Airbus firing public shots at Boeing cruiser

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.

Boeing spokeswoman Lori Gunter said 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'.

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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