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Airbus A380 bows out of Air Force One competition

Let Boeing have the unimportant deals, says EADS

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European Aeronautics Defence and Space (EADS), parent company of Airbus, has announced that it doesn't intend to bid for the recently-announced contract to supply new US presidential aeroplanes.

Aviation Week quotes Guy Hicks, EADS North America spokesman in Washington, as saying:

"After careful review, we've determined that participation in the Air Force One program will not help us meet [our] business objectives."

Hicks said that EADS - with Airbus involvement - wanted to focus on "bringing value to the US warfighter", which means that the company want the enormous deal to supply the new US air force tanker fleet. EADS actually managed to snatch that deal from Boeing last year, but the rival US aerospace behemoth protested to Capitol Hill that the buy hadn't been handled properly and was upheld - throwing the contract open again.

Though EADS/Airbus had planned - still does plan - to place much of the tanker work in the US, the company still faces a terrible image problem as a foreign supplier. The sense of affront to American pride at the idea of future Presidents riding around in Airbus A380 superjumbos would probably be even stronger - EADS has evidently calculated that going after the Air Force One bid would weaken its chances of winning the much bigger tanker deal on the second attempt.

That's probably a sound business decision, but it will weaken the US air force in bargaining with Boeing for the presidential jets, as the US manufacturer is now the only realistic contender.

As a footnote, one should note that the President will still nonetheless spend plenty of time in European aircraft: the new presidential helicopters, just now going into production, are modified UK/Italian Merlins. Air Force One will be US-made for the foreseeable future, then: but Marine One* will soon be substantially foreign-sourced. ®

Bootnote

*The President's aeroplane, operated by the USAF, takes on the callsign "Air Force One" when he is aboard. His helicopter is operated by the US Marines, and similarly becomes "Marine One".

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