Erwin Schafrath was born on the 13th of November 1939 in Vienna. After the Austrian military pilot school he tried to find a new job as a civil helicopter pilot. For this reason he came to Ticino during the Summer of 1969. In September he started his civil career flying for Eliticino replacing Siegfried Stangier. The latter left this company and went to work for Air Zermatt.Shortly after the start of his new activity in Ticino he had a serious accident, which ended only with material damages. On November 18, 1969 while he was working along a power line (sock line pulling) at the controls of the Agusta-Bell 47G3B-1 HB-XBY in the region of Forcarella – Monti di Magadino, due to a sudden burst of wind, the main rotor blades accidentally hit the top of the power line pylon.
Despite the damages to the main rotor bades he was able to land without any other inconvenience.
Until the autumn 1971 Schafrath essentially flew with the Agusta-Bell 47G3B-1. He then flew with new helicopters which had a greater payload and better performances. Eliticino purchased the Hughes 369HS HB-XDM and the SA 315B Lama HB-XDN, which were very much appreciated by the pilot. He worked for this company until March 1976. He then was employed by the newly founded helicopter company Air Grischa. From this moment on he had the opportunity to fly with the SA 341G Gazelle HB-XFW, probably his preferred helicopter.
In that year he was victim of an accident which fortunately ended again only with material damages. While flying in the Calanca valley along with a young co-pilot, his helicopter hit the cables of a cableway. Schafrath was forced to execute an emergency landing. Despite the shock both pilots left the cabin of the SA 315B HB-XFX unhurt.
In May 1981 he returned to work for Eliticino and stayed with this company until February 1991. In the meantime he had in fact decided to start his own business. Along with some friends he purchased the AS 350B2 Ecureuil HB-XYC.
The XME SA helicopter company started its activity on April 1991 but didn’t last long.
On July 29, 1992 while flying in the Verzasca valley, a region that he knew very well, his Ecureuil hit one of the three cables of the electric power line between the village of Corippo and Pontid. Out of control the helicopter crashed. In the accident Schafrath and his young flight assistant Gianni Bacciarini lost their lives.
At the time Schafrath was one of the most experienced helicopter pilot in Switzerland having a total flight experience of 15'465 hours under his belt. He was very popular in Ticino and Mesolcina for his extraordinary ability as a helicopter pilot.
During his flying career he flew with the Bell 47 series, the Hughes 269 and 369, the SA 315B Lama, the Alouette III, the SA 318 Alouette II, the SA 341G Gazelle, the Bell 206 Jet Ranger and the AS 350 Ecureuil.
A memorial intended to honor him and his flight assistant is visible along the road of the Verzasca valley near the point of the fatal accident.