European aerospace giant Airbus announced Tuesday that Allan McArtor will take over as chairman and chief executive of the company’s North American business unit when current chief Sean O’Keefe steps down in March.
O’Keefe, 57, is resigning to address medical issues stemming from injuries he sustained in a 2010 aircraft crash in Alaska that killed five people, including former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens, Airbus said.
McArtor, 71, is currently chairman of Airbus Americas, which is the company’s commercial aircraft division in North and South America. He’s held the position since 2001.
Over that time, Airbus has touted its increased U.S. spending and expansion of its American supplier base in hopes of securing more U.S. business. The company said it spent $14 billion in investments and supplier contract work in the U.S. last year.
Airbus Americas now has about 1,200 U.S. employees. Last year, the company broke ground on a final assembly line in Mobile, Ala., to build its bestselling A320 family of jets. The planes assembled there will compete directly with those made by Boeing Co.
Aircraft assembly is planned to begin in 2015 with a targeted 2016 delivery of its first A320 jetliner. At full capability, the assembly line and associated facilities will employ 1,000 people.
“For nearly 13 years Allan has been a key member of the Airbus Americas senior leadership team and has served as its chairman during a period of significant growth and expansion,” Airbus Chief Executive Tom Enders said in a statement. “His previous government and private sector experience will be an invaluable asset to Airbus Group and, with his aviation-rich biography, Allan will give us tremendous lift and thrust in the U.S.”
The firm’s parent, Airbus Group, formerly named EADS, is based in Leiden in the Netherlands.
McArtor is a graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy and a decorated Vietnam War combat pilot. He later flew with the Air Force’s Thunderbirds aerial demonstration team.
He also served as administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration from 1987 to 1989.
Airbus’ announcement comes the same day as Jerry DeMuro was named as new president and chief executive of the U.S. unit of British military contractor BAE Systems.