Government gives Airbus its wings

Government continues its industry partnership drive.

The Government has agreed a public/private partnership with British Aerospace involving a long term investment of up to £123 million towards the design and development of the wing for the new Airbus A340-500/600. The investment is said to secure over 2,000 jobs in the UK at British Aerospace and its suppliers.

Margaret Beckett, president of the board of trade said, ‘This represents a major step forward for the UK’s involvement in Airbus Industries, which enjoyed its most successful year to date in 1997; it is also a further demonstration of British Aerospace’s world class expertise in wing design and manufacture.

‘The agreement continues the Government’s drive to create a new partnership between government and industry.

‘The investment by the Government is repayable and will be on a commercial basis. The terms of the partnership reflect the risk that the taxpayer has been asked to share. The Government will monitor the programme carefully to ensure that the employment and other economic benefits are fully realised, and that all the conditions of the partnership are met.’

The new Airbus A340-500 will be the longest range aircraft on the market, operating up to 8,500 nautical miles, Seven launch customers have already placed orders and commitments for around 100 A340-500/600 aircraft.

The Airbus A340 500/600 represents new stretched versions of the existing Airbus A340. The A340 500 will be able to carry 313 passengers; the A340 600 will be able to carry 375 passengers up to 7,500 nautical miles.

British Aerospace holds 20% in Airbus, the other partners being Aerospatiale of France (37.9%), DASA of Germany (37.9%) and CASA of Spain (4.2%). BAe’s Airbus work contributes £1 billion to the UK’s balance of payments.