Airbus’s latest corporate iteration appears to mark something of an endgame in its battle against a ­perennial pandering to compromise during its evolution from consortium to company.

Former German chancellor Ludwig Erhard once ­described compromise as the art of dividing a cake in a way that leads everyone to believe they have the ­largest piece – a practice Airbus has had to carry out ­repeatedly as German and French interests, in ­particular, clashed.

The former parent, EADS, was created with joint chiefs and joint chairmen – one French, one German – a cumbersome arrangement justified by references to “necessary balance”.

Even as EADS sought to establish itself as a ­multi-sector rival on a par with Boeing, with a prominent commercial aircraft presence and a backing group of defence and space interests, it remained hampered by political considerations.

This ponderous and unwieldy structure drew sharp criticism from several former chiefs who believed that Airbus could not progress with a make-up that ­ultimately had political rivalry at its core.

Tom Enders (below, left), hardly the pussyfooting kind, has been at the centre of efforts to free Airbus from government constraints and top-heavy management.

Tom Enders - Airbus

Airbus Group

The creation of Airbus Group unshackled the company from a decade of political interference under the EADS banner, allowing it to conduct its business on a footing more in line with normal corporate governance. Airbus Group’s branding amounted to an acknowledgement that while EADS had the larger role, Airbus had the larger name.

But if this bit of harmonisation has left anyone uncertain as to which of the two is more prominent, the recent reorganisation and management alignment is a clear signal that the commercial aircraft operation, while still the most significant part of the business, is a division within a larger group.

Airbus is starting to exercise the genuine leadership muscle its senior management team desires, at a crucial point in its development. The company is embarking on an extensive digitisation strategy, which demands simplification of corporate structures, and is navigating the ramp-up of A320neo and A350 production while dealing with issues on the A380 and A400M.

Enders is concerned less about slices than about whether Airbus’s cake is larger than that of rival Boeing. Compromise, it seems, is yesterday’s policy.

Source: Flight International