19.8.11

Boeing Versus Airbus

I picked up a book in the gift shop of The Leela Mumbai, a hotel famous (maybe infamous) for accommodating airline crew and its proximity to the airport doesn't seem to help. The gift shop was designed around that fact, there were many books about airlines and flying, many miniature airplanes, and travel magazines that seemed to exclude Mumbai.

Everything in that place seemed to spell aircrew, so for once I let the shop decide the purchase. I bought a book called "Airbus Versus Boeing." I bought it and decided to call it my next reading material. The book deals with the business side of the competition and the complex characters and leaders in both firms, it deals with the international support that both these entities have and details his arguments pretty well. The author clearly has a wish to see Boeing win the race but has enough facts in front of him to be able to cover the story unbiased.

I agree with Publishers Weekly in the statement that:

The thousands who work in the airplane and airline industries may enjoy the details; the rest of us—even frequent fliers—might not be as interested.
I think the author did a good job talking about the facts outside the cockpit, but were it matters most to me is in the cockpit and pilot-related talk. The comparison of the Airbus and Boeing philosophies. Those items were discussed by Slate and Salon. Since I currently fly an Airbus aircraft from the FBW family, I have a certain bias towards its flying.


Personally, I enjoy looking at Boeing Jets, the 747 is without doubt the most recognizable commercial aircraft that was ever built and the newest version, the 747-8 is arguably the most beautiful aircraft ever built. The Airbus answer to it, the A380, is an unsightly behemoth and I have always showed a certain loathing for it.

It still does not mean that I will ever have any objection to fly one of the two.
What I do like is competition, the greatest masterpieces of aviation were created in moments of great pressure.
The 747 was created in an era when the people envisaged that all future travel will be supersonic, and so they created an aircraft that can be used for cargo in subsonic settings. They were wrong but made something amazing out of it.

The A300, the first in the A3x0 was in direct competition and acted as a replacement of the L-1011 and the DC-10, used techniques such as the cancellation of the flight engineer station and fuel consumption that is 30% less
than that of the L-1011 to penetrate a market almost exclusive to american companies. However, ETOPS came later and then killed the trijets.

The A320 was created in an attempt to compete with the very popular 737 and therefore had to include so many advancements and technological breakthroughs to be a formidable opponent, it lead to the Airbus "philosophy" and the real launch of the Airbus brand.

The 787, the aircraft that came to signify the next war between Airbus and Boeing, is not in direct competition with the A380 in terms of seats obviously but in terms of business strategy, Boeing is thinking of a smaller airplane with less flights between hubs and more traveling directly between city pairs. This led Boeing to look at fuel savings, composite materials and no-bleed architecture, it also encouraged Boeing to look at the cabin conditions for the first time in more than 30 years. More humidity, lower cabin altitude and more spacious windows are the primary improvements.

The more I think I about it, the more I like the competition and I am hoping that more companies join the war of large commercial aircraft.


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