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12 March 1955

Jean Boulet (1920–2011)
Chief Test Pilot Jean Boulet (1920–2011)

12 March 1955:  Société nationale des constructions aéronautiques du Sud-Est  (SNCASE, or Sud Aviation) Chief Test Pilot Jean Boulet and Flight Test Engineer Henri Petit made the first flight of the SE.3130 Alouette II prototype, F-WHHE, at Buc Airfield, near Paris, France.

Powered by a Societé Anonyme 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.

SNCASE SE.3130 Alouette II No. 01 prototype, F-WHHF, with test pilot Jean Boulet and Henri Petit, 12 March 1955. (Eurocopter)
SNCASE SE.3130 Alouette II No. 01 prototype, F-WHHE, with test pilot Jean Boulet and Henri Petit, 12 March 1955. (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 axis of rotation.) It turns at 2,020 r.p.m.

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).

SNCASE SE.3130 No. 01, F-WHHE. (Airbus Helicopters)

The prototype was powered by one Turboméca Artouste IIB1 turboshaft engine. The Artouste IIB1 is a single-shaft turboshaft engine with a single-stage centrifugal flow compressor section and a three-stage axial-flow turbine. The turbine drives both the compressor and an output drive shaft through reduction gearbox. The engine operates at 33,500 r.p.m (N1), and is capable of producing 400 shaft horsepower. It was derated to 360 shaft horsepower at 5,780 r.p.m. (N2) 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. It was marketed in the United States by the Republic Aviation Corporation’s Helicopter Division. More than 1,300 of these helicopters were built.

Jean Boulet hovers the prototype SE.3130 Alouette II, F-WHHF, 12 March 1955. (Eurocopter)
Jean Boulet hovers the prototype SNCASE SE.3130 No. 01, F-WHHE. (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.

© 2017, Bryan R. Swopes

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