Tom Perry, the face of Cessna Aircraft in Europe for three decades, is this year's recipient of the British Business and General Aviation Association's prestigious Michael Wheatley Award for Outstanding Services to the general aviation industry. BBGA chair Aoife O'Sullivan presented him with the accolade at the Association's annual conference and AGM on 2 March at the Leonardo Hotel in St Paul's, London.
Tom has witnessed many peaks and troughs of our industry, she noted, but during his illustrious career he sold over 1,000 aircraft into Europe.
'Everyone who has ever dealt with Tom will agree that his integrity, professionalism and remarkable knowledge made a massive contribution to Cessna's standing as a trusted OEM on this side of the Atlantic.,' said Ashley Namihas, Textron Aviation regional sales director, accepting the award on Tom's behalf. From the early 1990s to his retirement last October, Tom Perry was instrumental in helping Cessna and parent Textron Aviation become a leading manufacturer of light jets, turboprops and piston aircraft in Europe.
Tom studied aeronautical engineering at Bristol University where he was also a member of the University Air Squadron – RAF VR. He joined Cessna/Textron Aviation in September 1992 and helped with the 2013 acquisition of Hawker Beechcraft and the formation of Textron Aviation. After becoming the vice president of European sales in 2012, he built a team of 20 as the company moved away from third party representatives towards direct sales. In testimony to his popularity his original team remains as a united sales force under Tom's successor Duncan van de Velde.
“Tom has been a terrific champion of BBGA. His legacy continues with his team continuing to fly our flag, and we thank him for his contribution with this year's award," says BBGA chair Aoife O'Sullivan. "On a personal note Tom has been an absolute pleasure to work with over many years, a trusted and universally respected professional. We will all miss Tom's great friendship and wicked sense of fun. A stand-out memory was finding myself in a terrifying Formula 3000 race when I thought Tom had invited me along to watch from the sidelines. He had the grace even then to overlook our very different positions on the leaderboard. Sort of.”
During his tenure Tom made many industry friends. His departure from Textron Aviation was, according to colleagues, a long and emotional goodbye.
"The whole team at Textron Aviation are so pleased Tom has been honoured with the Michael Wheatley award," adds Ashley Namihas, Textron Aviation regional sales director. "Tom has been an inspirational leader, an incredible mentor and most importantly a great friend. We are forever grateful for the profound impact he has had on us individually, and as a company we wish him the most enjoyable of retirements.”
"Tom Perry and a number of notable “others” (possibly infamous would be a better word!) share the same background as “BAe (British Aerospace) boys” from the mid-1980s, said Trevor Esling, director, Vulcan Aviation. "This part of British aviation talent, recruited in the mid to late 1980s, has grown and matured into the major business jet OEMs around the world and has occupied many senior positions in those companies such as Cessna, Gulfstream, Bombardier and Embraer.
"I have known Tom for the last 30 or so years, since he first started selling new Citations in the UK and Scandinavia in the mid 1990s. In this role Tom honed his highly successful capabilities as an unflappable aviation sales professional with a high level of personal integrity and a very genial and charming personality. All this when combined with a strong shock of white hair, marked him out as one of today's best known and respected faces of European business aviation.”
“In an industry that certainly has the odd shark or charlatan, there are fortunately a few of the old guard that set the benchmark for how aircraft sales ought to be," commented James Dillon Godfray, head of business development, London Oxford Airport. "Tom always set that standard; the archetypal business aircraft salesperson, that others aspired to be. I can't ever remember him not having that grey-haired image of smooth, elder wisdom, exuding a cool, calm aura of an individual that people would just be so familiar with. Congratulations for this award, and the very best for the future.”
“On behalf of the #DreamTeam, we extend our heartfelt gratitude to Tom for his unwavering commitment and leadership in the industry," says Bernhard Fragner, CEO of Austriaan Mustang operator GlobeAir. "We have had the privilege of working with Tom since 2007. His legacy of hard work and dedication will continue to inspire us. As a proper English gentleman, Tom's sense of humour made our partner events unforgettable. It was an honour to work with him. He was always a respected member at all branch meetings. As one of the most recognisable faces in business aviation, Tom's professionalism and dedication to excellence set an example for us to follow daily. Working with him all these years has been a pleasure, and we wish him all the best as he embarks on a well-deserved retirement. Congratulations on this award and a career filled with remarkable achievements. We will miss your guidance, support and positive attitude.”
“Tom has been instrumental in supporting me and our company, specifically with our Cessna 525 Citation fleet, which we recently celebrated 20 years of continuous operations with, commented George McFarlane, chairman, Air Charter Scotland Ltd. "His knowledge of the product and commitment to providing great service have been invaluable to us. This award is a fantastic recognition of the contribution Tom made not only to Cessna, but to business aviation. We wish him the very best in his retirement.”