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OPINION: A fresh start at Airbus

Not since the extraordinary round of musical chairs which followed the A380 crisis of 2006 has Airbus faced a more substantial overhaul of its senior management.

But the sweeping clear-out – which will involve the departure of Tom Enders and Fabrice Brégier, just as chief salesman John Leahy is retiring – could spur some radical rethinking at the airframer.

Enders referred to a need for “fresh minds” to lead Airbus through the next decade, when advances in technology might start to manifest themselves in new airliner concepts and a shift away from conventional designs – a step which Airbus had to resist when opting for the less-risky A320neo re-engining programme.

But freshness also brings flexibility and freedom to view strategy from a different perspective, maybe even an external one. And with the core A320neo and A350 lines stabilised, perhaps reconsider the approach to some of Airbus’s more troublesome programmes.

National and political sensitivities once left Airbus unreceptive to change. Christian Streiff, a surprise external appointment during the 2006 maelstrom, pushed to simplify management and was rebuffed.

But Airbus has become leaner under Enders and shown that it can act decisively. Its new chief will need to capitalise on that, whoever they are, and from whichever country he – or she – might come.

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