Born: France
Primarily active in: France

1920 - 2011

Jean Boulet was a French aviator born on 16 November 1920, in Brunoy, near Paris. Jean Boulet was a graduate of the Ecole Polytechnique. He was initially trained as a fighter pilot in the French Air Force in 1940, and was first hired in 1947 by the SNCASE, which would become Sud Aviation and then later the Division Hélicoptères of the Société Nationale Industrielle Aérospatiale. Having been trained in the USA earlier in his life to become a military pilot with the French Air Force, he was one of the first foreign pilots to fly a helicopter in the United States Air Force.

Over the years he would fast become one of the greatest pioneers in the history of rotorcraft flight testing. Boulet has set several rotorcraft records for distance, altitude, and speed. On 21 June 1972, Boulet set a world record for the highest altitude reached by a helicopter, when he piloted an Aérospatiale SA-315B Lama to an altitude of 40,820 feet (12,442 meters), the record still valid as of 2017. When he reduced power and began to descend, because of the extreme cold, the engine flamed out, and Boulet performed a power-off, full touchdown autorotation emergency landing with absolutely no power. This high-altitude autorotation also set a new world record.

He flew more than 9,000 flight hours during his career. The courageous pilot was well-known for his exemplary flying skills, but he was also widely respected for his modesty and unassuming nature. In 1982, Jean Boulet published his book, “History of the Helicopter As Told by its Pioneers, 1907-1956,” which includes first hand interviews with Hanna Reitsch, Carl Bode, Heinrich Foche, Anton Flettner, Colonel Frank Gregory, Igor Sikorsky, Bartram Kelly, Arthur Young, Frank Piasecki, Stanley Hiller, Rene Mouille, Jean Boulet, Floyd Carlson, Joe Mashman, Kaman test pilot Bill Murray, F. Von Doblhoff, Igor Benson, and many others. Mr. Boulet’s “History of the Helicopter” is now a primary reference for rotorcraft engineers and scientists.

One of the greatest pioneers in the history of rotorcraft flight testing, Jean Boulet died on February 15, 2011, at the age of 90 years.

Source: Vertiflite Spring, 2011