Aviation Pioneer Marcel Bloch-Dassault

DALLAS — Marcel Ferdinand Bloch, who was born on January 22, 1892, made the decision to pursue a career in aviation at a young age after witnessing a Wright aircraft circle the Eiffel Tower.

In 1913, Bloch earned a degree in aeronautical engineering, and the following year, he joined the “Laboratoire de Recherche Aeronautiques” (Aeronautical Research Laboratory). Together with Henry Potez, another influential figure in early French aviation, he established the “Société d’Etudes Aeronautiques” (Company of Aeronautical Studies) and worked on the development of a military observation aircraft called the SEA IV for the French Air Force.

Bloch-Dassault received orders for 1,000 units, but due to the end of World War I, production was halted after only 100 units were produced.

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

Rephrased: Marcel Bloch-Dassault’s involvement in the field of aeronautics began in 1931 when he established the “Société des Avions Marcel Bloch” (Marcel Bloch Aircraft Company) and opened a factory in Courbevoie, employing a workforce of 700. However, in 1936, the factory was nationalized and taken over by SNCASO, a mixed-capital concern, with Marcel Bloch-Dassault assuming the role of CEO.

During this time, he also founded a new company called “Societé Anonyme des Avions Marcel Bloch” (Marcel Bloch Aircraft Company Ltd.), which was responsible for designing aircraft for SNCASO. The aeronautical industry experienced significant growth in the pre-war period, and under the leadership of Marcel Bloch-Dassault, SNCASO’s workforce expanded from 1,500 to 7,000. To accommodate this growth, a new factory was established at Chateauroux Airport, bringing the total number of factories to six.

In early 1940, Marcel Bloch-Dassault stepped down as CEO of SNCASO and faced a challenging personal period. He was arrested, put on trial, and imprisoned multiple times. In 1944, the Gestapo apprehended him and sent him to the Buchenwald concentration camp, where he remained until the end of World War II in 1945.

In 1946, he changed his name from Marcel Bloch to Marcel Bloch-Dassault, and later to Marcel Dassault.

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


After World War II, Marcel Dassault secured a contract to supply the French Air Force with an entirely new fleet of jet fighters. His company transformed into “Generale Aeronautique Marcel Dassault” (General Aeronautics Marcel Dassault-GAMD) and commenced production of its first jet fighter, the Ouragan, in 1949. This was followed by the development of the Mystere family of fighters from 1952 and the Mirage from 1956 to 1966, along with the production of the Falcon business jet starting in 1963.

In 1971, GAMD acquired Breguet Aviation and expanded its production to include the Alpha Jet, still flown by the “Patrouille de France,” as well as the Jaguar in collaboration with BAe and the Mercure civil airliner. Meanwhile, the Falcon business jet evolved into its own line of aircraft. Marcel Dassault established an industrial complex encompassing military and civil aviation, electronics, and information technology. To prevent nationalization, he gifted 26% of the company’s shares to the French government.

On May 28, 1971, the Dassault Aviation Mercure made its maiden flight from Bordeaux-Merignac Airport (BOD). Jean Courot, the Chief Pilot of Dassault Aviation, along with co-pilot Jerome Resal and test engineer Gerard Joyeuse, were on board.

The French Civil Aviation Authority, Direction Générale de l’Aviation Civile (DGAC), spearheaded the Mercure project. Marcel Dassault recognized the need for aircraft suited to short-haul flights, which were in high demand globally. This insight played a significant role in the initiation of the program.

Marcel Dassault was also involved in the media, owning a weekly magazine called Jours de France, and had a political career as a senator and later as a deputy for the Alpes-Cote d’Azur district. In 1985, he became the first French billionaire with a capital of US$1.28 billion (€1.07 billion), or 7 billion French francs.

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

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Article source: https://airwaysmag.com/marcel-bloch-dassault-2/

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