Why the fuss about the EADS Boeing tanker order?

If you’ve been following the news over the past few days, you may have learned that congress and Americans alike are up in arms about the Air Force’s recent contract with the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS), parent company to Airbus, to manufacture the next generation of their airborne tankers.

EADS recently outdesigned and outbid local favorite Boeing on the contract to win the 40 billion deal. The job is purported to create over twenty thousand jobs in Alabama and Kansas, while over forty thousand jobs would have been created (or retained, rather) at Boeing.

This is what has got so many Americans angry. But don’t be so quick to jump on the bandwagon. Here are a few points to consider before you start burning your stockpile of french fries, crepes and berets:

  • The US Airforce chose the aircraft that would work best for the armed forces. The two competing aircraft were compared based on five criteria, and in each of those categories, the EADS aircraft was superior to the Boeing. All of them.
  • The armed forces are required by law to not consider jobs created or lost in their selection process. A law called the Buy America Act also stipulates that they must hold several EU nations in the same manufacturing regard as the US. So even if they wanted to discriminate against workers in Europe or America, they couldn’t.
  • EADS, and thus Airbus, is not a French company. It’s a European conglomerate with multiple countries sharing ownership.
  • Competition is good! If we didn’t have two large airframe designers in the market, the resulting monopoly could result in poorly made, expensive machinery.

From an engineer’s standpoint, it’s simple to me: pick the product with the best price to performance ratio. In this case, it was the EADS aircraft. That’s it. I know our trade deficit will broaden, but this is not an area in which we want to pick a fight.

What irritates me is how politicians, bureaucrats and line workers paint the picture of the Air Force hating America and our troops because of this contract. As one union worker on NPR complained:
“It’s not the best. Boeing makes the best aircraft in the world. Not Airbus. Airbus makes cheap crap.”

We’re still creating jobs in the United States with this contract. We’re also finding the best, most cost-effective way to update our aging tanker fleet. Boeing, and our economy will survive.

Check out the NPR Morning edition article for more info.