Since the beginning of aviation, southwest France has developed strong ties with aeronautics and space. “The Aerospace Industry in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine Region, a Century of History and Heritage” goes back over the key events of this period.
Dassault Aviation in Mérignac (Gironde département) and in Anglet (Pyrénées-Atlantiques département), Safran and Thales in Châtellerault (Vienne département), Airbus in Cognac (Charente département), ArianeGroup in Saint-Médard-en-Jalles (Gironde département)… In 2020, the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region (created from the merging of the Aquitaine, Limousin and Poitou-Charentes regions in 2016) is the third-largest region of France in terms of jobs in the aeronautics, space and defense sectors. This represents about 50,000 jobs spread over some 800 sites, and an estimated turnover of 6 billion euros. Pure coincidence? Not really.
Because the new regional entity has always been a springboard for the sector, whether civil or military. Back in 1909, the Wright brothers opened the world’s very first aviation school in the town of Pau (Pyrénées-Atlantiques départment). In 1939, Marcel Bloch took over a workshop in Talence (Gironde département), then, when the premises proved too small at the end of the Second World War, he moved to Mérignac and created the Dassault “Grande Usine” (large factory). In 1965, France launched its first satellite, Astérix, using a rocket whose engines were manufactured in Saint-Médard-en-Jalles by Sereb (Société d’étude et de réalisation d’engins balistiques), the forebear of ArianeGroup.
A study of this heritage commissioned by the Regional Council of Nouvelle-Aquitaine provided the stimulus for writing “The Aerospace Industry in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine Region, a Century of History and Heritage”. The book recounts not only the history of the embedding of the aerospace industry in the region, but also its technical developments, supported by archives and documents drawn from some sixty sites. The fruit of five years of work by Laetitia Maison-Soulard, a historian, and Vincent Frigant, a researcher, this book is a veritable inventory which uses the heritage of the aerospace industry to demonstrate the unity of the Nouvelle-Aquitaine region.
“The Aerospace Industry in the Nouvelle-Aquitaine Region, a Century of History and Heritage”, Lætitia Maison-Soulard et Vincent Frigant, éditions Le Festin, collection Cahiers du patrimoine, ISBN: 978-2-36062-270-2.