Zean Nielsen


Cirrus Aircraft




Named CEO in June, Nielsen was an intriguing choice to succeed co-founder Dale Klapmeier as the Duluth-based personal aircraft manufacturer’s top executive. (Klapmeier is staying on as a senior adviser.) Nielsen’s career includes a stint in leadership of sales and sales operations for California-based electric car maker Tesla, plus sales-executive roles at Bang & Olufsen and Ireland-based building materials company James Hardie Industries. In short, Nielsen doesn’t have an aviation background. But he is tech-savvy, which could mean new capabilities for Cirrus’ strong-selling piston-driven planes and small jets. Last year, Cirrus began offering virtual reality-based pilot training at its Tennessee facility.