Close to the Sun by Stephen Aris
How Europe Won Back Its Place In The Skies; The history of Airbus Industrie, the builders of the Airbus family of airliners, is an extraordinary saga involving diplomatic dramas, billion-dollar gambles in high technology and a life-and-death struggle between the European planemakers and the giants of the American aerospace industry. Airbus began in 1967 with a Franco-German-British agreement to build a twin-engined, wide-bodied airliner, the plane that eventually became the Airbus A300. For the Germans, and especially for the French, the venture was a calculated response to Le Defi Americain, the threat of American economic domination, and it was largely their faith and determination which kept the venture going through its first eight years, when just 38 planes were sold, mainly to Air France. The British attitude, on the other hand, was distinctly equivocal, and the ink was barely dry on the agreement before Harold Wilson's government decided to back out and Rolls Royce took the fatal decision to back Lockheed's Tristar in preference to the Airbus. Happily for the British industry, however, Hawker Siddeley, with financial support from the Germans, kept a foot in the door and Britain rejoined as a 20 percent partner in 1978. By then the tide had begun to turn, a sensational deal with Eastern Airlines planted the Airbus flag in the heart of Boeing's territory and major inroads were being made into the burgeoning Far Eastern market. Eventually, by the mid-1990s, after two of the American contenders, Lockheed and McDonnell Douglas, had fallen by the wayside and Airbus had gone on to develop a whole family of aircraft, the airliner business had become a two-horse race. Today, Airbus and Boeing are galloping neck-and-neck, while charges of unfair government subsidies (Airbus has absorbed between 13 and 25 billion dollars of taxpayer's money over the years and Boeing is a major recipient of the Pentagon's largesse), breaches of international trade treaties and general corruption and skulduggery fly back and forth. And the battle will go on. The recent decision to launch the A370, the world's largest airliner, means that Airbus has now staked its whole future, perhaps even its very survival, on challenging Boeing in the one area where the latter has so far enjoyed a monopoly, the four-engined Jumbo jet. In response, Boeing has chosen to move the goalposts onto new ground with the announcement of its The takeover of the minority Spanish partner, CASA, by Germany's DASA, and the subsequent merger of the French and German Airbus interests means that Britain's Bae is now very much a minority stakeholder in the business. But the British have at least had their way in one respect, Airbus, which had until 1999 enjoyed a very curious corporate status under a French law designed to protect wine makers, is now the subsidiary of a single, public company and its financial results will, for the first time, be open to scrutiny. Stephen Aris, who has spent three years researching this book, has been granted unprecedented access to the Airbus archives and has interviewed virtually all the businesses senior executives, past and present, as well talking to Airbus's customers and competitors. The result is a major business book that provides readers with the first in-depth portrait of one of Europe's most important companies.