Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Europe's Spruce Goose

I have been following the misadventures of the Airbus A380 mega jumbo jet over the recent months and years, amazed that the brainiacs on the Old Continent really thought this gigantic mess would ever make much/any money. In the recent months the jumbo problems with production have made me think of the Spruce Goose, the huge wooden aircraft built by Howard Hughes in the 1940's. The plane missed the war it was supposed to had been built for and flew only once, managing to rise just 70 feet over water for barely a mile (you might remember the climactic scene in the Aviator). Sure, the A380 has already surpassed that feat, but it looks like a much more colossal waste of money and resources. So far Airbus has only 159 orders for the A380 and I wouldn't be surprised to see some cancellations soon. It just shows what a huge pile of public money in the hands of proud "continentalist" politicians can do. Did anybody say Concorde?

So let's recount just a few problems:
- Huge bet on a shrinking segment
- Production problems as different parts are built in different countries
- Delivery of first planes delayed by more than a year
- Wake turbulence issues

No wonder the stock of Airbus's parent company, EADS, lost a quarter of its value just last week (it has recovered some ground). The Boeing folks here in Chicago must be overwhelmed with joy, as they grab more and more orders for the mid-size 787.

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