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In June 1965 when the company started its activity (at that time the company was not known with this name but with the one of its founder Mr. Claudio Valsesia) the helicopter was not a novelty in the South of the Alps. Since the Spring of 1963 Heliswiss had in fact opened a base, at first at the airport of Locarno, which was later transferred on the now closed aerodrome of Ascona. The increasing request of transports especially by the building firns occupied in the construction of water systems, dams and power lines, ski-lifts, mountain huts, ecc. convinced Mr. Valsesia (at that time engaged with his own company in the extraction and the transport of gravel, sand and others similar products) to buy a helicopter and start a new kind of activity.
The Locarno’s Section of the Swiss Aero Club at the same time was raising founds to invest in the purchase of a light helicopter to be employed in rules of public interest (especially for the mountain agriculture, forestry services, police observation, etc.) and a Pilatus Porter to employ as a fire-fighter (at that time the aeroplane was still considered as the most efficient vehicle to combat the mountain forestry fires).
The unsuccess of the project promoted by the AeCS opened the doors to Valsesia and the concretization of his ideas. However the task was not at all easy: lack of money and the high risky nature of the project obliged Valsesia to be cautious to avoid a premature bankruptcy. After the financial aspects has been solved others problems were waiting for a response as for example: which helicopter could be the most suited to fit the needs of the Ticino's people? Who could fly it or do its maintenance? Where could be based the helicopter? Step by step every problem was solved. Vallugano bank financed the money necessary to buy the helicopter (about Sfr. 270'000.-), an Agusta-Bell 47G3B-1, at that time one of the helicopter with the best ratio price/performances in its category.
Valsesia, with no background in the aviation field, was aided by Olinto Carmine, an ex military and civil aeroplane pilot with years of experience in the aviation field. They found in the 26 years old German Sieg-fried (Sigi) Stangier the answer to their need of a pilot. The latter then contacted the mechanic Arthur Müller also a German. The first was an helicopter instructor with the Heliwest, the second a mechanic of the the Deutscher Helikopter Dienst. Now the helicopter needed a place where it could be placed during the night and the maintenance works. Initially it was placed in an hangar at the Lugano-Agno airport.

The heliport in Bellinzona

In the meantime Valsesia built a new hangar on the ex-military airfield in Bellinzona. The heliport was completed in August 1965, while the the flight activity started officially on the 12th of June 1965. It didn't took long before the people of Ticino remarked the presence of the new "flying windmill".
To gave everybody the opportunity to look from close the helicopter Valsesia organized a public ceremony in October 1965. That day the Agusta-Bell 47G3B-1 HB-XBY was officially baptized "Eli Ticino". In 1966 Valsesia purchased its second helicopter, a Hughes 269B registered HB-XCE.
In February 1967 the company changed its name and became officially "Eliticino – Helicopter transport company". Valsesia desidered to extend his helicopter fleet with a new Hughes 369HS. A contract with Hughes Tools Company was already signed, but all the production at that time was destined to the Americans troops engaged in the Vietnam war. Until September 1969 the aerial activity of the company continued without significant changes. Then Stangier left the company and his place was taken by Erwin Schafrath, an ex-military pilot of the Austrian Army. The same year the base was transferred from Bellinzona to the cantonal airport of Locarno-Magadino. The long waited new turbine helicopter HB-XDM arrived much later, in August 1971, soon followed on October by the SA 315B Lama HB-XDN which remained in service for this company for more than 35 years.
With the crescent need of aerial transports the Eliticino in 1974 purchased its second Lama (HB-XEU). The initials "conflicts" with Heliswiss were solved and both profited of the good relationship.

Austrian pilots

Other pilots were employed during the 1970s. Among them there were Franz Giakomini, Franz Astner, Walter Hügel, Georg Wedtgrube (all Austrians!). The first mechanics of the company were Ciro D’Angelo and much later, Klemenc Horst, Roland Huber, Paul Wüst, Ernst Wirz, Loredano Tumiatti, Jemoli Renato, Azzola Gianbattista, Bruno Huber, and many others.
For its flight school Eliticino used in the beginning helicopters of the Bell 47 series. The second mid of the 1970s was characterized by some tensions connected with the start in 1976 of the flying activity of Air Grischa based in San Vittore/GR. The fleet during the 1980s was usually composed by three Lama (HB-XDN, HB-XGG, HB-XHN) and the Bell 206B Jet Ranger HB-XOU which replaced the HB-XOP, the last Bell 47 in service with Eliticino. Later the company received on loan from Heliswiss its first Ecureuil (HB-XMA), less powerful than the Lama but faster and with a greater payload in the cabin. At that time among the pilots there were Frank Richard, Enzo Carlino, Erwin Schafrath, Urs Aecherli. At the beginning of the 1990s the company built the actual base with new offices and a wide hangar. In February 2006 Eliticino and Tarmac decided to join their resources founding "Eliticino-Tarmac", a unique aerial transport service of passengers and goods. Eliticino continues indipendently its activity and offers others services such as excursions, taxi flights, luxury travels, offshore operations, flight school, maintenance and a helicopter management.
Since 1st of July 2012 Eliticino (along with Air Grischa, Bohag, Heli Gotthard, Heliswiss and Rhein Heli) has joined Swiss Helicopter Ltd., a new company with headquarters in Chur (Switzerland). Swiss Helicopter has now at disposal 40 helicopters and 14 bases decentralized in Switzerland and has become the largest commercial helicopter operator in Switzerland.

HAB 01/2013