There’s so many elements that make aviation a big appeal to me. First, of course, is the cruel reality that we can’t just flap or spread something of ourselves and fly unassisted — like birds. And then again, had we evolved as flying creatures there’d be nothing particularly special about it, I suppose; and so we’re left with a far sweeter obstacle in that we did evolve the means of flight but had to develop it and train it, and ultimately risk smashing it into a puddle of mush. I’m talking about man’s mind.
So that’s the second appeal. Pioneering aviation was a terribly risky thing to do and countless people paid the ultimate price. They bet more than the farm. They bet their lives; and many ended up short.
And then you stop and think that some guys — obviously warped mentally as they risked their lives to do this — all while watching friends and other pioneers perish in the kinds of mishaps that require a case of ziplock baggies to properly clean up — were even dumb enough to think they could turn this whole delusion into a profitable business. "Yea, hey, I’m gonna get whole generations to cram their families into aluminum tubes and sail the skies at 30,000 feet. Wanna invest?"
Some guys just don’t take no for an answer. I just loved reading this article about the big comeback of Boeing with their B787 roll out next month, due at your local airport sometime next year. The article leads off with an amazing perspective. The 787 is back ordered to 2013 with 500 orders placed. The most successful long-range aircraft in history, the 747, has sold 1,500 units in its 39-year history. But of course the 787 hasn’t even been airborne yet, so it’s got quite a lot of work to do before it can even begin to challenge the great 747. Boeing has a lot riding on this — like the farm.
I don’t imagine anyone will take real notice that a company like Airbus doesn’t stand a chance in a marketplace where, at very least, many of the players are free to choose something produced by a company rather than a committee of nations (imagine our Congress designing and building an airplane to compete in the marketplace). You know, I recall seeing a Discovery show about the A380, which is an impressive aircraft to be sure (in spite of Airbus). But here they were carting huge pieces of it (like wing sections and whatnot) all over Europe through small villages and such because everyone has to have their hand in it: not for business reasons; for political reasons. And I said to myself: no wonder they require subsidy.
The thing is, with the sort of financing EU nations can bring to bear on something like that, it’s no surprise they got a jump on Boeing for a few years. But Boeing had the "luxury" (the right) to design whatever they wanted. They timed it right and I have no doubt that the end result will be the failure of the A380 in the marketplace. That’s really too bad, because there are a lot of good aviation people behind that and they just don’t deserve anything but respect for what they do. I’d say that’s the only reason Airbus has aircraft worth a crap at all (and I’ve flown on a lot of ’em). It’s because of the good people who design, build, fly and maintain them. They’re of a breed, you see, and even a grotesque monstrosity like the EU can’t completely nullify them. We’ll see what Airbus and the EU find they have to do to out-compete Boeing when the next round comes along. Maybe that’ll count for something like progress — I don’t know — but it won’t matter so long as Boeing can still design and build whatever they want.