Jean-Paul Béchat graduated from Ecole Polytechnique in 1962, earned his Master of Sciences degree from Stanford University in 1969, and went on to join Snecma as a production engineer, where he promptly assumed responsibility for Concorde engine nozzle assembly and then for running production at the company’s plant in Corbeil.
He then served as Production Director (1974-1978), Vice-President Industrial Affairs, then Executive Vice President at Hispano-Suiza (1982-1985). In-between, he worked for Snecma’s Technical Department as Deputy Director (1979-1981) and then for that company as Head of Industrial Relations (1981-1982). During that time, he led the shift to a 39-hour working week. In 1986, he became Chief Executive Officer, then Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of Messier-Hispano-Bugatti (Snecma Group), where he modernised industrial capacity, built an international service network, and established Messier-Dowty in 1994.
From 1994 to 1996, he served as Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of Société Nationale des Poudres et Explosifs (SNPE). SNPE’s Matériaux Energétiques (energy materials) arm went on to join Safran in 2011. He was subsequently appointed Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of Snecma, which he headed until Safran was created in 2005.
Jean-Paul Béchat also chaired GIFAS (Groupement des Industries Françaises Aéronautiques et Spatiales) from 1997 to 2001, and subsequently became a Board member and one of its Honorary Chairmen. He was also a member of the Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace Board. Jean-Paul was made an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society in 2001 (seen here receiving his Honorary Fellowship certificate, left, from then RAeS President, Prof Ian Poll).
“I was fortunate to work by his side for many years and thus able to appreciate Jean-Paul Béchat’s many qualities throughout his career as a remarkable industrial leader. I know he has played a pivotal role in our efforts to build a robust high-technology Group that has emerged as a leader in its fields and built a solid reputation on international markets. We all owe him a lot,” said Jean-Paul Herteman, HonFRAeS, Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of Safran.
Jean-Paul Bechat was deservedly very well respected by lead figures in the UK aerospace industry as well. Simon Luxmoore, CEO of the Royal Aeronautical Society, who knew Bechat well in his own former senior industrial management role said: “Whilst working with Messier-Dowty I had the great pleasure of being a part of Jean-Paul Bechat’s team at Snecma through the acquisition of Messier-Dowty by Snecma and subsequently at Safran” adding that “Jean-Paul was a truly international Chief Executive and was highly respected within the global aerospace industry. This was recognised with an Honorary Fellowship of the Royal Aeronautical Society, an award rarely granted but, on this occasion, richly deserved. He will be missed by all who knew him.”