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May 20, 2024
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GE’s CEO Larry Culp published this note on LinkedIn. “Over the past four years, John Slattery has been a trusted partner and leader at GE Aerospace and I am thankful to him for his deep industry expertise and acute and strategic customer focus, which have made GE Aerospace stronger as we transformed to a standalone public company. John has decided to transition out of GE Aerospace in June; I am happy he has agreed to remain part of our extended team as an advisor. Thank you, John, for your focus on our customers, your commitment to our purpose, and your passion for sustainability efforts at GE Aerospace. Your dedication and counsel have positioned us for future growth as an independent company.

To this John Slattery replied, “Thank you, Larry. It was a great privilege to serve alongside you and the thousands of colleagues who are committed to inventing the future of flight, lifting people up and bringing them home safely. For my @GEAerospace teammates, I wish only tailwinds for you in this new chapter as an independent public company. The future for our industry is brighter thanks to all of you and your work to define more sustainable flight for the next generation. Driving the LEAN principles of continuous improvement via FLIGHT DECK is the key to sustained competitive advantage in the mission to best serve the customer! I look forward to continuing to support the mission as an Advisor to this great franchise as I embark on a new chapter of my own. Onwards now!

Slattery joined GE’s aerospace division after leading Embraer’s commercial aviation division.  There aren’t many open slots at this level in the aerospace business. There is one obvious one, but let’s not go there yet.

Let’s first take a look at John Slattery’s record.  He has a great track record from his time at Embraer.  He joined GE at a tough time and played a crucial role in helping that business turn around.  He appreciated working closely with Larry Culp – it’s clear they are close.

Slattery spent 14 years in LEAN principle-led companies. The big question is, where could those business principles and his experience be best used?  There is another part of Slattery that needs mentioning: his personality.  He is a natural leader; people gravitate to him. He possesses a wonderful sense of humor and a love for rugby. If you know what that special cocktail means, you understand. If you don’t, never mind.

Customers and the supply chain respect Slattery. As we can see, these are crucial and rare traits in the current aviation cycle.  He knows finance from his time as a corporate banker at RBS. He knows the airplane business (he led the E2 program from business case to triple certification on time and under budget).  Now, he also has experience in aero engines. Many may not be aware, but Slattery is the Chair at Heart Aerospace, which gives him an insider’s view on the emerging hybrid-electric aircraft segment.

What’s next?

The obvious next spot must include consideration for running Boeing.  After all, how many open aerospace slots are there at this skill and experience level? Slattery has the credentials.

What does Boeing need?

  • A leader who understands the industry, and in particular, the commercial aerospace silo.
  • The role also requires a credible leader who customers know.
  • The new leader must have the personality to face down Wall Street.
  • The role also requires someone who knows the entire supply chain (the full silo).
  • The new leader should probably be from outside because Boeing’s leadership and its Board are part of the reason the company is in its current state.
  • The new leader also needs to have a personality that is comfortable walking the floors in Everett, Renton, and Charleston.
  • This leader must have superb interpersonal skills. Somebody who even mechanics can speak with because Boeing’s labor woes are big.

Boeing’s needs are the industry’s biggest talent draw.  We understand many are angling for the spot.

Insiders are probably not the best option because there needs to be a big sweep as the initial changes are insufficient. Moreover, an outsider doesn’t bring any baggage. How many senior leaders at Boeing today are free of any taint from 787, 777X, MAX, and KC-46? The case for an outsider is manifest.

Larry Culp was an early suggestion for the role. He demurred and wants to stay at GE. GE has long been the source of several of Boeing’s leaders. However, unlike those who came before, Slattery does not share Jack Welch’s management philosophy.

It would be ironic that the person who led Embraer into the rejected merger with Boeing might be the one hired to clean up Calhoun’s mess.

author avatar
Addison Schonland
Co-Founder AirInsight. My previous life includes stints at Shell South Africa, CIC Research, and PA Consulting. Got bitten by the aviation bug and ended up an Avgeek. Then the data bug got me, making me a curious Avgeek seeking data-driven logic. Also, I appreciate conversations with smart people from whom I learn so much. Summary: I am very fortunate to work with and converse with great people.

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