This week's Berlin air show may deliver progress on two of Europe's longest-running aerospace projects--a military helicopter for Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands, and Airbus Industrie's proposed giant airliner. Both projects are dominated by companies that are due to merge next month into the European Aeronautic Defence & Space Co. (EADS)--DaimlerChrysler Aerospace of Germany and France's Aerospatiale Matra.
Airbus has been promoting its proposed A3XX super-jumbo airliner for years, but the company's supervisory board was due to consider last month whether to authorize the consortium to actually sign contracts to supply the 555-seat plane. That board meeting was deferred, for unstated reasons, but has now been rescheduled to coincide with the timing, location and therefore publicity of the Berlin air show--ILA 2000, which begins Tuesday. Authority to offer the A3XX to airlines will probably not mean Airbus is committed to building the plane, however. Aircraft manufacturers usually seek a batch of launch contracts before starting production. Airbus estimates the A3XX, a competitor to the Boeing Co. 747 Jumbo, would cost $12 billion to develop. Airbus is a consortium of EADS partners DaimlerChrysler Aerospace, Aerospatiale and Spain's state firm Casa, plus 20% shareholder BAE Systems of Britain.