The Alouette was the first gas turbine jet-engined helicopter to serve in the SAAF(SABC)
The South Africa Air Force (SAAF) Museum at the weekend paid tribute to the Alouette ll light utility helicopter, which marked its half-century in 2011.
Helicopters in general and the Alouette in particular were the special focus of the museum’s monthly flying day. In addition to the museum’s own Alouette ll and Alouette lll helicopters, organizers had brought together seven other craft with the distinctive tail made of welded steel alloy tubing.
This earned it the nickname of “draad kar” or wire car in the SAAF. Lieutenant Colonel Clive Shepherd, the Museum’s Operations Officer, said this could well be a record number of civilian Alouette ll’s all in one place at one time in South Africa.
The Alouette was the first gas turbine jet-engined helicopter to serve in the SAAF, which had a total of eight. They came into service from December 1960 and were used first for training and later operations by the Air Force. Later they were used by the South African Police and placed on loan for anti-insurgency operations on the northern borders.
The aircraft is suited for work in mountainous areas and still holds the altitude record for its weight and class
On their return to the SAAF in 1980, they were retired. Two were handed over to the museum, four were sold, while two others had been destroyed in crashes while in service. Colonel Shepherd said the type still enjoys a high record of maintenance and safety in SA.
Warrant Officer Alan Taylor said this was the first practical light helicopter and because of this it could be used in a wide variety of roles. In its military role it was used for observation, photography, air-sea rescue and training and in its civilian role it carried out casualty evacuation and crop spraying.
The aircraft is suited for work in mountainous areas and still holds the altitude record for its weight and class. This was set in June 1958 at an altitude of 10,981m. A modified version of the helicopter, known as the Lama, is used in the Andes. It is also used by the Indian Air Force in the Himalayas, mainly for mountain resuce.
The flying day also featured the museum’s Harvards, Vampire fighter and the Albatross maritime patrol aircraft.
The next major airshow on the 2011 calendar will be at Waterkloof Air Force Base on 1 October.