Saturday, March 03, 2007

[airbus] a camel designed by a committee

Airbus is a troubled monster.

French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin has revealed he'd talked with Chancellor Angela Merkel about the problems at Airbus and confirmed it is seeking to cut 10,000 jobs, saying, "This company is largely Franco-German, very European and there needs to be an equitable distribution of efforts between the countries."

Translated, that means that while profits need to be slanted France's way, job losses must be equitably distributed. Germany's Financial Times Deutschland has said that German carmaker DaimlerChrysler was responsible for halting the planned restructuring because it was worried France would keep too much of the manufacturing work and had concerns over the cost-cut targets.

American Thinker says that Reuters notes:

Franco—German friction is at the heart of a management feud that has gripped parent firm EADS and stalled appointments of a new Airbus chief executive, new EADS co—CEOs and a boss for its defence business.
Sad but true - the news of yet more delays to the Airbus A380 comes as little surprise. In recent weeks there has been widespread speculation that the problems revealed by the company in June were just the tip of the iceberg.

AM goes on to say:

Airbus has always been an odd entity, cobbled together from formerly—autonomous aerospace manufacturers in France, Germany, and Spain, with additional participation by British Aerospace. Airbus headquarters remain in Toulouse, France, Sud's former home base. It may be a European company, but to many it looks quite French.

Therein lies the squabbling plus one other factor - the French obsession with glory. A glance at my own field of sailing reveals that the French are at the heart of speed records, new concepts such as variable geometry trimarans and so on. For the French, it is shining glory which counts, rather than structural integrity and thus the A380 monster was born:

Because the new airplane is both massive and extensively employs state—of—the—art composites in its structure, the nightmare scenario would involve threats to its structural integrity. The smaller Boeing Dreamliner also employs composites, but its smaller size means that stresses due to sheer mass will be less of an engineering obstacle.

If you have only two major players in world aviation, namely Boeing and Airbus, then it is logical that the statistically few crashes around the world will be down to one or other of these. And yet, in Airbus' case, it is the nature of the structural failure which garners such attention. Not pilot error, not airport difficulties - structural errors. It has always been so. Look at some of the continuing disasters:

New York, leading to this Federal directive, Jamaica, Irkutsk, the Persian Gulf, Moscow, Canada, the list goes on.

The best way I can summarize it is Alec Issigonis' comment that the camel is an animal designed by a committee. When design and construction teams must comprise politically acceptable elements from the various nations, the result is not a think tank but a mish-mash.

1 comment:

CityUnslicker said...

little to disagree with here JH. A good post.

Airbus is not at its heart a commercial organisation and so can shirk the responsiilities; knowing thatthe governments will back it come what may.