Sud-Est SE.3101, F-WFDQ, Musée de l’Air et de l’Espace, Le Bourget. Certain parts used in its construction came from the German World War II helicopter, the Focke Achgelis 61. By 1946, the group of French and German engineers along with Professor Focke constructed this one-seater experimental helicopter, the SE.3101, that first flew on 15th June 1948 and was piloted by Jean Boulet.
Coincidentally, during the 2007 Paris Air Show, Jean Boulet, former head of the Flight Test Department in the Helicopter Division of Aerospatiale, was presented with the 2007 John J Schneider Historical Achievement Award.
Jean Boulet continues to hold the world record for helicopter altitude established 35 years ago. Jean Boulet and the helicopter met up somewhat by chance, as did most of his colleagues in the immediate post-war era when vertical flight in Europe was still chiefly an experimental affair. Jean Boulet graduated from the French "Ecole polytechnique" and trained as a fighter pilot in the United States.
After serving in the French Air Force, he joined the French national company SNCASE in 1946 as engineer-pilot responsible for helicopter programs, a sector the company was planning to develop. Jean Boulet had never piloted a helicopter before, and after training – once again in the United States – he was issued French Helicopter Pilot License No. 8. He then served as a helicopter test pilot and, in 1953, was appointed Head of Helicopter Flight Testing – a position he was to hold for the next 22 years.
Until 1975, Jean Boulet participated in the development of the Alouette I and many other machines. As the most experienced pilot, Jean Boulet was judged capable of dealing with the unknown and given the honor of breaking numerous records for speed and endurance, and also for altitude, for which he is best known. On 6 June 1955, he reached an altitude of 8209 meters at the controls of the Alouette 2. Almost three years later on 5 June 1958, he smashed this record by achieving 9853 meters. Just eight days later, in yet another record attempt, he broke through the 10,000 meter mark to reach 10,984 meters in 17 minutes and 43 seconds. But this was not the end of the story. On 17 March 1969, the Aerospatiale SA315 Lama made its maiden flight. The Lama was a winning combination of an Alouette II airframe and a Turbomeca Artouste IIIC engine, and was tailor-made for aerial work over mountainous terrain.
On 21 June 1972, Jean Boulet spectacularly demonstrated the performance of the Lama by taking it up to an altitude of 12,440 meters. And thirty-five years later this record still stands! Jean Boulet, who lives out his retirement not far from Marignane, is the author of a book of reference, “History of the Helicopter as Told by its Pioneers – 1907 – 1956", which traces the early development of the helicopter.