“[Airbus Chief Operating Officer Customers] John Leahy has said there is no compensation, but we take a different view,” Clark told Aviation Week in a June 2012 interview. “Airbus realized too late how complex the problem will be.” The issue has since been resolved, confidentially.
Standing up and pointing out deficiencies was “for the good of the people that have been involved with us,” he says in retrospect.
His achievements have not gone unnoticed. Clark has received the U.K.’s second-highest order, being named a Knight Commander; he is now “Sir Tim Clark.” But he remains modest: “In all the years that I have been doing this, I never looked back. I just did it.”
Industry leaders are praising him, too. “As a Boeing customer, he is astute, strategic and demanding,” says Boeing Vice Chairman Ray Conner. “We could not be where we are at today without Tim’s leadership and his ability to make the absolute most out of our product’s capabilities.”
Airbus CEO Fabrice Bregier agrees. “He knows everything you could possibly know about an aircraft. Just give him the key parameters of the plane and he’ll tell you immediately if, in his view, it’s a ‘go’ or a ‘no-go,’ calculating ranges or empty-weights in his head in a few seconds. And he’ll rapidly follow that razor sharp analysis with recommendations on where to push the design to make it a ‘go.’”
Clark’s boss, Ahmed, notes that “Tim is one of those rare executives who can see the big picture and also get down to the technical details. What I most appreciate about Tim is that he will tell it to you as it is—good or not so good.”
Of late, Clark has been telling Airbus and Boeing what is not so good. Along with Akbar Al Baker at Qatar Airways and Air Lease Corp. (ALC) Chairman Steven Udvar-Hazy, he led the drive for an Airbus A350-1000 engine upgrade, which pushed the program back by two years. More recently, Clark also made clear to Boeing and General Electric that the 777X needed more thrust to meet Emirates’ payload and range requirements. He won them over, even though other airlines have voiced concern that Boeing is over-equipping the aircraft for the needs of just one or two customers. Clark responds that engines can always be de-rated if the additional thrust is not needed, and such an arrangement will typically lead to lower maintenance costs.
But, of course, even Airbus does not always do what Clark wants. He has been arguing for years that a stretched A380-900 should be built as soon as possible. But Emirates is probably the only airline that could conceivably fill such a gigantic aircraft, and Clark likely will have to wait a lot longer for it. And in spite of all the A380’s troubles, he has been the aircraft’s biggest fan.
The A380 has provided an opportunity for Clark to pursue another passion: aircraft interiors. He spent months creating the product features of Emirates’ A380 fleet, which was intended to become iconic in the industry yet still profit-making. Emirates’ A380s are the only ones that are flying with a real bar in the back of the upper deck, which the airline says is hugely popular. In spite of all the fuel-saving features elsewhere in the cabin, the A380s also have a shower for first-class passengers. At one press conference, Clark was the only one on the panel who could explain the technical details of the shower system—the Airbus managers present listened silently.