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Airline Chairman Quits to Do Charity

Bruce R. Kennedy, who guided Alaska Airlines during its growth from a tiny one-state carrier to a major regional airline, said Wednesday that he will resign as chairman of Alaska Air Group to devote his time to Christian charity work.

Raymond J. Vecci, 48, who was elected president and chief executive of the carrier in September, will succeed Kennedy as chairman of the parent company in May, the company said. He was appointed immediately to succeed Kennedy as chairman of Alaska Airlines and as president and chief executive of Alaska Air Group.

Kennedy, 52, said he will chair the board’s executive committee for a short time after his departure from the company on May 21.

“I’m putting this era behind me and looking for a fresh start and challenges,” said Kennedy, a former Alaska real estate entrepreneur who acquired the nearly bankrupt carrier in 1972.

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Since then, the Seattle-based airline has expanded service to 35 cities on the West Coast and in June is scheduled to begin service between Anchorage and two cities in the far eastern region of the Soviet Union.

Although faced with higher jet fuel prices and heavy discounting among competitors, Alaska is one of the few profitable U.S. airlines. In 1990, the company posted $17.1 million in profit on revenues of $1 billion.

Kennedy said he decided to leave the company a year ago, although he started feeling “a bit restless” after 10 years with the airline. Last week, Kennedy was elected chairman of the Mission Aviation Fellowship in Redlands, which posts pilots who are also mechanics in remote areas of Africa, Latin America and Indonesia. The pilots ferry church workers and provide medical evacuation services in single-engine aircraft.

Kennedy said he and his wife, Karleen, plan to visit Mission Aviation Fellowship posts and may apply to teach English in China during the summer.

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