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) on May 14, 2005.

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.

Delsalle also rescued two Japanese climbers at 16,000 feet (4,877 meters).

Didier Delsalle is a former Armée de l’Air (French Air Force) fighter pilot and search-and-rescue helicopter pilot. 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.

  • FAI Record File Num #11596
  • Status: ratified – current record
  • Region: World
  • Class: E (Rotorcraft)
  • Sub-Class: E-1 (Helicopters)
  • Category: General
  • Group: 2 : turbine
  • Type of record: Highest take-off
  • Performance: 8 848 m
  • Date: 2005-05-14
  • Course/Location: Mount Everest (Nepal)
  • Claimant Didier Delsalle (FRA)
  • Rotorcraft: Eurocopter AS 350 B3 (FWQEX)
  • Engine: 1 Turbomeca Ariel

Didier Delsalle holds seven FAI world records, five of which remain current. (He broke two of his own records.)

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 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). It is powered by a Turboméca Arriel 2B turboshaft engine which produces 847 shaft horsepower, de-rated to the main transmission limit.

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.

Text Author: Bryan R. Swopes