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Helicopter on Everest makes History

By Peter Potterfield - June 2nd, 2005

History was made last month on Everest, but it did not involve climbers. For the first time in history, a helicopter landed on the summit of Mount Everest. It was done as a kind of publicity stunt by Europcopter, the maker of the helicopter, but it has huge implications for future ascents of the highest peak.

On May 14th, 2005 at 7:08 a.m. (Nepal time), a serial Ecureuil/AStar AS 350 B3 piloted by the Eurocopter X test pilot Didier Delsalle, landed at 8,850 meters (29,035ft) on the top of the Mount Everest in the Kingdom of Nepal.

Heretofore, the summit of Everest was utterly out of reach for helicopters. In fact, just landing at base camp, 10,000 feet lower, was considered a life endangering feat. Several attempts resulted in crashes. KC Madan, a Nepalese military pilot , became a hero when he landed his machine at Camp II to rescue Beck Weathers and Makalu Gau after the 1996 tragedy. Now, pilot Didier Delsalle has landed on the summit, where he remained for two minutes.

The implications are potentially important to mountaineering on Everest. If a helicopter were able to land on the summit of Everest in 1996, for instance, one has to wonder, would climbers such as Rob Hall or Scott Fischer be alive today? Might this change the nature of Mount Everest's summit forever, bringing it down to the level of Mount Rainier, or even Denali, where a specially modified Lama helicopter routinely plucks endangered climbers from the upper reaches of the mountain?

Even if this daring piece of flying is not repeated soon, it seems inevitable that helicopter flights will be made to the summit of Everest again, eventually, and perhaps become routine. Will modern day climbers on Mount Everest some day expect rescue if they get into trouble?

The remarkable Eurocopter flight breaks the World Record for the highest altitude landing and take-off ever, for any flying machine on Earth, and sets an undeniable milestone in the history of aviation.

The unexpected event was heralded by climbers, stuck lower down on Everest for weeks by persistent high winds, as the "mystery chopper."

Eurocopter has made hay in the wake of the event. Fabrice Bregier, President and CEO of the Europcopter Group, a leading helicopter manufacturer, immediately congratulated the pilot and his team for this extraordinary feat.

According to Eurocopter, here's what happened: After taking off from its base camp Lukla on May 14th, 2005 at 2,866 meters (9,403ft) Didier Delsalle piloted his Ecureuil AS350B3 to the top of Mount Everest.

As required by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI - International Aeronautical Federation), the aircraft remained landed on ground more than 2 minutes on the top of the world before flying back to Lukla.

Stepping out of his helicopter, Didier Delsalle commented: "To reach this mythical summit definitively seemed to be a dream; despite the obvious difficulties of the target to be reached, the aircraft demonstrated its capability to cope with the situation, sublimated by the magic of the place.

Achieved with a production helicopter, this absolute World Record underlines the ability of the Ecureuil/AStar AS350 B3 as a multipurpose helicopter, which after this Eurocopter hopes may well emerge as the best performing helicopter in the world in the most extreme conditions.

To date, 3,670 Ecureuil/A-Star have been sold worldwide, and have logged 15 million flight hours. The aircraft is currently in operation worldwide, mainly used for missions requiring high performances, such as aerial work (cargo sling capacity: 1,400kg) in very high and hot conditions.

Europcopter said that it is thankful to the Nepalese government and all its departments for their help and friendly support throughout this mission.


A Little Misleading

It looks like the landing was done on a fairly clear day. It may very well be helpful in rare cases of sickness on the mount I don't think this will be helpful in instances like the May 10-11th event in 1996 where a blizzard was one of the main causes for so many deaths that day. I doubt this helicopter could withstand that kind of weather. Believing that this will be the next aid in Everest Safety will only give a false sense of security and possibly cause more harm with pilots trying to land to save people and people who shouldn't attempt thinking that this will save them if something goes wrong.

Posted on May 20, 2012 - 2:14pm
by OhNanaVisitor

Helicopter at Mt. Whereat

Truly amazing! Man's reaches are limited only by it's ambition. You haven't seen anything yet, every day is a miracle.

Posted on February 10, 2012 - 3:57pm
by Paul Posada

39 Clues

This was one amazing flight and if you read Book 8: The Emperor's Code in the 39 Clues series you can learn more about this flight (at the end of the book).

Posted on June 3, 2010 - 2:34pm
by 39CluesFan


This is a good thing b-u-t it should not be used everytime a climber gets into trouble. I am speaking of inexperienced climbers who go up expecting to be rescued just because the helicopter is there.

Everyone who climbs Everest MUST BE in great shape and endure much pain on the way up, this is not for cop outs (those who give up easily).

It would have been nice IF Scott Fischer and Rob Hall could have been rescued, they were brave and gave up their own lives saving novice climbers. Very very experienced climbers both, also very very strong and in good shape, but threw it away to save someone who perhaps should not even have been on the mountain.

Posted on May 23, 2010 - 3:03pm
by barbara


As a climber my self looking to go to Everest in 2013 I am gutted that this has happened. The top sould only be achieved by people that climb it. I know this will improve safty but it will only make the Mount more popular which means more deaths and more problems on the mount. Next they will be offering 2 mins at the top of the world for a very large price to all they rich people. I wanted everest to be the only place a machine cant get you, you have to use your legs. Such a shame.

Posted on October 14, 2009 - 10:39am
by Fraser

not a good thing

this is an unbeliveably bad thing to every happen to the most beutiful part of the world as a summit veteran i belive that this could potentailly spoil the who aspect of climbing mount everest and can also lead to many deaths of many inexperianced climbers and mountianeers

Posted on May 1, 2009 - 1:15pm
by Visitor

Everest Unspoiled?

It's been quite a while since Everest could legitimately be described as "Unspoiled". "Zoo" would be closer.

It was sort of "unspoiled" when I was there in 1976 -- compared to peaks in Mexico, for instance.

I wouldn't worry about this encouraging "unprepared" climbers -- no one who is physically unprepared is likely to get very high on Everest. The equipment has greatly improved in the last 34 years, but Everest is no easier or safer to climb, as the accident statistics show.

If Nepal gets one of these helicopters, it will likely save lives of people who get HAPE, which seems to strike experienced and inexperienced climbers alike.

Posted on July 14, 2010 - 1:41pm
by Bob Cormack


This is a great accomplishment. I am surprised there was not more in the press about this. As a climber and paramedic who has worked around choppers, I know medivac accident rates are high below 1000'. I would imagine this rate would be much higher at increased elevations. Plus this looked like a "perfect day" on Everest. I'm not sure if we need to look at this as a rescue possibility just yet.

Posted on March 6, 2009 - 8:03am
by Visitor

transport to the top of the world

seems like something Jules Verne might have thought about. i think propellers are kind of crazy. what about a some strange gondola of sorts. maybe a cable with treads that rests on the slopes and cliffs and propeller together with propulsion like harrier jets. They did build the pyramids in Eygpt. if you came across this could be an observatory, or lay over station its so dangerous coming back down because pushing for the summit is so tough. climbers could rest in a architectural structure that meets all the needs of high altitude. kind of like a lodge. great view. what the hell are you talking about its a blizzard out there i can't see a damn thing i don't know i climbed mt st. Helens that was pretty.

Posted on December 25, 2010 - 11:32pm
by Visitor

amazing altitude!

That should be hard to build and control at such a high altitude.
The pilot would have to be brave and have a strong immune system because of HAPE.
A normal chopper would crash!

Posted on February 13, 2009 - 11:03am
by George Washington


As a climber and physician, I see this as a potentially life saving vehicle; however, we must all share the concern this poses by possibly inviting more inexperienced climbers to the mountain.

Posted on November 23, 2008 - 12:48am
by Visitor

Our need to overcome Nature may turn out to be self-defeating

Has anyone considered opening a pub at the top?

In days gone by I would have written this is a good thing.

At first blush, because of my fascination for exceeding our capabilities, I would be excited about this.

However, it represents another incursion by yet another means into a rapidly depleting number of unblemished natural reserves. In the big picture, this was not a good milestone. Again, although I understand the compulsion of people in one way or another to challenge themselves, it is just not necessary to climb Mt Everest, it is something I innately feel we should learn in one way or another to consider sacred, and instead of overcoming the mountain, learning to overcome our obsessions with overcoming nature... just because we can. Because as the damage we have caused to our planet manifestly shows, in the end nature will not be overcome, it will just starve us of her lifegiving bounty we have abused with an epitaph of "good riddance".

Posted on July 5, 2008 - 8:55pm
by Visitor


While researching info for our blog I came across this article. I was going to write that helicopter rescue above Everest base camp was impossible. I see that I would have been wrong. An amazing record.
Is there a Europcopter available for Everest rescues?

Posted on May 29, 2008 - 5:12pm
by Barbara Mallory


wow... this record is so amazing.. im a mountaineer here in philippines and i only know this record this day only... im so amaze in this record... keep up the good work and more power...

Posted on April 23, 2008 - 1:46pm
by richard centeno


wow... this record is so amazing.. im a mountaineer here in philippines and i only know this record this day only... im so amaze in this record... keep up the good work and more power...

Posted on April 23, 2008 - 1:43pm
by ricard centeno

Persoanl Contact - Philippine Islands

Please contact me via email, I have a couple of questions I would like answers regarding PI. I use to live there many years ago.

Posted on June 23, 2010 - 10:45pm
by Global Expedition

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