All You Have to Do Is Dream …

… and know a few insiders and maybe Joey the Clown … 

Recently, the U.S. Air Force announced its decision to award the contract that ultimately would replace its aging tanker fleet (a whole lotta planes built by Boeing) to Northrop Grumman and partner, European Aero Big Boy, or EADS. The contract was Boeing’s to lose, it widely was thought, and loose they did. But hey, this is America — all you have to do is dream (and have a few well-placed congressmen and lobbyists) and anything is possible. Did we mention labor leaders? 

We applauded the Air Force’s choice, because it appeared to choose what was best for the Air Force and its tanker fleet’s future. Shortly after the award announcement, it was rumored that narcissistic Boeing balked not only at this award to someone other than mighty Boeing, but at the request for proposal specs. Boeing says the Air Force called for a medium-size tanker. Boeing put up its medium-size 767 while EADS put up Airbus’ big, BIG A-330. Go big, go often! So the Air Force chose the Airbus proposal. 

“Foul!” cried Boeing. But according to our industry source, who was “stunned we would buy a French jet for the Air Force,” he thought Boeing and the Air Force were spooked by their shared scandal. In 2004, Bad Boy Boeing lost a sweet $26 million deal when some pretty shady dealings between it and the Boys in Blue were revealed. Boeing was fined more than $600 million, and people went to prison. (Untidy.) Our favorite industry source politely speculated that Boeing might have lost touch with its client and had “no idea of the value the Air Force placed on the additional items that Airbus provided.” (Read: Boeing was clueless as to what the Air Force wanted.) This source stated Boeing’s unfortunate situation comes down to a “business development failure. They bid the 767 when they should have bid the 777. Boeing dropped it on that one. It is up to them to know.” (Touche!) 

Did the Air Force alter how it would evaluate the proposals? We say red herring, but that’s for the GAO to determine. Although serious irregularities on the part of the Air Force are possible, they are unlikely. After the bloodletting that followed its super-secret-special deal with its former cohort-in-crime (Boeing), it’s difficult to imagine our fly boys would risk their careers and contracts and the future of the crucial tanker fleet. The GAO has 100 days to render its opinion.

Sit. Wait. Lobby.

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