So, at the end of last week, the idea that Boeing was going to be sole bidder on the Air Force aerial refueling tanker “took a nose dive.” (Sorry, I couldn’t resist.) EADS talked about applying on their own without an American partner, the Air Force said that they’d extend the deadline to accommodate EADS doing so, and then a rumor broke out that the Russian aerospace company United Aircraft would be applying too. Apparently, at least that last one isn’t true, but it is still a sign of the times to come.
Like so many other things in the world, we often like to think of everything as a choice between two extremes: U.S. vs. U.S.S.R., Magic vs. Bird, Boeing vs. EADS. But the world is a complicated place, and one thing I know about economics is that market opportunity breeds competition; that is to say, the aerospace market is full of opportunity, and there are a lot of competitors trying to get into the market. Russia’s United Aircraft is just one of the many countries – not to mention China, Canada and Brazil – moving into this space. For now, they are nibbling around the edges, but someday in the not too distant future it won’t just be a choice between the A380 and the 787.
Now, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, particularly for our region. First off, competition can spur innovation and force companies to remain nimble and responsive. Second, and more important, is that a majority of our state’s 600 aerospace companies are suppliers who have increasing networks of customers around the world. More airplane manufacturers/assemblers means more customers for our local companies. And we’re well positioned geographically to reach many of them relatively easily. So bring on the Russians. I hope they like composite materials!