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Hughes 269C - History and technical description

In production for more than 50 years with various manufacturers, the American helicopter has a long and brilliant operational career behind it that seems to be timeless. However, there has been no shortage of difficult moments. 

Origins and development

After the commercial success of the Hughes 269A, 269A-1 TH-55 Osage and 269B models, Hughes Tool Company Aircraft Division decided in the late 1960s to develop a new version in order to improve performance and thus meet customer demands. Construction of the prototype began in July 1968. The aircraft made its first flight on 6 March 1969, while FAA certification was obtained on May 15, 1970. The Hughes 269C, which retained the dynamic characteristics, engineering simplicity and structural features of its predecessors, made its first public appearance at the Helicopter Association of America meeting held in January 1970 in Las Vegas.

Thanks to these modifications, and the new Lycoming HIO-360-D1A engine capable of delivering a maximum continuous power of 140/190 kW/hp, the payload was increased by about 40%. Other new features include:

•  larger engine oil cooler
•  new battery housing
•  new landing gear with new oleo-pneumatic shock absorbers
•  strengthened windshield for higher speed
•  new, more comfortable seats

Since its appearance, the helicopter obtained an excellent commercial success. In 1980 Hughes delivered the 1,000th H269C. Following a drop in demand the following year during the summer, production was temporarily suspended to be again resumed in March 1982. 
That same year the U.S. Army approved production of the AH-64 Apache originally developed by what had since become Hughes Helicopters.
In order to concentrate all its forces on this demanding program the American manufacturer decided to forego the manufacture of the Model 269C. Up to that time in its various versions it had produced a total of about 2,600 H269s. 
Between 1964 and 1969 it delivered to the U.S. Army 792 TH-55 Osage. Affectionately known as the “Mattel Messerschmitt” over the years the TH-55 Osage fleet accumulated more than 3.9 million flight hours in training more than 47’000 students. The TH-55s Osage were employed as trainers until 1988.

A decisive encounter

Founded in 1939 by brothers Ernest (Ernie), Paul A. and William (Bill) Schweizer, Schweizer Aircraft Corporation, which beginning in 1980 was run by the second generation of Schweizers, Paul H. Schweizer, his brother Stuart and their cousin Leslie, Ernie's son, was facing difficult times in the summer of 1982.
At the Elmira N.Y. plant, for the first time since the early 1960s, the number of employees had dropped below 200.
Sales of Schweizer Ag-Cat aircraft and gliders had plummeted, and contract manufacturing alone could not cover fixed overhead costs. As the months went by, the situation only seemed to worsen, while the light aircraft industry dominated by the big Cessna and Piper brands was experiencing its worst recession since the end of World War II.
The Schweizer Aircraft Corporation desperately needed to come up with something right away, otherwise its survival would have been in serious jeopardy.
As luck would have it, in September 1982 Lawrence (Larry) C. Mattera, a former US Army helicopter pilot and former president of the Mc Culloch Helicopter Corporation paid them a visit. Larry Mattera, a friend of the Schweizers, told them that Carl Perry, sales manager of Hughes Helicopters had asked him to look for someone who could take over production of the Hughes 269 series. 
Intrigued by the proposal in October 1982 Paul H. Schweizer decided to visit Hughes Helicopters in Culver City to gather more information. In doing so he discovered that the Model 269 generated on average between $12 million and $15 million in revenue per year. What made the numbers working was the fact that parts sales accounted for about 70 percent of the total.
One of the critical issues involved supporting the fleet of TH-55 Osage used at Fort Rucker. Parts sales to the US Army averaged more than 8 million per year! The margins achieved by Hughes Helicopters on parts sales were higher than anything Schweizer Aircraft had ever imagined or perhaps even dreamed of. Thus, the Model 269 could have single-handedly helped lift the company out of the financial abyss it was in.

The Schweizers established among other things that production costs at Elmira were about 40 percent lower than at Hughes Helicopters. An analysis showed that if they built and sold only the spare parts, the purchase would still be a good deal.
During the fall they travelled to Culver City several times to gather more data and discuss ideas on how to structure a purchase offer.
The problems to be faced were several and even complex, starting with the financial situation.
Hughes Helicopters needed someone reliable, however, to make sure that the fleet of military TH-55 Osage aircraft would continue to fly regularly, without unforeseen contingencies due for example to supplies delays or service.
Schweizer Aircraft had an excellent reputation in aviation circles for product integrity and meeting commitments, and this was certainly its trump card. 
Business relations with Bell Helicopters for example had begun as early as 1946. Starting in 1951 they built more than 1,000 cabin structures for the famous Bell 47.
The list of components manufactured thereafter includes, for example, the stabilizer for the Bell 222, UH-1 and 214ST, the gunner's port for the Sikorsky UH-60, or the wingtip (wing-tip) of the Boeing 757.
In the early 1990s, subcontracted work and projects accounted for nearly 30 percent of the company's total revenues. Boeing and Sikorsky were the company’s largest subcontract customers. For the latter at that time it produced components for the Boeing 747-400 and 757 and for the Sikorsky CH-53E and UH-60 helicopters. Major customers included Beech, Bendix, Boeing, Edo, E-Systems, Fairchild, Grumman, Gulfstream, NASA, Sperry, US Air Force, and US Army.
In November 1982 Schweizer Aircraft submitted to Hughes executives its first bid for the total purchase of the Model 269 program, later refined on December 10.
By February 1983 Hughes Helicopters, in addition to Schweizer Aircraft had received purchase proposals from companies in Canada, Belgium, Italy and Portugal.
All were asked to submit their best offer by March 14, 1983.
The critical element of the proposal made by Schweizer Aircraft was how it intended to raise the money it had committed to pay Hughes Helicopters in addition to the money needed to support the start of production. By the end, incredibly, the money needed was somehow found.
A few days later, after the examination of the various offers, Jack G. Real (1915-2005), president of Hughes Helicopters, called to say that his company had selected Schweizer Aircraft to purchase the 269 Series program.
The official announcement of a general agreement was made on July 13, 1983. The news was welcomed with enthusiasm, not only by employees, but by the entire community of the Chemung county.
After several months of intense negotiations on November 7, 1983 Jack G. Real travelled to Elmira for the handover ceremony. With the signing of the contract, Schweizer Aircraft assumed responsibility for all product support, sales, marketing and production of the helicopter.
Between September and October, 33 tractor-trailers arrived in Elmira with the material and inventory to manufacture the helicopter.
This had a significant impact on the company, which had to make every effort to meet the challenge, not least because there was a lack of people in the organisation with adequate experience to handle a programme as complex as the production of a helicopter.
The process to restart the assembly line was laborious and complex. 
The number of employees rose from 167 in April to 250 towards the end of the year. Some of the new hires came from Piper Aircraft, which as mentioned along with other manufacturers was struggling with the recession.
In Elmira, the facility and production equipment were inadequate to manufacture components such as blades and transmissions or other complex sheet metal parts. 
To ease the transition, Hughes Helicopter agreed to provide a thousand hours of support to the design and production teams.
The main and tail rotor blades were manufactured by Hughes Helicopters for three years, so that Schweizer Aircraft could first deal with the simpler aspects of the programme and then tackle on the more difficult ones. 
By the end of 1986, Schweizer Aircraft's new workshop was producing blades of the same quality as those manufactured by Hughes Helicopters. 
New equipment and machinery were purchased and new buildings constructed to allow efficient production of the 300C. The company's floor space was gradually extended to over 18,000 square metres (200,000 sq ft).
Many of those improvements increased the company's production capabilities, and had a positive impact on its other products and ability to perform new subcontract work. 
The contract was structured in such a way as to guarantee operators continued production of the 269 series helicopters and an identical (or even better) level of product support as that provided by Hughes Helicopters.
Schweizer Aircraft made constant efforts to promote sales and improve its Model 300C. It should not be forgotten that the Robinson R-22, a respectable antagonist, made its appearance on the civil market in 1979.
Despite the R-22's attractive price and many qualities, a lot of operators preferred to purchase the 300C rather than the R-22, especially after the latter's image was tarnished in the early 1980s by a series of serious accidents that forced the manufacturer to take various measures. These included safety courses organised for pilots and instructors.
The first 300C produced by Schweizer Aircraft rolled off the assembly line in June 1984 to be delivered to the Baltimore Police Department.

Eleven aircraft were delivered that year, and 26 the following year.
The 300C proved to be a successful product and was perfectly suited to Schweizer's production capacities. By the end of 1989 the number of employees had risen to 589.
Within three years, sales tripled (annual sales averaged $17.2 million), therefore in November 1986 the management took an important decision: only three years after entering into a ten-year licensed production contract, they bought the Model 300C helicopter program from Mc Donnell Douglas Helicopter. With the purchase Schweizer acquired all rights to the helicopter including the type certificate, proprietary data and all specialized equipment that had been sold by Hughes Tool Company to the Mc Donnell Douglas Helicopter Corporation in 1984.
Over the years, the American manufacturer did not just mass-produce the 300C but introduced around 250 modifications, most of which were intended to reduce manufacturing and assembly time while facilitating maintenance. A typical example of these modifications was the reinforced airfoil mounted above the cabin that inexperienced pilots and passengers used (and in some cases damaged) to climb aboard.
The latest improvement, beginning with aircraft delivered in 2003, is a new splined M/R driveshaft and hub, increasing retirement lives of 3,200 and 8,000 hours respectively. The hub and shaft are no longer a matched set and are easier to remove and replace, which translates to further cost saving.
The 1980s were a prosperous decade. Schweizer Aircraft Corporation reached a production rate of five Model 300C a month (1986)
In 1987 the 100th S300C aircraft rolled off the assembly line, while at the end of 1989 the 250th was delivered. The 500th Schweizer 300C was delivered during the 1994 Heli-Expo.
Schweizer Aircraft developed other similar versions such as the 300CB, and the 300Cbi, the first of which was sold in August 2002. 
In addition to these were developed from 1987 the turbine-powered S330 versions (produced in limited numbers) and later the better known S-333, which received FAA certification in September 2000.
The 1,000th aircraft, a 300Cbi, was delivered on October 21, 2005 to BC Helicopters in Abbotsford, Canada. 
In its 21 years of activity Schweizer Aircraft built a total of 1'302 helicopters.

Ups and downs

After two and a half years of development, the new rotor blade production plant was completed in October 1990 in a clean room, i.e. a contamination-controlled environment. The purpose of the clean room is to provide a working environment that limits the presence of particles/particulates within it thanks to a special air filtration system and environmental control.
At that time, the company was faced with one after another series of unforeseen events that had a major impact on the company's stability.
As Paul H. Schweizer, author of the book "Flying with the Schweizers: The Story of Schweizer Aircraft" stated in an interview with Jeff Murray of the Star-Gazette newspaper in September 2019 “our company hit rock bottom in the winter of 1990, after a labour strike that required the intervention of then Governor Mario Cuomo. Four months after the beginning of the strike the union was forced to come to an agreement, but in the meantime the financial stability of the company had been seriously compromised. One or two more months would have been enough and we would have gone bankrupt. The reconstruction process was difficult”.
At that time, the company took part in the USAF competition to supply new training aircraft for the EFS (enhanced flight screener) programme.
Unfortunately, its Schweizer Safari (originally manufactured by SAAB) was rejected from the competition, which was won by the British T-3A Firefly manufactured by the British company Slingsby Aviation Ltd. Upon hearing the news of the ouster in April 1992, the management of Schweizer Aircraft could not hide their great bitterness.
After a failed attempt to enter into business with the Toyota Motor Corporation, the Japanese company Kawada Industries Inc., active among other things in the field of robotics and self-driving transport vehicles, bought a 25% stake in Schweizer Aircraft on 4 September 1992.
After the strike of 1990, the stinging defeat for the supply of the training aircraft in 1992 unfortunately meant that the Schweizer Aircraft Corporation with its Model 330, whose development had cost about 15 million dollars, failed to win the 1993 US Army competition (New Training Helicopter competition) for the supply of a new turbine-powered helicopter to replace the Bell UH-1H used on an interim basis after the retirement of the Hughes TH-55 Osage in 1988.
On that occasion the contract went to Bell Helicopter with its TH-67 Creek, almost identical to the historic Bell 206 Jet Ranger.
“After 2000 it was clear that Stu, Les and I were exhausted. We realised that if we wanted to grow we had to join a bigger aerospace company. We received purchase offers from three companies (Eurocopter, Northrop Grumman Corporation and Sikorsky). Eventually we sold to Sikorsky, then owned by United Technologies. It seemed like the right decision at the time”.
The announcement of the acquisition was made in a press release issued on August 29, 2004. The text was as follows: “Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation of Stratford announced on Thursday an agreement to acquire Schweizer Aircraft Corporation, a family-owned company based in Elmira N.Y. that manufactures gliders, light helicopters, agricultural aircraft, reconnaissance aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Schweizer Aircraft is a great strategic opportunity for Sikorsky, providing proven leadership, a highly skilled and dedicated workforce, and immediate access to the light helicopter and UAV market, Sikorsky President Steve Finger said in a press release. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.
The acquisition, which has been approved by the top management of both companies, is expected to be completed by the end of the year. "We have grown to the point where we can benefit from the increased financial, technical and marketing resources offered by Sikorsky," said company president Paul H. Schweizer. Schweizer's 421 employees and management team are expected to remain in place after the takeover. Schweizer will operate as a wholly independent subsidiary of Sikorsky, a subsidiary of United Technologies Corporation of Hartford, Connecticut”.
At the time, Schweizer Aircraft Corporation was the oldest American aircraft manufacturer still family-owned. 

Up to that time, it had produced 2,160 gliders, 2,650 agricultural aircraft, more than 60 special fixed-wing aircraft (among them the SA 2-37B reconnaissance aircraft and the RU-38B) and unmanned aircraft such as the VTUAV Fire Scout produced under subcontract by Northrop Grumman, and over 900 helicopters.
The original plan was to be quite simple and bring great benefits to the company: Sikorsky would acquire the Schweizer programmes and add them to the other models then in production. 
The purchase of Schweizer Aircraft strengthened the capabilities of Sikorsky, a world leader in the design, manufacture and service of advanced helicopters for commercial, industrial and military use in the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) market, a key component of the Pentagon's System-of-Systems concept, which integrates surveillance, intelligence, battle management and precision attack systems. It also expanded Sikorsky's portfolio to include a new line of helicopters and light fixed-wing reconnaissance aircraft.
The news of the acquisition was greeted with great enthusiasm by the operators, who placed great trust in the historic brand. Some of Schweizer's employees, however, as we shall see, did not take it well at all. The most far-sighted, referred to as Cassandra, the figure from Greek mythology (Cassandra was a Trojan priestess dedicated to the god Apollo and fated by him to utter true prophecies but never to be believed. In modern usage her name is employed as a rhetorical device to indicate a person whose accurate prophecies, generally of impending disaster, are not believed) claimed that the programme was doomed from the beginning to failure.
Much to the chagrin of the Schweizer brothers, and of all the families involved, the takeover brought with it numerous problems and heavy repercussions on an entire community, and even ended up with a legal trail. In the book Paul H. Schweizer does not spare the Sikorsky management from harsh criticism. In it, the deep disappointment and anger of the founders' family shines through. Chapter 21 entitled 'How Sikorsky destroyed the business 2004-2012' is emblematic. Let us go in order to try to understand what happened using archive sources.
With new government contracts in hand for the supply of military equipment, Sikorsky leased a hangar built in 1998 at the west end of the Elmira Corning Regional Airport in Big Flats that housed the National Warplane Museum for a time.
The renovation, which began in November 2006, was financed by Chemung County, which invested around $15 million. A hangar of about 6,500 square metres and offices were created. For this facility, known as Hawk Works Sikorsky Military Completions Centre, Sikorsky signed a 12-year lease with the county.
Officially opened in October 2007, the Hawk Works complex employed about a thousand people at its peak.
Located about 400 metres away from the one occupied for over 60 years by Schweizer Aircraft, on the other side of the 06/24 runway, this plant completed all Black Hawk and Naval Hawk-derived aircraft manufactured at Sikorsky's Connecticut plants for the US government and foreign military customers.

The closure of the plant

February 2009 saw the birth of Sikorsky Global Helicopters, a new company for the manufacturer's commercial helicopters, including the S-76, S-92, H-92 and the Schweizer line of helicopters. "As part of the rebranding" stated Marc Poland, then executive vice-president of the new company "the S300C, S300CBi, S333 and S434 will be marketed as Sikorsky helicopters. The Schweizer name will disappear”.
In reality, operators and everyone in the industry continued to affectionately refer to this historic line of helicopters by their original name.
The recession that started in the following years brought with it heavy consequences and forced the American giant to make a series of layoffs.
On June 3, 2011, Sikorsky announced in a press release from its headquarters in Stratford (Connecticut) that it was cutting a number of jobs. Within a short time, around 400 employees working at the Hawk Works lost their jobs.

On September 25, 2012, what many feared came true. The plant was closed and so the remaining 570 employees were left at home.
"The impending closure" said Sikorsky spokesman Paul Jackson, "is due to federal defence budget cuts and continued economic weakness in many markets. In the face of these difficult economic conditions, we must eliminate excess production capacity and increase operational efficiency to remain competitive".
Separately he disclosed plans to move production "It will be a gradual and careful transition, and it is important to do so in a way that does not interfere with our obligations to customers" Jackson stated. "The transition will involve moving production of Schweizer Aircraft's light utility helicopters from Big Flats N.Y. to Sikorsky's Global Helicopters plant in Coatesville, Pennsylvania".
Completion and finishing work on the Black Hawk and other helicopters was instead transferred to the plant in West Palm Beach, Florida.
The news hit an entire community hard, not least because Schweizer Aircraft offered employment, directly or indirectly, to many residents.
The recession was not, according to many, the only reason that sealed the fate of Schweizer Helicopters. Among them was Paul H. Schweizer. He is convinced that the management of Sikorsky took the legacy built by his family over 60 years and mismanaged it into oblivion.
In the aforementioned interview he stated the following: "We had a very tightly managed company, an extraordinary group of employees who were really committed to the company. Sikorsky brought in its own managers to run the company. From day one, a slow decline began, which became more rapid as time went by. For us, who had invested two lifetimes in the development of the company, to witness blatant mismanagement was really difficult”.
In an account published in the Journal of information technology and economic development at Pennsylvania State University in 2018 entitled 'The acquisition and fall of the Schweizer S300', author Jason Kress exposes the causes of what happened. Here is an excerpt of the main points.

A matter of cost and know-how

The document states that one of the reasons Schweizer Aircraft was successful was due to the competitive price of the S300. One reason was that labour costs in the Elmira N.Y. region were lower. When the programme was transferred to the new plant, labour costs increased because Sikorsky employees had higher salaries (the cost of living in Coatesville was higher than in Elmira).
With the relocation of the production line came a lack of know-how, equipment, and special tools needed to make the equipment.
Many of the designs supplied with the S300 were incomplete or inaccurate. In order to complete even the smallest S300 production tasks, many engineering changes had to be made and this also contributed to unforeseen delays and costs.
The workforce at the Schweizer Aircraft plant (which Sikorsky Aircraft intended to be torn down during the summer of 2009 due to high maintenance costs) had 20 years of experience in building the S300. However, these workers were not asked to join the Sikorsky workforce in Coatesville to contribute to the success of the programme. Knowing this in advance, some of the specialised equipment needed to build the aircraft was even destroyed in retaliation.
The lack of experience of the other employees consequently led them to make production errors and rework parts, all of which naturally led to delivery delays and costs.
At Sikorsky, the remaining employees were unsure of their future, as their own company was up for sale during that delicate phase. On November 6, 2015, Lockheed Martin in fact completed the acquisition of Sikorsky Aircraft for $9 billion, replacing United Technologies as the parent company of the American helicopter manufacturer.
During the production of the S300 at the Coatesville plant, there were two layoffs of a significant part of the workforce. This had an impact on employee morale.
Many of them started looking for a new employment. The S300 programme also lost its supervisor and the two main managers in charge of the programme. 
From Sikorsky's management, the S300 programme was seen as a side project compared to, for example, the production of the S-76 and S-92, which accounted for a large share of the profits. The sale of two Black Hawk helicopters was roughly equivalent to the annual turnover of Schweizer Aircraft, and it was therefore considered a waste of time and energy by the management to deal with such a small business.

Schweizer vs Sikorsky

For the Schweizer family the bitterness was great. As stated in the Westfail Business Journal in the October 22, 2010 edition Paul H. Schweizer, W. Stuart Schweizer, Leslie E. Schweizer and Kawada Industries Inc. filed a lawsuit against Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation, alleging breach of contract and breach of the implied duty of good faith and fair dealing. Specifically, it states 'plaintiffs allege that defendant breached the express and implied terms of the stock purchase agreement entered into by the parties for the sale of plaintiffs' aircraft manufacturing business and that plaintiffs have thereby suffered economic damages'. Together, the Schweizers and Kawada claimed damages of at least 2.8 $ million.
The article reported that United Technologies, Sikorsky's parent company, paid 12 $ million for Schweizer Aircraft Inc., with the promise of another 10-14 $ million once certain program progress targets for the RU-3B fixed-wing surveillance aircraft had been met and two helicopter accident lawsuits had been settled.
The Schweizers for their part claimed, however, that the advancement goals were not achieved because Sikorsky ousted them from the decision-making process and then fired them, in violation of the acquisition agreement, and reassigned their best engineers and mechanics to the experimental X2 compound helicopter programme. They also claimed that Sikorsky settled 8.5 $ million for the causes of two accidents, despite the evidence that absolved Schweizer Aircraft of any responsibility.

New owner change

During the period when production was moved to Coatesville, few aircraft were sold. Later Sikorsky lost interest in the light helicopter line. After years of uncertainty about the fate of the 269 series, the company finally unveiled its plans by announcing that it would abandon the light helicopter segment and concentrate on its two main product lines for the civil market, namely the S-76 and the S-92.
The type certificate was sold on January 24, 2018 to Schweizer Rotorcraft Services Group - RSG based at Meacham International Airport in Fort Worth, Texas, headed by David Horton, a former general manager and president of Schweizer Aircraft between 2008 and 2010 with over 30 years of experience in the helicopter industry.

The press release appeared the following day reporting that the model would be produced under licence by AVIC in China to support the growing demand for trainers. 
The change of ownership also boded well for the increased availability of spare parts for the owners of the approximately 2,900 Schweizer S300 series helicopters around the world. The problem had led to many of their aircraft being 'cannibalised' so that others could continue to fly.

Schweizer is back

Although it bears the same name of the founders, Schweizer RSG is a new company. It is privately owned and operated by individuals and backed by committed investors with a great passion for this line of light helicopters.
In an interview in October 2023 made by Gideon Ewers of Rotor Hub International magazine Horton pointed out that: "When we bought Schweizer from United Technologies, the company had been dormant for a few years. Product support was not optimal, so our first task was to get product support back to where it needed to be, to gain the confidence of the operators that we are here for the long haul, that we have the capability to support their helicopters. We spent millions of dollars to do that and now, after five years, we are where we wanted to be."
Schweizer RSG provides full customer service, technical support and spare parts worldwide. 
On March 6, 2019, it announced an agreement to supply 25 S300CBi to IDAG (International Defense & Aerospace Group). Based in Pennsylvania it is Schweizer's largest operator worldwide "we are very pleased to add these 25 new S300CBi to our current fleet of over 30 S300s" stated Robert Caldwell chairman of the board and co-founder of IDAG at Heli-Expo 2019.
By 2021 the company produces new 300C and 300CBi. The first 300C was delivered in August 2021 to a customer in Senegal. In the same period, the first 300CBi was furnished to Oceania Aviation.
On March 7, 2023, the manufacturer announced that it had received a full production certificate from the FAA for the 300C and 300CBi models.
Previously, Schweizer RSG built its helicopters on the basis of a Production Under Type Certificate Approval, which required significant FAA oversight for each aircraft produced. The issuance of a Production Certificate removes some of the oversight and grants the manufacturer permission to produce the aircraft without restriction “This is exciting news and certainly much anticipated by our customers around the world” commented David Horton. In concrete terms, this means that FAA oversight is no longer required for each stage of production, and allows the company to increase output and reduce production times to meet demand. 
Since resuming operations, the company has delivered several aircraft.
According to manufacturer's website Schweizer RSG is the only helicopter manufacturer that offers an OEM certification programme whereby used helicopters are sold with an OEM warranty.

OEM refurbished or certified or preowned helicopters

Schweizer offers an OEM certified program providing previously owned helicopters for sale with an OEM warranty. There are two packages in this program: OEM refurbished and OEM certified preowned helicopters.
Purchasing an OEM Certified helicopter from Schweizer provides the customer with confidence in the reliability of new-to-you helicopter, all for considerable savings over purchasing new. OEM Refurbished helicopters have undergone a complete factory overhaul and can be completed with a personal choice of options. Replaced items in overhaul include:
•  new canopy
•  new door plexiglass
•  new upholstery
•  new main and tail rotor blades
•  overhauled or new engine
•  new paint
•  and more
OEM refurbished helicopters feature a list price far lower than brand-new helicopters and come with a complete one-year or 1,000-hour warranty covering the entire aircraft.
OEM certified preowned helicopters have undergone an intensive factory inspection and received all necessary maintenance, touchups, and/or component overhauls. They are certified to meet Schweizer’s stringent quality standards from nose to tail.
These helicopters are ready to fly from day of purchase with no less than 700 available hours of flight before the next component overhaul or large scheduled maintenance event.
Optional equipment and avionics can be installed in OEM Certified Preowned aircraft at the customer’s request and each helicopter comes with a one year or 1,000-hour warranty on anything Schweizer repaired or replaced.
The career of this line of helicopters seems to be timeless, like the Arabian phoenix, the mythological bird in the folklore of various peoples considered capable of controlling fire and being reborn from its ashes after death.

Civil employement

The Hughes 269C is (was) mainly used for pilot training, private flights, photographic flights, traffic surveillance, newsreport for newspapers, and in agriculture to spray or dust cultures. 
In the past, various police forces used this aircraft as a 'flying observation post' in support of road police units. For this purpose, a specific variant designated 300CQ Sky Knight was built from 1973 onwards.
This special version, which was also produced by Schweizer Aircraft, had military-style seats, back safety belts, fibreglass ballistic armour under the seats, sirens and loudspeakers, various models of steerable searchlights and infrared sensors.

The list of customers who purchased this version includes for example the police forces of Baltimore, Costa Mesa, Topeka, Houston, Columbus, San Francisco, Warren, Cleveland, Lake County, Kansas City, De Kalb, the Hillsborough county sheriff's office and the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department.
In Australia and some other parts of the World, it is used to round up cattle.

Technical description

The Hughes 269C is a three-seat side-by-side (the pilot sits on the left) standard configuration helicopter equipped with a fully articulated three-bladed main rotor and a two-bladed tail rotor.
The aircraft is powered by a Lycoming HIO-360-D1A four-cylinder air-cooled engine installed horizontally.
Although the engine is capable of delivering 167/225 kW/hp, the maximum take-off power at sea level is deliberately limited (or derated) to 139/190 hp/kW, while maximum continuous power is limited to 119/160 hp/kW. The engine speed in flight must be kept within the 3,000 and 3,200 rpm range. A special plate in the cabin provides the pilot with the manifold pressure limits as a function of altitude.
The engine is connected to the transmission by means of 8 drive belts. This solution offers a number of significant advantages, including a considerable reduction in vibration and simplicity of construction. The motor/rotor coupling is done electrically by means of a switch that operates the belt tensioner.

The basic structure of the helicopter is made of welded steel tubes, while the tail boom is made of an aluminium tube that house the transmission shaft and tail rotor controls supported by two A-pillars.
To compensate for the forward shift in the centre of gravity, the battery has been moved and housed behind the engine, on the left side.
To improve the stability the aircraft has a vertical fixed stabilizing surface and another placed at an angle of about 30° at the tail rotor.
Above the cabin there is a spoiler that improves the aerodynamics of the cabin during the flight.
The fuel tank has a capacity of 30 US gal (103.5 liters) and is mounted behind the cabin on the opposite side of the pilot. The auxiliary tank can also be installed behind the cabin.
The landing gear consists of two skids attached to the main structure by means of four hydro-pneumatic shock absorbers. To move the helicopter on the ground, an operation that is easily performed by two people, small wheels are attached to the skids.
Among the changes made by Schweizer, one of the main ones concerns the instrument panel. There are three basic configurations with various combinations of instruments and avionics.

Weights and dimensions

The empty weight of the aircraft in standard configuration is about 511 kg (1,127 lbs), the maximum take-off weight 930 kg (2,050 lbs). In the early models (n/s 004 to 209) the maximum take-off weight was limited to 862 kg (1,900 lbs).
Deducting the standard pilot weight (77 kg/170 lbs) and with a fuel and oil reserve for one hour of flight (30 kg/66 lbs) the payload is about 312 kg (688 lbs).
The helicopter can be used to transport suspended loads. The structural limit of the barycentric hook is 408/900 kg/lbs. When transporting external loads, the maximum permissible weight in flight is 975/2,150 kg/lbs, and the maximum speed at sea level is 72 mph (115 km/h). The speed must be adapted to the weight and dimensions of the suspended load.

Optional equipment and accessories

Amphibious float landing gear, combination dispersal ag kit, right hand litter and litter float kit, utility baggage rack kit, cargo hook installation kit, siren installation, engine throttle governor, nickel cadmium battery installation, engine overspeed installation, optional instrument panel console installation, optional instrument/avionic, auxiliary fuel tank, cabin heater kit, extended height landing gear, fuel tank 30 USG crash resistant, dual oil cooler, muffler installation, searchlight, baggage tray, skid shoes, first aid kit, fire extinguisher, dual controls, night flying kit, inertia reel shoulder harness, clock, tinted canopy windows, glove box, door lock.


The following table shows the performance of the Hughes 269C under standard atmospheric conditions:

The Hughes 269C in Switzerland

In Switzerland, the first Hughes 269C was registered in the spring of 1972 by Marcel Gay who had the idea of using the aircraft on behalf of the Groupement des viticulteurs de La Côte to carry out aerial vineyard treatments.
On July 10, 1972, while carrying out a spray flight in the Tartegnin/VD region, Gay was surprised by a sudden loss of engine power. After triggering the emergency emptying of the tanks containing the chemical product, he tried to maintain the helicopter in ground effect above the vineyard and find a place to land. However the power available was not enough to sustain the helicopter. Shortly afterwards it became entangled with one of the rods of the agricultural kit in one of the rows and rolled over. The helicopter was damaged beyond repair but fortunately the pilot reported only few abrasions.

The examination of the helicopter by what was then called the Federal Commission of Investigation into Aviation Accidents revealed that the cause of the accident was an engine failure, more precisely the breakage of the intake valve spring seat of cylinder number 3.

In service with Heli-Linth

The first helicopter used by Linth Helikopter AG, established in Mollis/GL on November 1, 1972 and chaired by Hans Coppetti, was the Hughes 269C HB-XDU, which was initially owned by doctor Peter Rutschmann, an active member of Swiss Air Rescue Guard and helicopter pilot as well. 
The HB-XDU was used to transport people and provisions, to supply the alpine pastures in the region or descend the hay and cheese produced during the summer. Occasionally it was used to transport building material for the construction or renovation of cottages and huts.

In addition to the aforementioned Rutschmann and Coppetti, there were also other pilots such as Armin Blumer and Peter Kolesnik, who later became Linth Helikopter deus-ex-machina
These intrepid pilots were true pioneers and even took a few risks during mountain operations, especially at the beginning of their activity, because they had no experience and also because at high altitude the performance of the Hughes 269C were quite limited.
On July 11, 1973, Coppetti had an accident at Alp Aueren/GL. After completing a transport of material he got out of the helicopter, leaving the engine and rotor running to deliver some things to the customer. After moving a few dozen metres away he heard the engine revs increase.
A few moments later the Hughes 269C lifted off the ground about a metre and began to rotate and then rolled over on its side. The pilot then realised that he had messed up: he had descended without first clutching the collective pitch lever!
The first Hughes 269C in early 1974 was briefly joined by a second one registered HB-XEH, purchased by the company for around CHF 180,000.

In the hands of the aforementioned pilots, these aircraft rendered valuable services to the region's mountain community. 
A few years later, however, they were sold and replaced with aircraft more suited for aerial work.

Fuchs Helikopter

Another early operators was Robert Fuchs, founder of Fuchs Helikopter based in Schindellegi/SZ. The first aircraft he purchased (1975/1976) were used as trainers and for light transport in the Central Swiss region.

Once the Hughes/Schweizer brand representation was taken over, however, the activity of buying and selling aircraft, spare parts and accessories proved to be much more profitable.
Numerous helicopters were bought and temporarily registered in the Swiss aircraft register and then resold abroad.
Many of these aircraft were sold in the Monferrato region, one of the most famous Italian wine regions in the world for its red wines and sparkling wines.
Here the H269/300s were used to spray vineyards. In Piedmont they were also widely used to spray rice fields.
"In Fuchs Helikopter, the operators in northern Italy could count on a reliable partner" recalls Dino Baldi, a long-time pilot with a long career as a helicopter operator behind him "Fuchs Helikopter  had an excellent technical service, a well-stocked warehouse, and trained instructors. I did the transition course with Werner Stokmaier, who had logged hundreds of flight hours on this helicopter”.
Fuchs Helikopter was the main user of the 269/300C in Switzerland. For about 40 years it used the American three-seater for pilot training.
Starting at the end of the 1970s with the discontinuation of the Bell 47, the 269/300C became the most widely used training helicopter. 
The advent of the Guimbal Cabri G2, which coincided with the problems that arose after the takeover by Sikorsky, indelibly marked the fate of this helicopter. Today, very few are still on the Swiss aircraft register.
Among the first operators was Säntis-Heli of Sitterdorf which used its aircraft mainly for flight school and aerial photography.
Heliswiss/Swiss Helicopter had several Schweizer 300Cs in service before replacing them with the Guimbal Cabri G2.

Did you know that...

The Schweizer family has Swiss roots? The father of the company founders was a chef who emigrated to the United States in 1906.

In 1969, Nardi Costruzioni aeronautiche Spa of San Benedetto del Tronto acquired limited licensing rights from Hughes Tool Company for the production of the Model 300. These rights, which were also extended to the Model 300C, were then transferred in 1971 to Breda-Nardi Costruzioni aeronautiche Spa, based in Rome and Milan.

The Schweizer 300C underwent a thorough evaluation by the German Army involving some 300 flight hours and hands-on experience by maintenance personnel at Bückeburg. In 1985 Schweizer Aircraft completed a preliminary engineering design and analysis of the Porsche PFM 3200 aircraft engine mated to the 300C helicopter. The analysis showed an excellent match that theoretically improved performance, facilitate maintainability, and lowered cost of operation.
The Porsche PFM 3200 was based on the 911 sport cars.

Recommended reading

Flying with the Schweizers - The story of Schweizer aircraft - Paul H. and William Schweizer (2019) - iUniverse, Bloomington IN 47403 - ISBN 978-1-5320-6991-8

HAB 02/2024