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French Everest Mystery Chopper's Utopia summit - VIDEO
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Jun 1, 2005 13: 57 EST
Amidst all Everest statistics, expedition politics and weather debates - sometimes an expedition comes out of nowhere and puts all the magic back. The Everest mystery chopper did just that - and we can't believe they even adapted our nickname for it. Eurocopter just shot over the video of another impossible dream come true on Everest - the incredible thin air flight and sweet Everest summit landing...

IAF denied any knowledge

Jamie McGuinness of Project Himalaya started it all with a short message from Everest North side: "On 5 May from around 8:30 to 8:52 Nepali time a chopper tried twice to land on top of Everest (with a refuel in between?), possibly did land on top, but we couldn't see exactly from 7700m, the angle wasn't favorable. I repeat, we can't confirm if it did land or not, but it was close, very close!"

With earlier IAF Cheetal Helicopter world records (25,150 ft at Saserkangri near Leh), The Indian Air Force Everest Expedition were suspects, but expedition leader Wing Commander Amit Chowdhury denied any knowledge (the guys are btw going back up for a summit push this weekend).

The "Mystery Chopper"

Who could this be, we speculated, and dubbed the helicopter "Mystery Chopper". The flight was a thrilling reminder of last year, when FlyMicro stunned the entire mountain as they came soaring toward the summit. Wide eyed climbers near the top awed at the sight of a Microlight with a hang glider in tow flying up Mount Everest West Face. Those high altitude pilots were awarded the Best of ExplorersWeb award - and now we smelled a replay.

May 12, Jamie came back with an update: “While seeing part of the team off for the trek to ABC, at 7:25 - 7:27 am Nepali time we saw a helicopter again trying to land on the summit. From BC, quite a distance away, we didn’t get a photo and were not able to see if it landed or not, although it was again close. It seemed to try to stay in Nepali airspace.”

Video and AP

On Everest’s South Side, the Valencia team shot a video of the May 5th chopper hovering above the South Col at 8000+ meters. You can see a clip of that video on ExplorersWeb TV’s May 11th newscast.

But, who was it? That's when an e-mail arrived from Associate Press writer Binaj Gurubacharya in Nepal - solving the mystery! Apparently, local reports said there was a team led by French pilot Delsesalle Didier trying to break the record for the highest landing by a helicopter.

The Eurocopter had a one month permit from the Nepalese government to try their feat. The Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal (CAAN) said that the government had allowed the team to carry out the test fight, after thoroughly evaluating the technical aspects of the involved helicopter and expertise of the crew members.

They did it!

May 24, Eurocopter made the press release: "On May 14th, 2005 at 7h08 (local time), a serial Ecureuil/AStar AS 350 B3 piloted by the EUROCOPTER X-test pilot Didier Delsalle, landed at 8,850 meters (29,035ft) on the top of the Mount Everest (Kingdom of Nepal)."

After taking off from its base camp Lukla on May 14th, 2005 at 2,866 meters (9,403ft) Didier Delsalle onboard his Ecureuil AS350B3 reached the top of Mount Everest. As required by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI - International Aeronautical Federation), the aircraft remained landed on ground more than 2 minutes on the top of the world before flying back to Lukla. This feat was renewed the day after.

"Seemed just a dream"

Stepping out of his helicopter, Didier Delsalle commented: « To reach this mythical summit definitively seemed to be a dream; despite the obvious difficulties of the target to be reached, the aircraft demonstrated its capability to cope with the situation (…), sublimated by the magic of the place”.

The spirit of Everest

But that was not all - during the trial period, Didier Delsalle and his Ecureuil/AStar AS350 B3 flew some rescue missions on behalf of the Nepalese authorities demonstrating the operational capabilities of the aircraft used to set the altitude landing and take-off World Record. The test flights went up to to 10.211 meters (33.500 ft) and landed at the South Col of Mount Everest at 7,925 meters (26,000 ft) on May 12th, 2005! Yes, the date of Jamie's second sighting...

Last night, the Eurocopter shot over the first images, and today the video arrived. And by the way, they solved another mystery too - who was first on Everest summit this year? Answer: Didier - and his magic chopper! Vive La France - and Salut to the Magic of Everest!

On May 14th, 2005 at 7h08 (local time; the chopper made it - at 7h08 (local time), a serial Ecureuil/AStar AS 350 B3 piloted by the EUROCOPTER X-test pilot Didier Delsalle, landed at 8,850 meters (29,035ft) on the top of the Mount Everest.

Achieved with a serial helicopter, this absolute World Record once more contributes to underline the unique qualities of the Ecureuil/AStar AS350 B3 as a multipurpose, reliable, quick and comfortable helicopter which emerges as the most performing aircraft in the world in the most extreme conditions.

During the trial period, Didier Delsalle and his Ecureuil/AStar AS350 B3 flew some rescue missions on behalf of the Nepalese authorities demonstrating the operational capabilities of the aircraft used to set the altitude landing and take-off World Record.

Test flights up to 10.211 meters (33.500 ft)

This feat has been achieved further to various flight tests begun one year ago with the Ecureuil/AStar AS350 B3 among which:

- Experimental flight up to 8,992 meters (29,500 ft) in April 2004 in Istres (France),
- “Time to climb” records to the heights of 3,000, 6,000 and 9,000 meters performed on April 14th, 2005 in respectively 2 minutes 21 seconds, 5 minutes 6 seconds and 9 minutes 26 seconds. These records smash the previous ones held by an Ecureuil/AStar AS350 B1 with respectively 2 minutes 59 seconds, 6 minutes 55 seconds and 13 minutes 52 seconds,
- Experimental flight up to 10.211 meters (33.500 ft) on April 14, 2005,
- Landing at the South Pass of Mount Everest at 7,925 meters (26,000 ft) on May 12th, 2005, establishing a new altitude landing and take-off record, previously held by a Cheetah helicopter - variant of the Lama - at 7,670 meters (25,150 ft).

Eurocopter is a wholly owned subsidiary of EADS. The worldwide leader in aerospace, defense, and the associated services, EADS generated a turnover of 31.8 billion euros in 2004, and employed approximately 110,000 people throughout the world. The EADS Group includes the aircraft maker Airbus, the world’s leading helicopter manufacturer Eurocopter, and the world’s second largest missile company, the joint venture MDBA. EADS is also the biggest partner in the Eurofighter consortium and the lead contractor for the Ariane launcher. The Group is also developing the A400M military transport aircraft, and is the major industrial partner for Galileo, the European satellite-based navigation system.

All images and video courtesy of Eurocopter. Music "Utopia" by Alanis Morissette.

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