By Andrea Shalal-Esa
WASHINGTON Jan 7 Allan McArtor, who heads
Airbus U.S. commercial operations, will take over as
chairman and chief executive of the overall U.S. unit of the
European weapons and planemaker on March 1, replacing Sean
O'Keefe, the company said Tuesday.
O'Keefe, who turns 58 later this month, told Reuters he is
resigning to focus on "a more aggressive rehabilitation regime"
after he survived a 2010 plane crash in Alaska that killed five
people, including former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens.
O'Keefe, a former Navy Secretary, NASA administrator and
Pentagon comptroller, said he made the decision with "great
reluctance" after doctors told him that he needed six to eight
weeks to recuperate from a recent back surgery, followed by
several days a week of intense physical therapy.
He will remain on special assignment with the company to
oversee changes in the company's special security agreement with
the Pentagon after a corporate restructuring.
McArtor, a decorated Vietnam war combat pilot who later flew
with the Air Force's Thunderbirds aerial demonstration team, has
headed Airbus' commercial operations in the United States since
2001. He also served as head of the Federal Aviation
Administration from 1987 to 1989 and held senior roles at
Federal Express from 1979 to 1994.
At Airbus, McArtor played a key role in the company's
ultimately unsuccessful bid to land a multibillion U.S. Air
Force refueling plane contract, and later, in establishing an
assembly line for the Airbus A320 in Alabama.
Airbus Group Chief Executive Tom Enders said McArtor had
been a key member of the Airbus Americas senior leadership team
for 13 years, leading the unit through a period of significant
growth and expansion.
"With his aviation-rich biography, Allan will give us
tremendous lift and thrust in the U.S.," Enders said, adding
that McArtor's previous government and private sector experience
would be an invaluable asset to the Airbus Group.
Before joining Airbus, McArtor was founder, chairman and CEO
of Legend Airlines, a regional airline based at Dallas Love
Field. He continues to hold a commercial pilot's license.
O'Keefe was named chief executive of EADS North America in
November 2009, adding the responsibilities of chairman of the
unit's board in January 2011. The company was renamed Airbus
Group Inc, effective Jan. 1.
O'Keefe said McArtor's appointment did not signal any
retreat from the company's commitment to expanding its U.S.
defense and space business, although he said Airbus would focus
heavily on its internal reorganization over the coming year.
Enders said O'Keefe made significant contributions during
his tenure as CEO of EADS North America, including "leading the
company during the tanker replacement competition, increasing
our reputation with the U.S. government and expanding our market
presence in North America."
O'Keefe and his son Kevin were among four people who
survived the small plane crash in a remote part of Alaska that
killed Stevens and four other people in August 2010.
O'Keefe returned to work two and a half months after the
crash, still sporting a neck brace and protective cast on his
foot. He has struggled with lingering effects from the serious
injuries he sustained in the accident.
"One of the things I learned three years ago is that every
day is a bonus, and you have an obligation to do your best with
it," O'Keefe told Reuters in a telephone interview. "This is a
case where it just isn't fair to my colleagues and the company
... if I can't every day do my best at it."