Aviation success story that challenged might of America

Series Title
Series Details Vol.7, No.3, 18.1.01, p21
Publication Date 18/01/2001
Content Type

Date: 18/01/01

THIS is not the first superjumbo dogfight.

From nothing but a hangar-full of subsidies in the 1960s, Airbus by 1980 had grabbed a 20% share of the world market for large commercial aircraft.

After the launch of its A320 narrow-bodied, twin-engine jet, the US Reagan administration went into battle for Boeing and McDonnell Douglas in particular.

When Airbus approached the Canadian authorities in search of financing and customers, Ottawa got a warning from a White House keen to give the McDonnell Douglas MD80 and Boeing 737-300 a clear run at the mid-sized jet market. Still, the A320 became the fastest-selling commercial plane in history by the late 1980s.

As the German manufacturing arm of the consortium won a guarantee from its government against foreign-exchange fluctuations (allowed for German farmers but verboten for manufacturing), US patience snapped.

Washington complained to the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, and the propaganda battle between the two sides was joined. A US government report calculated that since the 1960s, Airbus has received €28 billion the EU counters that over the previous 15 years, Boeing has received various indirect aid worth 44 billion euro.

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