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Airbus sales boss Leahy sets end-year retirement date -sources

PARIS, Oct 11 (Reuters) - Airbus sales chief John Leahy, a dominant figure of modern aviation, has resolved one of the most widely discussed questions in aerospace by settling on a retirement date - the end of 2017, company executives said on Wednesday.

His long-rumored departure leaves a record backlog of orders for Europe's main aerospace group but uncertainty over short-term demand, as airlines relax after binging on new jets.

The 67-year-old New Yorker said earlier this year he would retire soon to make way for his deputy Kiran Rao and hinted the handover would happen in the autumn by telling reporters he had no plans to attend the Nov 12-16 Dubai Airshow.

But he kept aviation markets guessing over the timing of his plans and is now aiming for one last coup as Airbus faces an aggressive new sales drive from U.S. rival Boeing.

The executives said Leahy had agreed to stay on until the end of December. That comes as Airbus tries to end a hiatus in sales of the A380 by seeking more orders from Emirates at the Dubai Airshow, which Leahy is now expected to attend after all.

Chief Executive Tom Enders disclosed the timing of Leahy's departure during a recent internal sales meeting but has not publicly confirmed details of the transition.

Airbus declined to comment. Leahy could not be reached. (Reporting by Tim Hepher; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta)