Global partnerships and aerospace: Giving it all away?

Are plane makers the Boeing Co. and Airbus exporting both their knowledge and jobs in respective countries?

The international president of the labor union that represents Boeing Machinists said he thinks at least the American plane maker is “giving it all away.”

R. Thomas Buffenbarger, of the International Association of Machinists, appeared on CNN’s Lou Dobbs show Thursday evening in a report about China’s decision to join Boeing and Airbus in the large commercial airplane building business (see my last blog entry for more on that topic). The labor chief said Boeing’s decision to increase its use of outsourcing on its new 787 Dreamliner sends American jobs overseas and helps countries like China get in the aerospace game.

Boeing views China as an important customer, one that will need more than 2,000 aircraft in the next 20 years. Enlisting Chinese companies as part of its 787 global supply chain increases not only Boeing’s bottom line but also its ability to win orders from Asian carriers, some say. When Airbus opted to put an A320 factory in China, several analysts saw it as a threat to Boeing’s ability to compete there.

The Machinists’ Buffenbarger, on the other hand, thinks Boeing is handing the Chinese the aerospace knowledge the country will need to make its first large aircraft due out in 2020 — a move that has both short and long term implications for Machinists here at Boeing’s Everett plant.

But China isn’t the only country with huge order potential drawing the plane makers’ attention.

Airbus will look to Russian aerospace companies to do up to 5 percent of the airframe work on its new A350 XWB, said the company Thursday. (For more on this topic, Russian President Vladimir Putin has long expressed his desire to jump into the business.

The announcement came as Russian flag carrier Aeroflot ordered 22 A350s. The move also takes place less than one week after Airbus workers in Spain, France and Germany staged a strike against the European plane maker because it plans to slash 10,000 jobs across the continent. Government officials in both France and Germany launched threats at Airbus and its parent company, European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. over their cost cutting plan.

Is Airbus getting a leg up on Boeing in Russia? Or is it following Boeing’s example, as Buffenbarger says, in giving it all away?

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