The SA 321 Super Frelon is considered a legendary European heavy helicopter

In the 1960s, Europe established itself as an unparalleled center for helicopter innovation and production with the SA 321 Super Frelon. Developed by French aerospace company Sud Aviation, the Super Frelon stood out as a uniquely powerful heavy lift helicopter that broke records and spearheaded major engineering advancements.

When it first flew in 1962, the Super Frelon boasted the largest cabin space of any helicopter in the world. Its pioneering three-engine design allowed it to lift unprecedented loads up to 8,600 kg, outlifting any contemporary helicopter. This game-changing performance enabled the Super Frelon to conduct missions like placing complete prefabricated buildings into inaccessible construction sites.

The Super Frelon’s ability to carry such massive payloads stemmed from its wide array of engineering firsts. It was the first helicopter to use both composite materials and hydraulically assisted flight controls. The Super Frelon also introduced the revolutionary fenestron tail rotor enclosed within the tail – a design feature that improved safety and handling.

Over the course of 170 models produced, the Super Frelon excelled across both civilian and military applications. Upgraded variants featured reinforced airframes and more powerful engines to lift even greater loads up to 10,000 kg. Super Frelons transported modular oil rig components in the North Sea, helped build hydroelectric infrastructure, and served in naval and search and rescue roles.

With its array of load-lifting records and operational superlatives, the one-of-a-kind Super Frelon stands out as a crowning helicopter achievement that cemented Europe as the epicenter of rotorcraft innovation in the post-war era. Its immense power and capacity spearheaded new possibilities for heavy lift aviation. Even decades after production ended, the Super Frelon remains an unrivaled technological marvel without parallel in helicopter history.

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