Surprise Change in Command at Pilatus U.S.

 - April 16, 2008, 11:20 AM

In another unexpected change at the top of an airframe company last month, Oscar Schwenk, president and CEO of Pilatus Aircraft of Stans, Switzerland, abruptly replaced Angelo Fiataruolo as CEO of Pilatus Business Aircraft, the Broomfield, Colo., subsidiary responsible for the marketing of the PC-12 turboprop single in North and South America. Fiataruolo, 59, was replaced by the man he appointed COO just last December, Thomas Bosshard, who also takes on the additional title of president.

Bosshard, who joined the parent organization in Switzerland in 1994, held positions of increasing management responsibility in operations and customer support. In addition, Schwenk, also chairman of the board of Pilatus Business Aircraft, appointed Martha Geisshuesler as v-p and CFO of the U.S. subsidiary. Geisshuesler, a Swiss native like Bosshard, has been a member of Pilatus’ management team since 1996. She most recently held the position of aircraft finance manager.

The new appointments strengthen the Swiss executive-level contingent of the U.S. unit.

Fiataruolo, who had been CEO since July 2000, was as surprised to learn of his replacement as the rest of the industry, particularly in view of how well the company is doing, in his opinion. “With the combination of orders going into the year and new orders so far this year, Pilatus Business Aircraft has orders for 36 aircraft. At this point last year we had taken orders for fewer than 10 aircraft. It was a slow year and we were working off the prior year’s [2000] backlog. Order levels now are second only to 2000.”

Virtually all the orders for the PC-12s worldwide have been placed with Pilatus Business Aircraft. “The rest of the world is slow, so why change the command at the unit where sales are going the greatest?” Fiataruolo asked.

Several internal promotions were also made in conjunction with the new top management. Mike Rector, previously avionics manager at Pilatus, was promoted to completions center manager. Dennis Ruch, the former interiors manager, was named logistics manager, and Ken Schaelchlin was appointed customer-support manager.

There is no sign that Tom Aniello will be replaced as v-p of marketing. If anything, he told AIN he will probably have additional responsibilities. But he said the command change also took him by surprise. “I definitely don’t think it was a function of order performance. I think everybody in the company here and in Switzerland understands what the state of the U.S. market is like.” Aniello believes the move is more of a function of “how best to serve customers, dealers and distributors and our employees here.”

“These promotions will continue to take us forward in what we see as a strong and fertile market for the PC-12,” said Schwenk. “This dedicated and highly energetic team has my full support to take advantage of new market opportunities. While other manufacturers struggle during this difficult economic period, I firmly believe the versatile PC-12 and Pilatus’ agile organization allow us to quickly penetrate new segments.”

Now that Cessna is looking for a new CEO to replace Gary Hay (see 'Meyer again at controls of Cessna as Hay retires'), AIN asked Fiataruolo that if Cessna was interested in him would he be interested in Cessna. “I don’t know. I have to look at all my options. You know, I did my time at Cessna. At the start of the Citation program I was the number-two guy there after Jim Taylor.”