Walter Ulrich Eisenhut, known more simply as Ueli Eisenhut, was born in Zurich on the 10th of March 1941, and after finishing his schooling he began an apprenticeship as a cook. He then later attended the École Hôtelière de Lausanne.
In 1964, after graduating, he decided to leave Switzerland and moved to the United States where he initially worked as a waiter.
At that time one of his work colleague who flipped through aircraft magazines influenced him with the passion for aviation. So he decided to start flying and to become a pilot.
On the 6th of July 1965 at the Ag (Agricultural) Aviation Academy based on the airport of Minden (Nevada), at that time one of the largest civilian flying schools specializing on aerial agricultural applications in the United States, he took his first flying lesson in a Cessna 150 and graduated 3 months later with the FAA Comercial Pilot Licence for fixed wing aircrafts. He then underwent the 30 hours Ag-Training-Course, learning the flying technics for agricultural applications. Thereby he was also type-rated on such typical AG aircrafts such as the Piper PA 25 Pawnee, Piper PA-18 Sprayer, Piper PA-11, Piper J-3 Sprayer and the Boeing PT-17 Stearman.
After finishing the course he began looking for a job. He sent many letters but due to his lack of flying experience only a company based in Puerto Rico confirmed that it was willing to hire him.
He then went to Miami by car and sold it before embarking for the Caribbean island where according to his plans he would have to stay for a long time.
Unfortunately when he reached his destination he learnt from the owner of the company that the airplane he should have used had an accident a few days earlier and therefore he could no longer offer him work.
Embittered about what happened, he went back to the United States willing to obtain the instructor license.
After obtaining a license as a flight instructor he was employed by the Ag Aviation Academy where he had the opportunity to accumulate flying hours and experience.
At that time the school purchased two helicopters, a Hughes 300 and a Bell 47G5, and offered him the chance to get the helicopter pilot license at extremely favorable conditions.
On the 8th of April 1966 he did his first flight on board a Bell 47G5: a new chapter of his life began.
In May at the Agricultural Academy, he completed a special training course as agricultural helicopter pilot during which he logged altogether 25 hours of flight. At the end of this practical course he had a total flight experience of 54 hours under his belt on helicopters.
After obtaining the commercial helicopter pilot license, he set out for the State of Georgia where the owner of a store of electrical equipment had purchased a Hughes 300 that he intended to use for spray flights.
The Swiss pilot was hired and continued his activity for this small company until he had a flight accident caused by the collision with the cables of an electrical line and in which the aircraft was substantially damaged.
After a short period without work, with the help of a friend employed at the Aviation Academy in Minden he found a new temporary job as an agricultural helicopter pilot in Iowa.
At that time he went to Bell Helicopters in Fort Worth, Texas to take delivery of a Bell 47. On that occasion he obtained a list of the Bell's international customers and used it to find a new job.
As a Green Card holder (a special permit authorizing its holder to live and work in the USA on a permanent basis) it was in fact always possible to receive a call from the U.S. Army for Vietnam, something for which he was not really happy. For this reason, he extended his search worldwide.
Armed with a lot of patience he began contacting one by one the various operators until he finally got a favorable response from Autair Helicopters Ltd, a major air transport company founded in the early '50s with headquarters in England, by a group of ex-World War II British pilots.
On behalf of this company in addition to the transportation of passengers, goods and materials he did a large variety of missions, as for example: flights measurement, SAR flights, air support during floods and fires, VIP transport, transport of workers for the oil industry, aerial census of animals, observation flights (i.e. surveillance of wildlife reserves against poaching or to prevent the illegal trade of diamonds).
Over the years he accumulated many valuable experiences. For example in Cape Town (South Africa) he had the opportunity to work (even if this time not as a pilot) on a project of Autair Helicopters that involved the use of Sikorsky S-62 helicopters for the offshore aerial refueling of tankers and vessels. Also the crews were lowered in flight onto the ship's deck while these were cruising.
The Eisenhut Aviation
As time passed, in addition to accumulating flight experience he also gathered considerable knowledge in the technical and commercial field. On behalf of Autair Helicopters Ltd. he also started to market spare parts and aeronautical products.
Witnessing the financial problems of his employer during that period (i.e. 1969) Walter Ueli Eisenhut decided to return to Europe and settled in Mauren (Liechtenstein).
Here he started hid own business and founded Eisenhut Aviation that was in charge of the sale of aircraft equipment.
Over the years the company gained the following official agencies of U.S. suppliers, mainly to Europe, North Africa and the Middle East:
- Aviation Specialties (turbine powered conversion of the S-55 known as the S-55T);
- Hiller Helicopters: manufacturer of the UH-12E series and the five seater FH-1100;
- Chadwick Inc.: manufacturer of special buckets developed by Russell D. Chadwick used for fire fighting operations, the first outboard electronic scales with digital display and auxiliary tanks for the Jet Ranger and Hughes 500 series;
- Heliparts Inc.: manufacturer of spare parts for Bell 47 series;
- Simplex: manufacturer of agricultural kits, heli-pod, heli water buckets, etc.;
- Fortner Accessories: specialist for the complete overhaul of the hydraulic systems and pumps mounted to most helicopters;
Concerning Aviation Specialties based in Mesa (Arizona) it is interesting to remember that this company obtained in January 1971 the FAA certification of the Sikorsky S-55T, a turbine powered version (Garrett AiResearch TSE331 turboshaft) of the famous helicopter originally manufactured by Sikorsky.
In order to commercialize this model worldwide the company created Helitech Corp. That same year Walter Eisenhut met the head of this company at the annual exhibition of the Helicopter Association International and began negotiations to take on the agency and sale of this helicopter in Europe.
So it was that the following year (1972) Eisenhut Aviation imported to Switzerland the first Helitech-Sikorsky S-55T, which received the Swiss registration HB-XDS. The aircraft was assembled at the Pilatus Aircraft plant in Stans and was later used by some European operators including Heliswiss.
That same year, the Federal Office of Civil Aviation issued to Walter Ulrich Eisenhut the Swiss professional pilot license no. 140.
Although the S-55T did not achieve the expected commercial success in Europe, Eisenhut Aviation managed to sell two to Norrlandsflyg AB, a helicopter company based in Sweden.
Sales of the UH-12 Hiller helicopter series
Eisenhut Aviation imported the first Hiller UH-12 in Switzerland during the summer of 1977 (Hiller UH-12E4 HB-XGS) mainly used for demonstration purposes. Then others were imported and sold to operators in Switzerland (Helitrans Pilatus, Heliba, Säntis-Heli), Germany, Spain and Italy with two (I-LLES and I-LLET) fitted with the Simplex-spraygears and used by Rotorservice Ltd. as aerial sprayers.
The model FH-1100 also proposed by Eisenhut Aviation enjoyed less success. The only one imported (registered in Switzerland as HB-XMB) after being used for a few years by the Swiss operator Säntis-Heli was sold to a Canadian operator.
For many years Eisenhut Aviation was the only independent supplier for all of Europe, the Middle East and North Africa of services, spare parts and accessories imported directly from the U.S.A. at competitive conditions. This kind of commercial activity was initially observed with suspicion by the official manufacturer’s representatives of the different countries concerned, then challenged and finally copied.
This led to increasing competition, at first in Sweden and then in Germany.
So it was that in 1985 after selling the FH-1100 HB-XMB and all of his warehouse Walter Eisenhut decided to stop this kind of business.
Already in 1982 he had in fact started to market sport equipments for golfers and two years later he imported directly from Asia. In 1986 he opened the first store in Zurich, probably the first of this kind North of the Alps, an activity that continued until 2005 when he sold the retail chain known under the brand name Mc Golf.
From aircraft pilot to racing driver
As a heli-pilot Ueli Eisenhut has accumulated a total flight experience of 2'241h 26' at the controls of the following models: Bell 47, Hughes 269, Bell 206 Jet Ranger, Helitech-Sikorsky S-55T, Enstrom F-28, Hiller UH-12, FH-1100.
He did his last flight as a pilot at the controls of the FH-1100 HB-XMB on the 2nd of December 1983 at the Pilatus factory in Stans.
Addionally he has accumulated altogether 800h 37’ as a fixed-wing pilot.
After ending his aviation career the adrenaline rush certainly did not stop. From 1986 to 2009 he took part in 119 international car races across Europe, the United States and Mexico.
Today he spends about six months a year traveling abroad while living the rest of his time in Switzerland.