The recipient of this year’s NBAA Meritorious Service Award to Aviation– the association’s most distinguished honor–is Serge Dassault, chairman emeritus of Dassault Falcon Jet.
Involved in business aviation for more than 40 years, Dassault took over leadership of the business jet and military aircraft manufacturer Dassault Group in 1986, shortly after the death of his father, company founder Marcel Dassault. Under his management, Dassault Aviation became one of the leaders in business aircraft manufacturing, claiming a 45-percent market share at the time of his retirement.
The younger Dassault joined the family business in 1951 and became head of the flight testing department, contributing to the development of several of the company’s top military aircraft including the Etendard and the Mirage III and IV.
In 1961, as Dassault’s director of export, he launched the U.S. sales campaign for the Mystère (Falcon) 20, the French airframer’s first non-military jet, which went on to become one of the world’s best-selling business aircraft.
He was appointed chairman and CEO of the company’s electronics research center Electronique Marcel Dassault (later renamed Electronique Serge Dassault) in 1967 and remained in that position until his election as chairman and CEO of Dassault Aviation. The following year he was named president of Dassault Industries.
Dassault was a strong supporter of the computer-aided design process (CAD) and under his watch Dassault Systemes created CATIA software technology, which sparked a revolution in aircraft design.
His retirement in April 2000 was triggered by company policy that required him to resign on his 75th birthday. At a ceremony marking the occasion, he told attendees that after 50 years with the company he would stay with Dassault Aviation as long as he could in his role as honorary chairman.
During his last two years at the helm of the airframer, Dassault fought successfully to preserve the company from being absorbed into the newly emerging EADS consortium. During his career he also participated in numerous French industry organizations including serving as president of GIFAS from 1993 to 1997.
“The Falcon saga started 50 years ago further to the success encountered by our aircraft in the United States,” Serge Dassault told NBAA Convention News. “There, we met faithful and demanding customers who urged us to always design even more efficient aircraft and who taught us the “customer centric” attitude that allowed us to become one of the first business jet manufacturers. This award from the NBAA–the most renowned and respected business aviation organization– represents a real consecration for me but also for our company which delivered its 2,000th aircraft only a few weeks ago. This award rewards all our teams both in France and the United States for their hard work and passion. It encourages us to continue our efforts but also to live on the boldness, vision and values that my father himself inspired to this company.”
The Meritorious Service Award is presented to an individual who, by virtue of a lifetime of personal dedication, has made significant identifiable contributions that have materially advanced aviation interests. “Serge Dassault is without question one of the most innovative leaders in business aviation, and NBAA is honored to present him with our association’s highest honor,” said NBAA president and CEO Ed Bolen. “We congratulate and thank Serge for his many years of dedication to business aviation.”