Passing of a legend
Dassault Aviation pays tribute to Serge Dassault (1925-2018)
“Serge Dassault has devoted his life to aeronautics and the French industry. He has defended with passion and determination Dassault Aviation and its employees, with the sole ambition of long-term viability of the French wings”, expressed Eric Trappier, the Chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation.
Serge Dassault was born in Paris on 4 April 1925 and passed away on 28 May 2018. His adult life began dramatically when, in early 1944, he was imprisoned by the Gestapo along with his parents and brother at Montluc near Lyon, and then at Drancy, from where prisoners were sent to the death camps. The Nazis thought they could thus force his father Marcel Dassault to place his aircraft designer skills at service of the Third Reich. Marcel Dassault refused and was deported to Buchenwald in August 1944, from where he miraculously returned in May 1945. After this traumatic experience, Serge was always attentive to humane matters as also to national sovereignty.
After graduation from the École Polytechnique and the École Nationale Supérieure de l’Aéronautique, Serge Dassault joined the design office at Générale Aéronautique Marcel Dassault in 1951. He became manager of the flight test department in 1955 and, as such was involved with a large number of military aircraft (Super Mystère B2, Étendard, Mirage III and Mirage IV). Appointed as Head of Export, he led the negotiations that resulted in the sale of Mirage III aircraft to Switzerland and Australia. Serge Dassault also launched the Mystère 20 (now Falcon jet) sales campaign in the United States.
In 1963, he took over senior management of the company Électronique Marcel Dassault1, where he was appointed Chief Executive Officer on 10 October 1967 and held this position until 23 December 1986. Then, from 29 October 1986 to 4 April 2000, Serge Dassault was Chairman and CEO of Avions Marcel Dassault - Breguet Aviation (which became Dassault Aviation in 1990), eventually becoming its Honorary Chairman. Since 2 December 1987, Serge Dassault had also been Chairman and CEO of Dassault Industries, which became the Groupe Industriel Marcel Dassault on 1 January 2000.
Under his leadership, Dassault Aviation consistently developed and implemented policies aimed at adapting to new market realities and led the Company in rising to the challenges of the 21st century. Under his watch emerged innovative aircraft types to meet new customers’ requirements, notably the modernised Super Étendard, the Mirage 2000-5, the Mirage 2000D and the new generation Rafale as concerned combat aircraft types while business jets encompassed the Falcon 2000, the Falcon 900EX, the Falcon 50EX, the Falcon 900C and multi-mission Falcons of the Falcon family.
These programmes ensured continuity in the company’s reputation for excellence and successfully met many challenges, be it exports of the Rafale fighter, the first European combat drone demonstrator Neuron or the widening of our range of Falcon business jets with the introduction of the 7X, the 8X and now, the 6X.
Under his guidance, and with the help of Charles Edelstenne, Serge Dassault restructured and modernised the industry while maintaining the company’s social ethos. Notably, Serge Dassault ensured that ‘every employee benefited from the efforts made, distributing incentives and profit-sharing far in excess of what the law required.
In 1975, after serving as Treasurer of the trade union Union Syndicale des Industries Aéronautiques et Spatiales (USIAS), which subsequently became the Groupement des Industries Françaises Aéronautiques et Spatiales (GIFAS), Serge Dassault was appointed General Commissioner of the International Paris Air Show at Le Bourget, thereafter successfully coordinated organisation of no less than ten Paris Air Shows.
He presided over GIFAS from 1993 to 1997, and in addition, was president of the French Council of Defense Industries (CIDEF) between 1994 and 1996, vice-president of the European Association of Aerospace Industries (AECMA) from 1994 to 1997, Chief Armaments Engineer (reserve corps), a graduate of the Centre de perfectionnement des affaires business school and a former auditor of the public administrative establishment Institut des Hautes Études de Défense Nationale (IHEDN), Serge Dassault was also awarded the Aeronautics Medal and became a grand officer of the Legion of Honour.
Beyond his position as a CEO, the employees of Dassault Aviation salute his passion for aeronautics, his human vision of entrepreneurship and the relentless support he provided, as a majority stakeholder, to the Company’s strategy. Such passion, human vision and management stability are the core strengths of Dassault Aviation and will remain so tomorrow.