The absolute helicopter altitude record achieved in 1972 by the famous French test pilot, Jean Boulet, still remains unbeaten on the occasion of its 50th anniversary. Boulet took the lightweight Aerospatiale SA315 Lama 001 to an impressive altitude of 12,442m on June 21, 1972, above Istres airfield in France. This absolute altitude record has been endorsed by the FAI, which holds the record file as well as the documents relating to Boulet’s other FAI records.

The famous Lama helicopter was designed specifically for high altitude performance and was derived from the Alouette II with Alouette III components. The Lama had a Turbomeca Artouste III B engine and performed its maiden flight in 1969. The June 21, 1972 flight also resulted in a long autorotation as the engine flamed out at -63°C at altitude. Boulet, a very experienced pilot, landed the aircraft safely.

Jean Boulet in Aerospace SA315 Lama 001

Boulet earned his engineering degree in France and trained as a fighter pilot in the United States. He joined SNCASE in 1947, which eventually became part of the Aerospatiale group. His career highlights included the first flights of SE3000, SE3101, Alouette, Frelon and Puma, and he has completed 8000 helicopter flight hours in his working life, and 9000 total flight hours.

Helicopter record Jean Boulet 1972
Jean Boulet and the 1972 record team

As part of the 50th anniversary celebrations of his 1972 record, Boulet’s flight logs between 1948 and 1975 were donated by his son, Olivier, to the “Espace Air Passion” aviation museum in western France. France in order to preserve their historical significance in the future. .

FAI Rotorcraft Commission Chairman Jacques Berlo attended the ceremony and commented:

“I have always had a huge admiration for Jean Boulet and the Lama, so it was a great honor to represent the FAI Rotorcraft Commission at this ceremony and to meet the parties involved in this important initiative. The memory of Boulet and his exploits will live on thanks to this public archive of his logbooks.

Jean Boulet died on February 13, 2011 and was recognized within the aviation community for his accomplishments and contribution to rotorcraft history. He wrote a book called History Of The Helicopter, first published in 1982.

Aerospace SA315 Llama 001
Aerospace SA315 Llama 001

Images: Aerospace

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