Albert Villard has been the first Swiss helicopter pilot. He was born on March 22, 1917 in San Juan (California), where his parents probably emigrated. In 1927 he arrived in Switzerland with his family and completed his compulsory education and then started an apprenticeship as a mechanic. During WWII he was recruited in the Swiss army and became a military airplane pilot.
Villard worked as a controller for Saurer and the SLM company, and then went to work for the DMP (Direktion für Militärflugplätze) in Dübendorf as an airplane and engine mechanic.
On February 1, 1947 he started to work as chief technical officer and airplane pilot for Aero Taxi, a small airplane company based in Zürich. He then left this job and went to work in Lucerne for Air Import as a chief-pilot and instructor. This company founded on May 1, 1948 was the first in Switzerland to purchase a helicopter.
During the Summer of 1949 Villard went to France (more precisely in Cormeilles-en-Vexin) where Helicop-Air, the first distributor of the Hiller helicopters in Europe, had just opened its flying school. There along with other four students he was trained by Henri Boris to fly with the Hiller 360. In August he obtained the French helicopter private pilot licence and then returned to Switzerland.
On September 15, 1949 he obtained the Swiss private helicopter pilot licence n° 1 on the airfield of Spreitenbach near Zürich.
At the time Hansueli Weber of the Federal office of civil aviation (FOCA) who was his examiner didn’t even have his own helicopter license!
A couple of days later Villard flew to Ticino and did a series of flight demonstrations at the airport of Ascona and Agno using the Hiller 360 HB-XAI, the first civil helicopter registered in Switzerland. This was the first time people in Canton Ticino had the opportunity to watch a helicopter fly. In November 1949 he did the first roof landing in Switzerland on the Jelmoli store in Zürich. In January 1950 he flew in Italy with the HB-XAI and did a spectacular demonstration in front of the dome of Milan surrounded by a large audience (it is said that there were 100’000 people!).
On February 13, 1950 he became the first helicopter instructor in Switzerland. Among his first students there were Dr. Max Raas, Hansueli Weber and Sepp Bauer, another famous Swiss helicopter pioneer.
Villard continued his flying activity for some years, especially as a flight instructor. He then stopped flying with helicopters. Apparently this decision was conditioned by his wife. She was the manager of the hotel garni Urban in Zürich, and probably wasn’t very happy about her husband who spent more time in the air than in the hotel where his help was constantly needed!