SE 3130 Alouette II. Made in France by Sud-Est

Crew: 1 pilot (4 passengers)

Motor: 1 Turbomeca Artouste II C

Power: 400 HP

First flight: 1955

Air museum in Saint-Victoret.

The Aérospatiale Alouette II is a French light helicopter originally manufactured by Sud Aviation and later Aérospatiale. It was the first production helicopter powered by a gas turbine engine instead of the heavier conventional piston powerplant.

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 two years a helicopter had to be in production, otherwise all rotary wing activities would cease. SNCASE came up with seven helicopter designs powered by turboshaft engines: X.310A – X.310G. Earlier Joseph Szydlowski, the founder of Turbomeca, had successfully managed to develop the Artouste, a 260 hp (190 kW) single shaft turbine engine derived from his Orédon turbine. The X.310G design was chosen and, together with an improved version of the Artouste engine, was fast-tracked towards production as the SE 3130 Alouette II.

On 12 March 1955, the prototype SE 3130 performed its maiden flight; within three months, on 6 June, a pre-production Alouette II, flown by Jean Boulet, established a new helicopter altitude record of 8,209 m (26,932 ft).

According to the manufacturer, such early demonstrations of the Alouette II had served to promote the performance and advantages of turbine helicopters over their piston-engined counterparts.

Read more: Helicopters with Martin Anderson ...