For global aerospace and defense companies, the mixed blessing of record growth in commercial aircraft sales and reduced government defense spending has changed little since the 49th International Paris Air Show in 2011. But many of the top executives navigating the A&D landscape have.
In the U.S., management shakeups at Lockheed Martin Corp. and General Dynamics Corp. last year put Marillyn Hewson and Phebe Novakovic, respectively, in the top jobs. Both women are now grappling with deep cuts to the Pentagon's defense budget in the coming years and increasingly looking abroad for more business.
In France, Dassault Aviation and defense electronics maker Thales named new CEOs in January. The appointments came little more than a month before senior managers at Italy's Finmeccanica and subsidiary AgustaWestland were replaced following a scandal over alleged corruption in a deal to sell VIP helicopters to the Indian air force.
Also in the past year, sweeping changes among top executives and board members at aerospace giant EADS were implemented in the wake of a failed merger attempt with Britain's BAE Systems. The proposed $45 billion acquisition was rejected by the German government in October 2012, prompting an overhaul of EADS corporate governance that CEO Tom Enders says will reduce political meddling.
At Boeing, 34-year company veteran Ray Conner was tapped in June 2012 to run the aerospace giant's commercial aircraft business, a job that had the one-time 727 mechanic focused on recouping huge development costs for the 787 Dreamliner and tackling new projects when regulators grounded the 787 last winter after fire-prone batteries burned on two jets.
In space, the world's top two commercial launch providers, Arianespace of France and International Launch Services (ILS) of Reston, Va., both changed leadership in the past year. Phil Slack was promoted from CFO to president at ILS following a spate of mishaps involving Russia's Proton/Breeze M heavy-lift rocket that have shaken customer confidence. The move followed the September 2012 appointment of Alexander Seliverstov to head Moscow-based Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center, the prime contractor for Proton and majority owner of ILS, which markets commercial Proton missions.
In April, Paris technocrat Stephane Israel replaced outgoing CEO Jean-Yves Le Gall at Arianespace, which markets the Ariane 5 heavy-lift rocket, Soyuz and Vega, and commands more than half of the world's commercial launch business today. Like his counterparts at top A&D companies in Europe and the U.S., however, Israel faces the challenge of adapting to market realities to keep abreast of new entrants to the market, and is proposing fast-track changes to the Ariane 5 that could give it a more competitive edge ahead of a midlife upgrade in 2017 and a follow-on launcher, Ariane 6, in 2021.