Details beginning to emerge in tanker ruling

All those interested in the GAO tanker decision are waiting for the 69-page decision to be sanitized of proprietary information, but one detail about life cycle cost emerged, according to this Bloomberg report: that Boeing wound up with a $91.8m life cycle advantage after the Air Force corrected a math error. This math error was one of seven “significant” errors identified by the GAO in its three page press release in recommending a recompete.

To put this in perspective, this is a difference of $2.3 million per year over the projected 40 year life cycle, out of a $35 billion program. This is a rounding error, and not one we’d call particularly significant. It’s also a far cry from the hyperbolic, hand-ringing $40 billion promoted by Boeing.

We hope the 69-page decision is a bit more definitive and substantive than this.

New, 100 PM EDT: The Mobile Press-Register’s JD Crowe is at it again with this cartoon following the GAO decision:

3 Comments on “Details beginning to emerge in tanker ruling

  1. Wasn’t this $91 million ’rounding error’ difference after the USAF boosted Boeing’s costs by over $5 billion?

    Personally, I still feel that the Northrop Grumman/EADS tanker is the right choice, but the most probable life cycle cost difference between the two was much more than $91 million.

  2. Scott, this may be a moot point, but this question has been bothering me for months. Would EADS actually build A330 airframes in Alabama? They have made a big deal of announcing “final assembly” in Mobile, but it doesn’t add up:

    1) 1000 employees estimated for the tanker mods and other staffing for the Air Force contract sounds about right
    2) possible additional 300 employees to do A330 freighter mods and delivery if the freighter mod operation goes to the U.S. (and even the potential loss of 300 jobs was a big deal to the Airbus unions) So who would assemble the airframes?
    3) No mention of subassemblies or Belugas coming to Mobile. I don’t believe the Beluga has ever been outside Europe, has it?
    4) Airbus (like other aerospace companies we know) has a history of overstating and overpromising when it suits their purpose.
    5) It’s one thing to have redundant final assembly of a model located in two places. But it would be ludicrously expensive and time consuming to recertify a whole new A330 airframe assembly operation with the FAA when they’ve already gone through the process in Europe.

    Based on the very little information that’s out about EADS/Mobile, it sure looks like they were going to continue to do airframe assembly in Toulouse, and fly to Mobile for plumbing, booms etc.

    Which would be fine, except EADS has left a very different impression with Congress, the Alabama politicians, new media etc. Is it possible they just redefined the words “final assembly?”

  3. My understanding is that would be just an assembly model, much as Boeing’s 787 is just an assembly model (but let’s hope Northrop/Airbus wouldn’t have the troubles Boeing has had).

    The Beluga has been to the US, at least twice that I know of–once at a static display at Boeing Field (of all placed) and once bringing emergency medical equipment and supplies following Katrina (where was FEMA?).


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