June 09, 2007

Aérospatiale Alouette II

The Alouette II is a light helicopter originally manufactured by Sud Aviation and later Aérospatiale of France. The Alouette II is the first helicopter to use a gas turbine instead of a conventional heavier piston engine.

It was mostly used for military purposes in observation, photography, air/sea rescue, liaison and training but it has also carried anti-tank missiles and homing torpedoes. As a civilian helicopter it was put to use as a casualty evacuation (with two external stretcher panniers), crop-spraying and flying crane (with a 500kg external sling load).

An Aérospatiale SA-318 BW Alouette II image

An Aérospatiale SA-318 BW Alouette II

Aérospatiale Alouette II Operational history
Although Sud-Est's previous helicopter design, the SE.3120 Alouette, broke helicopter speed and distance records in July 1953, it was too complex an aircraft to market successfully. With the records falling, the French government started showing interest but with their financial backing the state gave an ultimatum that within 2 years a helicopter had to be in production otherwise all activities around rotary wings would cease. SNCASE came up with 7 turbo-engine helicopters designs: X.310A - X.310G. Earlier Joseph Szydlowski, the founder of Turboméca had successfully managed to develop the Artouste, a 260 hp single shaft turbine engine derived from his Orédon turbine. The X.310G design was chosen and together with the Artouste engine was fast tracked towards production as the SE.3130 Alouette II.

The SE-3130, first flew on March 12 1955 and within 3 months a pre-series Alouette II flown by Jean Boulet set a new helicopter altitude record of 8,209 m on June 6 then on June 13 pushed the record even further to 10,984 m.

The Alouette II made the news on July 3 1956 when it became the first helicopter to perform a mountain-rescue by evacuating a mountaineer who had suffered from cardiac arrest at over 4,000 m and again on January 3 1957 the Alouette II was called upon to rescue the crew of a crashed Sikorsky S-58 which was searching for missing mountaineers Jean Vincendon and François Henry on Mont Blanc.

The Alouette II gained its domestic certificate of airworthiness on May 2 1957.

Alouette II of the Portuguese Air Force image
Alouette II of the Portuguese Air Force

Production started initially to fulfil orders from the French armed forces and civilian customers, but by the time production ended in 1975 with over 1500 Alouette II's had been built and in use in over 80 countries including 47 armed forces. It is also licence built in Brazil, Sweden, India and in the United States.

In 1963 the Alouette II became the first commercially operated turbine helicopter in the USA.

Indian Hindustan Aeronautics Limited license-built SA.315B Lama called Cheetahs regularly deploy at 7500 meters (24,600 ft.) to forward observation outposts and air bases of the Indian Air Force in the Himalaya mountain ranges.

French SE 313 Alouette II image
French SE 313 Alouette II

Aérospatiale Alouette II Variants
* SE.3130 Alouette II - After 1967 called SA.313B Alouette II
* SE.3131 Gouverneu - VIP version which led up to the Alouette III
* SE.3140 Alouette II - Proposed version, it was going to be powered by a 298 kW (400hp) Turbomeca Turmo II engine. None were ever built.
* HKP 2 Alouette II - Swedish licence version of the SE.3130
* SE.3150 Alouette Astazou - It has a 550 shp Turboméca Astazou IIA shaft turbine (derated to 360 shp) and strengthened transmission system of the Alouette III
* SE.3180 Alouette II - After 1967 called SA.318C Alouette II derived from the SE.3150
* HAL Chetak - Indian licence version of the SE.3180
* SA-315B Lama - Derived from the SE.3150, it was designed for high altitude operations using a 650kW (870shp) Turboméca Astazou IIIB turboshaft, derated to 410kW (550shp). This derivative still holds the absolute altitude record for all types of helicopters since 1972: 12,442 m.
* HAL Cheetah - Indian licence built version of the SA.315B Lama.
* HAL Lancer - modified and updated version of Cheetah.
* HB 315B Gaviao - Brazilian licence built version of the SA.315B Lama.

Source: Wikipedia

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