiations to scrap civil aircraft subsidies.

European trade commissioner Peter Mandelson met his US counterpart Robert Zoellick late last week in Washington DC. The two are midway through a 90-day series of talks aimed at ending state aid given to Airbus and Boeing, and the European Commission will ask for some US research to be put out to competitive tender as part of any settlement, a senior Mandelson aide says. The EC believes that much of the research carried out by Boeing for US government agencies, including NASA and the Department of Defense, is for technologies that assist the airframer in its civil business.

The two sides will spend much of the three-month period defining what each other sees as subsidy. The EC says that Boeing Commercial Airplanes has gained an "unfair advantage" due to basic research being funded by the US government. The EC cites composite materials, developed for the Space Shuttle and military programmes as one example of military technology finding its way into civilian work. The EC objects to patents being awarded to Boeing, so "US taxpayers' money is used, but no competitive tender process is launched".

What the European negotiating teams would really like is access to US DoD contracts for Airbus. "If there is a non-military R&D project, then it should be published and both companies should be allowed to compete in an open tender," the EC source says. This should apply especially to NASA contracts for new materials work, he adds.

The Commission cites the recent decision by the DoD - later overturned - to sole-source 100 Boeing 767 tankers as evidence of the inefficiencies of the status quo. The EC alleges that the contract value was around 20% greater than the Airbus A330-200 solution, amounting to a subsidy greater than the entire development costs of the A350.


Source: Flight International