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Sunday, June 23, 2013

Helicopter Altitude Record

SE 3150-001 F-ZWVB in altitude record configuration with a mini fuel tank and aluminum door panel.

Aircraft are so weird. People go to a great deal of trouble to build them and then when the engines have run for a magic amount of time, they throw them away. Okay, not always. There are some old timers who keep rebuilding old engines and keep flying old planes, but these guys are mostly hobbyists. I suppose there might be a few jet aircraft that get re-engined, but often by the time the engines have run out of time, the rest of the aircraft is obsolete and they get set out to bake in the desert sun. On one hand I can understand that. I mean you have a perfectly good aircraft that could probably fly another zillion hours. On the other hand you could buy a whole new aircraft for what it would cost to install new engines in the old one. You might as well scrap it, no one is going to do anything with the old hulks. I think there must be some kind of accounting sleight-of-hand going on here, otherwise they would have been scrapped.

Jean Boulet (1920–2011)

    A few days ago I put up a picture of some guys climbing up the last leg on the way to the peak of Mount Everest. I thought it was a cool picture, probably taken by someone in an airplane, because helicopters can't go that high. 20,000 feet is the practical limit for most helicopters. Then Stu makes a comment and I do some checking and I find that Jean Boulet flew a helicopter to the top of Mount Everest and landed there back in 1972. That was weird because a few years ago I saw a blurb from HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) that claimed they had flown over Mount Everest. I called bullshit because I had never heard of such a thing and checking on the internet revealed no such event ever occurring. I complained to the rep, and they never corrected me, so I assumed it was just typical Indian over-enthusiasm. (If you ever read any of the press from India you will know what I am talking about. Never say in one word what you can spend a paragraph on.)

Fred North on his record setting flight.

    Now I do some more checking and I discover that a new altitude record was set by Fred North in 2002 in South Africa. In both M. Boulet's flight in 1972 and Mr. North's flight in 2002 the turbine engine flamed out on the way down. M. Boulet set a second world record for longest auto-rotation. He coasted all the way to the ground. Mr. North employed auto-rotation until he had dropped to 12,000 feet where he was able to restart his engine.

Fred & gang celebrate successful flight.

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