People on the move: Embraer, Wheels Up and the ACA make senior changes


Embraer’s Gary J. Spulak has retired from his position as President of Embraer Aircraft Holding. With the company for over 35 years, Spulak will retain his positions on the board of Embraer Aircraft Holding, Eve Urban Air Mobility Solutions and the Embraer Foundation.

Spulak will maintain certain responsibilities including corporate affairs and government relations. After joining Embraer in 1983 as Vice President of Product Support and Information Technology in 1991 he was promoted Executive Vice President. Following the privatisation of the company in 1995, Spulak gained responsibilities supporting the industrial and financial operations before becoming President for Embraer North America in 1998.

“I speak on behalf of our global employee population in expressing my sincere gratitude and appreciation to Gary Spulak for his tireless dedication and countless accomplishments during his nearly 40-year career at Embraer,” said Francisco Gomes Neto, President and CEO of Embraer.

Nearly 40-year career at Embraer

“From building the infrastructure of the company at its infancy to developing the financial structures to ensure its perpetuity well beyond privatisation and most recently for ensuring Embraer’s success in North America through the expansion of businesses and operations, Gary is an Embraer pioneer. We wish him all the best in his retirement. We are proud that he will continue to play an important role continuing his support to Embraer in North America.”

Elsewhere, Wheel’s Up has appointed Laura Heltebran as Chief Legal Officer. Heltebran most recently served as Senior Vice President and Deputy General Counsel of Hilton Worldwide where her responsibilities included worldwide litigation, compliance and technology for the company’s 18 brands in 118 countries.

“I am excited to become part of the Wheels Up team at this incredible time of growth and ongoing innovation,” said Heltebran. “The company has been a democratising force in private aviation and I look forward to bringing my cross-sector experience to Wheels Up as we continue to disrupt the industry.”   

Across the Atlantic, the Air Charter Association (ACA) has added two new board members – Derek Thomson and Emily Williams – who bring over 45 years ’worth of aviation experience between them.

Thomson said: “I am very excited to be appointed to the board of the ACA. Having worked in aviation for over 25 years, I feel I have a lot to offer and look forward to being part of the association in what is an extremely interesting, albeit challenging, time for our industry.”

Thomson will be continuing his role as commercial director and accountable manager for Air Charter Scotland Europe alongside his duties for the ACA. At the age of 19 Thomson obtained his fixed-wing Private Pilot’s Licence and that is where he says his passion for aviation began. That passion led him into roles in rotary and fixed-wing aircraft operations and sales, as well as FBO airport handling and operations.

‘Appointments further strengthen capabilities’ 

Fellow board member Williams said: “I’m looking forward to being a member of the ACA board and supporting the existing team and members to drive forward our industry at this unique time.”

Emily has spent the majority of her career in private aviation, beginning with NetJets Europe. There she led the UK team and latterly served as the board sales director for the European business. After a decade, she joined forces with a former NetJets colleague to found IW Aviation, an independent private aviation advice company.

Kevin Ducksbury, chairman of the ACA, added: “I am very pleased to welcome both Emily and Derek to the board of the association. Their appointments further strengthen the board’s capabilities in the areas of aircraft operating and aviation broking.”

Earlier this month, the ACA announced the appointment of Glenn Hogben as chief executive. Hogben joined The ACA in 2008 and was elected to the non-executive Board in 2017, after years of support for the association.