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Boeing versus Airbus    by John Newhouse order for
Boeing versus Airbus
by John Newhouse
Order:  USA  Can
Vintage, 2008 (2007)
Hardcover, Softcover
* *   Reviewed by Alex Telander

John Newhouse, who covered foreign policy for the New Yorker from the 1980s through the early 1990s, and wrote eight other books including Imperial America and Europe Adrift, brings us a seminal work of business history in Boeing versus Airbus. This is the short but complete story of the two airplane-developing giants, their history, rises and falls, and where they stand in the twenty-first century.

Boeing is the more recognized name. Based in Seattle, Washington, it's an example of what it takes to be a big, successful company in the United States. Boeing was early on the scene of commercial aircraft development, and - with some brilliant business strategies and a constantly developing technology - was able to seize the market, leaving the leftovers for Airbus, the European aircraft development company, and the other US company, McDonnell-Douglas. With its constant development of bigger and better planes, culminating in the 747 the most successful plane ever the company remained on top through the seventies and eighties; it seemed there was nothing they could do wrong.

Airbus started small. Driven by a conglomerate of European countries including France, Germany, Britain, and Spain, they were soon overtaken by Boeing in the entrepreneurial world of aircraft development and sales. Nevertheless, they kept trying to make that one plane that would be more efficient than what Boeing had on the market, hoping to turn the tables. In the late eighties, going into the nineties, this is essentially what happened with the development of the ever popular A340. Coupled with the Airbus development of a successful aircraft was Boeing's complacency in assuming they were always going to be on top. When the company changed CEOs and business models, things started to go south for Boeing, and for the first time Airbus was a name to be reckoned with.

In the mid to late nineties, the future seemed hopeful for Airbus. Boeing had countered with restrategizing and the development of the more spacious and organized 777. Airbus unveiled its secret weapon: the A380, known as a Superjumbo, the first double-decker commercial airplane. It was going to change the world, travel further than before, and carry more passengers; orders poured in. Then delays began, first technological ones, followed by bad business decisions. The A380 still has yet to make it first commercial flight for an airline. Airbus hopes for this to change late summer 2008. Meanwhile Boeing has its own secret weapon, the 787, which has been referred to as the 787 Dreamliner, and is scheduled to begin service in May, 2008.

While there is some repetition of facts previously revealed throughout the book, and chapters at times lack directon, overall Boeing versus Airbus is a fascinating read written in a simple style that anyone can understand and appreciate.

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