Raul Medina Caballero, Director General, Eurocontrol
Medina Caballero, former director general of civil aviation at the Spanish ministry of transport, mobility and urban agenda, takes over as the new director general of Eurocontrol on Jan. 1, succeeding Eamonn Brennan, who has held the post for five years.
Medina Caballero arrives amid a challenging context. Staffing difficulties in the sector and airspace constraints due to Russia’s war in Ukraine affected operations in 2022, and industry players are looking for ways to avoid a repeat of the upheaval in 2023.
Eurocontrol itself is pushing ahead with technological improvements and putting in place its new network management system, but on a political level Single European Sky reforms that could make European airspace more efficient are lagging.
Medina Caballero also has been president of the Spanish Aviation Safety and Security Agency (AESA) and a member of the boards of directors of Enaire (Spanish air navigation service provider), Senasa (Services and Studies for Air Navigation and Aeronautical Safety) and INTA (National Institute for Aerospace Technology), as well as a member of the Enaire Foundation.
David Calhoun, President and CEO, Boeing
The coming year will be a crucial one for Boeing as it finally tries to leave crisis mode.
With deliveries of the 787 resumed, production needs to be ramped up quickly so the OEM can begin to meet customer commitments.
On the 737 MAX program, Congress finally has waived a year-end deadline for certification of the 737-7 and -10, ensuring Boeing will be able to offer all five variants of the aircraft. Boeing will have to make some relatively minor cockpit changes in return.
Calhoun and his management team will be scrutinized for their strategic plans. He told investors in November the company would not launch a new narrowbody aircraft before 2030 because the necessary technology was not going to be ready earlier.
While Wall Street may have liked the prospect of lower capital expenditures for years to come as Boeing tries to fix its stretched balance sheet, airlines are all but certain to up the pressure on one of their main suppliers to develop more efficient aircraft sooner than planned.
Many in the industry are seeking more concrete action much sooner, as pressure grows from customers and governments to become more environmentally sustainable.
Tony Douglas, CEO, RIA
Credit: Etihad Airways
Douglas is used to tough jobs. For the past four years, the 59-year-old has been running Etihad Airways. After accumulating billions in losses when the carrier pursued a flawed expansion strategy under his predecessor James Hogan, Douglas orchestrated a U-turn, abandoning ambitions to make Etihad’s Abu Dhabi base a global connecting hub competing with Emirates’ Dubai and Qatar Airways’ Doha.
But now he is back in play with the big boys. Douglas was hired to be the first CEO of new Saudi airline RIA. The carrier is mandated to build a global connecting hub at a new airport to be built in Riyadh by 2030. RIA is negotiating its first aircraft orders with Boeing and Airbus, deals that could be announced in the next few weeks.
Building a hub from scratch is a huge challenge under any circumstance and will require a multibillion-dollar upfront investment. In this case, the speed requested by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman is making the challenge even tougher.
Marwan Lahoud, Executive Chairman, Tikehau Ace Capital
Credit: David Morganti/Tikehau Ace Capital
After having been an Airbus senior executive under Tom Enders, Lahoud is now in a crucial decision-making position for the French supply chain. At the controls of an investment fund created in mid-2020 to help the industry survive the COVID-19 crisis, he has proved influential in the long-overdue consolidation of the sector. For instance, Tikehau Ace Capital supported the merger between Mecachrome, a specialist in metallic aerostructures and engine parts, and metal component supplier WeAre. More recently, Tikehau has cooperated with Airbus and Safran to acquire French metallurgy specialist Aubert & Duval, which is an essential link in Airbus’ and Safran’s supply chains and had faced a fragile financial situation even before the COVID-19 crisis.
Ronald Lam, CEO, Cathay Pacific
Credit: Cathay Pacific
To say 2023 will be an important year for Cathay Pacific Airways would be a major understatement. The airline finally will be looking to gain some momentum in its capacity and traffic recovery, and Lam will be tasked with overseeing this effort when he takes over as CEO on Jan. 1.
Cathay’s international capacity was at just 21% of 2019 levels in October. The carrier aimed to boost this to a third of pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2022, and 70% by the end of 2023. The building blocks for growth are in place, with home-base Hong Kong having lifted its mandatory quarantine requirement and Cathay restructured.
Hong Kong is at a disadvantage against some other Asian hubs, as its recovery has been slower to start. However, some of Cathay’s long-term advantages should start to reemerge this year. The airline also is planning a major order to upgrade its medium-haul fleet.
Francisco Gomes Neto, CEO, Embraer
Embraer was going to be the only major aircraft manufacturer to launch an aircraft in 2023. But just before the end of 2022, it had to delay its planned large turboprop program by at least several months pending an agreement with an engine manufacturer. Nevertheless, the coming year will be a crucial one for Neto as he defines the company’s strategy. Projects not only include the turboprop, but also the Energia future technology concept aircraft that is to be refined further.
At the same time, Embraer needs to turn growing customer interest in its current E2 commercial jet program into orders so the company finally can grow production after the COVID-19-caused contraction.
Nathalie Tarnaud Laude, CEO, ATR
The former president of helicopter manufacturer NHIndustries succeeded Stefano Bortoli as ATR CEO in September. She is entering the regional aviation industry in a changing landscape. Embraer is seriously working on the launch of a conventional turboprop that would come in 70- and 90-seat versions. Meanwhile, myriad projects are underway to investigate hybridizing or hydrogenizing smaller regional aircraft.
To be seen is how Tarnaud Laude will plot ATR’s future against a backdrop where sustainability is becoming a main design driver along with safety. She will have to persuade ATR’s shareholders—Airbus and Leonardo—to invest. ATR already is considering new aircraft versions, for now called ATR EVO.
Campbell Wilson, CEO, Air India
Credit: Air India
Wilson has been extremely busy since becoming CEO of Air India in early 2022. Following a long career with the Singapore Airlines Group, he is the first CEO selected by the new owner, Tata Group.
Wilson already has overseen the negotiation of leases for about 40 aircraft for Air India and announced a $400 million refurbishment program for the existing fleet. Air India also is considering orders for hundreds of aircraft for longer-term growth.
One of the top priorities for Air India will be accomplishing its proposed merger with joint-venture carrier Vistara. Tata has ambitious plans to grow Air India, but one of the main challenges will be competing with low-cost carriers in a crowded domestic marketplace. The largest of them, IndiGo, has big plans of its own in the international and domestic arenas.
Notable executives hold positions at Eurocontrol, major OEMs, suppliers and airlines.