July 3, 2017, © Leeham Co.: Friday’s news leak to Reuters that Airbus CEO Tom Enders will assume direct control over commercial airplane sales is but the latest in a nine-month-long set of changes not just at Airbus but also at Boeing.
At Airbus, Marwan Lahoud, Charles Champion, John Leahy, Barry Eccleston are retiring or have already left.
Lahoud was head of product strategy. Champion had future airplane programs. Leahy, of course, is “super salesman.” Leahy leaves this fall. Eccleston is president of Airbus Americas. He retires in February.
Other executives, such as Tom Williams and Didier Evrard, are nearing retirement age.
At Boeing, Scott Fancher’s retirement was announced last week. Ray Conner was replaced by Kevin McAllister last year and retired, after a transition, at the Paris Air Show.
John Wojick, who headed up sales under Conner, retired last year.
Pat Shanahan, who was an executive at Boeing Commercial Airplanes and moved to Chicago HQ, is leaving, following his nomination to be Deputy Secretary of Defense.
I expect more departures at Boeing.
Boeing’s transition has been quicker and effective sooner than some of the changes at Airbus. This gives Boeing a momentum that has been lost at Airbus.
Boeing tantalized by talking about a “hybrid” fuselage for the forthcoming 797, but only in the broadest and most nebulous terms. (Not that we all didn’t know Boeing was talking about an ovoid composite fuselage.)
On the other hand, Reuters’ Tim Hepher asked Airbus’ Leahy at the closing day press conference if Airbus has lost its “mojo,” following a disappointing sales showing at the Air Show. Leahy, to no surprise, denied this was the case—but Hepher’s impertinent question neatly summed up the thoughts of the reporters in the room.
While Boeing basked in the glory of greater than expected orders and commitments for the 737 MAX 10, Airbus had to be content with announcing a study of the A380, called the Plus; it wasn’t even a program launch.
No wonder Hepher asked the question.
The next couple of years are going to be critical at both companies. Both, at the Paris Air Show, made quite public displays of planning for the digital age, a transition that will neither be quick nor easy.
Boeing is widely expected to launch the 797 Middle of the Market airplane next year. Airbus’ current response is to say it has the market covered with the A321neo/LR and the A330-800—a response that is generally met with skepticism and yawns among customers and industry observers.
This is not to say Airbus doesn’t have studies underway that cover the MOM sector, because it does. But the current rhetoric is hardly reassuring.
Trudging back and forth between the Airbus and Boeing chalets, which are not too far apart at Le Bourget, you got the feeling of excitement at the Boeing chalet and trying to gin up excitement at Airbus.
I spent most of my time at Boeing.
So did most of the other reporters.
This pretty much tells the story for the balance of this year. We’ll see what happens next year.