THE SPORTY CAME by John Newhouse


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In its upcoming serialization in The New Yorker, Newhouse's book on the risky business of selling commercial airliners is bound to yield two or three highly interesting articles: consider that only two of the 22 commercial jets, Boeing's 707 and 727, ""are believed to have made any money""; that Boeing, ""America's leading exporter"" by far (way ahead of #2 GE), has only a single major competitor, the European Airbus consortium; and that both, along with their governments, ""worry about which side, if either, the Japanese will choose as a partner"" when they enter the fray--so high are the economic and political stakes. But that pregnant situation is set forth in the book's first three chapters, along with the devastating effects of US airline-deregulation; and most of what comes after is both more specialized--e.g., the ""design characteristics that distinguish the DC-10 from both the 747 and the L-1011"" (that were involved in the Chicago DC-10 crash that helped undermine McDonnell Douglas)--and less newsworthy: the developments of the '60s and '70s, viewed recurrently in different lights (60 pages after the foregoing: the prior DC-10 vs. L-1011 competition), that together brought about the present situation. And, a second problem: the situation itself is volatile. ""It's hard to know how or just what to think about Boeing's prospects,"" Newhouse writes.--and indeed any number of foreign developments could change the whole picture. In his last chapter, he sounds a very familiar note: US industry needs government support. ""A coherent industrial strategy . . . should be helping high-technology industries in much the same way the Japanese assist theirs and for the same reasons."" But what industrial strategy would have won for Boeing the Middle East orders that, he demonstrates in absorbing detail, went to Airbus because of timely European support for the PLO? In depicting the unique global politics of the business, Newhouse (Cold Dawn: The Story of SALT, and worthy others) has broken some fresh and significant ground; in baring the peculiarities of past airliner-competition, he has written some solid, high-tech business history. But the former is inherently time-bound, the latter for a limited readership.

Pub Date: July 9th, 1982
Publisher: Knopf