Alan Mulally, who is stepping down from the leadership of Boeing Commercial Airplanes to head Ford, is famous for his informal style and willingness to bring a light touch to even multi-billion dollar business matters.
We have always been delighted to have him as a keen reader of both Flight International and Airline Business magazines.
Some years back we discovered that Alan had the images shown below framed on the wall in his office to mark one of the many milestones in creating Southwest Airlines’ vast Boeing 737 fleet – they’re a classic example of how he and Southwest Airlines chief Herb Kelleher built their larger than life reputations.
Mulally's inscription to Kelleher, under the April 2000 issue in which he featured as cover interviewee, reads: "Herb, thank you so much for your vision and leadership! We are so proud to be flying together with you and your great team! Alan" and is signed off with an aircraft cartoon.
Kelleher's response, inscribed under the June 1999 featuring his own Airline Business chief executive interview, reads: "
Alan - You make 'em, I'll break 'em! Thanks for such superb equipment - making Southwest a success! Luv Herbie."
Mulally now faces the challenge of pleasing millions of customers instead of hundreds.
Read Flight International's West Coast USA correspondent Guy Norris's personal account of his interactions with Alan Mulally over the years
Or read Airline Business editor Mark Pilling on how the leading aircraft manufacturers have taken different approaches to chief executive succession.