Thai goose spruced

Dave Wilson looks at the life and times of Howard Hughes and finds that, in the years since his death, the aeroplane industry hasn’t changed all that much.

<b>’Once you consent to some concession, you can never cancel it and put things back the way they are.’ – Howard Hughes.</b>

Last weekend, I made a rare excursion from the confines of my house to journey down to the local picture palace to see Martin Scorsese’s wonderful new $100 million epic about the life and times of that eccentric recluse, womaniser and aviation enthusiast Leonardo DiCaprio (surely Howard Hughes? – Ed.).

In one notably terrific scene, DiCaprio, the head of TWA, fights a corrupt US Senator who is proposing a law that, if passed, would restrict transatlantic flights to TWA rival PanAm, effectively ruining DiCaprio’s business.

The Senator himself is portrayed as a man with only his own interests at heart – he has even let the PanAm chief and his cronies draft the legislation in return for numerous personal favours.

Shocking, eh? And the sort of thing that makes you jolly glad that you didn’t live back then when politics played such a large part in the aircraft business.

But wait a gosh darned minute! Is this a report from Reuters that I see before me?

Dated last November 2004, way before the terrifying Tsunami hit the shores of Thailand, it claims that Thailand’s Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra told the country’s Thai Airways chiefs not to finalise its billion dollar order with the folks at Airbus until the European Union lifted its restrictions on some Thai food products, like shrimp.

And it goes on to infer that if the EU doesn’t do so, then the lucky lads at Boeing might be getting a call. The holier than thou European Union stands its ground in the report, unwilling to compromise its position by importing dodgy Thai foodstuffs into the EU, claiming that they’re a health hazard and not a bargaining chip for orders of the European Spruce Goose. (Shouldn’t that be Airbus? – Ed.)

But if it ever looked like the Thai’s were setting a new course to Sea-Tac airport, they ain’t now. Because three weeks ago, the US shrimp industry won an antidumping case with the International Trade Commission, which confirmed that the industry had been injured by illegally dumped shrimp imports from six countries, including – wait for it – Thailand. Antidumping duties of 17.22% on Thai shrimp are set to follow.

One can only wonder what that eccentric recluse, womaniser and aviation enthusiast Leonardo DiCaprio (surely, Howard Hughes?- Ed.) would have made of all of this? Possibly, he might see an opportunity to rebuild a new version of his own Hercules aircraft in India and compete for the Thai business head on with both Boeing and Airbus. You know, if he were alive, he just might.