Airbus has seen impressive growth since Mr Leahy joined its sales team. Mr Leahy joined Airbus North America in January 1985, and then soon headed up sales. He was appointed president of Airbus North America in 1988. In 1994 Mr Leahy was appointed chief commercial officer Airbus in Toulouse.
Mr Leahy set a commercial goal of 50% of market sales for Airbus by the year 2000 – a the target reached in 1999. As the chart shows, Mr Leahy can claim a lot of credit for the growth in Airbus sales. This link to a story about him is amusing and illustrative.
I can testify to his acerbic humor and his ability to instantly respond to any aviation issue. When I asked about how the A319neo would compete with the CS300, since it would be much heavier, his response came without hesitation. He talked up the A319neo and talked down the CS300 without taking a breath. I felt like a kid who should have known better than to ask.
Probably the most enjoyable role (as an attendee) is his handling Q&A at Airbus events, especially at air shows. Typically there is the usual positive world view for Airbus and then come the digs at Boeing. The digs invariably gets the audience laughing. Any air show where Airbus announces news brings in the entire media pack. The news is useful, but Mr Leahy’s take on it is the most anticipated. You know this because by far most of the media questions are directed at Mr Leahy.
If Mr Leahy is indeed retiring, air shows won’t be the same. Dr Kiran Rao possess an great sense of humor and is well respected by the trade media. But with so many years of the Leahy era, any change is going to be a little disconcerting.