Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Original Dakar Rally rescue pilot Michel Anglade dies in helicopter accident

Michel Anglade, a legendary helicopter pilot from France who oversaw search and rescue operations from the air for the Dakar Rally in its infancy, was killed along with another passenger in a helicopter crash on Wednesday in Bazoches-les-Gallerandes. He was 78 years old.

According to Bazoches-les-Gallerandes mayor Alain Chachignon, Anglade and another man were flying a Dynali H3 Sport ultralight helicopter when it crashed into a field during the evening. A nearby farmer noticed the scene before alerting authorities. The identity of the second passenger has not been publicly revealed, though his son told La République du Centre that he was “passionate about aviation and skydiving” and was a member of the Airborne Center who jumped on the anniversary of the Normandy landings.

Born in 1945, Anglade grew up in a family of wine growers but frequently visited the Carcassone aviation club in his youth, and elected to pursue a career in the field after receiving his pilot’s licence from the club. After serving with the French Army Light Aviation from 1964 to 1979, he founded Hélifrance to provide helicopter support for emergency services and the film industry.

He later befriended Thierry Sabine, working alongside him as his helicopter pilot for the inaugural Enduropale du Touquet in 1975. When Sabine founded the Paris–Dakar Rally in 1979, Anglade was entrusted with search and rescue duties for lost competitors. He suffered serious injuries when his Écureuil crashed while returning from the 1985 race, forcing multiple operations over the next two years; due to his recovery, he did not participate in the 1986 Rally where Sabine was killed in his own helicopter accident. Anglade continued to fly for the Dakar until 1991 when the Amaury Sport Organisation took over as the race’s sanctioning body from the Sabine family.

Flying in a time before GPS service was used, Anglade conducted his Dakar race operations using a compass, though he recalled often being “more lost than the competitors”; at one point, his crew brought a Tuareg onboard to help them find the course. In 1989, he rescued bike riders who had been lost for five days. One of his fondest memories came when six competitors got lost in the Ténéré desert during a sandstorm, during which Anglade had to siphon fuel from wrecked cars while searching for them; over three days, Anglade battled dehydration and exhaustion before receiving help and water from a Tuareg.

In 1986, he founded the Rotor Club de Paris to train private pilots. While the club was shut down in 1991, Anglade later oversaw a flight school that provided mountain training and aerial support for rallies in West Africa. Among his students were actress Mireille Darc, famed baker Lionel Poilâne, and former state minister Nicolas Hulot. He also trained French rallycross pioneer Rémy Julienne, 24 Hours of Le Mans and Formula One legends Jacky Ickx and Henri Pescarolo, and World Rally Champion Ari Vatanen; Ickx and Vatanen are also Dakar Rally champions.

“The French Helicopter Federation, on behalf of the community of organisations and pilots that it represents, would like to pay tribute to Michel Anglade who left us yesterday in a final flight, his lifelong passion,” reads a statement from the Fédération Française d’Hélicoptère (French Helicopter Federation) released Thursday. “A distinguished pilot, one of the last ‘dinosaurs’ of the rotary wing, you will leave a big void. Michel, our friend, we will not forget. Kind regards to all your loved ones.”

Michel Anglade: 29 January 1945 – 20 September 2023