Gazelles still leaping...
On 25 April Airbus Helicopters celebrated the 50th anniversary of the (formerly Sud Aviation/aérospatiale) SA340 Gazelle’s maiden flight. Developed jointly by the French company and the UK’S Westland Helicopters, it was the first to be equipped with a ‘fenestron’ tail rotor, GRP main rotor blades, which were developed by Bölkow of Germany, and the first helicopter in the world to be granted US Federal Aviation Administration IFR Category I approval, enabling it to be flown IFR by a single pilot.
Production SA341 and SA342 Gazelles were manufactured in France and the UK — where it served with the British Army, RAF, Royal Navy and Royal Marines — and manufactured under licence by SOKO in the former Yugoslavia and by the Arab British Helicopter Company in Egypt. Of the 1,250-plus produced, about 470 are still in service in 34 countries worldwide, some 80% with military operators, 100 of those with the French Army. By the 2016 the Gazelle fleet had accumulated more than seven million flight hours, the high-time airframes, both flying in the USA, having accumulated 14,200 and 13,100 hours.
Summer of ’67 and first flight for the prototype Gazelle