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Airbus Asks Veteran Executives to Guide It Through Engine Crisis

The smooth running of the planes business is regarded as critical to Airbus’s ability to generate cash as the operation generates close to 70% of group sales.

Airbus SE has asked two top managers to postpone their retirement and guide the company through a crisis surrounding engine glitches that threaten to upset production just as it loses a slew of other senior executives.

Tom Williams, chief operating officer of Airbus’s commercial aircraft unit, and head of programs Didier Evrard will remain in their roles until the end of this year to help sustain output and smooth the impact of the turbine issues.

The plane-making division’s president, Guillaume Faury told Airbus investors this week that he had asked the men, both aged 65, to extend their stay.

Airbus has already lost decades of experience with the recent departures of sales head John Leahy and group COO Fabrice Bregier, while chief executive officer Tom Enders is due to stand down early in April. Chief Financial Officer Harald Wilhelm said in June that he would follow Enders in leaving the firm.

The management shakeup comes at the worst possible time for Airbus as what should have been a profit bonanza from increased output turns into a test for management as the engine faults lead scores of planes to miss contracted delivery rates.

Williams, responsible for engineering, procurement and supply-chain issues, has worked with the Toulouse, France-based company since 2000, while Evrard is a 16-year veteran who previously led the A350 wide-body program.

Narrow-Body Shakeup

Retaining the pair will at least maintain some continuity at the airliner unit if Faury, who is 50 and previously led the helicopters division, is promoted to CEO once Enders, 59, leaves.

The smooth running of the planes business is regarded as critical to Airbus’s ability to generate cash as the operation generates close to 70% of group sales. Faury separately called for a general gearing up of resources both at Airbus and its suppliers as the company seeks to deliver 800 commercial planes this year.

In the memo to staff he also called for an overhaul of the single-aisle production process, saying the current system belongs to a bygone age when build rates were much lower. Despite the existing stresses, he said the company wants to lift monthly output to as many as 70 jets a month.

By Benjamin Katz

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