Everest Heli-Landing Faux?
The Nepalese government says a French pilot who claimed to have landed a helicopter on the 8,850-meter (29,000-foot) peak of Mt. Everest was telling a tall tale. According to Asian news agencies the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) said last week that pilot Didier Delsalle has since admitted he couldn't actually set down on the peak and made an emergency landing 1,000 meters lower on the South Col. But the Nepalese announcement is at odds with the triumphant media release (including a poetic quote from Delsalle) issued by EADS, which makes the Ecureuil/AStar 350 B3 Delsalle was flying, and their submission on the alleged flight in the Federation Aeronautique Internationale record book. Nepalese officials say Delsalle's chopper was followed by another helicopter carrying Royal Nepalese Army soldiers who said they saw him land on the South Col. However, the Nepalese seem more concerned with the legal existence of the flight than its actual existence, saying that since Delsalle didn't have permission to land on Everest, then the landing couldn't have taken place. So far, Delsalle and EADS haven't commented on the Nepalese allegations but there may be more at stake than an obscure notation in a record book. India is now looking for about 200 helicopters capable of high-altitude missions (it has troops based as high as 23,000 feet in Kashmir) and Eurocopter is in the running for the contract, although with a different model of helicopter.