So this is the incredible photo of a man accidentally setting a world record.

In 1972 a French pilot named Jean Boulet set out to break the world record for the highest altitude ever reached in a helicopter. It was an extremely dangerous stunt that easily could have cost (him) his life. But since Jean was a very talented pilot and he felt that he could do it.

Despite the rapidly thinning air, Jean just kept pushing forward. It wasn't until he had reached an insane height of 40,820 ft and his helicopter just physically couldn't go any higher that Jean finally began to descend back towards the ground.

But although he had managed to break the world record, he wasn't safe just yet. As Jean was descending, his helicopter's engine suddenly died. Since he had removed his battery and starter to make the aircraft lighter, he had no choice but to try an emergency maneuver called auto rotation to collide himself towards the ground. Autorotation by itself is already extremely difficult, but for Jean it was nearly impossible since he couldn't see anything due to the clouds, and he also didn't have any altitude instruments onboard.

Despite everything however, incredibly he actually managed to make a safe landing accidentally setting a second record for the highest unpowered helicopter landing. And to this very day both of Jean's records remain unbroken.

This is the extracted transcript from Andy Jiang's YouTube video He Accidentally Set This World Record but seems to check out with Wikipedia's Jean Boulet; Aviation records

Question: Have there been attempts to break Jean Boulet's 1972 helicopter records? (highest altitude and longest unpowered descent)

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    $\begingroup$ Appropriate username for the question. I reckon that's exactly what he said when the engine died. $\endgroup$
    – Jamiec
    Commented Feb 9 at 17:13

1 Answer 1


Although there are not many publicized records of people attempting to beat this record, a man by the name of Fred North supposedly took a AS 350 B2 "Squirrel" 12954 meters high. This would technically would mean he beat Jean Boulet's record. However, Since the FAI (Federation Aeronatique Internationale) does not recognize this record it is likely that Fred North either broke a rule or lied or did something else that made them not recognize the record. I would reference the FAI page but it wouldn't load for whatever reason.

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    $\begingroup$ Thank you for pointing that out I will make sure to cite websites moving on $\endgroup$ Commented Feb 12 at 2:38
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    $\begingroup$ On PPRUNE it is mentioned: "... he fails to tell us how, with all his elaborate planning, he could forget to inform the FAI of his attempt, and how he could forget to bring along a sealed barograph. He also forgot to tell us how he knows he was at that high altitude. He told us in breathless prose everything else that he did that day, so I am left with the unfortunate belief that this was a publicity stunt, and not a legitimate altitude record. If he is available, perhaps he could help us understand the omissions." $\endgroup$
    – ROIMaison
    Commented Feb 12 at 14:27

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