Helicopter lands on the summit of Mount Everest

August 28, 2021 • 2:00 pm

This isn’t exactly news, since the feat, whether you see it as either brave or foolhardy, was accomplished in 2005 by Didier Delsalle, identifed on YouTube as “a fighter pilot and helicopter test pilot.” The video below tells all.

This ain’t no fake, at least if you believe the pilot’s Wikipedia entry:

On May 14, 2005, at 07:08 NPT in the early morning (01:23 UTC), Delsalle set the world record for highest altitude landing of a helicopter when his Eurocopter AS350 Squirrel touched down on the 8,848 m (29,029 ft) summit of Mount Everest. The flight and the summit landing were recorded by multitude of cameras and other equipment to validate the record. After sitting on top of the world for 3 minutes and 50 seconds, Delsalle lifted off and returned to the Tenzing-Hillary Airport at Lukla, Nepal.

This accomplishment had required extensive testing on site, especially because of the low atmospheric pressure available for the helicopter rotors, winds over 299 km/h (186 mph) at these altitudes, and oxygen depletion for both Delsalle and his helicopter’s engine. Delsalle had to find areas of downdrafts and updrafts to complete the flight, stating: “I found an updraft so strong that I could rise up with almost no power.”

Delsalle repeated the Everest summit landing the next day, May 15, 2005, to prove that the previous day had not been simple luck. Conditions the second day were much more difficult, but Delsalle chose not to wait any longer so as not to squander the opportunity for ‘conventional’ climbers waiting to summit Everest during the limited good weather conditions available in May.

Delsalle used a virtually standard version of the Eurocopter AS350 Squirrel B3, only removing unnecessary elements, such as passenger seats, to reduce the standard weight by 120 kg (265 lb) and thus extend the 1-hour fuel range.

What a view he must have had! I’ve flown in or out of the Lukla airport twice, but had to hike to Everest, which took five or six days with acclimation periods. It’s unbelievable that this guy could do it, and nobody’s done it since.

13 thoughts on “Helicopter lands on the summit of Mount Everest

  1. Kind of odd they show the ceiling for that bird to be less than 16,000 feet. I guess that is fully loaded but certainly much less than 29,000 ft. In some ways like trying to fly a helicopter on the moon.

      1. I was referring to the air density. Mars atmosphere is roughly equivalent to 110,000 feet or so on Earth . Everest is 29,000 ft. Sure, the gravity on Mars is 38% of earth’s and that helps of course.

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