Today Airbus delivered it’s 10,000 airplane. It is an A350-900 for Singapore Airlines making this is a big day for Airbus.
Airbus made its first delivery in 1974. It took a lot of confidence to create the company from a number of small European-based aerospace firms and cobble these parts into one group with one vision; break into an American dominated industry, In the process other EU-based aerospace firms that were not part of the Airbus combine were left to wither mercilessly – like Fokker and Dornier along with others – which was awkward because these brands were great and had been delivering credible aircraft. The nation-state shareholders had a vision and were not going to allow anything to get in the way of that.
Nation-state shareholders also came with baggage. Airbus also had to overcome the nationality-based “balance” between the Germans and French. Then throw British and Spanish interests to add to the mix and make things even more interesting. With initial shareholders being nations, one can imagine what levels of interference managers had to overcome with every election in these four countries. Every big decision had to be “balanced” – all the while America firms had to merely satisfy shareholders with earnings.
But an advantage Airbus had was that nation states can afford to be patient. Far more patient than shareholders who want performance every quarter. The EU states helped enable and create what is Airbus today – a public company with no obvious nation-state meddling. Although, as we have seen these same states can be annoying customers of the A400M.
Meanwhile the other big names in commercial aviation that Airbus had to compete with, like McDonnell Douglas and Lockheed have all disappeared. It may have taken Airbus longer to reach 10,000 than Boeing. But, as Airbus Group President Tom Enders noted “It took us 19 years to deliver the first 1000th aircraft and now only 19 months to deliver the last 1000.” Airbus climbed the learning curve well.
Look at these numbers in another way, and you can see Airbus is chasing Boeing – and catching up. While the order race between the two is the fight that gets most attention, the delivery race is more important.
The battle between Airbus and Boeing forces both firms to keep operating at peak performance. Airlines and lessors like this, a lot. And every air traveler is a beneficiary.