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SP's Aviation - - Table of Contents -

On May 28, 2018, the avi­a­tion com­mu­nity the world over was shocked by the news of the demise of one of the liv­ing leg­ends of the global avi­a­tion in­dus­try, Serge Das­sault, for­mer Chair­man of Das­sault Group. This is a France-based group of com­pa­nies es­tab­lished in 1929 and to­day, is a global leader in the pro­duc­tion of both mil­i­tary air­craft and busi­ness jets. Born in Paris on April 4, 1925, Serge Das­sault was one of the rich­est men in France and a con­ser­va­tive politi­cian who also ran a con­ser­va­tive me­dia house.

Don­ning sev­eral hats and bat­tling ad­ver­si­ties in his long and event­ful life of 93 years, Serge also faced the Nazi Gestapo who im­pris­oned his fam­ily in 1944 at Montluc near Lyon, later at Drancy. Like many peo­ple who sur­vived im­pris­on­ment in Nazi camps and turnout win­ner in their lives, Serge Das­sault not only tasted suc­cess, but es­tab­lished a leg­endary pro­fes­sional track record. A man so pas­sion­ate about his work that he breathed his last in his of­fice in Paris which sums up his life per­fectly.

Serge in­her­ited his wealth and busi­ness from his fa­ther Mar­cel (Bloch) Das­sault, an avi­a­tion leg­end, who started the Das­sault Avi­a­tion, a com­pany bet­ter known for its Mi­rage and Rafale jet fight­ers. His fa­ther de­signed Éclair pro­pel­ler, used in Spad VII, was one of the three pro­pel­lers se­lected by the French gov­ern­ment to power its mil­i­tary air­craft dur­ing World War-I. This was the com­mer­cial begin­ning of the com­pany. Dur­ing the Sec­ond World War, the com­pany built air­craft for the French Air Force.

Dur­ing his fam­ily’s in­tern­ment, Mar­cel was pres­surised to put his air­craft de­sign­ing skills to use for Hitler’s gov­ern­ment. But, like a true na­tion­al­ist, he de­clined. Learn­ing a les­son from the fam­ily his­tory, Serge, through his com­pany en­sured French self-reliance in mil­i­tary avi­a­tion. He fought and won many a bat­tle to en­sure pri­vate hold­ing of his com­pany.

After com­plet­ing his ed­u­ca­tion from the École Polytech­nique and the École Na­tionale Supérieure de l’Aéro­nau­tique, in 1951, Serge joined the de­sign of­fice of his fa­ther’s com­pany. After be­com­ing the Man­ager of the flight test de­part­ment in 1955, the com­pany saw the ar­rival of some of the most fa­mous of their fighter air­craft such as Su­per Mys­tère B2, Éten­dard, Mi­rage III and Mi­rage IV. Most out­stand­ing of th­ese were the Mi­rage se­ries which went on to join many of the Asian Air Forces and they are still in use in Iran and Pak­istan well after 60 years since their ar­rival. The Mi­rage 2000-5 the lat­est ver­sion in the se­ries, is one of the best fourth-gen­er­a­tion fight­ers of the world.

Even after 70 years, Das­sault Avi­a­tion has not lost its edge in de­sign­ing cut­ting edge fighter. Their lat­est Rafale re­cently won com­pet­i­tive bids against com­pa­ra­ble fight­ers in In­dia, Qatar and Egypt. In ad­di­tion to the air­craft, un­der his lead­er­ship, Das­sault came up with the firts Euro­pean com­bat drone demon­stra­tor ‘nEuron’.In line with the mil­i­tary avi­a­tion, un­der his lead­er­ship Das­sault wit­nessed pro­lif­er­a­tion of the civil avi­a­tion fleet of Fal­con busi­ness jets which now in­cludes the 7X, the 8X and now, the 6X.

In 1967, Serge took over the post of Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer of the elec­tronic arm of the group and held it un­til De­cem­ber 23, 1986. Sub­se­quently, till April 2000, he was the Chair­man and CEO of Das­sault Avi­a­tion.

He was a busi­ness leader who not only led his com­pany, but also pro­vided lead­er­ship to the Euro­pean de­fence and avi­a­tion in­dus­try. He was the Pres­i­dent of GIFAS (French avi­a­tion in­dus­try body) from 1993 to 1997 and the French Coun­cil of De­fence In­dus­tries (CIDEF) from 1994 to 1996 as also the Vice Pres­i­dent of the Euro­pean As­so­ci­a­tion of Aero­space In­dus­tries (AECMA) from 1994 to 1997. He had also been a Mayor and a Se­na­tor.

He ex­panded his in­her­i­tance of avi­a­tion busi­ness to auc­tion house, me­dia, prop­erty and vine­yards. He is sur­vived by his wife, four chil­dren and grand chil­dren.

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