WASHINGTON, April 22 (Reuters) - Former JetBlue Airways CEO Robin Hayes has been named as the new head of Airbus' operations in North America, the European planemaker said Monday.

Airbus said C. Jeffrey Knittel is retiring as chairman and CEO of Airbus Americas effective June 3. Hayes will take over after he stepped down in February after nine years as CEO of JetBlue.

Hayes will lead Airbus' commercial aircraft business in North America, which is based in Herndon, Virginia, and will have responsibility for coordination among the company’s helicopters, space and defense businesses in the Americas, Airbus said.

Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury said Hayes will help the company "further deliver on our strategic objectives for the region across all the Airbus businesses and further grow our North American footprint."

Airbus said earlier this month that jet deliveries rose 12% in the first quarter, leaving the France-based company ahead of U.S. rival Boeing, which delivered 83 commercial airplanes during the same period.

Boeing is facing scrutiny after an in-flight emergency in January sparked renewed safety concerns and prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to bar the planemaker from expanding 737 MAX production.

Airbus in January reported record annual jet orders for 2023, maintaining the top manufacturing spot against Boeing for a fifth year. (Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Jonathan Oatis)