July 2019

Sud-Est SNCASE SE.3120 Alouette ("Lark") 

First flight: July 31, 1951 Pilot: Jean Boulet

The SNCASE SE.3120 Alouette ("Lark") was a three-seat prototype utility helicopter of standard single main/tail rotor design developed in France in the early 1950s. Two prototypes registered F-WGGD and F-WGGE were built and extensively tested with good results but it did not enter production.


The Alouette featured an open-framework fuselage behind a cockpit that was enclosed by a bubble canopy. It was powered by a 149 shp (200 kW) 9-cylinder radial Salmson engine and had a layout very similar to the contemporary Bell 47 with seats for three occupants. Both a skid undercarriage and tricycle gear were tested.

Its 3-bladed articulated main rotor had three degrees of freedom: pitch, in-plane motion and vertical flapping. Pitch was controlled by means of a stabilizing gyroscope.

The first flight took place on July 31, 1951 with Jean Boulet at the controls. In 1953, he flew one of the two prototype Alouettes to a world closed-circuit distance record for a helicopter in this class, covering 1,250 km (675 nm).

Despite this impressive performance, the Alouette 1 “Lark” the market judged that it did not offer anything more in terms of payload and performance than the contemporary Bell 47 and Hiller UH-12. Also the Alouette proved to be difficult to maintain, and with work on the turbine-powered Alouette II (an unrelated design) already underway, development of the Alouette was soon abandoned.

Photos: Airbus Helicopters

Text: Pete Noell

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