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Airbus Picks U.S. Jet Boss to Run North America Business

Airbus Group elevated its top U.S. jet salesman, Allan McArtor, to run its entire North American business as the company abandons a defense push in the U.S. market amid reduced military spending.

McArtor, 71, will become chief executive officer and chairman of the regional unit March 1, succeeding Sean O’Keefe, Airbus said in a statement today. O’Keefe will hold a temporary role to help Toulouse, France-based Airbus work with the Defense Department as U.S. operations are restructured.

Airbus had ambitions to win major U.S. military contracts before scaling back last year amid a strategic review that also led to dumping the European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. name. As chairman of Airbus’s Americas plane unit, McArtor helped win an American Airlines order for A320 jets in 2011 and is setting up an assembly plant in Mobile, Alabama.

“Allan will give us tremendous lift and thrust in the U.S.,” Airbus CEO Tom Enders said in the statement. McArtor oversaw “a period of significant growth and expansion.”

O’Keefe, 57, is stepping down to attend to “medical issues” suffered in a 2010 plane crash in Alaska, Airbus said. O’Keefe, who once ran the National Aeronautic and Space Administration, sustained serious injuries in the accident, which killed five people including U.S. Senator Ted Stevens.

McArtor will also serve on the Airbus board, the company said. He joined Airbus in 2001 after a career that included leading the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.

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