The Chicago Tribune today offers a fascinating look at how Airbus has screwed up production of the A380. (The mass rollout has been pushed back another two years and engineers are now resorting to hand-building the planes.) Among other things, huge sections of the plane were designed and are built in three different places across Europe, using different CAD systems that apparently don’t talk well to each other.
To be sure, many of the problems are grounded in the usual political mire: trying to ensure each of the major national contributors to EADS, Airbus’ parent, gets a piece of the pie, instead of considering what’s the best way to build a reliable superliner at its lowest possible cost.
In 2003, Airbus sold more planes than Boeing, a feat it repeated in 2004 and 2005. What this sorry tale reminds us is that pendelums swing, and sometimes way faster than anyone could anticipate.