Tag Archives: Jean Boulet

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 #9963 [Direct Link]
Status: ratified – superseded since approved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

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21 June 1972

Jean Boulet
Jean Boulet, Officier de la Légion d’honneur

21 June 1972: Aérospatiale Chief Test Pilot Jean Boulet set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) Absolute World Record for helicopters by flying the first Aérospatiale SA 315 Lama, serial number 315-001, to an altitude of 12,442 meters (40,820 feet) from Aérodrome d’Istres, northwest of Marseille, France.¹ He also set two class and sub-class world records.² These records remain current.

The SA 315B Lama was designed to perform at the very high altitudes and temperatures necessary for service with the Indian Army. It combined an SE.3130 Alouette II airframe with a much more powerful Turboméca Astazou IIIB turboshaft engine—derated to 550 shaft horsepower—and the rotor system, transmission and gearboxes from the larger 7-place Alouette III.

Jean Boulet in the cockpit of his SA-315B Lama, just prior to his record flight.
Jean Boulet in the cockpit of his SA 315 Lama, just prior to his record flight. (Airbus)

The record-setting helicopter was modified by removing all equipment that was not needed for the record flight attempt. Various instruments and the co-pilot and passengers seats were taken out of the cockpit, as well as the helicopter’s synchronized horizontal stabilizer and tail rotor guard. The standard fuel tank was replaced with a very small tank holding just 70 kilograms (approximately 22.7 gallons) of jet fuel. Turboméca modified the engine to increase the output shaft r.p.m. by 6%. After Jean Boulet started the turbine engine, mechanics removed the battery and starter motor to decrease the weight even further.

Final prepartaions for the altitude record attempt. Jean Boulet sits in the cockpit, wearing an oxygen mask.
Final preparations for the altitude record attempt. Jean Boulet sits in the cockpit, wearing an oxygen mask. (Helico-Fascination)

In just 12 minutes, the Lama had climbed to 11,000 meters (36,089 feet). As he approached the peak altitude, the forward indicated airspeed had to be reduced to 30 knots (34.5 miles per hour, 55.6 kilometers per hour) to prevent the advancing main rotor blade tip from reaching its Critical Mach Number in the thin air, which would have resulted in the blade stalling. At the same time, the helicopter was approaching Retreating Blade Stall.

When the helicopter could climb no higher, Boulet reduced power and decreased collective pitch. The Turboméca engine, not calibrated for the very high altitude and cold temperature, -62 °C. (-80 °F.), flamed out. With no battery and starter, a re-start was impossible. Boulet put the Lama into autorotation for his nearly eight mile descent. Entering multiple cloud layers, the Plexiglas bubble iced over. Because of the ice and clouds, the test pilot had no outside visibility. Attitude instruments had been removed to lighten the helicopter. Boulet looked up through the canopy at the light spot in the clouds created by the sun, and used that for his only visual reference until he broke out of the clouds.

Still in autorotation, the SA 315 missed touching down exactly on its takeoff point, but was close enough that FAI requirements were met.

Aérospatiale AS 315 Lama, FAI World Record Holder, 12,442 meters, in autorotation, just before touching down at at Istres, 21 June 1972
Aérospatiale SA 315 Lama, FAI World Record Holder, 12,442 meters, in autorotation, just before touching down at at Istres, 21 June 1972. (Helico-Fascination)

Two days earlier, 19 June 1972, Boulet and fellow test pilot Gérard Boutin had set another FAI World Record for Altitude Without Payload, when they flew the Lama to 10,856 meters (35,617 feet).³ This record also still stands.

Jean Boulet and Gérard Boutin in the cockpit of SA 315B s/n 315-001. (Airbus)

The SA 315B Lama is a 5-place light turboshaft-powered helicopter which is operated by a single pilot. The helicopter was built to meet the specific needs of the Indian Air Force for operations in the Himalayan Mountains. It was required to take off an land at an altitude of 6,000 meters (19,685 feet) while carrying a pilot, one passenger and 200 kilograms (441 pounds) of cargo.

The fuselage is 10.26 meters (33 feet, 7.9 inches) long. With all rotors turning, the helicopter has an overall length of 12.92 meters (42 feet, 4.7 inches) and height of 3.09 meters (10 feet, 1.7 inches). The SA 315B has an empty weight of 1,021 kilograms (2,251 pounds) and a maximum gross weight of 1,950 kilograms (4,299 pounds). With an external load carried on its cargo hook, the maximum gross weight is 5,070 pounds (2,300 kilograms).

The three-bladed, fully-articulated main rotor has a diameter of 11.02 meters (36 feet, 1.9 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 three-bladed anti-torque tail rotor is 1.91 meters (6 feet, 3.2 inches) in diameter and turns clockwise, as seen from the helicopter’s left side. (The advancing blade is below the axis of rotation.) It turns at 2,020 r.p.m.

The Lama was initially powered by a Turboméca Artouste IIIB (later aircraft, Artouste IIIB1) turbo-moteur. This is a turboshaft engine with a two-stage compressor section (1 axial-flow, 1 centrifugal-flow stages), and a three-stage axial-flow turbine. The engine turns 33,500 r.p.m. and the output drive shaft turns 5,773 r.p.m. The Artouste IIIB1 produces a maximum 870 horsepower, but is derated to 570 horsepower for installation in the Lama. The engine is 1.815 meters (5 feet, 11.5 inches) long, 0.667 meters (2 feet, 2.3 inches) high and 0.520 meters (1 foot, 8.5 inches) wide. It weighs 178 kilograms (392 pounds).

The helicopter has a cruise speed 103 knots (191 kilometers per hour, 119 miles per hour) and a maximum speed of 113 knots (209 kilometers per hour, 130 miles per hour) at Sea Level. The service ceiling is 5,400 meters (17,717 feet). At 1,950 kilograms (4,299 pounds), the Lama has a hover ceiling in ground effect (HIGE) of 5,050 meters (16,568 feet), and out of ground effect (HOGE), 4,600 meters (15,092 feet).

Société nationale des constructions aéronautiques du Sud-Est became Aérospatiale in 1970. The company produced the SA 315B Lama beginning in 1971. It was also built under license by Hundustan Aeronautics in India and Helibras in Brazil.

The total number of SA 315Bs and its variants built is uncertain. In 2010, Eurocopter, the successor to Aérospatiale, announced that it will withdraw the Lama’s Type Certificate in 2020.

Aérospatiale SA-315B Lama F-BPXS, s/n 315-001, lifting an external load on its cargo hook, 1980.
The world-record-setting Aérospatiale SA 315B Lama, F-BPXS, serial number 315-001, lifting an external load on its cargo hook, 18 May 1980. (Kenneth Swartz)

After setting the world altitude record, 315-001 was returned to the standard configuration and assigned registration F-BPXS. It crashed at Flaine, a ski resort in the French Alps, 23 February 1985.

Jean Boulet with a SNCASE SE.3130 Alouette II.
Médaille de l'Aéronautique
Médaille de l’Aéronautique

Jean Ernest Boulet was born 16 November 1920, in Brunoy, southeast of Paris, France. He was the son of Charles-Aimé Boulet, an electrical engineer, and Marie-Renée Berruel Boulet.

He graduated from Ecole Polytechnique in 1940 and the Ecole Nationale Supérieure de l’aéronautique In 1942. (One of his classmates was André Edouard Turcat, who would also become one of France’s greatest test pilots.)

Following his graduation, Boulet joined the Armée de l’Air (French Air Force)and was commissioned a sous-lieutenant. He took his first flight lesson in October. After the surrender of France in the Nazi invaders, Boulet’s military career slowed. He applied to l’Ecole Nationale Supérieure de l’Aéronautique in Toulouse for post-graduate aeronautical engineering. He completed a master’s degree in 1943.

During this time, Boulet joined two brothers with La Resistance savoyarde, fighting against the German invaders as well as French collaborators.

In 1943, Jean Boulet married Mlle. Josette Rouquet. They had two sons, Jean-Pierre and Olivier.

In February 1945, Sous-lieutenant Boulet was sent to the United States for training as a pilot. After basic and advanced flight training, Bouelt began training as a fighter pilot, completing the course in a Republic P-47D Thunderbolt. He was then sent back to France along with the other successful students.

On 1 February 1947 Jen Boulet joined Société nationale des constructions aéronautiques du Sud-Est (SNCASE) as an engineer and test pilot. He returned to the United States to transition to helicopters. Initially, Boulet and another SNCASE pilot were sent to Helicopter Air Transport at Camden Central Airport,  Camden, New Jersey, for transition training in the Sikorsky S-51. An over-enthusiastic instructor attempted to demonstrate the Sikorsky to Boulet, but lost control and crashed. Fortunately, neither pilot was injured. Boulet decided to go to Bell Aircraft at Niagara Falls, New York, where he trained on the Bell Model 47. He was awarded a helicopter pilot certificate by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, 23 February 1948.

Test pilot Jean Boulet (center), with Mme. Boulet and the world-record-setting SE.3130 Alouette II, 1955. (HELIMAT)
Officier de l’Legion de Honneur

As a test pilot Boulet made the first flight in every helicopter produced by SNCASE, which would become Sud-Aviation and later, Aérospatiale (then, Eurocopter, and now, Airbus Helicopters).

While flying a SE 530 Mistral fighter, 23 January 1953, Boulet entered an unrecoverable spin and became the first French pilot to escape from an aircraft by ejection seat during an actual emergency. He was awarded the Médaille de l’Aéronautique.

Jean Boulet was appointed Chevalier de la légion d’honneur in 1956, and in 1973, promoted to Officier de la Légion d’honneur.

Jean Boulet had more than 9,000 flight hours, with over 8,000 hours in helicopters. He set 24 Fédération Aéronautique Internationale world records for speed, distance and altitude. Four of these are current.

Jean Boulet wrote L’Histoire de l’Helicoptere: Racontée par ses Pionniers 1907–1956, published in 1982 by Éditions France-Empire, 13, Rue Le Sueuer, 75116 Paris.

Jean Ernest Boulet died at Aix-en-Provence, in southern France, 15 February 2011, at the age of 90 years.

Aérospatiale SA-315B Lama "On Top of the World" ( © Phillipe Fragnol)
Aérospatiale SA 315B Lama “On Top of the World” (© Phillipe Fragnol)

¹ FAI Record File Number 11657: Class: E (Rotorcraft): Sub-Class: E-Absolute (Absolute Record of class E)

² FAI Record File Number 753: Altitude Without Payload: Sub-Class: E-1b (Helicopters: take off weight 500 to 1000 kg). FAI Record File Number 754: Altitude Without Payload: Sub-Class: E-1 (Helicopters).

³ FAI Record File Number 788: Altitude Without Payload: Sub-Class E-1c.

© 2018, 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 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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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 on the south coast of France 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)

d0b7f1c4dd16bf5b51c015e78fb3ebdfSociété 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 by Westland. It was the fastest light helicopter, with a maximum speed of 310 kilometers per hour (193 miles per hour). It was also the first helicopter to be certified for instrument flight with a single pilot.

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)

© 2016, Bryan R. Swopes

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17 March 1969

SNCASE SA 315A 001 (Airbus Helicopters)

17 March 1969: First flight, Société nationale des constructions aéronautiques du Sud-Est test pilot Roland Coffignot and flight engineer Gérard Boutin made the first flight of the prototype SA 315A Lama, serial number 315-001. The new helicopter combined the airframe of the SNCASE Alouette II with the drive train and rotors of the Alouette III.

The helicopter was built to meet the specific needs of the Indian Air Force for operations in the Himalayan Mountains. It was required to take off an land at an altitude of 6,000 meters (19,685 feet) while carrying a pilot, one passenger and 200 kilograms (441 pounds) of cargo. The SA 315A was able to exceed  this, landing at taking of in the Karakoram Mountains at 6,858 meters (22,500 feet).

315-001 was later upgraded to the SA 315B configuration. It was registered F-BPXS. On 19 June 1972, Aérospatiale Chief Test Pilot Jean Boulet with Gérard Boutin set an Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Altitude Without Payload at 10,836 meters (35,551 feet).¹ Three days later, 21 June, Boulet set another three World Records by flying 315-001 to an altitude of 12,442 meters (40,820 feet).²

SNCASE SA 315B 001. (Airbus Helicopters)

The SA 315B Lama is a 5-place light turboshaft-powered helicopter which is operated by a single pilot. The fuselage is 10.26 meters (33 feet, 7.9 inches) long. With all rotors turning, the helicopter has an overall length of 12.92 meters (42 feet, 4.7 inches) and height of 3.09 meters (10 feet, 1.7 inches). The SA 315B has an empty weight of 1,021 kilograms (2,251 pounds) and a maximum gross weight of 1,950 kilograms (4,299 pounds). With an external load carried on its cargo hook, the maximum gross weight is 5,070 pounds (2,300 kilograms).

The three-bladed, fully-articulated main rotor has a diameter of 11.02 meters (36 feet, 1.9 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 three-bladed anti-torque tail rotor is 1.91 meters (6 feet, 3.2 inches) in diameter and turns clockwise, as seen from the helicopter’s left side. (The advancing blade is below the axis of rotation.) It turns at 2,020 r.p.m.

Aérospatiale SA-315B Lama F-BPXS, s/n 315-001, lifting an external load on its cargo hook, 1980. (Kenneth Swartz)

The Lama was initially powered by a Turboméca Artouste IIIB (later aircraft, Artouste IIIB1) turboshaft engine. Thia is a single-shaft engine with a single-stage axial-flow, single-stage centrifugal flow, compressor section and a three-stage turbine. The engine turns 33,500 r.p.m. and the output drive shaft turns 5,773 r.p.m. The Artouste IIIB1 produces a maximum 870 horsepower, but is derated to 570 horsepower for installation in the Lama. The engine is 1.815 meters (5 feet, 11.5 inches) long, 0.667 meters (2 feet, 2.3 inches) high and 0.520 meters (1 foot, 8.5 inches) wide. It weighs 178 kilograms (392 pounds).

The helicopter has a cruise speed 103 knots (191 kilometers per hour, 119 miles per hour) and a maximum speed of 113 knots (209 kilometers per hour, 130 miles per hour) at Sea Level. The service ceiling is 5,400 meters (17,717 feet). At 1,950 kilograms (4,299 pounds), the Lama has a hover ceiling in ground effect (HIGE) of 5,050 meters (16,568 feet), and out of ground effect (HOGE), 4,600 meters (15,092 feet).

Société nationale des constructions aéronautiques du Sud-Est became Aérospatiale in 1970. The company produced the SA 315B Lama beginning in 1971. It was also built under license by Hundustan Aeronautics in India and Helibras in Brazil.

The total number of SA 315Bs and its variants built is uncertain. In 2010, Eurocopter, the successor to Aérospatiale, announced that it will withdraw the Lama’s Type Certificate in 2020.

An Aérospatiale SA-315B Lama “On Top of the World” ( © Phillipe Fragnol)

¹ FAI Record File Number 788.

² FAI Record File Numbers 753, 754 and 11657.

© 2017 Bryan R. Swopes

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