July 01--Barry Eccleston, president and CEO of Airbus Americas in Herndon, Va., calls himself lucky. He's been fascinated by aviation since he was a child growing up in the United Kingdom. "I got lucky enough to live the dream," Eccleston said while in Wichita last week for Airbus Engineering North America's ribbon-cutting of its second facility in Old Town.
Eccleston, 63, joined Airbus almost five years ago after running Honeywell's Engines, Systems and Services division.
He also has served as president and CEO of Rolls-Royce Industries Canada, president and CEO of International Aero Engines and senior vice president of sales and marketing at Fairchild Dornier Corp.
Eccleston has a bachelor's degree in aeronautical engineering from Loughborough University in England and completed the International Executive program at the Institute for Management Development in Switzerland.
Eccleston has been in the United States 26 years and is a U.S. citizen, he said.
He's been in the aerospace business for 40 years. He is a private pilot.
Eccleston said the Airbus facilities in Old Town help the company attract engineering talent. People like the ambience of the buildings with their high ceilings, open ductwork and wood floors. They also like their proximity to restaurants.
"There are times when there's . . . competition for getting the good engineers to go to work for you," Eccleston said. "And being in Old Town really makes a difference. . . . This is absolutely a differentiator when there is competition for good talent."
1. A contract to supply tankers to the Air Force is on everybody's mind. You mentioned the Wichita facility may get some work on the tanker should EADS win the contract. What's your view on the competition?
"Our view is that we believe we have the best-performing airplane. We believe it's better than the alternative. We believe it provides the best value to the war-fighter and to the taxpayer. The KC-45 tanker is already flying. The airplane we would sell to the Air Force is real. It's flying today."
2. What's the best thing about your job as head of Airbus in North America?
"The best thing is getting to deal with the customers. .æ.æ. The airline business is fascinating. . . . I get a lot of my kicks in working with the airlines. .æ.æ. I feel I get a chance to make a difference . . . helping young kids (and encouraging them to enter the aviation fields)."
3. What's your biggest challenge as an industry?
"One is it's a very technologically advanced industry. It's not easy designing and developing these products. . . .
"Another challenge is to attract the kids out of the schools. . . . They haven't come into the aerospace industry. . . . We have to get the message out there on a grassroots level."
"(At Airbus) we have a lot of new programs and a lot of new development going on. .æ.æ. One of the biggest challenges is finding the engineers to do them."
4. Airbus is deciding whether to switch to a 4 new engine on the A320 or come up with a new airplane. You mentioned that a decision could be made before the end of the year. What is the thinking?
"Our conclusion is on a brand-new airplane design, the technology will not be ready to support a new airplane until 2025. (The question is) what do we do with the A320 for the next 15 years? There is an opportunity to take some new (engine) technology. . . . We can hang them (quieter, more efficient engines) on the wing of an A320. We have physically the room to do that.
"We could do that in 2016. Not yet. . . . We continue to study the resources needed (to make a business case)."
5. You opened the Wichita engineering facility with 27 engineers. It now employs more than 200 and will grow to 350 by the end of 2012. How do you view the site?
"It's an excellent facility with a great working environment. We're moving into new areas of engineering. They're (engineers) exceeding our expectations. The whole reason we're growing here is because of the terrific track record of what they're doing here."
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