Didier Delsalle (born May 6, 1957 in Aix-en-Provence, France) is a fighter pilot and helicopter test pilot. On May 14, 2005, he became the first (and only) person to land a helicopter, the Eurocopter AS350 Squirrel, on the 8,848Â m (29,030Â ft) summit of Mount Everest.
Didier Delsalle joined the French Air Force in 1979 as a fighter pilot. Two years later he became a helicopter pilot, participating in search and rescue operations for the next 10 years. Delsalle then worked for five years as a test pilot and instructor at the EPNER test pilot school in Istres, France. Delsalle was then hired by Eurocopter, the world's largest helicopter supplier and a subsidiary of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company, as chief test pilot responsible for small helicopters of the single-engine family, and later for the larger NH90 helicopters that were being developed (now in service) for numerous armed forces.
Mount Everest summit landing
On May 14, 2005, at 07:08 NPT in the early morning (01:23 UTC), Delsalle set the world record for highest altitude landing of a helicopter when his Eurocopter AS350 Squirrel touched down on the highest point of land on earth, the 8,848Â m (29,030Â ft) summit of Mount Everest. The flight and the summit landing were captured by a battery of cameras and other equipment to validate the record. After sitting on top of the world for 3 minutes and 50 seconds, Delsalle lifted off and returned to the Tenzing-Hillary Airport at Lukla, Nepal.
This accomplishment had required extensive testing on site, especially because of the low atmospheric pressure available for the helicopter rotors, winds over 299Â km/h (186Â mph) at these altitudes, and oxygen depletion for both Delsalle and his helicopter's engine. Delsalle had to find areas of downdrafts and updrafts to complete the flight, stating: "I found an updraft so strong that I could rise up with almost no power."
Delsalle repeated the Everest summit landing the next day, May 15, 2005, to prove that the previous day had not been simple luck. Conditions the second day were much more difficult, but Delsalle chose not to wait any longer so as not to squander the opportunity for 'conventional' climbers waiting to summit Everest during the limited good weather conditions available in May.
Delsalle used a virtually standard version of the Eurocopter AS350 Squirrel, only removing unnecessary elements, such as passenger seats, to reduce the standard weight by 265Â lb (120Â kg) and thus extend the 1-hour fuel range.
World records for helicopter flight
- Speed record of ascension to 3,000Â m (9,843Â ft), set in 2005.
- Speed record of ascension to 6,000Â m (19,690Â ft), set in 2005.
- Speed record of ascension to 8,848Â m (29,030Â ft), set in 2005.
- Record of land aloft at 8,848Â m (29,030Â ft), on the summit of Mount Everest, May 14, 2005.
- Official report by Eurocopter
- Official pictures of the accomplishment of May 14, 2005, on Eurocopter's website.
- Official video of the feat of May 14, 2005 on YouTube, without music on YouTube.