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KAI RYSSDAL: Boeing has 27,000 union machinists walking the picket lines. Commercial jet production has ground to a halt. The company’s losing $110 million a day. So a bit of good news was probably welcome today. Boeing has won a round in the $40 billion competition to build new refueling tankers for the Air Force. Marketplace’s Mitchell Hartman explains.
MITCHELL HARTMAN: The Pentagon said today it’s delaying, yet again, its request for proposals to build the new tanker. Defense Secretary Robert Gates used words like “cooling off period” and “highly charged environment” in his statement. That reflects the intense competition between Boeing and its rival, the partnership of Northrup Grumman and Europe’s Airbus.
Aerospace consultant Scott Hamilton has been following this saga for the last seven years.
SCOTT HAMILTON: The tanker competition has been one screwed-up mess.
Boeing first proposed replacing the aging tanker fleet in 2001. It lost the contract to Northrup and Airbus but had that decision overturned. This latest delay gives Boeing more time to lobby a new presidential administration and land the contract.
HAMILTON: This is less about who’s building the tanker than it is about Boeing versus Airbus, and American jobs versus French jobs — those dastardly Frenchmen.
Airbus and Northrup Grumman say they’ll build a factory in Alabama to assemble the new plane. Hamilton says Boeing is worried that would give Airbus a toe-hold in the lucrative U.S. aircraft market.
I’m Mitchell Hartman for Marketplace.
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