Adieu to the gentille Alouette

Pilots, such as the legendary Alain Frebault, Reme Romet and Jean-Pierre Roca come and go but the Alouette was always there. Criss-crossing the skies with the characteristic thud-thud of its jet turbine. On Saturday the last of the Alouette III rescue helicopters were decommissioned. We were at le Versoud aerodrome near to Grenoble to follow proceedings.

alouette III
Alouette III above the Versoud aerodrome

At 47 years young the Alouette III (Skylark in English) is a flying dinosaur. Designed before fly by wire, night vision and on-board computers it is ideally suited to mountain rescue work. Its predecessor, the II, proved its worth in the disastrous Vincendon and Henry affair, plucking the team that had been sent to rescue the stricken climbers to safety after their heavy army helicopter crashed at 3600 meters. Light, agile with excellent all round visibility the Alouette isn’t the fastest helicopter but it can climb and hover in the turbulent mountain air. Its small size means that it can land in tight spots. On top of a mountain or col or on a highway to recover an accident victim.

alouette III
Adieu, farewell, goodbye

The Civilian Rescue Services at le Versoud have rescued 40,000 people with the Alouette III, amongst them Rene Desmaison in a controversial operation on the Grandes Jorasses in 1971. More recently two Polish skiers on the glacier at les Deux Alpes in a technically difficult night operation. Working in the rescue services is a fantastic job but not without risk. The crew of Dragon 2B were lost in the mountains of Corsica last week airlifting a pregnant woman to hospital.


Posted by davidof on Tuesday, 05 May, 2009 at 10:13 AM

The ‘Landrover’ of the air ... ! Sad to see that it’s leaving the stage, but what a glorious legacy - 40,000 people rescued .. !

Great Pictures .... ! .. and I bet that German Shepherd will be telling it’s pups that it flew on the last flight ...

Posted by  on  Tuesday, 05 May, 2009  at 12:37 PM

Landrover of the air, that is really good. The mechanics tell me that they would spend an hour after each flight checking the aircraft. With the EC145 all the checks are done by a computer.

Posted by davidof on  Thursday, 07 May, 2009  at 01:12 AM
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