The AS 350 was intended as a successor to the Alouette II and Lama light general purpose helicopters. The first prototype (F-WVKH) flew on June 27, 1974, powered by a Avco Lycoming LTS 101 turboshaft, the second (F-WVKI) on February 15, 1975, powered by an Turboméca Arriel. Type certificate was obtained late 1977, by which time already over 300 orders were booked, 5 out of 6 orders coming from North America.
Of the initial production versions the Avco Lycoming powered AS 350D AStar was for the North American markets, the Turboméca powered AS 350B serving the other markets. The AStar version was assembled and finished in the US by Aérospatiale Helicopters Division at Grand Prairie, Texas. From the early nineties the military versions carried the designation AS 550 Fennec (Desert Fox). The AS 350 was build under licence by Helibras of Brazil as the HB 350.
Standard seating is for 6 persons in a comfortable wide-body looking cabin, the airframe incorporating many parts made of new materials like polycarbonates, glass fibers, etc. The "Starflex" rotor head, made of composite material, reduces maintenance considerably, the use of components out of the motor-industry reduces costs.
A twin-engined version, the AS 355 Ecureuil 2, is used for close-offshore or inter-rig liaisons and for work over towns by public bodies, like police, etc. Again there is a North American version, the Twin Star. The military version also received the name Fennec from the same moment on as it single-engined counterpart, with the designation AS 555. Under the designation HB 355 F2 Esquilo (Squirrel) it was assembled in Brazil.
The success of this helicopter may be clear by the fact that after 25 years it is still in production, although under the name of Eurocopter.