Karen Walker

John Lawson, Bombardier Aerospace's president of business aircraft sales, is someone whom many people would term "a class act". For some 15 years his gentlemanly style has been winning over not just a string of customers and sales, but also the goodwill and respect of his industry.

So 1 March will be something of a sad day, as Lawson begins a well-deserved retirement. Not that he has any intention of disappearing off the radarscope. He will remain a senior advisor to Bombardier's president on industry issues and will continue to look after key accounts and customers. "It should make for a graceful handover," says Lawson.


Peter Edwards will take over on 1 March as executive vice-president of business aircraft sales.

Lawson's career at Bombardier and the former Canadair has spanned a number of key positions - including programme director on the original Challenger project, government marketing director, product support director and head of the international business aircraft marketing and sales team. Even more significantly, however, it has also coincided with some of the company's most critical and successful years.

Lawson has seen the company transition from government to private ownership; the creation of the Bombardier empire; and the development of key aircraft programmes, such as the Challenger.

"There is a tremendous sense of pride attached to that programme," says Lawson. "When you look at the history of the Challenger and how it was given such a hostile reception at the start - people really questioned the viability of the programme. And yet we are now seeing the 500th aircraft about to be delivered, plus another 1,500 CRJ regional jets, which were developed from the Challenger.

"It is an aircraft that not only has done so much for Bombardier, but for the whole industry. It has legitimised travel world wide."

Other business jets linked to the Lawson name are the Learjet 45 and the new Global Express. Now that the first 12 Global Express ultra-long range jets are in service, Lawson believes the time is right to hand over. "I think there is a traditional wisdom in this business that there is a time for everything," he says. "And now is the time to let someone else take the company forward from here."

Lawson points out that with the Global Express in service, the focus will shift to the next new programme, the super mid-size Bombardier Continental.

But Lawson's connections with aerospace pre-date his Bombardier career. A graduate of Canada's Royal Military College, he has flown CF-101 fighters, been an instructor and done a tour at Staff College. And the connections will continue. Besides remaining as senior advisor to Bombardier, Lawson intends to use his retirement to concentrate on some of his volunteer interests, which include his vice-chairmanship of Canada's Aviation Hall of Fame.

Lawson also admits that he is looking forward to being able to spend more time with his 16-year-old daughter and "the wife I adore".

"And I should very much like to focus on nurturing myself a bit," he says. "Reading those books I have always wanted to read; studying some philosophy and art history; try to grow a little."

Not that Lawson has ever really stopped growing. He cheerfully admits that he has a tendency to tackle everything he does "110%" and that enthusiasm has more than extended to his work. It is work, he agrees, that has also been a privilege, not just because his mode of transport is often some of the most luxurious business jets that money can buy.


Another real sense of satisfaction that Lawson feels as he looks back at the changes that have occurred in the business jet world is the fundamental shift away from regarding such jets as merely 'tools for the rich' and to understanding that these are serious business tools.

"There is a tremendous level of acceptance now for the business aircraft," he points out. "As corporations go through mergers and become increasingly global, they can no longer operate without these aircraft."

It is difficult to picture the business jet world operating without Lawson's never-failing charm. But, as he points out himself, he will not be far away.

Source: Flight Daily News