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Aviation Week Names United Continental CEO Jeff Smisek Person of the Year

04/01/2011 08:58

NEW YORK,  (PRNewswire/ -- Aviation Week has named Jeffery A. Smisek, president and CEO of United Continental Holdings, Inc., as its 2010 Person of the Year in a cover story published today in Aviation Week & Space Technology. A key player in the United-Continental merger, Smisek strategically approached United Airlines and faced off against opposing legislators, obtaining approval in an unprecedented six months, to bring about -- by some key measures -- the largest merger in airline industry history.

"While it is still too early to predict the full ramifications of this merger, the combination of United and Continental is a pivotal event in global aviation," says the Aviation Week & Space Technology article by Senior Editor Darren Shannon. "The effect of the merger between Continental and United quickly reverberated beyond the U.S. to Latin America, where executives at LAN Airlines and TAM Airlines formed their own merger plan to rank among the world's powerhouses."

A tenacious and quick-witted leader, Smisek is described by colleagues as having a keen understanding of long-term business implications and not worrying about making tough decisions -- qualities that served him well in the United-Continental merger negotiations, as well as the SkyWest Airlines takeover of Continental's main feeder airline, ExpressJet. Smisek pressed ExpressJet to accept the deal, while balancing his role as Continental's chief executive and pursuing United, swooping in as US Airways considered a deal of its own with Continental's desired partner. Smisek joined Continental in 1995 after practicing corporate finance and securities law as a partner at Vinson & Elkins. An Air Force officer's son, he received degrees from Princeton University and Harvard Law School.

"There is a lot of work ahead, and there will be some anxiousness, but we are a family of 87,000 people intent on becoming the world's leading airline, not just its largest," said Smisek.

"Jeff Smisek has his work cut out for him in an industry hedged by global competition and consolidation," said Anthony L. Velocci, Jr., editor-in-chief of Aviation Week & Space Technology. "Global expansion is next for United Continental, and many eyes will be on them and areas such as the growing Latin American market."

The Person of the Year distinction, the sixth in Aviation Week's 94-year history, recognizes the impact individuals have on the broader aviation, aerospace and defense community. Aviation Week staff editors selected Smisek from an international field of candidates. Prior recipients include the Space Entrepreneur (2009); U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (2008); the father of China's space program, Tsien Hsue-shen (2007); Alan Mulally, previously of Boeing Co. (2006); and Finmeccanica's Pier Francesco Guarguaglini (2005).

Complete coverage of the Person of the Year is available at

About Aviation Week:

Aviation Week, part of The McGraw-Hill Companies, is the largest multimedia information and services provider to the global aviation, aerospace and defense industries, and includes, Aviation Week & Space Technology, Defense Technology International, Business & Commercial Aviation, Overhaul & Maintenance, ShowNews, Aviation Daily, Aerospace Daily & Defense Report, The Weekly of Business Aviation, Aviation Week Intelligence Network, MRO Links and MRO Prospector. The group also produces major events around the world.

About The McGraw-Hill Companies:

Founded in 1888, The McGraw-Hill Companies (NYSE: MHP) is a leading global education and financial information company that plays a crucial role in the knowledge economy with leading brands such as Standard & Poor's, McGraw-Hill Education, Platts energy information services, and J.D. Power and Associates. The Corporation has approximately 21,000 employees with more than 280 offices in 40 countries. Additional information is available at

SOURCE Aviation Week

CONTACT: Joe D'Andrea, Director of Sales Development & Marketing, Aviation Week, +1-212-904-3780,; or Lisa Jaycox, Manager, External Communications, The McGraw-Hill Companies Information & Media, +1-212-512-3272,

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