Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Airbus' problem

(photo picked on Wikipedia, see Airbus article)

There are a lot of things said about Airbus these times. A lot of wrong things. I don't work there but I'm just trying to make a short summary of the situation, because I hear so much shit in the medias.

There are 2 problems with Airbus these times.
1- The engineers of the Hamburg factory are using a non-integrated software for the whole cabling of the A380 cabins.
2- Airbus completely failed to see the A350 opportunity.

The media are saying everywhere "The Airbus production is too much dispatched". Really? I did work the last 30 years. And Boeing is now producing big parts of the 787 in Asia. So this must not be the (at least main) problem. I can only recommend you to read the linked article.

Problem 1: Why did the Hamburg engineers used 3D Digital Mock Up instead of Catia? I can't give the answer. But this is probably their biggest problem now. Integration is always a problem when we're speaking about IT. And people that don't know it learn it sooner or later.
With its A380, Airbus said to the airlines: "With the A380 we can make every wish comes true". The airlines heard it - they made very specific, unusual, complex requirements for the cabin interiors. This resulted in a very complex cabin cabling, which is completely different from one plane to another. Airbus failed to see the induced technological complexity of their marketing, and then installed unappropriated, non-integrated software solutions.

Problem 2: The A380 is actually a philosophy. The philosophy that the airline traffic will concentrate on a few big hubs, like in Europe London Healthrow or Frankfurt. The Boeing philosophy is exactly the contrary: The priority is to many direct connections joint by middle-sized aircrafts. An executive of Boeing explains it very well in his blog.
The A350 project was borned when Airbus saw that the airlines asked for such a plane. But again, they failed to see the opportunity. They just proposed an improved A330. The airlines had to ask for further modifications to the design. Airbus lost years and billions with this error. That's why (now former) Airbus CEO, Christian Streiff, said Airbus is a decade behind Boeing.

But 2 years ago, Boeing was way behind Airbus. Economy changes fast, and I don't doubt Airbus can adapt fast, as does Randy Baseler : "Yes, it's a tough time right now for EADS/Airbus. But they'll get through it. And we expect them to be strong competitors for a very long time."

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