Eurocopter Squirrel sets new SAR record


A record-breaking aerial rescue on Nepal’s Mount Annapurna has underscored the performance capabilities of Eurocopter’s AS350 Ecureuil helicopter in extreme conditions – including the most challenging high-altitude operations.

Three Spanish mountain climbers were successfully airlifted by the Fishtail Air AS350 B3 from a 6900 meter-high location using the “longline” technique, in which a rescuer is suspended at the end of a long rope for insertions/extractions from difficult terrain, Eurocopter owner EADS says in a statement.

The April 29 operation was part of special rescue flights being performed in a cooperative effort involving Fishtail Air, a charter helicopter company based at Kathmandu, Nepal, and Switzerland’s Air Zermatt. This mission utilized Fishtail Air’s second AS350 B3, which arrived in Nepal on March 1 to join a helicopter fleet that includes an AS350 B and one AS350 B2, along with the company’s first AS350 B3.

Air Zermatt’s Capt. Daniel Aufdenblatten performed the rescue, while Swiss Mountain Guide Richard Lenner was deployed as a human sling to lift the stranded climbers on the longline – evacuating them one-by-one to a base camp at an altitude of 4000 meters. The climbers had been stranded 36 hours on Mount Annapurna.

In addition to this difficult operation, Fishtail Air’s newest AS350 B3 also rescued four Korean climbers and three Nepalese Sherpas on April 26 from Nepal’s Mount Manaslu, extracting them at an altitude of approximately 6500 meters. Piloting the helicopter was Fishtail Capt. Sabin Basnyat, who was joined by Air Zermatt’s Daniel Aufdenblatten and Richi Lehner. Mount Manaslu is the world’s eighth highest mountain, while Mount Annapurna is the tenth highest.
“These rescues are tributes to the crews’ professionalism, as well as the capability of our AS350 Ecureuil and the AS550 Fennec military version to deliver performance and reliability in the most extreme conditions,” said Eurocopter Group President and CEO Lutz Bertling.