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Airbus technology chief departs after 18 months in role

Airbus Group's chief technology officer Paul Eremenko is leaving to take up the same role at United Technologies after a short but eventful year-and-a-half-long tenure.

The European manufacturer has confirmed that Eremenko will depart by year-end and be replaced as acting technology chief by Marc Fontaine, currently its digital transformation officer.

His departure will bring an end to Airbus's most visible embrace of Silicon Valley start-up culture. The 36-year-old Eremenko gained attention five years ago as a young director for the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency's Tactical Technology Office. He moved to Motorola in 2013 to lead an effort to develop a modular smartphone called Project Ara, which was acquired by Google that same year.

Enders hired Eremenko in 2015 to lead the newly created entity named "A^3", a Silicon Valley-based venture-capital and research & development arm of Airbus Group. After only a year at A^3, Eremenko was promoted to chief technology officer of Airbus Group, bringing an entrepreneurial perspective to an innovative but more traditional aerospace engineering workforce.

In an interview in late August, Eremenko discussed how Airbus had pivoted research priorities to investing in flight demonstrators, including the hybrid-electric E-Fan X launched on 28 November.

"We're going to take bundles of technologies, and we're going to do a series of flight demonstrators," Eremenko said in the August interview.

But the E-Fan X concept offered a test case of how far he could push his aerospace engineering team within Airbus. In August, Eremenko said he had tasked his team with demonstrating an "all-electric take-off" using the BAe 146, but was encountering internal resistance from engineers who questioned the research value of such an attempt.

When Airbus unveiled the concept about 10 weeks later, Eremenko's all-electric take-off idea was not included in the demonstration. Notably, Eremenko was absent from the E-Fan X launch announcement, although he promoted the event on his Twitter page.

At UTC, Eremenko will replace chief technology officer and senior vice-president Michael McQuade, who is retiring. Eremenko will inherit two aerospace companies – Pratt & Whitney and United Technologies Aerospace Systems – with nascent interests in the hybrid-electric propulsion field.

In an earlier version, the word "not" was missing from the second-last paragraph

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