Dasa has designs on Airbus wings

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The Independent Online
DASA, the aerospace and defence arm of Daimler-Benz, the German car maker which has just announced the world's largest industrial merger with Chrysler of the US, has ambitions to design and build a composite wing for the next generation of Airbus planes.

Such a move would represent a serious blow to British hopes for the project. A composite wing is one built entirely out of synthetic materials. These wings already exist in military aircraft, and there is one light business class of airplane which has a composite wing design.

British Aerospace at the moment holds the contract to design and supply Airbus with traditional metal wings, which it makes in its Chester factory. The company, with a 20 per cent shareholding in Airbus Industrie, is researching the development of a composite wing for the Airbus range at its Filton site outside Bristol. However, Roger Redman, a former leader on the programme, has accused the project of incompetence and mismanagement. He said the project lacked clear direction and management input.

It would be an enormous jump from its existing civil technology if Dasa did build a composite wing for Airbus. A spokesman for the company said it was "too soon to speculate", but did not deny the possibility at some stage.

Christopher Partridge, aerospace analyst at Deutsche Morgan Grenfell, said Dasa's ambition would fit perfectly with its desire to bolster its overall influence within the Airbus project.

Developments for the Airbus project are clouded by the fact that BAe, along with its European partners - Aerospatiale of France, Casa of Spain, and Dasa - are set to inject their Airbus-linked business into Airbus Industrie next year, creating a single company, rather than the existing French Groupement d'Interet Economique. A first-ever truly European company would, as Airbus develops, make it less important as to who actually develops the technology. But Lionel Jospin's government is opposed to losing state control over its involvement.