Eurocopter is Celebrating the Centenary of the Helicopter
Nov. 29, 2007 - One hundred years of helicopters, 54 years of records for Eurocopter.
Nov. 29, 2007 – One hundred years of helicopters, 54 years of records for Eurocopter.
fledgling aviation industry drew its impetus from records that were
continuously beaten by the very rapid progress in technology. Beating a
record not only proved that one could go faster, higher and further,
but, above all, that the technology behind this result had been
mastered. The helicopter was no exception to the rule. As soon as
engineers had come to grips with the basic rudiments of vertical
flight, the race to achieve new performance records was launched.
July 1953, the SE3120 Alouette 1, the forebear of an illustrious line,
set a record for endurance: 1,252 kilometres without refuelling. This
initial result signalled the return of the Europeans to the vertical
flight race, a return that would be confirmed by the emergence of
turbine-powered helicopters. SNCASE, which would later become the
helicopter division of Aerospatiale, and then Eurocopter, garnered
records with its successive generations of helicopters. The idea was
never to set personal records, but to prove the quality of the
equipment. Many records were broken and many were beaten or lost.
Technical progress made some records obsolete, while others were
forgotten. More than 30 years after they were made official, Eurocopter
still holds some records today.
At the start of the 1970s, the
Gazelle showed how the shrouded tail rotor could reduce drag and
increase speeds on a light aircraft. Since 1971, the Gazelle has held
the speed record for a 1000 kg to 1750 kg helicopter over a straight 3
km course at an average of 307 km/h, and over a 100 km closed circuit
at 296 km/h.
The following year, a Lama set the record for the
highest altitude reached by a helicopter: 12,442 meters. Jean Boulet,
whose name is inextricably linked with the history of the helicopter,
was at the controls. During his career, Jean Boulet set 17 world
records and the record of 12,442 meters still stands today.
unbeaten record was set in 1980 by a Dauphin N, which took its
passengers from Paris to London at a speed of 321 km/h. Eight years
later, the Dauphin Grande Vitesse (High Speed Dauphin) set a speed
record of 372 km/h along a straight course for all helicopter
categories combined. Extensive aerodynamic research had gone into this
aircraft, which was equipped with special fairings. The joy of setting
another performance record was thus linked to the industrial purpose of
improving understanding of how the helicopter operates at high speed
and improving knowledge of aerodynamic modelling and drag reduction.
Ecureuil B3 flown by Didier Delsalle has set the latest records to
date, including the rate of climb records to 3000, 6000 and 9000
meters, before reaching the peak, in the literal sense of the term,
with a landing and takeoff from the summit of Mount Everest. By
definition, this exploit can never be beaten and brings one record to a
successful conclusion. By landing on the top of the world with a series
production aircraft, Eurocopter has closed a chapter: it is now agreed
that the conventional helicopter, in its current form, has more or less
reached its peak in every domain: speed, altitude, endurance, and lift
However, while the technology shows us its very high
level of maturity, it also shows us its limits. A major leap forward in
performance is now highly unlikely, as is another outright record that
captures our imagination.
Unless we look at the sales figures, of
course, which have been breaking record after record for the last few
years, and clearly indicate the level of maturity and excellence of the
in 1992, the Franco-German-Spanish Eurocopter Group is a Division of
EADS, a world leader in aerospace, defence and related services. The
Eurocopter Group employs approx. 14,000 people. In 2006, Eurocopter
confirmed its position as the world’s No. 1 helicopter manufacturer
with a turnover of 3.8 billion euros, orders for 615 new helicopters,
and a 52% percent market share in the civil and parapublic sectors.
Overall, the Group’s products account for 30% percent of the total
world helicopter fleet. Its strong worldwide presence is ensured by its
17 subsidiaries on five continents, along with a dense network of
distributors, certified agents and maintenance centres. More than 9,800
Eurocopter helicopters are currently in service with over 2,500
customers in 140 countries. Eurocopter offers the largest civil and
military helicopter range in the world.
100 years of vertical flight
1907, Paul Cornu performed history’s first ever vertical flight. Since
then, thanks to pioneering spirits, technological advances and
innovative minds, the helicopter has become a key to saving lives,
protecting citizens and contributing to economic development the world
over. In 2007, Eurocopter is proud to celebrate this anniversary and to
share its passion for helicopters.