When John Leahy’s name first appeared in Flight International it was within a 14-word brief about appointments at Piper Aircraft, and his was not even the main one.

Fewer than 70 Airbus jets, all A300s, were in service. The A310 was still three years away. IATA was whining that jet fuel had reached 60 cents a gallon.

Times change.

Flight's first major interview with Leahy, shortly after he took control of Airbus's sales operation, described a character prepared to make "apparently outrageous claims" as he spoke of shaking up the US-dominated air transport sector.

Airbus would achieve, he said, a 50% market share by around 2000 – a declaration which was as bold as it was remarkably prescient.

That icy self-assuredness, offset by moments of cynical humour frequently directed at his "friends in Seattle", have cast Leahy in the role of eminently quotable anti-hero to the aviation press, and an irresistible draw for the same reasons.

To Airbus, his American-honed charisma and negotiation skills have made him an indispensable figure, and he can rightly take substantial credit for turning ambitious forecasts into palpable reality.

Shrugging off setbacks, both professional and personal, Leahy has helped transform Airbus from young pretender to global contender. He has earned his retirement. Doesn't mean we have to like it, though.

Source: Flight International