A series of retrospective speeches by Airbus’ head of sales John Leahy over the last few months has rekindled a seemingly annual round of questions about the 66-year-old’s retirement plans.

Asked 12 months ago about whether he planned to retire, Leahy unequivocally responded that he planned to stay in the job for a few more years.

But Leahy offered a more flexible response after a 45-minute speech at the Wings Club on 22 September, in which he retraced the industry’s growth along milestones of his own 31-year career at Airbus.

Queried if his retrospective speeches mean he’s thinking about retirement, Leahy replied: “Well, that depends. Health is one thing, age is another and the industry is another. So I don’t know.”

As the head of sales since 1988, Leahy has outlasted five Airbus chief executives and seven Boeing sales directors. He led the company’s break-out, five-year march to sales parity with Boeing in the late 1990s, rising from an 18% market share in 1995 to 50% in 2000.

More recently, Leahy has repeatedly championed a narrative of the air transport industry’s explosive growth since 1970, the year he entered the workforce. In Leahy’s re-telling, the industry reliably doubles in size every 15 years despite constant economic and industrial disruptions. The industry will continue growing at the same pace but on a much larger scale, doubling in size again by 2030, as a surging Chinese middle class fuels the growth of the market.

Whether approaching retirement or not, Leahy remains as prickly as always on the subject of the future of the A380. Shortly after Leahy’s speech, a journalist asked him if a recent production rate cut means the A380 is “dead”.

“You just sat through the whole presentation,” Leahy replied. “Every 15 years the industry is doubling in size. How are we going to double air traffic flows in the next 15 years if we don’t use larger aircraft like the A380?”

Source: Cirium Dashboard