DALLAS – Born Marcel Ferdinand Bloch on January 22, 1892, the future French engineer decided very early on 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 early French aviation, he creates the “Société 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 at the end of WW1, it stops production at only 100.
Marcel Bloch Aircraft Company
Marcel Bloch-Dassault was not active in the aeronautical world until 1931 when he created the “Société des Avions Marcel Bloch” (Marcel Bloch Aircraft Company) and opened a factory in Courbevoie employing 700 workers. The factory was nationalized in 1936 and taken over by SNCASO, a mixed capital concern, and Marcel Bloch-Dassault became 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 grew exceptionally, and the SNCASO, under the direction of Marcel Bloch-Dassault, went from 1,500 to 7,000 workers. A new factory was created at Chateauroux Airport bringing their total number to 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 changed his name from Marcel Bloch to Marcel Bloch-Dassault, and subsequently to Marcel Dassault.
In the years following the end of WW2, Marcel Dassault wins a contract for the supply of a new fleet for the French Air Force entirely composed of jet fighters. His company becomes “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, and 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, and 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 became a senator, first and then a deputy for the Alpes-Cote d’Azur circumscription. In 1985, he became the first French billionaire with a capital of US$1.28bn (€1.07bn) or 7bn French francs.