Boeing and Airbus talk about security

  • Tuesday, December 18, 2001 9:00pm
  • Business

Associated Press

TOULOUSE, France — Setting aside rivalry and competition, Boeing’s commercial aircraft chief ventured onto the home turf of Europe’s Airbus for cordial talks on ways to improve airplane security after the Sept. 11 attacks.

At a news conference on Tuesday, Boeing’s Alan Mulally said he and Airbus chief executive Noel Forgeard also discussed efforts to help speed the recovery of the battered airline industry and reduce environmental damage and noise caused by planes.

The two executives met Monday at Airbus headquarters in the southern city of Toulouse. Mulally spoke to reporters a day later at a Toulouse business school.

Despite competition between the world’s two biggest commercial jet makers, Mulally said he and Forgeard found common ground on safety issues.

"We had a very productive meeting with Mr. Forgeard and his Airbus team to do what we can to further improve the security of the transportation system," Mulally said.

Forgeard recently criticized the U.S. government for what he called its unfair policy of subsidizing Boeing after the Sept. 11 attacks. In an interview published in Les Echos, a French financial daily, Forgeard called the U.S. aid a "veritable Boeing Marshall Plan."

Mulally said it was "absolutely not true" that the government support is unfair. "We follow very clear rules," he said.

The Boeing executive sought to put to rest tensions between the two companies.

"We are not the evil empire, and we really are pretty nice people," Mulally said. It was his second visit to Airbus headquarters.

The two executives also discussed new locks for cockpit doors and special surveillance cameras for planes.

"As far as the industry goes, we work together on (safety) continuously, but the horrible events of Sept. 11 have accelerated our thinking on that," Mulally said.

Mulally sidestepped questions about Airbus’ A380, its planned 555-seat airplane, preferring instead to talk about Boeing’s 747 jumbo jet.

"We have a lot of experience with large airplanes," he said, adding, "We think the average size of airliners will continue to decrease."

Mulally also touched on Boeing’s program for the Sonic Cruiser — a 200- to 250-passenger airliner that would fly higher and faster than current airliners — saying that the program is "going very well."

Both companies have been hard-hit by the fallout from Sept. 11.

Airbus plans to cut 500 jobs in Britain and will reduce the total number of employee work hours by 20 percent to cope with declining demand. The company also recently lowered the number of commercial aircraft it expects to deliver in 2002 to 300 from 375 before the attacks. Forgeard has said it is too early to provide a forecast for 2003.

Chicago-based Boeing Co. has said it plans to slash as many as 30,000 jobs by the middle of next year.

Boeing also plans to cut passenger jet production rates in half by mid-2002. It will deliver 522 jetliners this year, about the same number it had forecast before the attacks, but only 350 to 400 next year and even fewer in 2003.

Copyright ©2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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