Europe's most successful civil helicopter, the Ecureuil (= Squirrel) is in extensive civil and military use worldwide undertaking a variety of wide ranging missions.
Aerospatiale's development of the AS-350 Ecureuil in the early 1970s culminated in the first flights of the Avco Lycoming LTS-101 powered prototype on June 27 1974 and the Turbomeca Arriel powered prototype on February 14 1975. These aircraft were followed by eight preproduction examples, the first of which flew in late 1977.
Customer deliveries began in April 1978. Initial models offered were the Arriel powered AS-350B, which was marketed outside North America, and the LTS-101 powered AS-350C AStar sold in the USA. The AS-350C was soon replaced by the D, with a more powerful engine.
Subsequent developments include the hot and high AS-350B-1 with a 510kW (684shp) Arriel 1D; the AS-350BA which was certificated in 1991 and was in production through to 1998 and is fitted with the larger main rotors of the AS-350B-2 (AS-350Bs can be retrofitted to BA standard); and the AS-350B-2 (marketed in North America as the SuperStar) with a more powerful Arriel 1D1 turboshaft, and the main and tail rotors developed for the twin engine AS-355F Ecureuil 2 (described separately) and certificated in April 1989. The AS-350B-3 first flew on March 4 1997 and is a hot and high optimised model. Its most important change is a more powerful Arriel 2D engine. Deliveries began in January 1998.
In January 1992, Aerospatiale's helicopter division was integrated into Eurocopter.
Later production military Ecureuils are marketed as the AS-550 Fennec. The Ecureuil is also built under licence in Brazil as the HB-350 Esquilo, and a look-a-like is built in China as the Changhe Z-11.
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