Helicopter crash in French Alps: what we know so far

Roberto Chiartano

A helicopter belonging to the private company Service Aérien Français (SAF) crashed during training, killing five people. The sole survivor, a pilot instructor, was transported to a hospital in a critical state.

On December 8, 2020, the Airbus EC135, registration F-HJAF, took off for a night flight and mountain rescue training mission near Bonvillard, Savoie. Six people were on board: four SAF employees and two rescuers from the Mountain units of the French National Police.

For an unknown reason, the aircraft crashed in a wooded area of the Grand Arc massif of the French Alps. Weather conditions at the time of the incident were reported as difficult, with visibility being hindered by fog and rain. 

The alert was given by the pilot instructor, who maintained contact with the rescue services. Ejected from the aircraft during the crash, the survivor was evacuated by land to Grenoble hospital in a state of absolute emergency. 

Recovery operations are still ongoing, but due to adverse weather conditions, the three helicopters that had been mobilized are grounded. 

The French Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA) announced it opened an investigation and sent five investigators to the crash site.

Created in 1979, the SAF Group operates a fleet of 40 helicopters. Its missions range from airlifting of equipment and people to emergency medical evacuations and aerial firefighting.

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