David Paddock’s move from Jet Aviation highlights talent mobility trend


General Dynamics Land Systems makes some amazing vehicles. These include Abrams main battletanks, 10-tonne robots and vehicles that can be driven over landmines. One of the coolest looking is the Stryker Quarterback Demonstrator (pictured), a silent vehicle that holds six soldiers – two driving, a mission commander and three operating robots including drones in the back. 

But the interiors of all these can only, at best, be described as functional. You cannot compare them with a newly completed VVIP aircraft from Jet Aviation Basel. But this will soon be David Paddock’s new work life. 

Paddock is leaving his role as president of Jet Aviation in April to become president of sister company General Dynamics Land Systems. Jeremie Caillet, who has been running Europe, Middle East and Africa for Jet Aviation, will replace him. 

Paddock took over from Rob Smith in July 2019 and grew Jet Aviation through both Covid and the post-pandemic bounce. Jet Aviation is one of the few truly global business aviation companies. He had to deal with massive demand in the US while borders were closed in Asia. 

General Dynamics likes moving people around. Smith left to run General Dynamics’ Marine Systems which builds ships and nuclear submarines. Jason Aiken (former Gulfstream chief financial officer) is also switching from CFO of the parent company to be executive vice president of Technologies. 

Moving between divisions is much more common than it was 20 years ago. Talent managers (formerly known as human resource managers, and before that personnel) call this talent mobility or scaling horizontally. They say that you should no longer think of career ladders, but talent lattices (only people in HR would use this term). 

“Companies benefit by training more adaptable managers with interdisciplinary thinking. As individuals ascend to the C-suite and top business roles, their leadership skills and decades-honed soft skills often outweigh specialised knowledge,” says Tina Lee Jebely, founding partner, The Roja Agency. Functional expertise can be learned and complemented by proficient teams supporting these leaders. From my vantage point as the founder of a talent agency, I’ve witnessed how executives who embrace talent mobility emerge as more well-rounded leaders.”

Textron is a keen believer in rotating staff. Ron Draper, CEO of Textron Aviation, also had senior roles at Bell and Textron Specialized Vehicles (which makes golf carts, buggies and snowmobiles). Senior officials at Textron Aviation are often switched around. Lannie O’Bannion, Textron Aviation’s senior vice president, global sales and flight operations, spent a year running North America customer service, before returning to sales. 

“Moving strong executives from division to division keeps business and cultural continuity,” says Craig Picken, managing partner of executive search firm Northstar Group, which specialises in aerospace and aviation. “It is easier and less upsetting to the business to move a strong player you know to a leadership position in a new division versus hiring a person you don’t know and hoping they don’t screw things up.” 

In February 2023 Bombardier switched several senior roles with Jean-Christophe Gallagher moving to heading aircraft sales and Bombardier Defense after growing the services business considerably. 

But what can smaller companies do? 

“In smaller enterprises or positions reliant on specialised expertise, the scope for talent mobility may be more limited. In these scenarios, the value of in-depth, industry-specific knowledge cannot be overstated,” says Lee Jebely. These roles demand professionals who have not only mastered the nuances of their field but also have the acumen to navigate its unique challenges effectively. While horizontal moves may not be common in these settings, it’s worth noting that leadership skills and a broad business orientation can still be beneficial for organizational growth, even within specialized domains.”

Lawyers who have spent years learning a market are not likely to switch from aircraft to defence. “While aircraft finance lawyers can certainly expand into and advise on other asset classes, such as yachts, submarines, or supercars, and related practice areas, this shift demands rigorous study and preparation,” says Lee Jebely.

One way of getting outside expertise can be working for an association part time. 

“Smaller companies are continually grooming people in that they give them a lot of responsibility and throw them to the wolves. CFOs often become presidents. Business development professionals learn how to run a profit and loss and take over as a general manager,” says Picken. “Most small companies are seeking out athletes who can wear a few hats and stay nimble,” he adds. “But small companies see a lot of turnover versus the bigger conglomerates. If they can’t find what they need internally, they just go outside. If you’re a mid to senior level executive at a small company you tend to groom your outside networks and keep your eye open for opportunities as they come up.” 

Paddock’s move is an opportunity for Caillet who joined Jet Aviation in 2008 and has held a number of senior roles including vice president VIP Completions. An engineer by training, he started his career at Dassault Falcon Jet in the US. 

While Paddock will no doubt use the many things he has learnt in his successful time running Jet Aviation, you can be sure Caillet will not be copying any tank interiors.

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