Aerospatiale SA-315B "Lama"


Three months after its first flight in March 1955 the Alouette II proved the potential of this great design by smashing the helicopter altitude record, taking it to 8209 metres. Orders followed quickly and mass production was initiated at Marseilles/Marignane, with the first deliveries going to the Armee de l'Air in May 1956.

Eclipsing its contemporaries in performance, payload and reliability, the type gained significant civilian and military sales, including to the armed forces of Austria, Belgium Germany and Switzerland. Thanks to its exceptional performance at altitude, the British Army acquired 17 machines for use in Cyprus, Kenya and Uganda.

When production of the Alouette II ended, after more than 1,300 airframes had been completed, Sud (which later became part of Aerospatiale) concentrated on building the Lama. This married the airframe of the Alouette II with the Alouette Ill's engine and rotors. The Lama continues to be produced in India, where the type is ideal for air force operations in the Himalayas.

R.Jackson "Helicopters. Military, Civilian, and Rescue Rotorcraft", 2005

Aerospatiale SA-315B

With the fuselage of the Alouette II and the dynamics of the Alouette III, the SA.315 Lama has built a reputation for hot and high operating in the world's mountainous regions. To fill an Indian requirement for a helicopter capable of operating in the Himalayas, the Lama first flew in March 1969. With the ability to lift underslung loads up to 1135kg the Lama proved ideal for many demanding tasks. The Lama holds the absolute all class-altitude record (12440m) for aerial work and transport around the mountain summits of the Himalayas and Andean Cordillera.

P.Allen "The Helicopter", 1996

Initially evolved to meet an Indian armed forces requirement of 1968 and intended primarily for operations in 'hot-and-high' conditions, the basic design of the Aerospatiale SA 315B Lama combines a reinforced Alouette II airframe with SA 316B Alouette III dynamic components, including its Artouste power-plant and rotor system. The SA 315 prototype was first flown on 17 March 1969, received the French Certificate of Airworthiness on 30 September 1970, and the name Lama was bestowed by its manufacturers in July 1971.

From the outset the SA 315B excelled in load-to-altitude performance. During a series of demonstration flights in the Indian Himalayas during 1969 an SA 315B, carrying a crew of two and 120kg of fuel, landed and took off at the highest altitude ever recorded: 7500m. On 21 June 1972, a Lama with only a pilot aboard established a helicopter absolute height record of 12442m. These achievements, and the high reputation for reliability established by its close relations, Alouette II and III, ensured a good reception on the market. Already in 1971 arrangements were completed for licence production of the SA 315B by HAL at Bangalore in India. The first Indian-assembled Lama flew on 6 October 1972, with deliveries commencing in December 1973. The HAL-produced Lama is renamed Chetak.

Similar to the Alouette series, the SA 315B Lama can be fitted out for various commercial roles, such as a light passenger transport or for agricultural tasks, while the military variants include conversions for liaison, observation, photography, air/sea rescue (hoist capacity 160kg), transport (maximum external load 1135kg), ambulance (two stretchers and one medical attendant), and other tasks. Its altitude performance makes the SA 315B particularly suited for mountainous districts: the production Lama can transport underslung external loads of up to 1000kg at an altitude of 2500m. Another important factor is its universal landing gear consisting of skids with removable wheels for ground handling, provision for floats for normal operations from water and emergency flotation gear, inflatable in the air.

In 1978 agreement was reached between Aerospatiale and Helibras in Brazil for the assembly of SA 315B Lama helicopters, leading to full licence production.

D.Donald "The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft", 1997

The Lama owes its name to the fact that it was designed for operation at high altitude. The project for this variant of the Alouette originated in late 1968 in response to an Indian Air Force requirement for an aircraft capable of operating in the Himalayas, and a similar need on the part of South American air forces operating in the Andes. The first Lama, the exterior of which was almost indistinguishable from its predecessors flew on 17 March 1969 and was certified on 30 September 1970.

Structurally, the Lama is the same as the Alouette II, with high skid landing gear without wheels. The only detail which makes it immediately recognizable is a small housing for electronic equipment at the front of the cockpit. The dynamic components are identical to those of the Alouette III. The Lama can be used as a flying crane and is capable of lifting 1000kg to an altitude of 2500m. During demonstrations, the Lama took off and landed at 7500m above sea level. As the Chetak the SA.315B has been built under license by Hindustan Aeronautics in India.

G.Apostolo "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Helicopters", 1984

Technical data for Aerospatiale SA-315B "Lama"

Crew: 1, passengers: 4, engine: 1 x Turbomeca Artouste IIIB turboshaft, rated at 649kW, main rotor diameter: 11.02m, fuselage length: 10.26m, height: 3.09m, take-off weight: 2300kg, empty weight: 1021kg, cruising speed: 120km/h, service ceiling: 3000m