Paul Casey, who has headed both Hawaii’s largest airline and the state’s biggest tourism marketer, is preparing for a new challenge running a small local carrier for one of the richest men in the world.

Island Air, purchased in February by Oracle Inc. CEO Larry Ellison, has appointed Casey to be CEO starting May 1. Ellison bought Island Air after buying 97 percent of the island of Lanai last year.

Casey, 66, was president and CEO of Hawaiian Airlines from 1997 to 2002 and president and CEO of the Hawaii Visitors and Convention Bureau from 1995 to 1997.

At Hawaiian, Casey was instrumental in bringing in Boeing 717s that the carrier uses in its interisland fleet today, and started the process of phasing in long-haul Boeing 767s.

“Having been part of Hawaii’s visitor and airline industries for the past three decades, joining Island Air at this time is an exciting opportunity,” Casey said in a statement. “I look forward to working with the Island Air team to deliver high-quality air service and provide improved options for interisland travelers.”

Casey, who oversaw 3,000 employees and 20 aircraft while at Hawaiian, will oversee 245 employees and four aircraft at Island Air. He will remain chairman of the Oahu Visitors Bureau and continue to serve on HVCB’s board.

Les Murashige, named president of Island Air in October, will continue in that position.

“We are delighted to have someone with Paul Casey’s extensive experience in the airline and travel industries join Island Air,” said Paul Marinelli, Island Air director and vice president of Lawrence Investments LLC. “Paul will be instrumental in the continuing growth of Island Air as we add aircraft and expand service. He is joining our team at an important time and will bring fresh perspective and proven leadership to our efforts.”

Former Hawaiian CEO Bruce Nobles, who preceded Casey, said Island Air made a good choice.

“He’s a very capable guy and will bring a real benefit to Island Air,” Nobles said.

Local aviation historian Peter Forman agreed.

“You can expect to see the quality of Island Air’s product improve with (Casey) running the company.”

(c)2013 The Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Distributed by MCT Information Services.

Photo Credit: Tourist board the local inter-island carrier Island Air at Kapalua West Maui Airport. Yumi Kimura / Flickr