WASHINGTON — Allan McArtor, who heads Airbus U.S. commercial operations, will take over as chairman and chief executive of the overall U.S. unit of the European weapons and planemaker on March 1, replacing Sean O'Keefe, the company said Tuesday.
Airbus said O'Keefe, who turns 58 later this month, is resigning to focus on his continuing recovery after he survived a 2010 plane crash in Alaska that killed five people, including former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens.
O'Keefe, a former Navy Secretary, NASA administrator and Pentagon comptroller, had another operation on his back in recent weeks. He will remain on special assignment with the company to oversee changes in the company's special security agreement with the Pentagon after a corporate restructuring.
O'Keefe was named chief executive of EADS North America in November 2009, adding the responsibilities of chairman of the unit's board in January 2011. The company was renamed Airbus Group Inc, effective Jan. 1.
McArtor, a decorated Vietnam war combat pilot who later flew with the Air Force's Thunderbirds aerial demonstration team, has headed Airbus’ commercial operations in the United States since 2001. He also served as head of the Federal Aviation Administration from 1987 to 1989 and held senior roles at Federal Express from 1979 to 1994.
At Airbus, McArtor played a key role in the company’s ultimately unsuccessful bid to land a multibillion U.S. Air Force refueling plane contract, and later, in establishing an assembly line for the Airbus A320 in Alabama.
Airbus Group Chief Executive Tom Enders said McArtor had been a key member of the Airbus Americas senior leadership team for 13 years, leading the unit through a period of significant growth and expansion.
“With his aviation-rich biography, Allan will give us tremendous lift and thrust in the U.S.,” Enders said, adding that McArtor's previous government and private sector experience would be an invaluable asset to the Airbus Group.
Before joining Airbus, McArtor was founder, chairman and chief executive officer of Legend Airlines, a regional airline based at Dallas Love Field. He continues to hold a commercial pilot's license.
O'Keefe and his son Kevin were among four people who survived the small plane crash in a remote part of Alaska that killed Stevens and four other people in August 2010.