On this day in aviation history, March 17, 1969, the first flight, test pilot Roland Coffignot and flight engineer Gérard Boutin made their first flight of the prototype SA 315A Lama, serial number 315-001. This new helicopter combined the air frame of the SNCASE Alouette II with the drive train and rotors of the Alouette III.
The helicopter was built to meet the specific needs of the Indian Air Force for operations in the Himalayan Mountains. It was required to take off an land at an altitude of 6,000 meters (19,685 feet) while carrying a pilot, one passenger and 200 kilograms (441 pounds) of cargo. The SA 315A was able to exceed this, landing at taking of in the Karakoram Mountains at 6,858 meters (22,500 feet).
According to Bryan R. Swopes’, the 315-001 was later upgraded to the SA 315B configuration. The helicopter was registered F-BPXS. On 19 June 1972, Aérospatiale Chief Test Pilot Jean Boulet with Gérard Boutin set an Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Altitude Without Payload at 10,836 meters (35,551 feet).¹ Three days later, 21 June, Boulet set another three World Records by flying 315-001 to an altitude of 12,442 meters (40,820 feet).
Sources: Feature Photo: SNCASE SA 315A 001 Airbus Helicopters; FAI Record File Number 788. FAI Record File Numbers 753, 754 and 11657. Bryan R. Swopes’ This Day in Aviation History.