Jack Pelton: Pelton succeeds Meyer

 - January 30, 2007, 4:20 AM

For the second time since 1975, Russ Meyer is not chairman of Cessna Aircraft. Early last month, Meyer quietly retired as chairman with the honorary title of chairman emeritus. Simultaneously, Cessna president and CEO Jack Pelton assumed the chairman post.

While this latest announcement was low key–made internally to company employees rather than through a press release, as is typical–that was not the case in 2002 when Gary Hay became chairman and Meyer was named president of Textron’s Aircraft Sector, a short-lived structural reorganization. When Textron abandoned the “sector” structure just a few months later, Hay retired and Meyer assumed the chairman post again.

With the promotion of Pelton to chairman, Cessna and its parent, Textron, are making it clear that he is “firmly at the helm” of the company. The action also solidifies Cessna’s and Textron’s support of Pelton, whom a November 60 Minutes report exposed as having questionable academic qualifications. His degrees were subsequently, and quietly, expunged from the Cessna chief’s corporate biography.

Meyer, 72, joined Cessna in 1974 after serving as Grumman American Aviation’s president and CEO. He was named chairman a year later, replacing Dwane Wallace, who had been in control of Cessna since 1936. Before joining Cessna, Meyer was an attorney. He also served as a jet fighter pilot with the U.S. Air Force and U.S. Marine Air Corps.

As chairman for three decades, Meyer built Cessna into a “highly respected and admired worldwide market leader while helping to shape the general aviation industry into what it is today,” said Textron chairman, president and CEO Lewis Campbell. “His contributions have been recognized internally and externally. Russ’s entire life’s work has centered on his love of flying and his commitment to the industry. It is a passion that has helped him achieve unprecedented levels of success and influence in business.”

Although Meyer will not be involved in the day-to-day operations of Cessna, for the first time in 30 years, he will continue to be part of several specific aviation activities. He will serve as a member of the FAA’s management advisory council and
be involved in Cessna’s Special Olympics Citation Airlifts. “We also value his continuing advice and support,” Campbell said.