Max Bleck, a longtime Wichita aircraft executive at the former Beech Aircraft Corp., Gates Learjet and Cessna, died on Sunday.
He was 91.
Mr. Bleck’s aviation career spanned nearly five decades and was capped by a four-year stint as president of Raytheon Co. in Lexington, Mass.
He began his career in Wichita in 1961 as chief engineer at Cessna’s Wallace division, where he worked his way up to group vice president of aircraft operations. In 1975, he left Cessna and Wichita to join Piper Aircraft Corp. in Vero Beach, Fla., as its president.
The Buffalo, N.Y., native returned to Wichita in 1985 to briefly join the former Gates Learjet Corp. — now Bombardier Learjet — as executive vice president and chief operating officer. In 1986 Mr. Bleck joined Beech as vice president, assistant to the president and manager of engineering. He left the following year to re-join Cessna, this time as its president and chief operating officer, at then-Cessna CEO Russ Meyer’s urging.
A year later, Mr. Bleck returned to Beech to serve as its president and CEO.
“We had an absolutely great year working together,” Meyer, Cessna chairman-emeritus, said Thursday. “I could not possibly think more highly of Max Bleck, both personally and professionally. He was a very fine and effective manager, and I wish we had many more years to work together.”
Mr. Bleck served in Beech’s top post from June 1987 to March 1991, until he was called up to Raytheon. He retired from Raytheon in 1995.
During his career in Wichita, he also was active in the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, including serving a term as its chairman in 1989.
“He was the consummate aircraft executive,” said Al Higdon, co-founder of Sullivan, Higdon & Sink and a former public relations executive at Learjet and Beech. “Companies brought him in when they needed some smart, articulate thinking about their challenges and problems that needed to be addressed.”
When Beech hired Mr. Bleck as president, he came in at a time “when the company was struggling through a deep slump in general aviation sales,” according to an Oct. 25, 1990 story in The Eagle. “Under his leadership sales have rebounded, new and improved products including the revolutionary Starship have been brought onto the market, and the company returned to profitability.”
“In all of his endeavors he succeeded,” said Brian Barents, former Learjet CEO and retired Aerion Corp. executive chairman and CEO who worked with Mr. Bleck at Cessna. “He was well respected by his peers in the industry, which says a lot.”
Visitation for Mr. Bleck will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. Sept. 14 at Downing & Lahey East, 6555 E. Central.
Services will follow at 11 a.m. Sept. 15 at St. Stephens Episcopal Church, 7404 E. Killarney.