Con­test for the sky

Finweek English Edition - - INSIDE -

It’s a Go­liath ver­sus Go­liath story, ex­cept with air­craft. Bill Boe­ing built his first air­plane fac­tory at the turn of the 20th cen­tury in Seat­tle, Washington. The Boe­ings had made a for­tune out of tim­ber and it was be­cause of tim­ber that Seat­tle be­came the base for Boe­ing’s op­er­a­tions, since at that stage air­craft were mainly made out of wood.

To­day the Boe­ing fac­tory in Everett, Washington, is housed in the largest build­ing by vol­ume on the planet. It cov­ers an area of 39.8 hectares and has a vol­ume of 13m cu­bic me­ters. That’s enough to house Dis­ney­land in Cal­i­for­nia and still leave 4.9 hectares for park­ing.

To­day close on 12 000 planes in the sky are Boe­ings.

Be­tween them Air­bus and Boe­ing have built most of the large com­mer­cial air­craft dot­ting the skies, and it’s a re­mark­able story with many facets in­clud­ing how the new (Euro­pean) kid on the block made in­roads on the es­tab­lished Amer­i­can gi­ant.

By the time Air­bus en­tered the mar­ketB in 1972, Boe­ing had a good 20-year head­start in com­mer­cial avi­a­tion. It had launched the first com­mer­cial jet­liner the Boe­ing 707 in 1958, mak­ing the US the world’s pre­mier com­mer­cial air­craft man­u­fac­turer. This was fol­lowed by ar­guably the world’s most pop­u­lar plane, the 737, and in 1970 Boe­ing launched the in­tercon­ti­nen­tal 747.

The play­ing field was still so skewed by 1991 (only 20 years ago) that Air­bus de­liv­ered only 163 new air­craft and had a turnover of $7.5bn.

Boe­ing’s sales that year to­talled $29bn, and the com­pany de­liv­ered 435 com­mer­cial planes.

Ever since then it has been a humdinger of a bat­tle and it now ap­pears that Air­bus is start­ing to nose ahead on points.

Lin­den Birns, Air­bus’s spokesper­son for sub-Sa­ha­ran Africa, says by 2011, Air­bus had out­sold Boe­ing for the 9th time in the past 10 years on gross or­ders.

“In 2011, Air­bus an­nounced a to­tal gross num­ber of or­ders placed for 1608 air­craft for a to­tal value of $169bn,” Birns says.

oe­ing re­ceived or­ders for 805 air­craft. In the past 10 years, be­tween 2002 and 2011, Air­bus re­ceived 7 181 or­ders and de­liv­ered 4 218 air­craft, while Boe­ing won 6 360 or­ders and de­liv­ered 3 871 air­craft in the same pe­riod, ac­cord­ing to the com­pa­nies’ pub­lished num­bers.


Part of the Air­bus success seems to have been the de­ci­sion to in­volve other na­tions in the pro­duc­tion process.

While Boe­ing has mostly re­mained proudly Amer­i­can, Air­bus went the other route and gath­ered a num­ber of coun­tries as part­ners in its devel­op­ment and sup­ply chain process. The Euro­pean con­glom­er­ate now man­u­fac­tures its air­craft in a va­ri­ety of coun­tries, in­clud­ing Spain, the UK, France and Ger­many.

South Africa is also an in­te­gral part of the Air­bus global sup­ply chain, and in 2010 Air­bus en­tered into con­tracts worth R4bn with three South African com­po­nent man­u­fac­tur­ers.

Simon Ward, deputy head of in­ter­na­tional op­er­a­tions at Air­bus, said just over R500m was for work re­lated to the new A350 Air­bus. The three com­pa­nies, Aero­sud, Cape Town-based Cob­ham An­tenna Sys­tems and Denel Aerostruc­tures (DAe) were al­ready in­volved in man­u­fac­tur­ing com­po­nents for Air­bus air­craft such as the A400M macro air­lifter.

Cob­ham An­tenna Sys­tems pro­vides

Con­cept plane over New York

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