The first Swiss helicopter pilots
In Switzerland the first to obtain a civil helicopter licence was Albert Villard. Formerly an airplane pilot he went to Cormeille-en-Vexin, near Paris, where Helicop-Air had just been founded. Here in August 1949 he attended, along with other four pilots, the first helicopter pilot course organized by the new company founded by the French Henri Boris.
On September 14, 1949 at the airfield of Spreitenbach near Zürich he obtained the Swiss helicopter licence n° 1 at the controls of the Hiller 360 HB-XAI purchased by Air Import, the first Swiss aviation company to use a helicopter for commercial purposes.
The helicopter licence was a simple piece of paper with essential information about the pilot and a stamp of the Federal office of civil aviation (FOCA). At that time the examiner Hansueli Weber was not in possession of a helicopter pilot licence.
On Febraury 13, 1950 Villard obtained the instructor licence and few weeks later he started the flying lessons of the first helicopter pilot course ever organized in Switzerland.
The commercial licences n° 2 and 3 were respectively issued to Hansueli Weber and Josef Ernst Bauer, a great pioneer who later obtained the instructor licence. In the first half of 1950s Bauer greatly contributed to the development of the rotary-wing, at first in Switzerland and much later in Germany. He did spectacular demonstrations using the Hillers 360 in service with Air Import. Noteworthy is the landing he made on on March 1, 1955 on the Jungfraujoch at 3'580 meters, using the Hiller UH-12B HB-XAH equipped with a 149/200 kW/shp Franklin engine.
The fourth to obtain a commercial licence was Raymond Gerber on April 7, 1953. Unfortunately the latter also opens the long list of the pilots who lost their life in helicopter accidents. Gerber was the director of Alpar, a company active in the aviation branch at the airport of Belp/Berne. After a course with Air Import trained by Sepp Bauer, Gerber went at first to England where he was trained to fly with the Westland-Sikorsky S-51, and then to France. Here he was trained at the Fenwick Aviation school to pilot helicopters of the Bell 47 series.
In 1953 he was chosen to become the first pilot of the newly founded helicopter company Schweizerische Helikopter AG. On October 26, a few weeks after the arrival of the first helicopter, Gerber collided with the cables of an electric power line during a passenger flight. The Bell 47G HB-XAG crashed in the Aar river and the three occupants were fatally injured.
The second piloting course organized by Air Import from February 14, to March 6, 1952 was attended by Gerber and Albert Müller, an employee of the FOCA who obtained the licence n° 5.
After the tragic death of Gerber Heliswiss employed Leonard (Leo) Kunz, an airplane pilot who obtained the helicopter licence n° 6 on March 26, 1953. He then worked for Air Import, the French company Helicop-Air and the German Aero-Vox. In the Spring of 1954, with a flight experience of about 300 hours (logged doing aerial advertising campains, passengers and spray flights), he was employed by Heliswiss. Later he became instructor and chief-pilot of Heliswiss until the end of 1963 when he decided to quit his job.
The licence n° 7 was issued to the famous German pilot Carl (or Karl) Bode, an ex test pilot of the Focke company. The latter built the FA 61, which is considered one of the first successful helicopters. Bode flew with this model and his successor, the FA 233 Drache powered with a 745/1'000 kW/shp BMW engine. This twin rotor helicopter was capable to lift five passengers or a suspended cargo of 1'000 kg. At the of the war he suspended his flying activities. In Switzerland he learned to fly with the conventional controls. He temporarily worked as an instructor on behalf of Air Import and much later he went back Germany to continue his activity as a helicopter engineer, test-pilot pilot and consultant.
Oswald Matti obtained the licence n° 8 in 1954. He became instructor and worked for Pilatus Air Service. He was a volunteer of the SARG (Swiss Air Rescue Guard) and for this organisation he did several demonstrations and rescue missions in Switzerland and abroad.
Emil Müller received the commercial licence n° 9 on May 17, 1954 and worked for Air Import and Heliswiss. In 1960 he left his civil career and continued to fly with the Swiss Army as a military flight instructor.
After a period as a mechanic for Swissair Walter Demuth left this company and on March 1, 1950 he joined Air Import. At the beginning he was employed as a mechanic and much later he was trained by Villard and Bode as a helicopter pilot obtaining the licence n° 10. In 1956 when Air Import was absorbed by Heliswiss he became one of its pilots. On January 1, 1964 Demuth became Heliswiss' chief pilot replacing Leonard Kunz who suspended his flying activity and quit the company.
The airplane pilot Max Kramer obtained his commercial licence n° 11 in 1954 with Air Import. Subsequently he was employed by Heliswiss. In 1959 he left this company and continued his aviation career mainly as an airplane pilot for Swissair Photo AG in Zürich. However he continued to fly helicopters for Heliswiss as a reserve pilot.
The commercial pilot licence n° 12 was issued to Francis Liardon on September 27, 1954. The latter was an inspector for FOCA and work colleague of Heinrich Pfändler who obtained the licence n° 13.
The director of the Alpar aviation company Alfred Glauser obtained the helicopter licence n° 14 in 1954. He was trained during the winter season of 1954/55 by Leo Kunz and started with the commercial flights by the beginning of 1955 for Schweizerische Helikopter AG as a reserve pilot.
Several foreigners obtained their helicopter licence in Switzerland. Among them the first was Oeko Schiller who obtained the licence n° 15. The Swiss Alfred (Fred) Forrer, founder of the Forrer-Fenwick AG company (the Bell rapresentative for Switzerland) and shareholder of Heliswiss, was trained by Leo Kunz and obtained the helicopter licence n° 16.