Airbus changes pilots as corruption clouds gather


Paris (AFP)

Airbus announced Friday it was planning to change its top two executives as a corruption probe into the European aircraft manufacturer rumbles on.

The firm said Tom Enders would not seek reappointment as chief executive when his current term ends in 2019.

And it also said that chief operating officer and president for commercial aircraft Fabrice Bregier will step down in February 2018 and will be replaced by the head of the helicopters unit, Guillaume Faury.

"The Board of Directors of Airbus SE has decided on a series of executive changes that ensure an orderly succession in the executive leadership of Airbus," the company said in a statement.

The firm's leadership has been weakened by a corruption scandal.

Airbus is under investigation by French prosecutors and Britain's Serious Fraud Office for suspected corruption in its UK-based civil aviation arm.

The probes were opened last year after Airbus raised suspicions itself over irregular transactions.

French investigators raided Airbus' offices in the Paris suburbs in November.

The group is also the target of inquiries in Austria and Germany over the sale of Eurofighter military jets to Austria in 2003.

Airbus' board of directors said it will assess both internal and external candidates to replace Enders next year, in good time for confirmation at the 2019 annual shareholders meeting.

"We are confident we have taken the right decisions to ensure Airbus' long term stability and future success and we fully support Tom Enders to lead Airbus through this generational handover with our full support,? said board chairman Denis Ranque.

Last month, the firm said its long-time commercial director, John Leahy, who sold more than 16,000 aircraft in nearly 33 years at Airbus, would be replaced by Eric Schulz, head of the aviation division at aircraft engine maker Rolls-Royce, when Leahy retires in January.