YouTube – Eurocopter AS350
Ariel 1D1 turbine
35 ft. 10 in.
10 ft. 4 in.
The Eurocopter (now Airbus) AS350, called the Ecureuil (Squirrel), is probably best known as a TV news helicopter. In addition to TV coverage, it has served with the military when equipped with guns, rockets and missiles. The helicopter has also been equipped with a belly tank for use as an air tanker making retardant and water drops.
The keys to the popularity of the helicopter are its low operating costs, ample power, uncomplicated flight systems, and overall responsiveness to control inputs. This enables its pilots, who are often the news reporters, to be able to concentrate on their camera work while simultaneously operating the helicopter.
For economy of operation, the AS350 only requires a crew of one. The helicopter has an outer skin of thermo-formed plastic, for ease of maintenance. A sensor pod, generally boom mounted just under the nose, is controlled by the pilot, and runs through the front of the cabin. A spotlight, for night camera work, is usually mounted mid-ship, under the helicopter. A special harness to restrain the camera operator when working from an open door on the side of the helicopter, plus a wide foot rest, help maintain security.
The twin engine version of the helicopter has engine power reserves and a wider chord tail rotor to allow heavier loads. A heavy duty electrical system in the helicopter can keep up with the power demands of TV reporting equipment. The helicopter uses the same airframe as the single engine model.
A version of the Eurocopter AS350 is marketed by Textron in North America under the name Astar. It is powered by a Lycoming engine.
On March 23, 2002 Fred North, flying out of Capetown, South Africa, set an unofficial altitude record of 12,954 meters (about 42,424 feet) flying an AS350.
The AS350 is sold in some 43 countries around the world. Some 3,600 have been produced to date.
The Eurocopter AS350 fuselage from Vario comes as an eight piece kit that includes the drive shaft system. It is available for Sky Fox mechanics or gas versions. It has a length of 66″ with a height of 12 1/2″. Rotor diameter can be from 63″ to 66″. Weight is around 21 lbs.