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1960s-90s

The Faon of Jean Cantinieau

The first flight of Faon in 1963

In 1953, Jean Cantinieau, an engineer at Société Nationale des Constructions aéronautiques du Sud-Ouest (SNCASO), was hired by AISA to develop a helicopter range. AISA thus provided the helicopter industry with its structure, equipment and controls.

Following AISA's bankruptcy in 1962, Jean Cantinieau returned to France where he joined Matra. He was an autodidact who designed and finalized the only version of "Bamb." This name was eventually discarded since the Walt Disney group opposed it and the aircraft was therefore called the "Faon" (fawn in French).

The Faon was an elegant small two-seater helicopter with 180 hp and no rear rotor – it only took a few flights before being abandoned in 1963 due to stability problems.

Key figures of the Faon:

  • Two-seat light helicopter 
  • Rotor diameter: 7.40 m
  • Empty weight: 470 kg
  • Total weight: 710 kg
  • Engine: 1 Lycoming 180 hp
  • Maximum speed: 130 km/h

 

1962

The H-34 Bi-Bastan in the sky of Marignane on May 10, 1963.

H34 BiBastan: To improve its capabilities, the French Air Force was looking for a turbine-engine tactical helicopter.

In cooperation with the engine manufacturer, Turbomeca, a study on coupling two interconnected turbine engines to the same shaft was carried out. The increased engine power allowed performance at altitude to be improved by using a set of two Turbomeca Bastan IV turbines providing 1,500 hp continuous usable power.

The Air Force’s first aircraft, made by Sikorsky, was named H-34 BB (for "BiBastan" - or twin Bastan turbine) and left its hangar for its maiden flight on 5 October 1962. H-34 BB no 01 (formerly SA 76) was flown by test pilot, Jean Boulet, at Marignane (France). The second aircraft, H-34 BB no 02 (formerly SA 82), made its first (and only) flight on 27 June 1963.

Despite the enhanced performance and improved safety in the event of an engine failure, the Air Force abandoned the Sikorsky H-34 in favour of the Super Puma.

The Super Frelon SA 321 n° 01 in 1962 on the runway of Marignane.

The SA 321 Super Frelon is a triple-engine, heavy transport helicopter produced by aerospace manufacturer, Sud Aviation of France. It held the distinction of being the most powerful helicopter to be built in Europe at one point, as well as being the world's fastest helicopter.

The Super Frelon was a more powerful development of the original SE.3200 Frelon, which had failed to enter production. On 7 December 1962, the first prototype conducted its maiden flight.

With around a hundred models sold worldwide, 27 of which were in France, the Super Frelon remains the largest rotorcraft to have been part of Airbus Helicopters’ range, with each possessing three Turmo III 1570-HP engines and a maximum weight of 13 tonnes. It has now been replaced by the NH90.

The Super Frelon’s demonstration of strength

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Commercial Helicopters 28 April 1965

Super Frelon and Frelon

The Super Frelon winching the Frelon in 1965.

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Helicopters 15 June 1971

Super Frelon

The Super Frelon winching 6 Renault 4L in 1971.

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Newsroom 11 June 2018

Super Frelon and H34

The Super Frelon winching the H34 in 1967 in Marignane.

1963: The SA321 “Super Frelon’s” speed records

Super Frelon n°01 Sud Aviation – configuration Record in July 1963.

In May 1963, test flight results encouraged a modification of the Super Frelon, with the aim of breaking helicopter speed records. With help from Marcel Riffard, designer of racing airplanes, the aircraft was refined: rivet heads were covered with adhesive, door handles were removed, bubble windows were replaced with flat windows, the rear hatch was streamlined, the landing gear was replaced with skid pads and the main rotor hub was equipped with a hemispherical fairing.

The helicopter broke three speed records in July 1963, with three of the most well-known names in flight testing on board: Jean Boulet and Roland Coffignot (pilots) and Joseph Turchini (engineer).

Speed records:

• over 3 km, a speed of 341.23 km/h

• over 15-25 km, a speed of 350.470 km/h

• over 100 km closed circuit, a speed of 334.280 km/h.

MESSERSCHMITT BÖLKOW BLOHM

In 1969, MBB (Messerschmitt – Bölkow – Blohm) was created by merging three companies. The group Messerschmitt – Bölkow, already in existance since the year before, and Hamburger Flugzeugbau GmbH, the aviation division of Blohm und Voss. In 1980, VFW (see Focke-Achgelis) joined MBB, and in 1989 MBB was integrated into Deutsche Aerospace AG.

1965: SA330 "PUMA"

First Flight on April 15, 1965

In the early 1960s, the French and British armies both developed similar projects to acquire a military helicopter capable of transporting an infantry platoon with its equipment. The aircraft had to have de-icing capabilities and also be able to operate in tropical regions. Another requirement for the helicopter was that it be transportable by air.

The Puma performed its first flight on April 15, 1965 (flight crew: Boulet – Coffignot – Ricaud – Boutin). In order to resolve vibration problems, a new suspension system for the rotor – gearbox assembly – was developed by a team of engineers directed by René Mouille. This same system would then be applied to the other helicopters in the range.

In the agreements signed between the French and the British, it was decided that the French would manufacture the Puma (except for 48 Pumas built by Westland, known as the SA 330E, beginning in 1967). A total of 705 Pumas would be delivered, without counting the versions manufactured in Indonesia and Romania. The Puma would receive its civil certification the year after the first machine was delivered to the French Army, in 1969. The first Puma would be delivered to the RAF in 1971. The South Africans also developed a similar helicopter using various components of the Puma. Known as the Oryx, the aircraft first entered service in 1988.

1967

The first flight of the Bolkow Bo105 was on February 16, 1967. On this photo, the Bolkow Bo105 flew on the runway in Germany.

The Bo105 was the very first light twin-engine helicopter in the world to enter commercial service. It had a rigid Bölkow-designed rotor that was flight-tested for more than 1,000 hours on an Alouette II – an example of Franco-German cooperation ahead of its time. The Bo105 made its maiden flight on February 16, 1967 with Wilfried von Engelhardt at the controls and, just four months later, the helicopter was unveiled at the Paris Air Show. It had a four-bladed rotor, with reinforced blades made of composite materials, and displayed excellent maneuverability.

The Bo105 program proved to be of major importance because it gave a jump-start to the helicopter sector in West Germany and other countries, thanks to its suitability for the numerous missions being developed at the time and to its twin engines, which enhanced safety. Nearly 1,500 Bo 105s were built, and its more recent versions are still in widespread service.

Multi-role in the full sense of the term, the Bo 105 was produced in 25 versions and served in the civil and military sectors performing a wide range of missions, from rescue missions to anti-tank combat.

The first flight of the Gazelle SA 340

The first flight of the SA 340 Gazelle was on 7 April 1967. This versatile light helicopter has paved the way for many technological developments, including: viscoelastic dampers, low frequency landing gear and main rotor hub NAT (Non Articulé en Traînée).

1968

The first flight of the Gazelle SA 341 with a Fenestron

SA 341 A Gazelle with a Fenestron: The second prototype of the Gazelle (SA 341) made its first flight on 12 April 1968, and featured a Fenestron tail rotor fairing which housed the helicopter’s anti-torque rotor. In addition to reducing sound levels, the Fenestron’s presence increases the safety of ground personnel.

The Puma with tracks in April 1968

A Puma with tracks in April: Toward the end of the 1960s, a landing gear system with motorised tracks was tested on Puma pre-production model 06. This was intended to enable helicopter to taxi with the rotor stopped (in undergrowth, for example).

The helicopter was able to drive forwards or backwards at a speed of 4 km/h on soft, sandy or soggy soils. In the end, this set-up was not adopted for reasons of complexity and high manufacturing costs. 

1969: SA315 "LAMA"

The SA315 on the runway in France on June 15, 1969.

In 1968, in response to an invitation for bids from the Indian government, the Helicopter Division decided to combine the airframe of an Alouette II with the dynamic components of the Alouette III. The helicopter performed its first flight on March 17, 1969 with Roland Coffignot and Gérard Boutin at the crew.

It was initially planned to land the helicopter on top of the Himalayas. But authorization could not be obtained, and it was then decided that an attempt would be made to set a world record using the aircraft.

Jean Boulet during the preparation for the altitude world record with the LAMA SA315 B on June 19, 1972

On June 21, 1972, Jean Boulet set the altitude record for all categories combined when he climbed to 12,442 meters. This officially certified record still stands today. The turbine also shut down due to the reduction in power, which means that the Lama also recorded the longest auto-rotation in the history of helicopter flying.

Until the Ecureuil B3 came along, the Lama was the king of aerial mountain work thanks to the amazing amount of power it could generate for its weight. A total of 447 Lamas would be delivered by Sud Aviation / Aerospatiale. India also was licensed to manufacture the Lama under the name Cheetah.

1970

Société Nationale Industrielle Aerospatiale (SNIAS). Sud Aviation became SNIAS by merging with French Nord Aviation and SEREB companies. From 1984, SNIAS operated under the name of AEROSPATIALE. The first famous success started in October 1972 with the maiden flight of the liner Airbus A300 B. With Matra, MBB and CASA, Aerospatiale played also a major role in the development of satellite launchers. Aerospatiale's helicopter division produced some families of helicopters still in production today: the Ecureuil, Dauphin and Super Puma.

1972: SA360/ AS365 Dauphin

The SA360 C N°01 in Marignane on June 10, 1972

The Dauphin was originally designed as the successor to the Alouette III and was to be called the "Business Alouette". The fuel tank was meant to go in the rear of a relatively small cabin before the idea arose to place the fuel tanks in the lower structure, thus increasing the cabin size. This is why there is such a height difference between the front and aft sections of the Dauphin cabin.

1974: AS350/355 Ecureuil

The first flight of the SA350 in Marignane on June 27, 1974

Following the commercial success of the Alouette II, a new helicopter with five seats needed to be developed. The response was the Gazelle, which was adopted, in particular, by the British and French armies, but which did not enjoy the expected commercial success on the civil market because of its price. The decision was therefore taken to develop a more economical aircraft.

1976: A Puma with a Fenestron

The prototype SA330 Z n°05 with a Fenestron in Marignane in 1976.

The Puma 05 aircraft, renamed SA 330 Z, was equipped with a Fenestron® rotor with 11 blades, each 1.60 m in diameter, ducted in an oversized fin, itself surmounted by a fixed T-plane attached to its top.

A significant amount of additional research and enhancements were made but the results were not satisfactory. The Fenestron® was simply too heavy, too loud and used up too much power, the obvious conclusion being that there was a limit to the size of helicopter to which it could be fitted.

The Puma 05, a real flying guinea pig, also served to try a main rotor quadriblade with semi-careened blades. Because these modifications did not satisfy engineers' requirements, and stability was hampered during flight, Airbus Helicopters reinstalled the original 5-bladed rotor anti-couples. 

1977: AS331/AS332 Super Puma

The last flight of the experimental SA331 was on September 5, 1977

The development criteria for the Super Puma first took into account the request from Puma operators for improved safety. The mechanical design and the appearance of anti-crash fuel tanks, for example, offered military users new guarantees in terms of survivability and, in time, all the customers of the range would benefit from these improvements.

On September 5, 1977, the precursor of the Super Puma, the SA331-01 (a sort of modified Puma) performed its maiden flight with the test pilots G. Henry and J. d'Elbreil at the controls, alongside G. Boutin, the test flight engineer (TFE), and J. Marty, the test flight technician (TFT). On September 13,1978, it was the turn of the AS332-01 to fly for the first time with almost the same crew (P. Loranchet replaced G. Henry).

1979: BK 117

The BK117 on the sky of Germany.

The year 1985 was an important milestone in the annals of European helicopters: The first BK 117 was certified, developed jointly by a German manufacturer (MBB) and a Japanese company (Kawasaki). MBB was responsible for the rotors, tail boom, hydraulic systems, flight controls and stabilizer, whereas Kawasaki developed the landing gear, fuselage and transmission systems, including the main gearbox. The BK 117 had a rigid rotor made of titanium. Single-sourcing was employed in the manufacture of the BK117: the components were produced by a single supplier and shipped to the production centers in Germany (Donauwörth) and Japan (Gifu).

The BK 117 made its maiden flight at Ottobrun on June 13, 1979 with Siegfried Hoffman piloting, and the first Japanese machine lifted off on August 10 of the same year. 

The helicopter's main success was to penetrate the market for emergency medical services, particularly in the United States. Of the 130 orders received when the helicopter was launched in February 1982, half came from US customers. The key to this success was chiefly its design, which was derived from the Bo105. The BK 117 had an exceptionally roomy cabin - more than 3.2 cubic meters – making it ideal for transport operations.

In the late 1990s, a series of modifications and advances were embodied in the BK117 to meet the requirements of the French Government for a rescue helicopter. Named the BK117 C2, the new advanced version was later rebaptized the EC145.

1985: BO108

BO108 maiden flight on October 15, 1988

Considering the success of the Bo105, MBB worked from 1985 on the development of its successor. The Bo108 had to be an aircraft with the most up-to-date technology, including a composite structure, new vibration absorbers, and ultra-modern avionics with screens. The Bo108 made its maiden flight on October 15, 1988.

January, 1991:

MBB announced the series production of the Bo108 with certification scheduled for 1994. One year later, Eurocopter was created, taking advantage of the promising technology of the ex-Helicopter Division of Aerospatiale, such as the Fenestron®. The result was the EC135, the first joint Eurocopter helicopter, which performed its maiden flight on February 15, 1994.

Helicopters history

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