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Boeing forgoes tax breaks in Airbus trade dispute

Wing autoclave
A giant autoclave is ready to “cook” parts for the Boeing 777X wings. (Credit: Boeing)

With Boeing’s blessing, Washington state lawmakers have introduced bills aimed at suspending tax breaks that have benefited the aerospace company to the tune of millions of dollars annually.

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Airbus acquires robotics firm in Boeing’s backyard

MTM Robotics machine
MTM Robotics’ light automated robotic systems are already in use in Airbus’ manufacturing facilities. (Airbus Photo)

Airbus says it has acquired MTM Robotics, a Seattle-area company that provides automated systems for aerospace manufacturing, for an undisclosed sum.

MTM’s headquarters are in Mukilteo, Wash., just a few miles from Boeing’s Everett factory. But MTM has had a close connection to Boeing’s European archrival: For more than a decade, the company has provided light automated robotics systems for Airbus’ manufacturing facilities.

As an subsidiary of Virginia-based Airbus Americas Inc., MTM will retain its current leadership and 40-employee staff at the 10,000-square-foot Mukilteo facility, Airbus said today in a news release.

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Voom helicopter service expands to Bay Area

Voom helicopter service
Voom works with third-party helicopter operators and helipads to deliver on-demand service. (Voom Photo)

Voom has officially extended its app-based, on-demand helicopter service to the San Francisco Bay Area, confirming that the Airbus subsidiary is now active in the United States as well as in Brazil and Mexico.

Today’s announcement comes months after initial reports that the San Francisco-based venture was beta-testing its service in the Bay Area.

Customers can now use Voom’s app or website to book trips with connections to five Bay Area airports: Napa, Oakland, Palo Alto, San Francisco and San Jose. Prices start at $215, and a quick check of the website shows that the per-seat fare for a trip from San Francisco to San Jose is $285.

That’s significantly more than an Uber or taxi fare, but Voom is counting on customers to put a higher value on their time.

“Our service will make it easy and affordable for business travelers to travel quickly from locations such as the San Francisco airport to San Jose in only 20 minutes, rather than sitting in traffic for hours trying to get to a meeting,” Voom CEO Clement Monnet said in a news release.

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Kymeta boosts satellite links on the road in Peru

'SmartBus' buses in Peru
Kymeta installed flat-panel antennas shaped like white stop signs on top of TEPSA interprovincial buses in Peru. (Kymeta / Airbus Photo)

Kymeta Corp., the Redmond, Wash.-based company backed by Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and other investors, has demonstrated the performance of its flat-panel satellite antennas in an unlikely setting: on top of buses traveling throughout Peru.

With the aid of partners including Intelsat, Cubic Telecom and Cradlepoint, Kymeta worked with Airbus to create a pilot project called SmartBus. The project involved outfitting interprovincial buses operated by TEPSA — the Peruvian analog to Greyhound Lines — with Kymeta’s satellite terminals.

SmartBus is designed to gather up-to-the-minute data on road safety and other indicators to improve Peru’s transportation system while connecting people in remote areas of the country.

The system leverages satellite bandwidth capacity from Intelsat, cellular coverage from Cubic Telecom and a software-defined WAN solution from Cradlepoint to establish real-time data connections along a 460-mile bus route through Peru.

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Audi and Airbus show off mini-me flying car

Pop.Up Next prototype
Audi, Airbus and Italdesign are showing off a quarter-scale prototype of their “Pop.Up Next” drone-car hybrid at the Amsterdam Drone Week conference. (Audi AG Photo)

A flying car developed by Airbus, Audi and Italdesign took a high-profile test flight today at the Amsterdam Drone Week conference, but its size was low-profile.

The modular vehicle was a quarter-scale demonstration model of the “Pop.Up Next” transportation system that the three companies are developing.

The idea is to have a passenger compartment that can sit on top of a four-wheeled electric vehicle to travel the roads, or attach to the bottom of a quadcopter to fly through the air. At the Amsterdam show, the three companies displayed impressive full-scale mockups of the flying car, but the gizmo that actually flew was basically a drone with brackets attached.

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Blue Origin and Airbus back ‘The Moon Race’

Moon balloon
Organizers of “The Moon Race” and their partners lift a moon-festooned balloon as they unveil their effort at a space conference in Germany. (The Moon Race via Twitter)

A new nonprofit organization is partnering with Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture, Airbus and other heavy-hitters to create a moon-centric prize program known as “The Moon Race.”

The contest’s goal is to boost technologies that could contribute to sustainable lunar exploration. A lot of the details, however, are still up in the air — including exactly what those technologies will be, and how much the prizes will amount to.

The project’s German organizers say more will be revealed next year, to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the historic Apollo 11 moon landing. Between now and then, they plan to nail down the details in league with Blue Origin and Airbus, as well as the European Space AgencyMexico’s space agency and Vinci Construction.

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Boeing and Embraer forge $4.75B jet venture

Boeing and Embraer jets
The Boeing-Embraer deal would add regional jets such as Embraer’s E190-E2 to a lineup that also includes Boeing’s 737 MAX 7 and larger jets. (Embraer Illustration)

After months of negotiations, Boeing and Brazilian jetmaker Embraer today announced a tentative agreement to form a $4.75 billion joint venture that would bring Embraer’s small-size commercial aircraft operations firmly into Boeing’s fold.

The arrangement is a strategic parry to last year’s move by Boeing’s European archrival, Airbus, to partner with Canada’s Bombardier on small-size jets.

Embraer’s engineering expertise could also come into play as Boeing gears up to design and produce a new breed of midsize jet variously known as the New Mid-Market Airplane, NMA or 797.

“This important partnership clearly aligns with Boeing’s long-term strategy of investing in organic growth and returning value to shareholders, complemented by strategic arrangements that enhance and accelerate our growth plans,” Dennis Muilenburg, Boeing’s chairman, president and CEO, said today in a news release.

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WTO ruling opens the way for tariffs (or talks)

Airbus A380 jumbo jet
European loan programs for developing Airbus’ A380 jumbo jet were among the issues addressed in a ruling from the World Trade Organization. (Airbus / e*m Photo / H. Gousse)

The World Trade Organization today issued its final report in a long-running dispute over subsidies for Airbus jets, potentially clearing the way for the U.S. to levy harsh tariffs on European imports.

It’s more likely, however, that U.S. and European officials will bear down on negotiations over complaints that also touch on the Boeing Co.’s tax breaks from Washington state.

Today’s WTO appellate panel ruling determined that Airbus received improper loan subsidies from European governments to launch its A350 and A380 jets. Similar claims, relating to the A320 and A330 lines, were dismissed.

In a statement, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said the ruling “confirms once and for all that the EU has long ignored WTO rules.”

“Unless the EU finally takes action to stop breaking the rules and harming U.S. interests, the United States will have to move forward with countermeasures on EU products,” Lighthizer said.

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg said the ruling affirmed his company’s complaints. “Today’s final ruling sends a clear message: disregard for the rules and illegal subsidies is not tolerated,” he said in a statement.

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Vahana air taxi makes first test flight in Oregon

Vahana flight
Vahana’s Alpha One air-taxi prototype flies over a test range in eastern Oregon. (Vahana Photo)

This week marked a milestone for Airbus Ventures’ Vahana team, which is developing a self-flying, electric-powered air taxi — also known as a flying car.

Vahana’s 20-foot-wide Alpha One prototype executed its first test flight at the Pendleton Unmanned Aerial Systems Range in eastern Oregon, rising to a height of 16 feet (5 meters) during 53 seconds in the air on Jan. 31.

Another test flight came a day later, Vahana project leader Zach Lovering reported in a Medium posting.

Representatives from the Federal Aviation Administration and Airbus’ A3 advanced-projects division were in attendance, along with the full Vahana team, Lovering said.

“In just under two years, Vahana took a concept sketch on a napkin and built a full-scale, self-piloted aircraft that has successfully completed its first flight,” he said in a news release.

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Boeing and Airbus duel for multibillion-dollar deals

Flydubai 737 MAX 8
Flydubai’s first 737 MAX 8 takes off from Boeing’s Seattle delivery center in July. (Boeing Photo)

There’s nothing like an international air show to bring out the multibillion-dollar sales, and the 2017 Dubai Airshow is setting a new standard.

Boeing’s big deal of the day was an agreement with flydubai, the hometown airline, for the purchase of up to 225 more 737 MAX jets for a list-price value of $27 billion. More than 50 of the first 175 planes will be 737 MAX 10s, the newest and largest variant in the MAX family.

“We are extremely honored that flydubai has selected to be an all-Boeing operator for many years to come,” Kevin McAllister, Boeing Commercial Airlines’ president and CEO, said today in a news release. Flydubai has already taken delivery of 63 737-800s and three 737 MAX 8 airplanes under the terms of previous deals.

Not to be outdone, Airbus announced a memorandum of understanding for the purchase of 430 airplanes in its A320neo family, valued at $49.5 billion at list prices.

The deal was struck with Phoenix-based Indigo Partners, a private equity firm that owns Denver-based Frontier Airlines and also backs Mexico’s Volaris airline, Hungary’s Wizz Air and Chile’s JetSmart.

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