BACK IN THE GAME
Dynamic and innovative, the Canadian aerospace industry experienced a tremendous expansion during the 1990s, led by world-class companies such as Bombardier, Pratt & Whitney Canada and CAE Inc. But underneath the surface were problems: lagging R&D investment, inadequate productivity and a supply base that was unprepared for stiffer global competition (AW&ST Dec. 4, 2000, p. 54). Those problems were laid bare during the commercial downturn that began in 2001. Today, Canadian aerospace is an industry in transition. While still a world leader in many fields, its companies are scrambling to become leaner and better focused in an era of globalization. Their success, or failure, will determine whether Canada retains its enviable position in global aerospace.
During the 1990s, Robert E. Brown helped build Bombardier into an innovative and admired airplane manufacturer. He rose to CEO, but was forced out after the company fell on hard times. Now he's in the CEO's chair at CAE Inc., attempting to restructure the world's leading flight simulation company in an era of brutal global competition.
It's a story that might be called Brown's second act, except that there have been many acts for the 60-year-old aerospace veteran. While he doesn't have the high profile of CEOs such as L-3 Communications' Frank C. Lanza or Southwest Airlines co-founder Herb Kelleher, the low-key Brown is something of an icon in Canadian business circles.
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