The Eurocopter AS350 Ecureuil (Squirrel) is a single-engined light helicopter originally manufactured by Aérospatiale (now part of Eurocopter Group). The AS350 is marketed in North America as the AStar. The AS355 Ecureuil 2 (marketed in North America as the TwinStar.) is a twin-engined variant, while the Eurocopter EC130 is a derivative of the AS350 airframe.
Design and development
Development began in the early 1970s to replace the Alouette II, and the first flight took place on 27 June 1974. Despite the introduction of the EC130, production of the Eurocopter AS350 remains strong.
Both single and twin-engined versions have been built under licence by Helibras in Brazil.
The Helicópteros do Brasil (Helibras) subsidiary of Eurocopter signed a contract for a major upgrade program on the Brazilian Army’s fleet of 36 AS350 Ecureuils.
On May 14, 2005 an AS350 B3 piloted by Eurocopter test pilot Didier Delsalle (fr:Didier Delsalle) touched down on the top of Mt. Everest, at 8,850 metres (29,035 feet). This record has been confirmed by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale.
On April 29, 2010 a stripped-down AS350 B3 succeeded in rescuing three alpinists from Annapurna, Nepal at 7,100 m (23,2939 feet), one at a time, the highest such rescue.
- AS350 Firefighter
Fire fighting version.
Powered by one Turbomeca Arriel 1B engine.
- AS350 B1
Improved version of the original AS350B, which is powered by one Arriel 1D engine, type also fitted with AS355 main rotor blades, AS355 tail rotor with tabs and a tail rotor servo.
- AS350 B2
Higher gross weight version powered by one Arriel 1D1 engine over the B1 version with aerodynamic strake fitted to tail boom along the starboard side and angled engine exhaust duct for better yaw control.
- AS350 B3
High-performance version, is powered by a Arriel 2B engine equipped with a single channel (DECU) Digital Engine Control Unit with a mechanical backup system. This helicopter is the first ever to land on Mount Everest. Recently introduced AS350 B3/2B1 variant introduces enhanced engine with dual channel (FADEC) Full Authority Digital Engine Control, dual hydraulics and a 2,370 kg (5,225 lb) Maximum Take Off Weight.
- AS350 BA
Powered by a Arriel 1B engine and fitted with wider chord AS355 main rotor blades and tail rotor servo.
- AS350 BB
AS350 B2 variant selected to meet rotary-wing training needs of UK MoD, through its Defence Helicopter Flying School in 1996. Powered by a derated Arriel 1D1 engine to improve the helicopters' life cycle.
- Eurocopter Squirrel HT.1
Designation of AS350BB in operation with British RAF as a training helicopter.
- Eurocopter Squirrel HT.2
Designation of AS350BB in operation with British Army Air Corps as a training helicopter.
- AS350 C
Initial variant of Lycoming LTS-101-600A2 powered version developed for the North American market as the AStar. Quickly superseded by AS350D.
- AS350 D
Powered by one Lycoming LTS-101 engine for the North American market as the AStar. At one stage marketed as AStar 'Mark III.'
- AS350 L1
Military derivative of AS350 B1, powered by a 510kW (684shp) Turbomeca Arriel 1D turboshaft engine. Superseded by AS350 L2.
- AS350 L2
Military derivative of AS350 B2, powered by a 546kW (732shp) Turbomeca Arriel 1D1 turboshaft engine. Designation superseded by AS550 C2.
- HB350 B Esquilo
Unarmed military version for the Brazilian Air Force. Brazilian designations CH-50 and TH-50. Built under licence by Helibras in Brazil.
- HB350 B1 Esquilo
Unarmed military version for the Brazilian Navy. Brazilian designation UH-12. Built under licence by Helibras in Brazil.
- HB350 L1
Armed military version for the Brazilian Army. Brazilian designation HA-1. Built under licence by Helibras in Brazil.
- Soloy Super D
AS350 BA powered by an LTS101-600A-3A engine.
- Soloy Super D2
AS350 B2 powered by an LTS101-700D-2 engine.
- Heli-Lynx 350FX1
AS350 BA powered by an LTS101-600A-3A engine.
- Heli-Lynx 350FX2
AS350 BA or AS350 B2 powered by an LTS101-700D-2 engine.
- Otech AS350BA+
AS350 BA powered by an LTS101-600A-3A engine.
The AS350 has been popular with many air charter companies and other small operators. Major fleet operators have included:
- Sri Lanka
Senok Aviation - operates 2 AS350 for domestic operations.
Australian Antarctic Division - uses the Eurocopter AS350 for intra-continental air operations in Antarctica.
Westpac Life Saver Rescue Helicopter Service - 2 Eurocopter AS350.
Fire and Emergency Services Authority of Western Australia - use 4 AS350 B3 for fire fighting.
Blackcomb Aviation operates five AS350s which are used for charter flights as well as mountain rescue.
Highland Helicopters operates several AS350's throughout western Canada, primarily in BC and AB.
Geotech Ltd. operates six AS350 B3s
Air Greenland uses two B2's and 11 B3's
Fireman Helicopters Group, Autonomous Province of Trento utilizes two AS350 B3 for mountain rescue, fire service, transport service and various civil defence activities.
Six AS350s are in service with Heli Air Monaco.
- New Zealand
Northland Emergency Services Trust
Helibravo operates AS350 B2 and B3.
EMA operates 3 AS350B3
Heliportugal operates both AS350 B2 and B3
- United States
Flight for Life Colorado Emergency medical transport based near Denver, Colorado operates five leased AS350 B3s.
Heli USA Airways, Inc. A Las Vegas based helicopter tour operator using a fleet of 11 AS350's
Law Enforcement operators
The AS350 has been popular with many law enforcement operators. Major fleet operators have included:
Angolan National Police Force operates 15 AS350B2 and B3s.
Australian Customs and Border Protection Service operates a fleet of AS350 B3 helicopters.
Flugpolizei (Ministry of Interior) operates five AS350 B1
The State Border Committee of Belarus operates 3 AS350 NP helicopters
Various Military Police (Brazil) operates the HB350 Esquilo, including:
Military Police of São Paulo State
Military Police of Rio de Janeiro State
Minas Gerais Military Police
Royal Canadian Mounted Police operates a fleet of 8 AS350 B3 helicopters.
Icelandic Coast Guard - Former operator.
Garda Síochána na hÉireann The Police force of the Republic of Ireland operates two AS350 in support roles.
Philippine National Police
- South Africa
South African Police Service Air Wing operates 11 AS350B3s.
- United States
California Highway Patrol operates 11 AS350 B3 helicopters and a single AS350 B2.
Drug Enforcement Administration operates two AS350 B2 helicopters.
Los Angeles Police Department operates 14 AS350 B2 helicopters.
Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department operates 12 AS350 B2 helicopters.
Riverside County Sheriff's Department operate 4 AS350 B3 helicopters.
San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department operates 6 AS350 B3 helicopters
San Diego Police Department operates 4 AS350 B3 helicopters.
Texas Department of Public Safety operates three AS350 B and nine AS350 B2 helicopters.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection operates 48 AS350 helicopters, and in July 2008 signed a multi-year contract for up to 50 additional AS350 B3s to meet its Light Enforcement Helicopter requirement.
Bernalillo County Sheriff's Department operates 1 AS350 B3 helicopter
Argentine National Gendarmerie
Albanian Air Force
Australian Defence Force
Australian Defence Force Helicopter School
Fleet Air Arm (RAN)
No. 723 Squadron RAN
Royal Australian Air Force is former operator of the 18 Squirrels. RAAF A22-001 to -012 were in service with RAAF from 1984 to 1990.
No. 5 Squadron RAAF
Australian Army Aviation is former operator.
Botswana Defence Force Air Wing AS350
Brazilian Air Force
Bolivian Air Force
- Central African Republic
Central African Republic – The sole helicopter of the Central African Republic's Air Force
Chilean Army AS350B3
Ecuadorian Air Force 5 AS350
Gabonese Air Force
Military of Malawi
Paraguayan Air Force 4 Helibras HB-350/UH-50 Esquilo
Paraguayan Naval Aviation 2 Helibras HB-350/UH-50 Esquilo
- United Kingdom
Ministry of Defence's Defence Helicopter Flying School at RAF Shawbury – 38 AS350BB helicopters in service with FB Heliservices for the training of all British Armed Forces helicopter pilots.
British Army – The School of Army Aviation in Middle Wallop, Hampshire, employs 10 AS350BB through FB Heliservices in the Operational Training Phase of the Army Pilot's Course.
Notable accidents and achievements
On 14 May 2005, a Ecureuil AS350B3 piloted by Didier Delsalle landed at 8,848 meters on the top of the Mount Everest. As required by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale, the aircraft remained on the summit for 2 minutes before returning to Lukla. This is the highest altitude landing and take off ever.
On 13 August 2006, an AS350 crashed in the Payette National Forest while transporting firefighting personnel from Williams Peak lookout to Krassel helitack base. The pilot, two United States Forest Service firefighters and a Williams Peak lookout were killed.
On 27 July 2007, two AS350s collided in mid-air while reporting a police pursuit. The two helicopters were part of KNXV-TV and KTVK television stations in Phoenix, Arizona. Four crew members were killed by this accident.
On 15 September 2007, former World Rally Championship driver Colin McRae and three passengers were killed when his AS350 B2 Squirrel, which he was piloting, crashed near Lanark, Scotland.
On 16 November 2007, Inclement weather caused a BHP Billiton AS350-B2 helicopter, to crash in Angola, killing the helicopter's five passengers.
On 8 August 2009, a Piper PA-32R collided with an AS350 over the Hudson River, with both aircraft crashing into the Hudson River. There were no survivors from the crash.
On 25 September 2009, a medical helicopter, operated by Omniflight Helicopters, crashed in South Carolina killing the pilot, nurse, and paramedic onboard.
On 17 October 2009. The Rio de Janeiro Military Police AS350B2 helicopter, Phoenix 03, registration PR-EPM, flying over the area between the Macacos hill and the hill of the São João, Vila Isabel to support the police operation and was hit by rifle fire from traffickers. Pilot was shot in leg, attempted a forced landing, crashed and burned. Mixed reports, seemed three fatal, three injured.
On 14 November 2009, a Mountain Life Flight Air Ambulance crashed outside of Reno, Nevada, on its way back to base in Susanville. The crash happened after dropping off a patient to Renown Medical Center. All three crew members died in the crash.
On 5 February 2010, a AS350 medevac helicopter, operated by Southwest Medevac, crashed during a training mission on MacGregor military range, killing the pilot and two paramedics onboard.
On 10 February 2010 , a helicopter of Brazilian RECORD TV , crashed over a Jockey Club in São Paulo.There were two people , a pilot died and a camera-man survived.
On 25 March 2010, a Hospital Wing Air Ambulance crashed in Jackson, Tennessee after flying a patient from Parsons, Tennessee to Jack-Madison County General Hospital. All three crew members died in the crash.
On 22 July 2010, a AS350 medevac helicopter, operated by EagleMed Critical Care Emergency Medical Transport, departed Integris Baptist Medical Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, crashed outside Kingfisher, Oklahoma on its way to Okeene to pick up a patient. The pilot and one of the two nurses died in the crash.
On 28 July 2010, an Air Methods LifeNet AS350 crashed into a residential area in central Tucson, Arizona. All three crew members were killed. No injuries were reported on the ground. The cause of the incident is under investigation.
On 28 October 2010, a French AS350 crashed in Antarctica, roughly 100km from the French Scientific Research base Dumont d'Urville. All 4 occupants aboard the helicopter were killed. Bad weather has been given as the reason for the cause of the accident.
On 24 January 2011, a Brazilian TV station Rede Globo AS350 B2 PT-HZS. Emergency landing after tail targeted by drug traffickers.
On 30 April 2011, CM of Arunachal Pradesh was killed in a Pawan Hans AS350 B-3 helicopter crash.
On 17 June 2011, a private AS350 Esquilo PR-OMO crashed in a Porto Seguro beach. Four people died and three are missing.
On 4 July 2011, a Norwegian AS350 B3 crashed on Hardangervidda. The pilot and all four passengers were killed.
On 26 August 2011, an American LifeNet (Operated by Air Methods) AS350 crashed in Missouri. The pilot, two crew members, and the patient-in-transport were all killed.
On 9 September 2011 an Australian AS350 operated by the Cairns based Heli charters crashed at Double Mountain near Shoalwater Bay in central Queensland killing 2 people on board with one surviving.
On 16 September 2011 an AS350 went missing in the province of British Columbia, Canada. It was found several days later on 20 September in an area of the Coquihalla Mountain. The pilot and only occupant of the helicopter was killed.
On 23 November 2011, an AS350 taking part in lifting operations in Auckland's Viaduct Basin crashed after it's rotor blades became caught at a low level on a hanging wire. The helicopter was putting up the Telecom New Zealand Christmas tree, a seven-story Christmas attraction. The pilot walked away from the crash with only minor injuries.
Specifications (AS350 B3)
Length: 10.93 m (35 ft 10½ in)
Rotor diameter: 10.69 m (35 ft 1 in)
Height: 3.14 m (10 ft 3½ in)
Disc area: 89.75 m² (966.1 sq ft)
Empty weight: 1,174 kg (2,588 lb)
Max takeoff weight: 2,250 kg (4,960 lb)
Powerplant: 1 × Turbomeca Arriel 2B turboshaft, 632 kW (847 shp)
Never exceed speed: 287 km/h (155 knots, 178 mph)
Cruise speed: 245 km/h (132 knots, 152 mph)
Range: 662 km (357 nmi, 411 mi)
Endurance: 4.1 hrs
Service ceiling: 4,600 m (15,100 ft)
Rate of climb: 8.5 m/s (1,675 ft/min)
Vehicle and Engine Multifunction Display (VEMD) with First Limit Indicator (FLI) fitted as standard.