Ernest Devaud is born in the village of Sorens (region of the Gruyère/FR) on December 12, 1944. Since childhood he was attracted by the aviation and one of his favourite hero was Hermann Geiger, the famous Swiss SAR airplane pilot. During the compulsory school Ernest wrote letters to Hermann asking technical information and advises. The latter encouraged the little boy and told him that it was necessary to persevere in his projects if he wanted to be a pilot. The little boy followed Geiger's advises and after the compulsory school he started to work for some firms. Contemporary he also worked on the airfield of Ecuvillens doing different jobs, among them the one of watcher.
With the money saved he began the school to be trained as a airplane pilot and much later the sailplane licences. On June 16, 1962 he did his first solo flight piloting a Piper L4.
The following year the Federal office of civil aviation (FOCA) issued him the private licence as airplane pilot. Much later Ernest began with the transport of parachutists and the towing of sailplanes. In 1968 he obtained the necessary licence extension to land on the glaciers.
In 1970 with the help of Gaston Monod, a FOCA's inspector who later become his friend, Ernest had the possibility to start the helicopter pilot school. On January 6, 1970 trained by Franz Gribi (who was also the owner of the helicopter) Ernest did is first helicopter flight lesson in Belp flying the Agusta-Bell 47G2 HB-XCH. He was forced to fly intensively because Gribi, who wanted to sold the helicopter, had already found a buyer. With great dedication only ten days later, on January 16, 1970, he completed the instruction course with 23h58' and 344 landings obtaining the private pilot licence n° 113.
Since that moment on each week-end Ernest went to Belp to the base of the Heliswiss with the hope to fly or simply trying to be helpful.
Slowly he logged the necessary flying experience and on the February 1, 1972 he obtained the commercial pilot licence n° 139 with 115h26' under his belt. On May 12, he did transition on the Bell 47J Ranger.
Contemporary he was employed by the Heliswiss and was dispatched in Greenland together with a group of geologist. There during a four month period he flew with the Ranger transporting personnel and equipment.
Along with Paul Schmid (another Heliswiss pilot unfortunately deceased in a flight accident in 1975) on August 22, Ernest assisted a group of geologist missing after a tempest. For this SAR mission both Swiss received from the Danish government an important recognition. In that same year Ernest did the transition on the Hughes 269 and the Bell 206 Jet Ranger.
In 1973 he was again dispatched in Greenland for another period of four months. When he returned in Switzerland he proposed to Heliswis to open a new helicopter base in Romandy, the same region where he come from. The proposal was accepted and on December 15, 1973 the new base of Epagny-Gruyères was opened. Ernest, who was designated chief-base, started immediately his activity flying mostly the (Agusta-)Bell 206 Jet Ranger. With this helicopter he also did SAR mission for the Swiss Air Rescue Guard.
The young pilot was very happy because finally his secret dream turned into reality. At the beginning he had the difficult task to promote the use of the new mean of transport. Step by step he clearly demonstrated the efficiency of the modern "mule of the air". Using the Jet Ranger he did a lot of material and passengers transportations, as well as supply flights for the mountain huts and the farmers.
The inhabitants of the region appreciated the presence of the helicopter and its services, and contemporary Ernest became popular and well-liked. In winter he did heliskiing in Gstaad, and occasionally he transported them to the hospital!
In July 1975 he was instructed to fly with the Sikorsky S-55T HB-XDS, a helicopter used primarily for the transportation of building materials. On December 1976 he was trained to fly with the SA 315B Lama, one of his preferred helicopters, very much liked especiallly for the transportation in the mountains.
The following year Ernest received the licence as a helicopter instructor and opened a school. For the instruction he used the Agusta-Bell 47G3B-1, probably his preferred helicopter.
Among the mass of routine's mission there are some which remain in the mind of the pilot. One of them was the transportation in 1978 of the very popular rock singer Johnny Hallyday, at that time one of the most known French stars. Hallyday was transported from Epagny to the skating ring of Fribourg where the beginning of his concert was imminent.
Ernest continued his professional activity as a Heliswiss helicopter pilot until 1985 then he left this company and joined Air Glaciers. At the beginning he established his base in Grandvillard, but then moved to Saanen. Before the end of the year the was trained to fly with the Alouette III, a helicopter much appreciated by the Valaisan company.
Fortune and experience
On October 13, 1993 while he was taking off with a SA 315B Lama not far from Château-d'Oex the tail rotor blades hit a cable. Thanks his great experience (in the meantime he had in fact logged almost 11'000 hours of flight) and a bit of fortune he landed the helicopter with no other damages. In the meantime Ernest trained his son David who also obtained the helicopter pilot licence. That is probably one of the greatest aviation's satisfactions of his father.
Ernest continued his activity as a helicopter pilot for Air Glaciers until the end of February 2008 and then left the company.
However he continued to fly in France and went together with the owner of an Ecureuil B3, a helicopter which impress him for its great power and manoeuvrability.
In his long flying career Ernest piloted the following helicopters: Bell 47G/J, Bell 206 Jet Ranger, Hughes 269, SA 315B Lama, Sikorsky S-55T, Alouette II, AS 350 Ecureuil, SE 3160 Alouette III.
Despite the fact that he had logged more then 12'000 hours of flight (about 15'000 if we add the hours on the airplanes and gliders) he did not stopped his flying activity. Flying is his great pleasure, that's why every time he has the opportunity he jumps in the cabin and take off.
HAB (rev. 05/2014)