14 May 2005: Test pilot Didier Delsalle landed a Eurocopter AS350 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
While climbing to Everest’s summit, Delsalle and the AS350 set three time to climb world records. The Ecueriel (the helicopter is marketed as the “A-Star” in the United States) 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 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.
The Eurocopter AS350 Ecureuil 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.
The AS350 B3 is a high-performance variant, widely used in law enforcement. Its fuselage is 35 feet, 10½ inches (10.93 meters) long and the three-blade main rotor is 35 feet, 1 inch (10.69 meters) in diameter. The overall height is 10 feet, 3½ inches (3.14 meters). The AS350 B3 has an empty weight of 2,588 pounds (1,174 kilograms) and maximum gross weight of 4,960 pounds (2,250 kilograms).
Teh AS350 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 Ecureuil/A-Star’s main rotor system turns clockwise as seen from above. The two-bladed tail rotor is mounted on the right side of the tail boom in a pusher configuration and rotates counter-clockwise, as seen from the helicopter’s right.
The AS350 B3 has a cruise speed of 152 miles per hour (245 kilometers per hour) and maximum speed of 178 miles per hour (287 kilometers per hour). It carries over four hours of fuel and has a maximum range of 411 miles (662 kilometers). The service ceiling is 15,100 feet (4,600 meters).
AS350 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.
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 ( feet).
³ FAI Record File Number 11323: 3,000 meters ( feet), 2:21; FAI Record File Number 11325: 6,000 meters ( feet), 5:06; and FAI Record File Number 11326: 9,000 meters ( feet), 9:26.
© 2018, Bryan R. Swopesby