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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Company typeState-owned corporation
IndustryAerospace and defence
Defunct10 July 2000
FateMerged into Airbus
HeadquartersParis, France
ProductsSee list

Aérospatiale (French pronunciation: [aeʁɔspasjal]) was a major French state-owned aerospace corporation that developed and manufactured both civilian and military aircraft as well as rockets, missiles and satellites. It was incorporated in 1970 as Société Nationale Industrielle Aérospatiale (English: National Aerospace Industrial Company) through the merger of three state-owned aerospace companies: Sud Aviation, Nord Aviation and SEREB.[1] The company was headquartered in the 16th arrondissement of Paris.[2][3]

During its history, Aérospatiale was involved with many high-profile aerospace programmes, including the Concorde supersonic airliner, the Ariane space launch vehicle, and the Airbus A300, the world's first twin-engined widebody airliner.

As a consequence of the peace dividend of following the dissolution of the Soviet Union, much of the European aerospace and defence industry began to consolidate, with Aérospatiale's break-up accelerated by the French government's efforts to privatize many state-owned companies.

In 1992, Aérospatiale and Germany's Daimler-Benz Aerospace (DASA) each spun off their helicopter businesses, which merged together to form the Eurocopter Group, later renamed Airbus Helicopters. In 1999, the Aérospatiale's satellite manufacturing division was acquired by Alcatel to form Alcatel Space, later renamed Thales Alenia Space. Aérospatiale's remaining assets were merged with the aerospace, defence and telecommunications division of the French conglomerate Matra to form Aérospatiale-Matra in July 2000. One year later, in 2001, Aérospatiale-Matra merged with DASA and Spain's Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA (CASA) to form the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS), later renamed Airbus.

The majority of Aérospatiale's assets are now part of Airbus or its related joint ventures.




Former head office on the Boulevard de Montmorency

In 1970, Aérospatiale was created under the name Société Nationale Industrielle Aérospatiale as a result of the merger of several French state-owned companies - Sud Aviation, Nord Aviation and Société d'étude et de réalisation d'engins balistiques (SEREB). The newly formed entity was the largest aerospace company in France. From the onset, the French government owned a controlling stake in Aérospatiale; at one stage, a 97 per cent ownership of the company was held by the government.[4]

In 1971, Aérospatiale was managed by the French industrialist Henri Ziegler; that same year, the firm's North American marketing and sales arm, which had previously operated under the trading name of the French Aerospace Corporation, was officially rebranded as the European Aerospace Corporation, which was intended to better reflect Aérospatiale's increasing focus on collaborative efforts with its European partners.[5]

Major activities


Many of Aérospatiale's initial programmes were holdovers from its predecessors, particularly those of Sud Aviation.[4] Perhaps the most high-profile of these programmes was Concorde, a joint French-British attempt to develop and market a supersonic commercial airliner. Initial work on this project had begun at Sud Aviation and the Bristol Aeroplane Company, its British counterpart.[4] The engines for Concorde were also developed as a joint Anglo-French effort between SNECMA and Bristol Siddeley. However, the programme was highly politicised and encountered considerable cost overruns and delays.[4] Ultimately, it was negatively affected equally by bad political decisions and an oil crisis in the 1970s; thus, only two airlines purchased Concorde.[4]

Aérospatiale's senior management were keen to avoid the mistakes of the Concorde program.[4] Their next major effort was would be an international consortium between British Aerospace and West German's aircraft company Messerschmitt-Bolkow-Blohm (MBB), called Airbus Industries.

This was established with the purpose of building a twin-engined widebody airliner, known as the A300.[4] While at first, it was difficult to achieve sales and the outlook for the A300 seemed negative. However, Aérospatiale continued to manufacture the airliner without orders, as it could not reasonably cut back production as French law required that laid-off employees were to receive 90 per cent of their pay for a year as well as to retain their health benefits throughout.[4]

Sales of the A300 picked up and the type eventually became a major commercial success, subsequently driving both the American Lockheed L-1011 and the McDonnell Douglas DC-10 from the market due to its cheaper operating model.[4] On the back of this success, further airliners would be produced under the Airbus brand and the company would become a world leader in the field of large commercial aircraft during the 1990s.[4]

Aérospatiale played a leading role in the development of the European space sector.[4] During the 1960s, Sud Aviation had been involved in a multinational European programme to produce the Europa space launch vehicle, this being a three-stage rocket with the separate stages being manufactured in Britain, France, and Germany respectively. However, all of the flight tests conducted were failures; the programme's misfortune has been attributed to there being no central authority responsible for operations. This came as a result of the issue of workshare becoming highly politicized.

When Aérospatiale stepped in, during 1973, it was determined not to repeat the mistakes of Europa.[4] The company proposed to build a new heavy launch vehicle, which would later be called the Ariane, to take the place of Europa. While other European nations were invited to participate, it would be French officials who would hold primary responsibility, and thus, make the most important decisions.[4] This approach was agreed upon with several other nations; during 1979.

Ariane was an immediate success, allowing the French to gain a strong advantage over the United States, which had centred its efforts on the Space Shuttle. However, the Challenger disaster during 1986 showed that it was too complex for routine use as a satellite launch platform.[4] Aérospatiale went on to develop more capable versions of the Ariane, which took much of the business of space launches away from the Americans during the 1990s.[4]

Privatisation and mergers


In 1992, German defense company DaimlerBenz Aerospace AG (DASA) and Aérospatiale combined their respective helicopter divisions together to form the Eurocopter Group; ownership of this new entity was shared between the two parent companies.[6]

During the late 1990s, French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin's Plural Left government initiated a policy towards the privatization of Aérospatiale.[7][8] In 1999, the majority of Aérospatiale, except for the satellites activities, merged with French conglomerate Matra's defense wing, Matra Haute Technologie, to form Aérospatiale-Matra.[9]

On 10 July 2000, Aérospatiale-Matra merged with DASA and Spanish aviation company Construcciones Aeronáuticas SA and to form the multinational European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS).[10] EADS would later rebrand itself as Airbus, taking the name of its commercial aircraft division, its primary business.[11][12]

During 2001, Aérospatiale-Matra's missile division underwent a further merger with Anglo-French outfit Matra BAe Dynamics and the missile division of Alenia Marconi Systems to form the multinational MBDA entity.[13][14]


A Fouga Magister of the Belgian Air Force
The first flight of Concorde, in 1969

Fixed-wing aircraft



An AS350 Écureuil of the French Gendarmerie
A Gazelle SA 342M of the French Army
A Eurocopter A365+ of the Lithuanian Air Force

Unmanned aerial vehicles



Launch of an Exocet missile
The first Ariane 4 launch, in 1988
Diamant A on display in the Musée de l'Air

List of CEOs


See also





  1. ^ Henri Lluch, L'établissement de Marignane : de la SNCASE à l'Aerospatiale, Éditeur : Aerospatiale, établissement de Marignane, 1991, 185 pages.
  2. ^ Who owns whom: Continental Europe, Volume 1. Dun & Bradstreet., 1990. 555. Retrieved from Google Books on 31 August 2011. "SA NATIONALE INDUSTRIELLE AÉROSPATIALE 372 1 . 3724 SA, 37 Boulevard de Montmorency, F-75016 Paris"
  3. ^ "Offices and facilities" (Archive). Aerospatiale. Retrieved on 31 August 2011. "HEADQUARTERS PARIS Aerospatiale 37, boulevard de Montmorency - 75781 Paris cedex 16 "
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o "Sud Aviation and Aérospatiale." centennialofflight.net, Retrieved: 19 February 2018.
  5. ^ Air Progress: 16. September 1971.{{cite journal}}: CS1 maint: untitled periodical (link)
  6. ^ "A Bit of History: American Eurocopter’s Growth over the Decades." Rotor Journal, No. 83. October/November 2009. p. 33.
  7. ^ Godsmark, Chris and John Lichfield. "Airbus set for privatisation as France abandons objection." The Independent, 28 August 1997.
  8. ^ "Déclaration de M. Lionel Jospin, Premier ministre, sur le regroupement d'Aérospatiale-Matra et de Dasa et sur son importance pour la construction européenne dans les domaines de l'aéronautique civile et militaire, Strasbourg le 14 octobre 1999." discours.vie-publique.fr, 14 October 1999.
  9. ^ "Defense & Aerospace Companies - Volume II." Forecast International, September 2001.
  10. ^ "Dasa/Aerospatiale Matra Merger Creates European Aerospace Giant." Aviation Week, 15 October 1999.
  11. ^ "EADS to be renamed Airbus Group." BBC News, 31 July 2013.
  12. ^ Michaels, Daniel. "How EADS Became Airbus." The Wall Street Journal, 5 January 2014.
  13. ^ "History." MBDA, Retrieved: 18 February 2018.
  14. ^ "Creation of MBDA integration of Europe's missile industry." Airbus, Retrieved: 18 February 2018.


  • Gunston, Bill (2005). World Encyclopedia of Aircraft Manufacturers, 2nd Edition. Phoenix Mill, Gloucestershire, England, UK: Sutton Publishing Limited. ISBN 0-7509-3981-8.