Serge Dassault dies in Paris, aged 93


This year’s EBACE should have been an occasion for celebration. But the early positive mood turned to one of seriousness and mourning with the news of Serge Dassault’s death in Paris this afternoon. M. Dassault was one of France’s great industrialists, building the aviation firm that his father Marcel had founded in 1929 into one of the world’s leading aviation businesses.

Few men have achieved as much as M. Dassault and, though he stepped aside from direct, hands-on management of Dassault Aviation at the age of 75 in 200, he remained as chairman of the Dassault group until his death at his desk aged 93. Those who knew him, inside Dassault and outside, welcomed his insights and wise counsel.

In political terms he was a conservative centrist and helped found France’s UMP party which held sway from 2002 until the latest elections. It was necessary in a France being pulled in two directions by extremists to the left and to the right. But with the likes of Serge Dassault in the wings, it was party which helped strengthen the European Union and France’s influence within it. And it was a centrism learned the hard way, when his father was first interned but France’s Vichy government in 1940 and then deported to the Buchenwald concentration camp in 1944, a hell that he survived. Small wonder that Serge would have no truck with extremists of any hue.

Dassault Aviation had grown up in the military sphere after World War II, but Serge Dassault had a wider vision, to diversify his company into the civil space and into the innovative technologies that were taking aviation in new, imaginative directions. Serge Dassault personally went to the NBAA show in 1962 to see if there was any demand for Dassault’s project of the Falcon Jet — he completely understood the importance of shows like EBACE. And even the French manufacturer’s toughest competitors will raise a thoughtful glass to him tonight.

A great man in all senses of the word.