There aren’t many aviation records that have withstood more than a few years, but half a century? The World Air Sports Federation (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale or FAI) made note that today (June 21) marks the 50th anniversary of the absolute altitude record for helicopters, set on this date in 1972 by Jean Boulet of France. Boulet took his Turbomeca Artouste III B turboshaft-powered Aerospatiale SA315 Lama (serial number 001) to 40,820 feet (12,442 meters).
The flight, which launched from the airfield in Istres, France (now home to Dassault Aviation’s flight test facility) might also hold a record for the longest-ever autorotation, as the engine flamed out in at -63 degrees Centigrade (-81 Fahrenheit). Boulet, who died in 2011, trained as an engineer in France and then as a fighter pilot in the U.S. He joined SNCASE (later to be absorbed by Aerospatiale Group) in 1947. Among his other flying accomplishments were first flights of SE3000, SE3101, Alouette, Frelon and Puma helicopter models. His logbook recorded more than 8,000 hours of rotorcraft time, dominating his 9,000 hours total flying time.
He also authored the 1982 book, “History of The Helicopter.”