On this day, in 1971, the Mercure made its first flight in Mérignac with a crew including Jean Coureau, chief pilot, Jérôme Résal, pilot, and Gérard Joyeuse, test engineer.
During the mid-1960’s, Marcel Dassault and the French civil aviation authority made the observation that numerous air routes in the world corresponded to small distances. But there was no aeroplane adapted to this traffic.
The new aircraft’s wing was developed using calculation tools that were very modern at the time, and even though it was larger than the Boeing 737, the new aircraft could fly faster. Powered by two wing-mounted Pratt&Whitney JT 8 D 15 double flow engines, it was baptized “Mercure” by Marcel Dassault:”I wanted to name it for a mythological figure and I could only think of one who had wings on his helmet and ailerons on his feet – hence the name Mercure (Mercury).”
The programme Mercure was officially launched in April 1969. Manufacturing, to be carried out under the main contractorship of Dassault, was shared between Fiat (Italy), CASA (Spain), ADAP (Belgium), the federal aircraft builder FW of Emmen (Switzerland) and Canadair (Canada). Final assembly was handled by the company Dassault, at Mérignac for the prototype and, at Istres, for the production series aircraft.
This was the first large-scale European cooperation programme in civil aeronautics.