This single-engine turbine helicopter was designed by French aircraft manufacturer Sud Aviation (hence the “ SA ” in the model number). Sud Aviation was one of several government-owned aircraft manufacturers that emerged from the nationalization of most of the French aerospace industry in the 1930s. Sud Aviation became part of Aerospatiale when that company was formed in the 1970s (this yielded the “ AS ” initials in the model number). In the 1990s, the helicopter division of Aerospatiale was merged with the German MBB helicopter company to form Eurocopter. Today, Eurocopter is a division of EADS, a multinational European aerospace giant.
The AS319B is a seven-seat single-engine turbine helicopter that is characterized by a wide, unobstructed cabin with good visibility. The standard seating configuration has a pilot and two passengers up front and a four-place bench in the back. Alternatively, two litters can be placed transversely across the back, one on top of the other. In addition, the similar SA 316B is an effective external lift aircraft and, when equipped with a rescue hoist, has been a very popular search and rescue aircraft. The AS319 and 316 share the same cabin, although the drivetrain on the 319 uses a Turbomeca Astazou XIV engine and a three-bladed fully-articulated rotor.
The AS316 and 319 models were very popular with the French Navy and other military units worldwide. Construction of the AS316 and 319 continued for many years in France and production also was extended under license to India, Pakistan, Romania and Switzerland. By 1976, over 1,350 of these helicopters had been built and sold to 120 operators in 69 countries. Sud Aviation appointed LTV Aerospace (now Vought Aerospace) in Grand Prairie, Texas, as their North American distributor in 1971. In the late 1970s, Aerospatiale assumed direct responsibility for marketing in North America.