Airbus firing public shots at Boeing's new airplane

SEATTLE: The war of words between Boeing and Airbus escalated last week when an Airbus executive called Boeing's proposed sonic cruiser a "publicity stunt."

SEATTLE: The war of words between Boeing and Airbus escalated last week when an Airbus executive called Boeing's proposed sonic cruiser a "publicity stunt."

Unveiled in March 2001, the sonic cruiser will ideally fly 20% faster than speeds that are currently possible. The plane is still in the research stages.

But Airbus SVP and chief commercial officer John Leahy called the sonic cruiser "one of the biggest public relations stunts this industry has ever seen, in an interview with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

The remark wasn't off the cuff, but just the latest in an ongoing verbal salvo from Airbus.

"The aircraft is, always has been, and remains a paper airplane, said Airbus North America communications manager Mary Anne Greczyn. "Boeing dangled it out there to entice its customers. But they could never back it up in terms of performance. While Boeing customers have been excited, Airbus always knew it would never balance with economic realities. It would cost customers quite a bit to fly on a plane like this. And with everyone tightening their belts, it's not economically viable."

Boeing took a more diplomatic approach in this ongoing debate, with spokeswoman Lori Gunter stating that Boeing "has no direct response, other than that we have a very dedicated effort going with our best engineers. We don't consider them part of our PR staff."

Boeing is in the midst of its research and development phase, and while the public often demands instant gratification when it comes to news, the announcement of a new plane and being able to deliver the goods can take over two years, said Gunter.

"It's too early to make any decisions, she added. "We're not going to change the way it works. And we're not going to change our process because of artificial claims in the media. We will decide whether will we go forward or not based on the research we are doing. And we will know that when we make that decision, we've done our homework."

This is just the latest in an ongoing tit-for-tat between the two aeronautic rivals. In late July, Boeing blasted a $5 million Airbus ad campaign suggesting Airbus' four-engine planes are safer than two-engine planes. Boeing executives called the campaign a scare tactic. Airbus defended the ads, saying it only promoted its four-engine planes.

Just prior to the ad campaign, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported that Airbus CEO Noel Forgeard suggested that Boeing should eliminate 25,000 jobs if it wants to be as efficient as his company.

And Boeing has accused Airbus of keeping production rates higher than what is needed by the airline industry, meaning that Airbus could soon beat Boeing in production for the first time, something Airbus would likely use as a PR weapon. But Boeing contends that deliveries, not orders, are the true measure of a manufacturer's strengths.

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