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DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Sir Maurice Flanagan, a British aviation executive who helped get Emirates airline off the ground and guided its breakneck growth for nearly three decades, has died. He was 86.
The Dubai-based airline he shepherded into existence with backing from the emirate's government went on to become the Mideast's biggest carrier — and a force in the global aviation industry.
The carrier's parent company, Emirates Group, announced Flanagan's death Thursday, just hours after it reported an annual profit of $1.5 billion. It said he died at his home in London, surrounded by friends and loved ones. It did not provide a cause of death.
"The Emirates Group, and Dubai, has lost a great friend today. Maurice was a man of great character, and a legend in the aviation industry," Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Emirates' chairman and CEO, said.
"He was generous with his time, forthright in his views, and a person who gave 110 percent to everything he did. It was a great personal pleasure and privilege to have worked with him," Sheikh Ahmed added.
Born on Nov. 17, 1928 in Leigh, England, Flanagan spent years working for British Airways before taking a post in 1978 as director and general manager of Dnata, the ground services company at Dubai's airport.
He was tapped in 1985 to lead a 10-man team charged with launching the new airline and became Emirates' first managing director. The fledgling carrier started with just two planes on Oct. 25 that year, according to Emirates' official history.
Today, it operates more than 230 planes, including the world's biggest fleet of both the Boeing 777 and double-decker Airbus A380. Its parent reported sales of more than $26 billion last fiscal year.
Queen Elizabeth II knighted Flanagan in 2010, citing his services to Britain's aviation industry and British exports. He retired as executive vice chairman of Emirates Group in 2013.
Flanagan is survived by his wife, Audrey, son Julian, and his daughters Siobhan and Claire.
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