Tag Archives: Airbus Helicopters

27 June 1974

Aérospatiale AS 350 C Nº. 001, F-WVKH. during a test flight. (Airbus)

27 June 1974: Societe nationale industrielle aérospatiale (SNIAS) test pilot Daniel Bauchart and flight test engineer Bernard Certain took the first prototype Aérospatiale AS 350, F-WVKH, for a 40 minute first flight at at Marignane, France.

The AS 350 C, Nº. 001, was powered by a Lycoming LTS101-600A-1 turboshaft engine rated at 592 shaft horsepower. A second prototype, AS 350 B, F-WTNB, powered by a Turboméca Arriel engine, flew for the first time 14 February 1975.

Initially known internally as the “Business Allouette” after another SNIAS helicopter, the company eventually named the new helicopter Écureuil, which means “squirrel” in English. The name was announced publicly 9 March 1976. Helicopters for the North American market were called the “A-Star.”

Aérospatiale AS 350 C  F-WVKH. (Airbus)

The Aérospatiale AS 350 Écureuil is a  6–7 place, single-engine light helicopter, operated by a crew of one or two pilots. Introduced by Aérospatiale in 1978, it remains in production today and is one of the most popular civil helicopters, with more than 5,000 built. The manufacturer is now known as Airbus Helicopters. The current model is the Airbus H125 (previously named the Eurocopter AS 350 B3e)

The Lycoming LTS101-600A engine that powered the AS 350 C prototype and U.S.-production A-Stars is a turboshaft engine with a single stage axial-flow, single stage centrifugal-flow compressor section, and annular combustor, a single stage gas generator turbine and single stage free power turbine. The gas generator section (N1) turned 49,638 r.p.m, 5-minute limit for takeoff, and the power turbine (N2), 6,085 r.p.m. The -600A-2 is 0.786 meters (2 feet, 6.95 inches) long, 0.492 meters (1 foot, 7.37 inches) wide and 0.600 meters (1 foot, 11.62 inches)high. It weighs 115 kilograms (253.5 pounds).

The second prototype, the Turbomeca-powered AS 350 B, F-WTNB. (Airbus)

The AS 350 B3 is a high-performance variant, specially configured for high density altitude operations (“hot and high”). The overall length with rotors turning is 12.94 meters (42 feet, 5.4 inches). The fuselage is 10.93 meters (35 feet, 10.3 inches) long and the cabin is 1.87 meters (6 feet, 1.6 inches) wide. The helicopter’s overall height is 3.14 meters (10 feet, 3.6 inches).

In keeping with standard French practice, the Écureuil/A-Star’s main rotor system turns clockwise as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the helicopter’s left side.) The composite hingeless three-blade rotor has a diameter of 10.69 meters (35 feet, 0.9 inch). The normal operating range is 385–394 r.p.m. (320–430 r.p.m. in autorotation). A two-bladed tail rotor is mounted on the right side of the tail boom in a pusher configuration. It rotates clockwise, as seen from the helicopter’s left. (The advancing blade is below the axis of rotation.) Its diameter is 1.86 meters (6 feet, 1.2 inches.)

The AS 350 B3 has an empty weight of approximately 1,174 kilograms (2,588 pounds), depending on installed equipment, and maximum gross weight of 2,250 kilograms (4,961 pounds).

AS 350 B3 three-view illustration with dimensions. (Eurocopter)

The AS 350 B3 variant is powered by a single Turboméca Arriel 2B turboshaft engine. The Arriel 2B is a free turbine turboshaft engine which uses an electronic engine control system (EECU). The engine has a two-stage compressor section (single-stage low-pressure axial flow, single-stage high-pressure centrifugal flow); an annular combustion chamber; and two-stage turbine section (single-stage gas generator and single-stage power turbine). The compressor section turns 52,110 r.p.m. at 100% N1; The power turbine, N2, turns 39,095 r.p.m. at 100%. A gear reduction unit reduces the engine’s output shaft speed to 5,990 r.p.m.

The Arriel 2B produces 847 shaft horsepower, but is de-rated to the helicopter’s main transmission limit. Installed, the Arriel 2B is rated at 536 horsepower for cruise; 700 horsepower, Maximum Continuous Power; and 733 horsepower for take off (5 minute limit).

The Arriel 2B is 118.0 centimeters (3 feet, 10.46 inches) long, 50.0 cm (1 foot, 6.69 inches) wide, 62.0 cm (2 feet, 0.41 inches) high. It weighs 134 kilograms (295.4 pounds), dry. The Arriel series engines are now produced by Safran Helicopter Engines.

The AS 350 B3 has a cruise speed of 132 knots (152 miles per hour/245 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 155 knots (178 miles per hour/287 kilometers per hour). It carries over four hours of fuel and has a maximum range of 357 nautical miles (411 statute miles/662 kilometers). The maximum allowable altitude is 7,010 meters (23,000 feet).

Turboméca-powered AS 350 B F-WTNB. Note the single horizontal stabilizer. (Airbus)

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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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

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14 May 2005

Didier Delsalle approches the summit of Mount Everest. (Eurocopter)
Didier Delsalle approaches the summit of Mount Everest. (Eurocopter)

14 May 2005: Test pilot Didier Delsalle landed a Eurocopter AS 350 B3 Ecureuil, c/n 3934, registration F-WQEX, at the summit of Mount Everest, the highest point on Earth, at 8,848 meters (29,029 feet).

The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale required that the helicopter remain on the summit for at least two 2 minutes for the landing to be considered official. Delsalle actually landed on the summit twice, staying four minutes each time. The flight set two world records for the highest take-off. ¹

These records broke Delsalle’s previous records for highest take-off, 7,927 meters (26,007 feet), set just two days earlier. ²

Mount Everest, looking north. (Wikipedia)

During flight tests to evaluate the practicality of the Everest flight, on 14 April 2005, Delsalle and the AS 350 set three time to climb world records over Istres, France. The Écueriel climbed to a height of 3,000 meters (9,843 feet) in 2 minutes, 21 seconds; 6,000 meters (19,685 feet) in 5 minutes, 6 seconds; and 9,000 meters (29,528 feet) in 9 minutes, 26 seconds. ³

Delsalle also rescued two Japanese climbers at 16,000 feet (4,877 meters).

Didier DelSalle with F-WQEX, 2005
Didier DelSalle with F-WQEX, at Lukla, Nepal, 2005. Elevation 2,866 meters (9,403 feet). (Magazine Aviation)

Didier Delsalle was born 6 May 1957, at Aix-en-Provence, France. He joined the Armée de l’Air (French Air Force) in 1979, and was trained as fighter pilot. In 1981 he transitioned to helicopters and was assigned to search-and-rescue operations. After twelve years military service, Delsalle became an instructor at École du personnel navigant d’essais et de réception, the French test pilot school at Istres, France. He then became the chief test pilot for light helicopters for Eurocopter, and later for the NH90 medium helicopter.

Delsalle holds seven FAI world records, five of which remain current.

FAI representatve (left) presents a World Record certificate to Eurocopter test pilot Didier Delsalle while company CEO looks on. (Aviation International News)
Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) representative Jacques Escaffe (left) presents a World Record certificate to Eurocopter test pilot Didier Delsalle while company CEO Fabrice Brégier looks on. (Aviation International News)

The Eurocopter AS 350 Écureuil is a  6–7 place, single-engine light helicopter, operated by a crew of one or two pilots. (It is known as the A-Star in the United States.) Introduced by Aérospatiale in 1975, it remains in production today and is one of the most popular civil helicopters. The manufacturer is now known as Airbus Helicopters.

Eurocopter AS 350 B3 Écureuil F-WQEX. (Airbus Helicopters)

The AS 350 B3 is a high-performance variant, widely used in law enforcement. The overall length with rotors turning is 12.94 meters (42 feet, 5.4 inches). The fuselage is 10.93 meters (35 feet, 10.3 inches) long and the cabin is 1.87 meters (6 feet, 1.6 inches) wide. The helicopter’s overall height is 3.14 meters (10 feet, 3.6 inches).

In keeping with standard French practice, the Écureuil/A-Star’s main rotor system turns clockwise as seen from above. (The advancing blade is on the helicopter’s left side.) The fully-articulated the three-blade rotor has a diameter of 10.69 meters (35 feet, 0.9 inch). The normal operating range is 385–394 r.p.m. (320–430 r.p.m. in autorotation). A two-bladed tail rotor is mounted on the right side of the tail boom in a pusher configuration. It rotates clockwise, as seen from the helicopter’s left. (The advancing blade is below the axis of rotation.) Its diameter is 1.86 meters (6 feet, 1.2 inches.)

The AS 350 B3 has an empty weight of approximately 1,174 kilograms (2,588 pounds), depending on installed equipment, and maximum gross weight of 2,250 kilograms (4,961 pounds)

AS 350 B3 three-view illustration with dimensions. (Eurocopter)

The AS 350 B3 variant is powered by a single Turboméca Arriel 2B turboshaft engine. The Arriel 2B is a free turbine turboshaft engine which uses an electronic engine control system (EECU). The engine has a two-stage compressor section (single-stage low-pressure axial flow, single-stage high-pressure centrifugal flow); an annular combustion chamber; and two-stage turbine section (single-stage gas generator and single-stage power turbine). The compressor section turns 52,110 r.p.m. at 100% N1; The power turbine, N2, turns 39,095 r.p.m. at 100%. A gear reduction unit reduces the engine’s output shaft speed to 5,990 r.p.m.

The Arriel 2B produces 847 shaft horsepower, but is de-rated to the helicopter’s main transmission limit. Installed, the Arriel 2B is rated at 536 horsepower for cruise; 700 horsepower, Maximum Continuous Power; and 733 horsepower for take off (5 minute limit).

The Arriel 2B is 118.0 centimeters (3 feet, 10.46 inches) long, 50.0 cm (1 foot, 6.69 inches) wide, 62.0 cm (2 feet, 0.41 inches) high. It weighs 134 kilograms (295.4 pounds), dry. The Arriel series engines are now produced by Safran Helicopter Engines.

Eurocopter AS 350 B3 Écureuil c/n 3934, F-WQEX, at Mount Everest. (Eurocopter)

The AS 350 B3 has a cruise speed of 132 knots (152 miles per hour/245 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 155 knots (178 miles per hour/287 kilometers per hour). It carries over four hours of fuel and has a maximum range of 357 nautical miles (411 statute miles/662 kilometers). The maximum allowable altitude is 7,010 meters (23,000 feet).

AS 350 B3 c/n 3934 was originally registered F-WWPN, then F-WQEX, and was later registered as F-HMGM, in service with Hélimountains, Bourg-Saint-Maurice, France. As of 2014, F-WQEX is on display at the Musée de l’Aviation, Saint-Victoret, Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur, France.

Didier Delsalle with Eurocopter AS 350 B3 c/n 3934, F-WQEX. (André Bour/helicopassion.com)
Detail from The Henry Washburn Shaded Relief Map of Mount Everest. (Reddit)

¹ FAI Record File Number 11596: Highest take-off (Subclass E-1); FAI Record File Number 11596: Highest take-off (Subclass E-1c). 8,848 meters (29,029 feet).

² FAI Record File Number 11594: Highest take-off (Subclass E-1); FAI Record File Number 11595: Highest take-off (Subclass E-1c). 7,927 meters (26,007 feet).

³ FAI Record File Number 11323: 3,000 meters (9,843 feet), 2:21; FAI Record File Number 11325: 6,000 meters (19,685 feet), 5:06; and FAI Record File Number 11326: 9,000 meters (29,528 feet), 9:26.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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