18 February 1973

Aérospatiale SA 319B Alouette III (© Zane Adams)
Aérospatiale SA 319B Alouette III (© Zane Adams)

18 February 1973: Aérospatiale company pilots Daniel Bouchart and Didier Potelle land their SA 319B Alouette III helicopter, similar to the one in the photograph above, at the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, an elevation of 5,895 meters (19,341 feet). The air temperature was -6 °C. (+22 °F.) On takeoff from the summit, the gross weight of the helicopter was 1,560 kilograms (3,439 pounds). Three days later, Bouchart and Potelle landed atop Mount Kenya, the second highest mountain in Africa at 5,199 meters (17,057 feet).


This helicopter is extremely effective at high altitudes and is widely used in the Alps, the Canadian Rockies and the Himalayas. The SA 319B is a development of the previous SA 316B. It is a single-engine, seven-place, light helicopter, operated by one or two pilots.

The helicopter’s fuselage is 10.175 meters (33 feet, 4.6 inches) long, with a main rotor diameter of 11.020 meters (36 feet, 1.9 inches). It has a height of 3.000 meters (9 feet, 10.1 inches).

The three-bladed articulated main rotor follows the French practice of turning clockwise as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the helicopter’s left side.) Main rotor speed is 353.2 r.p.m. at 100% NR.  In autorotation, it may operate in a range from 270 to 420 r.p.m. A three-bladed tail rotor is mounted on the right side of the tail boom in a pusher configuration. It turns clockwise as seen from the helicopter’s left side. (The advancing blade is below the tail boom.) The tail rotor has a diameter of 1.912 meters (6 feet, 3.228 inches). The tail rotor speed is 2,001 r.p.m.

Aérospatiale SA 319B Alouette III three-view illustration with dimensions. (Aérospatiale)

The Alouette III has an approximate empty weight of 1,122 kilograms (2,474 pounds), depending on installed equipment, and the maximum certificated takeoff weight is 2,200 kilograms (4,850 pounds).

The summit of Mount Kilimanjaro. (Shutterstock)

The SA 319B is powered by a Turboméca Astazou XIV turboshaft engine, capable of producing 870 shaft horsepower, but derated to 660 shaft horsepower. This provides a power rating of 90 horsepower more than the earlier helicopter’s Artouste IIIB engine. The engine turns 33,500 r.p.m at 100% N1.

At its maximum gross weight the SA 316B Allouette III has a cruising speed of 185 kilometers per hour (100 knots, or 115 miles per hour), and a maximum speed (VNE) of 210 kilometers per hour (113 knots, 130 miles per hour), both at Sea Level. Its range is 470 kilometers (254 nautical miles, 292 statute miles), and the service ceiling is 6,000 meters (19,685 feet).

The Aérospatiale SA 319B Alouette III is widely used in mountainous areas. (Elisabeth Klimesch/Wikimedia)

As with all helicopters, the Alouette III’s Hover Ceiling varies with its weight. At maximum gross weight, the Hover Ceiling in Ground Effect (HIGE) is 1,650 meters (5,413 feet), and out of Ground Effect (HOGE), just 100 meters (328 feet), MSL. At a reduced gross weight of 1,750 kilograms (3,858 pounds), HIGE increases to 5,550 meters (18,045 feet), and HOGE, 1,650 meters (5,413 feet). With the same weights, the helicopter’s rate of climb varies from 4.3 meters per second to 8.7 meters per second (846–1,713 feet per minute).

Kilimanjaro is an extinct stratovolcano in Africa. It is the tallest free-standing mountain in the world. Mount Kenya is also an extinct volcano. Its peak is the volcanic plug of a stratovolcano that was likely once taller that Mount Kilimanjaro.

Mount Kenya.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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2 thoughts on “18 February 1973

  1. I’m interested in acquiring one very soon.what’s the price and who is the distributor?

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