Does anyone else wonder what it says about Europe that all their leaders get together and celebrate as a major achievement the display of a new plane (whose development has cost $13B thus far) that still hasn't left the ground? Read this and marvel at the technological prowess that culminates in Europe's ability to turn on a floodlight!
Heads of state from the four traditional Airbus partner countries came together to help celebrate the unveiling of the first A380, paying tribute to the vision and dedication of Airbus and the spirit of co-operation that had made this day possible.
For French President Jacques Chirac, the unveiling of the A380 was a moment of pride and emotion.
He hailed the A380 as a great European success story and said the huge technological feat was matched by the environmental challenge, with the A380 being one of the cleanest aircraft in the world. President Chirac also thanked more than 200,000 workers in Europe and around the world whose efforts made the aircraft possible and the airlines for enabling the A380 to ‘spread its wings and fly’.
"Today is the culmination of a huge effort by all those involved in the programme," he said. "The A380 demonstrates the success of European industrial policy and embodies the vision of European integration. I hope this is the first in a long line of successes."
British Prime Minister Tony Blair said: "The A380 is the most exciting aircraft in the world and is a symbol of economic strength, technological innovation and a dedicated workforce."
He took the opportunity to pay tribute to the dedication and skills of workers in the UK and across Europe. "They deserve great praise for their contribution to this aircraft," he said.
"The A380 is the result of unprecedented co-operation between the four countries and today was the culmination of many years of hard work. This is a day of which we can all be truly proud."
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder said the occasion was "a great day for Europe and the aviation industry and a triumph of engineering in the best traditions of our four countries".
"I still remember coming to Toulouse many years ago to discuss the A380 and how the project could be supported. And to those people who then said, ‘Lord knows when this project might happen’, we present this aircraft today," he said.
"You have written a piece of European history and I wish you all the best for the future."
Spanish Prime Minister José-Luis Rodriguez Zapatero described the A380 as a ‘monument of intelligence’ and a milestone in the capacity of human progress. Seeing the aircraft, he said people would reach the conclusion that ‘Europe can’t be stopped’.
He said the dream was made possible only because four countries came together under the single blue flag of the European Union, adding: "It’s the best example of civilised co-existence devised by man."
The four heads of state then joined Airbus President and CEO Noël Forgeard and the heads of airlines and Airbus shareholders in pressing the button which floodlit the A380 to a rapturous round of applause from the assembled guests and media.
I swear, when it comes to geoploitics and economics in the 21st century it's as though we are playing an altogether different game.