Eurocopter AS350 Écureuil (Squirrel) is a single-engine turbine helikopter originally designed and manufactured in France by Aérospatiale, today Airbus Helicopters. It is the world´s largest helikopter manufacturer measured in annual revenues as well as in the number of manufactured units. Apart from the manufacturing in France and Germany, helicopters are produced in Brazil, Australia, Spain and USA (sold under the name AStar in the U.S.). As an example, the Brazilian subsidiary Helibras has manufactured some 350 AS 350's delivering nine ot of ten to the South American market...
Until today, some 5,000 single-engine Ecureuils have been delivered to more than 100 countries, having accumulated more than 23 million flight hours together.
Design and development.
The development of the AS 350 began in the early 70's when Aérospatiale needed a replacement for their aging Alouette II. It flew the first time on June 27 1974 with a Lycoming LTS 101 engine derivering some 675 shp. 11 different models have been developed until today, with the AS 350 B3a being the latest addition to the Squirrel family. The B3a was introduced late 2011 with an Arriel 2D engine (in total there are more than 20 versions of the AS 350 including modifications done by external engine manufacturers).
An AS 350 carries pilot + 5 (6 with double seat in front) in a totally open cabin. It operates some three hours up to 140 knots with a maximum speed (VNE) of 155 knots
The world record for both landning and take-off att height was set on May 14, 2005 with an AS 350B3 landning on top of Mount Everest, 8 848 meters above sea level. The pilot Didiér Delsalle also took the opportunity to rescue two Japanese climbers from 4 877 meters on the way down, but later said that "The thought of rescuing climbers was one of the things that motivated me to do this project. But the forces I encountered were so powerful that to guarantee a safe flight you'd have to design a more powerful copter".
Despite the introduction of the new EC 130 in June 1999, the production of AS 350's are still high. It is considered by many as the best lifting helicopter on the market today.