Aérospatiale SA 315B Lama: Over the top and beyond.

The history of nowadays very successful Airbus Helicopters began with the trend setting Aérospatiale Alouette family. Those turbine helicopters produced in huge numbers were with the Mirage III the aviation products which put France again where it belongs. The Lama was the overpowered high-altitude variant. At the control of one of them, Aérospatiale Chief Test Pilot Jean Boulet set a absolute world record, on 21 June 1972, for the highest altitude reached by a helicopter (all categories). He reached 12,442 meters, a record still unsurpassed. Furthermore, that feat was not a piece of cake. When he reduced power to begin he descend, because of the extreme cold and high altitude, the engine flamed out, and Boulet had to perform the highest ever power off autorotation landing flying blind because the cockpit bubble iced over. As a plus, that autorotation also set a new world record. By the way, it seems the unpowered fly down credited him also with the highest altitude ever reached with an autogyro…, sort of.

Boulet on oxygen in the stripped out cockpit of his Lama. Less weight more height.

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