"Heads of government must interest themselves in this industry," said James Callaghan, the former Prime Minister of Britain. Will President Reagan agree, now that the long-established American lead in selling commercial airliners all over the world is being challenged by Airbus, a European consortium with the backing of several governments? Should Washington give more help to Boeing and the others? Is a partnership with the Japanese the answer? These policy questions are raised but not explored by Mr. Newhouse; nonetheless, his excellent study, which incorporates a great deal of original research, should improve the quality of the public debate that seems bound to come.