MIAMI – Born as Marcel Ferdinand Bloch in Paris on January 22, 1892, the future French engineer decides very early to embrace a career in aviation after seeing a Wright aircraft fly around the Eiffel Tower.

In 1913 he obtains a degree in aeronautical engineering and one year later joins the “Laboratoire de Recherche Aeronautiques” (Aeronautical Research Laboratory) where, with Henry Potez, another prominent figure of the early french aviation, he creates the “Societé d’Etudes Aeronautiques” (Company of Aeronautical Studies) and develops a military observation aircraft, the SEA IV, destined for the French Air Force.

Bloch-Dassault obtains orders for 1,000 units but the end of WW1 stops the production at only 100.

Bloch MB.200 in flight circa 1933. Photo: By Unknown author, Public Domain

Marcel Bloch Aircraft Company


Photo: Hall of Fame Repository: San Diego Air and Space Museum Archive San Diego Air & Space Museum

Marcel Bloch-Dassault is not active in the aeronautical world until 1931 when he creates the “Societé des Avions Marcel Bloch” (Marcel Bloch Aircraft Company) and opens a factory in Courbevoie employing 700 workers. The factory is nationalized in 1936 and taken over by SNCASO, a mixed capital concern, and Marcel Bloch-Dassault becomes its CEO.

At the same time, he creates a new company, the “Societé Anonyme des Avions Marcel Bloch” (Marcel Bloch Aircraft Company Ltd.) which designs aircraft for SNCASO. During the pre-war period, the aeronautical industry grows exceptionally and the SNCASO, under the direction of Marcel Bloch-Dassault, goes from 1,500 to 7,000 workers. A new factory is created at Chateauroux Airport bringing their total number at six.

Marcel Bloch-Dassault leaves his post as SNCASO CEO at the beginning of 1940 and enters a very hard personal period of life. He is arrested, put on trial, and incarcerated several times and, in 1944, he is finally arrested by the Gestapo and sent to the Buchenwald concentration camp where he remains until 1945 and the end of WW2. In 1946 he changes his name from Marcel Bloch to Marcel Bloch-Dassault and subsequently into Marcel Dassault.

Marcel Dassault in front of Mercure02 bearing the colors of Air Inter. Photo: Dassault Aviation

Post WWII


In the years following the end of WW2, Marcel Dassault wins a contract for the supply of a new fleet to the French Air Force entirely composed of jet fighters. His company becomes the “Generale Aeronautique Marcel Dassault” (General Aeronautics Marcel Dassault-GAMD) and starts producing its first jet fighter, the Ouragan in 1949. It is, followed by the Mystere family of fighters from 1952, the Mirage from 1956 to 1966, all produced along with the Falcon business jet beginning in 1963.

In 1971, GAMD takes over Breguet Aviation and starts producing the Alpha Jet, still flown by the “Patrouille de France”, the Jaguar in cooperation with BAe, the civil airliner Mercure, while the Falcon biz jet evolves into its own family of aircraft. Marcel Dassault had created an industrial complex, both military and civil, centered on aviation, electronic, and information technology. He escapes nationalization by gifting 26% of its shares to the French government.

On May 28, 1971, the Dassault Aviation Mercure takes to the air for the first time from Bordeaux-Merignac Airport (BOD). Dassault Aviation Chief Pilot, Jean Courot, co-pilot Jerome Resal, and test engineer Gerard Joyeuse were onboard the May-28 maiden flight.

The Mercure project was pushed by the Direction Générale de l’Aviation Civile (DGAC), the French Civil Aviation Authority. Marcel Dassault observed that on a global basis, many routes were short-leg flights but no aircraft were adapted to this type of traffic. This opinion gave more credence to the program’s inception.

Marcel Dassault was also involved with the press and owned a weekly magazine, Jours de France, and in politics when he becomes a Senator at first and a deputy for the Alpes-Cote d’Azur circumscription. In 1985 he is the first french billionaire with a capital of US$1.28bn (€1.07bn) or 7bn French francs of past times.


Featured image: Marcel Bloch, c. 1912. Photo:Unknown author, Public Domain