When John Leahy joined the U.S. arm of Airbus in 1985, the commercial airplane business was dominated by Boeing and McDonnell Douglas. The young European company’s global market share was just 13%. Today Airbus is at parity with the U.S. company in sales of airline aircraft, and by some measures it is ahead.

Since 1994 Leahy has headed global sales for the European manufacturer. Airbus’s chief salesman, Leahy—whose official title is chief operating officer-customers—has traveled millions of miles and chased hundreds of deals. He is one of the most prolific sellers of aircraft the industry has ever seen. Under his guidance, the Toulouse airframer amassed a backlog of aircraft orders worth more than $800 billion at list price.

But to call Leahy a mere salesman would miss the larger impact he has had on the airplane and airline industries. He has been a fulcrum, bringing together the hopes of airline customers and airplane developers. Most recently, as well as leading commercial activity for the Airbus A380, A330 and A350 programs, Leahy played a key role in the launch of the A320neo family, the fastest-selling program in aviation history.

In his three decades at Airbus, he has worked with five CEOs and outlasted seven commercial sales chiefs at Boeing. The Airbus story is inextricably linked with John Leahy’s career.

For his role in the Airbus success story, Leahy received Aviation Week’s Philip J. Klass Award for Lifetime Achievement. 

Video Air Lease Corp. CEO Steven Udvar-Hazy, Airbus Group CEO Tom Enders and Airbus President/CEO Fabrice Bregier salute Leahy at AviationWeek.com/Leahy