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Dassault’s Rosanvallon Reflects on Business Aviation’s Advances, Future

Nov. 15, 2021

NBAA recently presented its prestigious John P. “Jack” Doswell Award to former Dassault Falcon Jet CEO Jean (John) Rosanvallon in recognition of his exceptional record of service to the industry. Here, Rosanvallon shares his perspective built upon his more than 47 years working for the French aerospace manufacturer and in business aviation.

Q: What originally led you to working in aviation?

In the summer of 1975, I was finishing my mandatory military service and I had already been married for two years. I was very anxious to start my professional life. I had no particular interest in any specific industry, and I was interviewing with a few different companies.

I really liked the guy who interviewed me at Dassault, which a few years earlier had launched a business aviation joint venture with Pan American Airlines. Although I had no aerospace background or any particular interest in airplanes, I liked the people and the prospect of being involved in a business with a U.S. partner.

I was hired at Dassault on my birthday. I worked in the U.S. for a total of 33 years and became a U.S. citizen in 2015, and my interest and background in aerospace have, of course, grown in that time.

Incidentally, at the time of my interview, I had also just been admitted to Harvard Business School. Afterward I sent a note stating I would not be able to join them. Since I’m still around, I have no regrets about that!

Q: What technological advances in business aviation have been most exciting for you to witness?

I’ve seen many advances introduced by our company, all part of a continued focus to improve efficiency, performance and safety that dates back more than a century to [company founder] Marcel Dassault’s Eclair propeller used on aircraft during World War I.

I started with Dassault in the very early days of development of the Falcon 50, and in early 1976 Marcel made a major change in the program by adopting a supercritical wing profile that was very advanced at the time. We used this wing later on the Falcon 900 and 2000; it was designed more than 45 years ago, and it is still extremely efficient today.

The company has always looked at what’s next. At the 1997 NBAA convention, we presented our concept of a supersonic business jet, which didn’t look very different from Concorde, but had a three-engine design. Ultimately, we decided that wasn’t the right time to introduce such an aircraft.

Later on, Dassault was first to use fly-by-wire (FBW) flight controls on a business aircraft, the Falcon 7X. Our upcoming Falcon 10X will use the first all-composite wing in business aviation, with very advanced FBW and a single smart throttle to manage all engine conditions.

Q: Volunteerism has been a hallmark of your career and even in retirement. Why has it been important to you to give back to the industry?

One important example is the Corporate Angel Network (CAN). We’re celebrating our 40th anniversary in 2022. I became a member of their board six-seven years ago and I’ve been their chairman for the past three years.

It’s a great organization, performing a vital humanitarian service [arranging transportation for cancer patients aboard business aircraft] and it all happens with very few full-time staff. CAN relies upon a significant number of volunteers to assist with the logistics of performing as many as 3,000 flights per year.

A little over 15 years ago, I gave a commencement speech at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and joined their Board of Trustees soon after. It is an incredibly diverse group; we have a former astronaut and a four-star general in the U.S. Air Force, as well as local business people. I’ve also served on the board of Wings Club for many years.

Both organizations share the common goal to promote aviation and sponsor young students in aviation education. Especially with more competition than ever before for talent, it’s vital to promote opportunities within aviation in general, and the business aviation segment, in particular.

I’ve also become very involved with NBAA and GAMA (the General Aviation Manufacturers Association) after they opened their membership to non-U.S. [manufacturers] in 2002. I’ve become very involved in industry issues through both organizations.

Q: What are the most pressing issues that you see for business aviation in the years ahead?

Sustainability has moved front-and-center for business aviation worldwide, and it’s particularly important in Europe. Younger generations are extremely concerned about sustainability, and the Ukraine situation has placed even greater emphasis on energy conservation.

In this environment, some European politicians have taken extreme positions to say business aviation is not acceptable, and we’re seeing regulations proposed in France and throughout Europe to limit or forbid business aviation flights of less than two hours when alternatives are available.

That said, we are making significant progress to meet our goal of zero-carbon emissions by 2050. Everyone in aviation and aerospace is taking this commitment very seriously, and I am convinced we will get there.

Efforts to further grow business aviation will also be paramount in the future. I think there’s still room for substantial growth outside the U.S., which in the past has represented more than 60% of the market. We’ve seen strong growth in Asia and China, and although that’s slowed over the last five-six years for various economic and political reasons, I still think there’s room there for a lot of growth for our industry.

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