‘Lucky’ Guy

That multinational perspective began in an unlikely place: a quaint, rural village of 500 people in northeast France. “We had farms all around us,” Trapp says. “My parents were both nurses, and I was the first in my family to go to college.” That academic journey took him from his home village to Wales, and to a master’s in economics at Paris-Sorbonne University. He worked his way through his studies with internships and part-time jobs, also serving a year of military service where he became familiar with aerospace defense contracts. After obtaining degrees in finance, accounting, and business management, a future in banking or business consulting seemed destined for Trapp. Then his young wife got her first teaching job in Toulouse, France, a city that just happened to house the headquarters of Airbus. So, Trapp with his recently earned degrees applied to work at the city’s premier employer in 1998. The initial job interview threw him a curveball when the interviewer interjected, “I don’t understand why you are applying to work here at Airbus. With your business degrees, I would expect you to work for a bank or famous consulting firm. Why Airbus?” Trapp’s reply hit that curveball out of the park. He answered, “It is very important for me to work in a job where I can connect financial figures with a tangible product that I can see and touch, and with a product that allows me to connect with people. Airbus gives me the opportunity to work in an interesting industry that allows me to connect my financial training to a tangible product that connects people.” Good answer, but Trapp believes his career was partially born from serendipity as well. “If my wife had not taken a job in Toulouse, I might never have worked at Airbus. I consider myself somewhat lucky,” he says.

Maybe Trapp gives luck too much credit. Although he didn’t actively seek to move to Toulouse, once there, he did actively seek a financial job at Airbus that he had academically prepared for, and he proved his worth to Airbus by traveling throughout Europe in various financial roles. In 2008, he learned Airbus was considering him for chief financial officer (CFO) of Airbus Helicopters Inc. in the United States. Up to this point, Trapp had mainly worked on the fixed-wing side of the OEM and wondered if the promotion would be a good fit for him. The former president of Airbus Helicopters at the time persuaded Trapp, “It is the perfect fit for you because it involves business, top responsibility, and customer focus.” That convinced Trapp to interview and take the promotion. The Trapps moved to the U.S. in August and just as the new CFO was learning his new responsibilities, the greatest global financial crisis since the Great Depression hit. “So, after one month as CFO, I moved into crisis management,” Trapp says. “One has to learn their job very quickly,” he chuckles.

The Road Less Traveled

That baptism by fire conditioned Trapp to take a risk in his next career move. Airbus was an engineering-centric aerospace corporation. Few had ever been promoted to top management without an engineering pedigree. The comfortable choice was for Trapp to not aspire to a presidential or head managerial position,

but to instead enjoy a lucrative, relatively safe career in the financial offices of Airbus. On that well-worn path, he would ride along comfortably at the global headquarters in his native land of France. “I chose the riskier road,” says Trapp, “and did it by becoming president in 2013 of the Airbus Helicopter business in Canada.” It was a role he academically prepared for a year earlier during the executive management program at the Stanford University Graduate School of Business. Trapp had decided to be a new-world man and struck out to stake his claim in North America. After three successful years at the Canadian helicopter helm, he returned to the States, not as a financial officer, but as chief operating officer (COO) of Airbus Helicopters Inc. while simultaneously heading up the Canadian business.

In July 2019, Trapp reached the summit of his 20-year-long pioneering climb by being appointed president of


Helicopters Inc. and head of its North America region. Not bad for a career that began with a “lucky” move.

Family Matters

In those two decades since moving to Toulouse, Trapp not only built a successful executive career in aerospace, but also grew a family with his wife, Francoise, in America. There is a tinge of regret in how he fulfilled his family role. “When you work as much as me, you feel like you don’t spend as much time with family as you should. When my oldest son graduated from high school and left for college, it was a surprise. He was little not so long ago — and then he was grown and gone.” That son is now a research biologist. With a lesson learned, Trapp continues, “I realized I missed some of his growing up, and I’m really trying to do a better job as a father and husband and be more involved with our 16-year-old son and spend as much time as possible with my wife — and our dog, Leia (named after the Star Wars princess). She’s the real queen of the house,” he laughs. Trapp’s rededication to being a present father has meant early morning starts. “I have been spending much of any time away from work watching my son play hockey for the past few years; he is a goalie. It makes for very early mornings with practice starting at 6:00 and some games at 7:00,” and he also shares that time with Francoise. “I enjoy spending time with her. We’ve been together since we were 18.” He hopes he and his wife will spend time together golfing as they age, too. “I play a little golf, but I don’t like how much time it can take. I’d like for my wife to take up the game so that we could play together.”

Perhaps golfing with his spouse would make Trapp an even better executive. “I always had great bosses throughout my career, but I would have to say my biggest mentor has been my wife. When I get all wrapped up in business decisions and am in danger of losing perspective, she brings me back to reality and puts things in perspective for me.” With that comment, I wonder if Trapp might claim golfing expense tax deductions for playing a round with his wife, but he’s probably too versed in accounting rules to consider such folly.


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