Aerospatiale Westland SA 340 Gazelle
The Gazelle is a light utility helicopter designed in the second half of the 1960s. The work of an Anglo-French partnership, production began early in the 1970s.
Produced as both the SA341 and SA342 variants, most of these aircraft were used by the armed forces of more than twenty-five different countries.
The development of this helicopter, designed to replace the Alouette II, started in the early 1960s. The specifications were soon of interest to the United Kingdom. On the 22nd of February 1967, an Anglo-French agreement was signed, with governmental cooperation. Sud-Aviation, a company responsible for the development of all helicopter programmes, was to entrust part of the production to the British industry.
A slim fuselage combined with a rigid rotor developed in cooperation with Bölkow (Germany), a more powerful engine, the use of composite materials in the airframe structure, the use of a new type of tail rotor called the fenestron: the Gazelle incorporated many innovations. The new concept of the fenestron allows noise and drag to be reduced, and requires less power during cruise flight.
The prototype SA 340 made its maiden flight on the 7th of April 1967 with the engine and rotor of the Alouette II.
All variants included, more than 1,500 Gazelle were produced in France, in Britain but also in Egypt and ex-Yugoslavia under licence.
The airframe on display in the museum is the second Gazelle SA 340 prototype. This helicopter was delivered from the Toulouse Aviation Testing Centre in 1998 where it was used for various ground tests. Unlike later versions, it is equipped with a T-shaped stabilizer, placed above the fenestron.