There is no shortage of influential people in aerospace/defense when you take into account all the significant players in both the public and private sectors. Some are larger-than-life figures who have the power literally to change the course of events globally—not to mention the fortunes of companies around the world, directly or indirectly. Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates comes to mind. Others are less high-profile but engaged nonetheless in activity that has the potential to impact the industry in a profound way. This is why we consider it no small accomplishment to select our Person of the Year and be able to say afterward, “It just feels right.”

We use no scientific process to reach a consensus; it is all subjective. To kick it off, I ask our writers and editors to send in suggestions. We vet the proposals in teleconferences and through emails before coming up with a short list. The challenge, of course, is winnowing this down to the one person (or group of people) with the most profound influence on the industry during the past year, for better or worse.

The qualifier—for better or worse—is key, because Aviation Week & Space Technology's Person of the Year was never meant to be an award or a pat on the back for a job well done. In fact, one of these years our choice may have preferred to fly under the proverbial radar.

For 2011, we selected Louis R. Chenevert, the 53-year-old chairman and CEO of United Technologies Corp. (UTC). Keeping in mind the whole point of Person of the Year, I am confident you will find a solid rationale in the feature article starting on page 42. Suffice it to say that what Chenevert managed to do in 2011 will transcend UTC and its aerospace businesses, and will certainly influence aerospace in many ways over the longer term.

As part of our Person of the Year package, you will find engaging profiles of our two runners-up: perennial Boeing antagonist and Mr. Airbus himself, John Leahy, chief salesman for the European commercial airframe manufacturer; and Rep. John Mica, chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. There is no better illustration of our commitment to call it like we see it—even when it casts public figures in a less-than-flattering light—than our description of why we singled out the congressman.

Enjoy the articles—and after you have read them, let us know whom you would have selected for 2011 Person of the Year at www.aviationweek.com/editorsdesk.

Sincerely,

Anthony L. Velocci, Jr.