A top gangster is on the run after escaping a French prison by helicopter.

Redoine Faïd was flown out of Réau prison in Seine-et-Marne this morning with the help of three heavily-armed accomplices, security sources say.

The 46-year-old robber was taken from the visiting room to the chopper, which had landed in the prison's courtyard, according to the sources.

He then made his escape from the building, with the aircraft later found partially burned in Gonesse, close to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport.

Hours on, Faïd remains on the loose - with a huge manhunt underway.

It is the second time he has escaped from one of the country's prisons - after he blasted through five doors at Sequedin prison in 2013.

The gangster also took four guards hostage during the earlier prison break, before fleeing in a getaway car, which he dumped in nearby Lille.

He was on the run for a month and a half before being caught at a hotel.

At the time of his latest escape, Faïd had reportedly been staying in an isolation ward at Réau prison, situated in north-central France.

Jean-François Forget, secretary general of the UFAP-UNSA penitentiary union, told BFMT TV no special surveillance measures were in place.

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