Tag Archives: Societé Anonyme Turboméca

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 Écureuil, 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

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 and 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 315 B configuration. It was registered F-BPXS. On 19 June 1972, Aérospatiale Chief Test Pilot Jean Boulet with Gérard Boutin set a 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 315 B 001. (Airbus Helicopters)

The SA 315 B Lama is a 5-place light helicopter powered by a turboshaft engine. It is operated by a single pilot. The fuselage is 10.236 meters (33 feet, 7.0 inches) long. With rotors turning, the helicopter has an overall length of 12.919 meters (42 feet, 4.6 inches) and height of 3.090 meters (10 feet, 1.7 inches). The SA 315 B has an empty weight of 1,021 kilograms (2,251 pounds) and a maximum gross weight of 1,950 kilograms (4,300 pounds). With an external load carried on its cargo hook, the allowable maximum gross weight is 2,300 kilograms (5,070 pounds).

Aérospatiale SA 315 B Lama three-view illustration with dimensions. (Aérospatiale Hélicoptères)

The three-bladed, fully-articulated main rotor has a diameter of 11.020 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 range in autorotation ins 270–420 r.p.m. The three-bladed anti-torque tail rotor is mounted on the left side of the tail boom in pusher configuration. It is 1.912 meters (6 feet, 3.3 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 315 B 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 Societé Anonyme Turboméca Artouste III B (later aircraft, Artouste III B1) turboshaft engine. This 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 III B1 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 98 knots (113 miles per hour/181 kilometers per hour) and a maximum speed (VNE) of 113 knots (130 miles per hour/209 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level. Sideward or rearward flight (or operations in crosswinds or tailwinds) are restricted to 18 knots. The maximum operating altitude is 7,000 meters (22,966 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 Societe nationale industrielle aérospatiale (SNIAS) in 1970. The company produced the SA 315 B Lama beginning in 1971. It was also built under license by Hindustan Aeronautics in India and Helibras in Brazil.

The total number of SA 315 Bs 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 315 B Lama “On Top of the World” ( © Phillipe Fragnol)

¹ FAI Record File Number 788.

² FAI Record File Numbers 753, 754 and 11657.

© 2019 Bryan R. Swopes

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) 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 II B1 turboshaft engine, the Alouette II was the first gas turbine powered 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 31 feet, 8.5 inches (9.665 meters) long. The landing skids have a width of 6 feet, 10 inches (2.083 meters). With rotors turning, the overall length of the Alouette II is 39 feet, 6.5 inches (12.052 meters). Its height is 9 feet, 0.25 inches (2.750 meters) to the top of the main rotor mast. (Optional wide-track skids, or installation of an Alouette III three-blade tail rotor will change dimensions slightly.)

The three-bladed fully-articulated main rotor has a diameter of 33 feet, 5.5 inches (10.198 meters). 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. In autorotation, the allowable range is 280–420 r.p.m. The two-blade anti-torque rotor is 5 feet, 11.5 inches (1.816 meters) in diameter and turns clockwise, as seen from the helicopter’s left side. (The advancing blade is below the axis of rotation.) The tail rotor turns at 2,020 r.p.m.

The SE.3130 has an empty weight of 1,934 pounds (877 kilograms), depending on installed equipment, and minimum operating weight of 2,050 pounds (930 kilograms). The maximum permissible weight is 3,300 pounds (1,497 kilograms).

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

The prototype was powered by one Turboméca Artouste II B1 turboshaft engine. The Artouste II B1 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. As installed in the Alouette II, the engine was certified for operation at 33,000–34,000 r.p.m (N1), with transient overspeeds to 35,000 r.p.m. It is capable of producing 400 shaft horsepower, but was derated to 360 shaft horsepower at 5,780 r.p.m. (N2) for installation in the Alouette II.

SE.3130 Alouette II three-view illustration with dimensions. (SNCASE)

The helicopter has an economical cruise speed of 92 knots (106 miles per hour/170 kilometers per hour) at 33,000 r.p.m., and a maximum speed (VNE) of 105 knots (121 miles per hour/194 kilometers per hour) at Sea Level, which decreases with altitude. Sideward or rearward flight (or operation in tailwinds or crosswinds) is limited to 18 knots (20 miles per hour/33 kilometers per hour).

The Allouette II is limited to a maximum operating altitude of 14,800 feet (4,511 meters). 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 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, Boulet 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 Jean 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 Alouette II.

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.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes