Tag Archives: Aérospatiale

7 April 1967

SA 340 F-WOFH (Airbus Helicopters)
Jean Boulet hovers the prototype Sud-Aviation SA 340 Gazelle, 340.001, F-WOFH, at Marignane, France, 7 April 1967. (Airbus Helicopters)

7 April 1967: The prototype Sud-Aviation SA 340 Gazelle, c/n 340.001, F-WOFH, made its first flight at Marseille–Marignane Airport with test pilot Jean Boulet. The SA 340 was a five-place, light turboshaft-powered helicopter, flown by a single pilot. It was intended as a replacement for the SA 313B/318C Alouette II and SA 316/319 Alouette III.

The prototype used the engine, drive train, tail rotor and landing skids of an Alouette II, and a new three-bladed, composite, semi-rigid main rotor, based on the four-bladed rigid rotor of the Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm (MBB) Bo-105.

Sud-Aviation test pilot Jean Boulet in the cockpit of the SA 349, an experimental variant of the SA 340 Gazelle.
Sud-Aviation test pilot Jean Boulet in the cockpit of the SA 349, an experimental modification of the prototype SA 340 Gazelle, 340.001. (Airbus Helicopters)

Société nationale des constructions aéronautiques du sud-ouest (Sud-Aviation) was a French government-owned aircraft manufacturer, resulting from the merger of Société nationale des constructions aéronautiques du sud-est (SNCASE) and Société nationale des constructions aéronautiques du sud-ouest (SNCASO) in 1957. In 1970, following another merger, the company would become Société nationale industrielle aérospatiale, or SNIAS, better known as Aérospatiale. This company combined several other manufacturers such as Matra and Messerschmitt-Bölkow-Blohm to become Eurocopter, then EADS. It is now Airbus Helicopters.

The SA 340 was powered by a Turboméca Astazou IIN turboshaft which turns 42,500 r.p.m. (± 200 r.p.m.). The output shaft speed is reduced through a 7.34728:1 gear reduction.  The engine rated at 353 kW (473 shaft horsepower) continuous, or 390 kW (523 shaft horsepower) for takeoff. It is temperature-limited to 500 °C. for continuous operation, or 525 °C. for takeoff.

The main rotor assembly, mast, transmission and Turbomeca Astazou engine of the prototype SA 340 Gazelle. (Airbus Helicopters)
The main rotor assembly, mast, swash plate and pitch control links, transmission, main driveshaft and Turboméca Astazou turboshaft engine of the prototype Sud-Aviation SA 340 Gazelle, F-WOFH. (Airbus Helicopters)

F-WOFH was used to test the new fenestron anti-torque system. The conventional tail rotor was replaced with a smaller 13-bladed ducted fan contained within a large vertical fin. The fenestron had several advantages: It was safer, as it was protected from ground strikes or from ground personnel walking into it. It was more effective in producing thrust for anti-torque, though it required more engine power at a hover. It reduced the aerodynamic drag of the helicopter in forward flight, and was not subject to large displacements resulting from dissymmetry of lift. The large fin was cambered and relieved the anti-torque system during forward flight. This meant that the  helicopter could be flown following an anti-torque failure, rather than requiring an immediate emergency autorotation.

Sud-Aviation fenestron on an early production SA 341 Gazelle, c/n 1006, F-WTNV
Sud-Aviation fenestron on an early production SA 341 Gazelle, c/n 1006, F-WTNV. (Airbus Helicopters)

The Aérospatiale SA 341 Gazelle entered production in 1971, as both a military and civil helicopter. The aircraft was also produced in England by Westland.

The Gazelle the first helicopter to be certified for instrument flight with a single pilot.

The SA 341 had an overall length, with rotors turning, of 11.972 meters (39 feet, 3.34 inches). The fuselage was 9.533 meters (31 feet, 3.31 inches) long and the top of its fin was 3.192 meters (10 feet, 5.67 inches) high. The three-bladed main rotor was 10,500 meters (34 feet, 5.39 inches) in diameter, and turned clockwise as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the left.) The rotor has a normal operating speed of  378 r.p.m., ± 12 r.p.m. (310–430 r.p.m. in autorotation. The 13-blade fenestron is enclosed in a duct in the vertical fin. The rotor has a diameter of 0.695 meters (2 feet, 3. 36 inches) and turns counter-clockwise as seen from the left. (The advancing blades are above the axis of rotation.)

The helicopter’s certified maximum gross weight is 1,800 kilograms, or 3,970 pounds.

Aérospatiale SA 341 Gazelle three-view illustration with dimensions. (Aérospatiale)

The Gazelle is powered by a Turboméca Astazou III.

Teh SA 341 has a maximum speed (Vne ) of 310 kilometers per hour (168 knots ) at Sea Level, making it the fastest light helicopter produced at the time. The helicopter is limited to a pressure altitude of 20,000 feet (6,096 meters). It can operate in temperatures from -50  to +45 °C. (-58 to 113 °F.)

Approximately 1,775 Gazelles were built between 1967 and 1996, when production ended.

Sud-Aviation SA 340.001, F-WOFH. (Airbus Helicopters)
Sud-Aviation SA 340.001, F-WOFH. (Airbus Helicopters)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

19 July 1963

Aérospatiale Super Frelon F-ZWWE with R. Coffignot, J. Boulet and J. Turchini. (Aérospatiale)
Aérospatiale SA 3210 Super Frelon F-ZWWE with Roland Coffignot, Jean Boulet and Joseph Turchini. (Aérospatiale)

FAI Record File Num
Status: ratified – superseded since approved
Region: World
Class: E (Rotorcraft)
Sub-Class: E-1 (Helicopters)
Category: General
Group: 2 : turbine
Type of record: Speed over a 3 km course
Performance: 341.23 km/h
Date: 1963-07-19
Course/Location: Istres (France)
Claimant Jean Boulet (FRA)
Crew Roland COFIGNOT
Rotorcraft: Aérospatiale SA 3210 “Super Frelon”
Engines: 3 Turbomeca Turmo

6 June 1955

Jean Boulet (1920–2011)
Jean Boulet (1920–2011) (Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace)

6 June 1955: Société nationale des constructions aéronautiques du Sud-Est  (SNCASE) Chief Test Pilot Jean Boulet set two Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Records for Altitude Without Payload when he flew the number two prototype SE.3130 Alouette II to an altitude of 8,209 meters (26,932 feet) near Buc, France.¹

SNCASE SE.3130-02
SNCASE SE.3130-02, F-WHHF. An Aérospatiale AS350 Écureuil (A-Star) is approaching. (Airbus Helicopters)

FLIGHT and Aircraft Engineer briefly mentioned the flight:

“. . . On the same day S.N.C.A.S.E. claimed the world’s helicopter height record when the Alouette II, powered by a Turboméca Artouste, reached 27,100ft. The machine took off from Buc, near Paris, climbed for 42 min and landed at Montesson. The pilot was M. Jean Boulet.”

FLIGHT and AIRCRAFT ENGINEER, No. 2420 Vol. 67. Friday, 10 June 1955, at Page 784

Powered by a Turboméca Artouste IIB1 turboshaft engine, the Alouette II was the first gas turbine helicopter to enter series production. SNCASE would become Aérospatiale, later, Eurocopter, and is now Airbus Helicopters.

The Alouette II is a 5-place light helicopter operated by a single pilot. The fuselage is 9.66 meters (31 feet, 9 inches) long. The three-bladed fully-articulated main rotor has a diameter of 10.20 meters (33 feet, 6 inches). It turns clockwise, as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the left side of the helicopter.) Normal main rotor speed, NR, is 350–360 r.p.m. The two-blade anti-torque rotor is 1.81 meters (9 feet, 11.25 inches) in diameter and turns clockwise, as seen from the helicopter’s left side. (The advancing blade is below the helicopter.) It turns at 2,020 r.p.m.

Jean Boulet hovers the prototype SE.3130 Alouette II, F-WHHF, 12 March 1955. (Eurocopter)
Jean Boulet hovers the prototype SE.3130-01 Alouette II, F-WHHE, 12 March 1955. (Airbus Helicopters)

The SE.3130 has an empty weight of 895 kilograms (1,973 pounds) and a maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) of 1,600 kilograms (3,527 pounds). The prototype was powered by one Turboméca Artouste IIB1 turboshaft engine which produced 400 horsepower, but was derated to 360 horsepower for installation in the Alouette II.

The helicopter has a cruise speed 175 kilometers per hour (109 miles per hour) at Sea Level, and a maximum speed of 185 kilometers per hour (115 miles per hour) at Sea Level. VNE is 195 kilometers per hour (121 miles per hour.)

The service ceiling is 4,000 meters (13,123 feet) at 1,500 kilograms (3,307 pounds) gross weight. The absolute ceiling is 4,500 meters (14,764 feet). At 1,350 kilograms (2,976 pounds) the Alouette II has a hover ceiling in ground effect, HIGE, of 3,400 meters (11,155 feet) and hover ceiling out of ground effect of 1,900 meters (6,234 feet). At 1,500 kilograms the Alouette II’s HIGE is 2,000 meters (6,560 feet) and HOGE is 600 meters (1,968 feet).

The SE.3130 Alouette was in production from 1956 until 1975. More than 1,300 of these helicopters were built.

SNCASE SE 3130 Alouette II F-WHHF prototype with test pilot jean Boulet, 12 March 1955. (Eurocopter)
SNCASE SE.3130-01 Alouette II F-WHHE prototype with test pilot Jean Boulet, 12 March 1955. (Airbus Helicopters)

Jean Boulet was born 16 November 1920, in Brunoy, southeast of Paris, France. He graduated from Ecole Polytechnique in 1940 and the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de l’aéronautique In 1942. As an officer of the Armée de l’Air (French Air Force) he was sent to the United States for training as a fighter pilot, and later as a helicopter pilot. In 1947 he  joined Société nationale des constructions aéronautiques du Sud-Est (SNCASE) as an engineer and test pilot. As a test pilot he made the first flight in every helicopter produced by SNCASE, which would become Sud-Aviation and later Aérospatiale (then, Eurocopter, and now, Airbus Helicopters). He set 24 Fédération Aéronautique Internationale world records for speed, distance and altitude. While flying a SE 530 Mistral fighter, 23 January 1953, he entered an unrecoverable spin and became the first French pilot to escape from an aircraft by ejection seat during an actual emergency. Médaille de l’Aéronautique. In 1972 he was appointed Officier de la Légion d’honneur. He had more than 9,000 flight hours with over 8,000 hours in helicopters.

Jean Boulet died at Aix-en-Provence, 15 February 2011, at the age of 90.

¹ FAI Record File Numbers 9876, 9877

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes