Airbus appoints Bennett ahead of A380’s launch

Airbus Industrie, manufacturer of the world’s largest passenger aircraft, the A380, has hired Vauxhall Motors manager of government affairs Katherine Bennett as its first UK head of government relations.

Bennett, who has been at General Motors for almost nine years, takes up the role in early August, reporting to UK MD Iain Grey.

Bennett said the importance of the European manufacturer’s relations with the UK Government had intensified in recent months and led to the creation of the post.

‘Airbus is stepping up government affairs support on the strength of the A380. For me, it’s an interesting position because it is an important manufacturer,’ she commented.

‘I want to enhance the Government’s understanding of manufacturing, a subject about which I am passionate,’ she added.

Bennett’s appointment comes as production of the A380 ‘superjumbo’ enters its next phase at a £240m facility in Toulouse.

Ground-based tests of the 555-seat airliner, capable of flying non-stop for 8,000 nautical miles, are to be conducted over the summer before flight trials next year.

One of Bennett’s tasks will be to secure ongoing government funding for research and development and to ensure that the economic and regulatory climate is beneficial to manufacturing.

She will also work with the Department of Trade and Industry’s Aerospace Innovation and Growth Team, an industry-led group set up following a 2001 white paper to shape the future of the UK industry.

The £6.5bn superjumbo programme is regarded as a gamble by some air industry observers who see environmental and cost issues as a major hurdle.

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