Air Transport World

Europe weighs SST role. (supersonic transports)(includes related article on engine development)

Aerospatiale leads the push for funding, to avoid being shut out of technology development

Conventional wisdom appears to be gaining that in the early part of the next century, the major chapter in the ongoing and intensifying rivalry between European and U.S. commercial transport manufacturers could be about supersonic transports.

The U.S. effort to develop a viable second-generation SST (ATW, 4/95) has been alarmingly extensive from the European point of view. The manufacturers, chiefly Boeing and McDonnell Douglas for airframes, and GE Aircraft Engines and Pratt & Whitney for power plants, have been encouraged by unusual government cooperation in the form of NASA, which has committed about $2 billion for its High Speed Research program that runs into 2001.

While these programs have the U.S. galloping along, European manufacturers have been exploring their options at a much more modest pace. Among the leaders, Aerospatiale Chairman Louis Gallois has been the most vocal in sounding an alarm, pointing out that in 1994, while the U.S. effort was fueled by nearly $200 million in NASA contracts, the Europeans spent $15 million, more or less, probably less. He estimates that even the Japanese spent more than Europe in 1994, around $50 million.

While these independent efforts have been taking place in Europe, Japan and the U.S., there have been collaborative efforts as well. A so-called Group of Five was formed in 1990, comprising Boeing and McDonnell Douglas from the U.S., and Aerospatiale, British Aerospace and Deutsche Airbus from Europe. About a year later, Italy's Alenia, Russia's Tupolev and the Society of Japanese Aerospace Cos. (SJAC) were added to the group. Now, the Japanese are represented by the Japan Aircraft Development Corp. The group devoted its initial efforts to environmental issues, the potential market for a new SST, certification criteria and the possibilities of a joint international program to develop and produce such a transport. …

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