I read somewhere that Airbus developed the A350 in response to the B787. In general, how much do Boeing and Airbus know about each other's aircraft? And how do they learn about the detailed designs of those aircraft? Do they buy each other's planes and study them piece by piece?

  • $\begingroup$ Anecdotal: When I visited the boeing factory in Seattle for a tour, all cellphones/cameras had to be left in a locker in the lobby. They were serious about industrial espionage! $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Commented Nov 26, 2020 at 9:23
  • $\begingroup$ Airbus used to own Super Guppies to transport aircraft parts around Europe. $\endgroup$
    – Efe Ballı
    Commented Nov 26, 2020 at 10:00
  • $\begingroup$ “In response to” does not suggest copying anything from the actual design. Just designing something for the same market segment. A350 is actually a much more conservative design than B787. $\endgroup$
    – Jan Hudec
    Commented Nov 26, 2020 at 22:13
  • $\begingroup$ I was not necessarily implying copying. But there's a large spectrum between plagiarism and being inspired. Btw, this has happened in other industries (e.g. automobile). Also, with Airbus manufacturing in China as well, it's been discussed whether such a thing could happen to Airbus from the Chinese. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 26, 2020 at 22:48

1 Answer 1


When a manufacturer is making an aircraft to compete with another manufacturer's products, they have the public marketing material to go off of, as well as what their customers tell them the other aircraft can do, and what they are looking to buy. The general performance capabilities and costs are what is most important at the high level of making a competing product.

More in-depth study does help for detailed information, and there are multiple ways that this can happen.

Manufacturers will end up with airplanes from other manufacturers through trade-ins. Just like with car dealers, they may offer to buy older aircraft from a customer as part of the sales deal for new aircraft. Unless they are headed for scrap, these aircraft are generally worth more intact on the used market than dismantling them but it certainly allows closer study.

Manufacturers can also look for parts on the spares market like any other buyer, and get specific parts of interest that way.

Information can also be found in safety bulletins or accident reports if a certain system or component is involved.

  • $\begingroup$ Don't forget they have to file public patents on anything truly new. $\endgroup$
    – TomMcW
    Commented Nov 26, 2020 at 17:34
  • $\begingroup$ So in short, @fooot's answer is"no, it doesn't really happen". It's quite surprising to me. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 26, 2020 at 22:52
  • $\begingroup$ @StefanLafon should not really be surprising considering the actual monetary cost of such aircraft. recouping those expenses would be near-impossible $\endgroup$
    – Federico
    Commented Nov 28, 2020 at 9:18
  • $\begingroup$ Could you explain? Developing a new aircraft costs billions of dollars. So buying one aircraft from the competition is peanuts compared to that. $\endgroup$ Commented Nov 28, 2020 at 14:29

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