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Top Managers Leave Airbus, EADS

With Airbus' A380 superjumbo jet turning into more and more of an albatross, the plane maker and its biggest shareholder are shaking up senior management.

Noel Forgeard, the co-chief executive of European Aeronautic Defence & Space and the CEO of Airbus until last year, stepped down Sunday. EADS, which owns an 80% stake in Airbus, is scrambling to win back investor confidence after announcing last month that production problems would cause a second major delay in A380 deliveries. The U.K.'s BAE Systems owns the remaining 20% of Airbus.

Louis Gallois, who heads France's SNCF state railway and is an EADS board member, will take over Forgeard's post and work together with the other co-chief executive, Tom Enders.

Meanwhile, Airbus' chief, Gustav Humbert, resigned Sunday and will be succeeded by Christian Streiff, formerly a deputy CEO at Compagnie de Saint Gobain, which makes building materials.

Airbus seized leadership in the commercial airplane market several years ago from Boeing (BA). It also made a big bet that airlines wanted a giant double-decker plane like the A380 to fly between large hub airports, where passengers would transfer from smaller feeder flights.

But now some analysts say Boeing was smarter in seeing the future of commercial aviation in medium-sized, point-to-point -- or direct -- flights among a wider array of airports. Boeing has aimed its fuel-efficient 787 at that market and has racked up an impressive list of orders for the plane. The 787 has also yet to see the kind of production snafus that have delayed the A380.

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