Tough at the top: Changes at Bombardier and Gulfstream


The Gulfstream G500 and G600 flying in formation.

Lots of people may aspire to it, but running an aircraft manufacturer is an incredibly tough job. In the last 10 days we have seen significant management changes at both Gulfstream and Bombardier.

Larry Flynn has been promoted to executive vice president of General Dynamic’s Aerospace Group. He will take on the role when Joseph Lombardo retires in June, while Mark Burns, president of Gulfstream product support, will become president of Gulfstream.

Flynn and Burns deserve their promotions. They have been key in the delivery of the G650 and G280s programmes and the launch of the G500 and G600. Flynn, who has been helped by the G650, has delivered amazing value for General Dynamics’ shareholders. No one ever gets credit for this, but it would be fascinating to see what mistakes Flynn did not make: the orders Gulfstream turned down and the aircraft they did not launch.

It is a different story at Bombardier. Pierre Beaudoin is stepping up to executive chairman with Alain Bellemare becoming chief executive. Pierre Beaudoin is replacing his father Laurent Beaudoin, the son in law of Bombardier’s founder, who becomes chairman emeritus.

Bellemare, who was CEO of United Technology’s propulsion and aerospace systems, faces tougher challenges than Burns. The Canadian OEM announced a $1.59 billion loss for the fourth quarter of 2014 ($1.36 billion of this is the cost of pausing the Learjet 85) and Bombardier has said it needs to raise more capital. The Quebec government has said it will step in and support the company if needed.

Beaudoin said that he only decided to change his role when Bellemare resigned from United Technologies. “I felt there was a great opportunity and it’s the right thing for Bombardier to do at this time,” said Beaudoin in a call with reporters. Let’s hope this serendipity keeps working out.