Hans Weichsel, Jr.
United States of America
Hans Weichsel, Jr., who began his career as a demonstration pilot and went on to become one of the helicopter industry's greatest innovators, passed away on March 17, 2007 in San Antonio, Texas. He was 87. After graduating from the University of Michigan with a B.S. in aeronautical engineering, he launched his professional career as a flight research engineer and pilot for Curtiss Wright Research Laboratories in Buffalo, New York. His flight test experience in the transonic Mach regime eventually led him to rotary-wing research. Joining Bell in 1950 as a contract administrator and demonstration pilot, he was soon charged with planning and establishing the Bell product line. In 1970, he was placed in charge of Bell's commercial and international marketing departments and following his promotion to senior vice president in 1977, he assumed responsibility for the product assurance and program management departments. Eventually, he was appointed senior vice president and general manager for customer support and service. His innovations throughout his career were legendary at Bell. In the early 1950s he participated in Model 47 demonstrations to the US military, introducing such concepts as nap-of-the-earth flying and pop-up techniques, cross-litter loading for use in medical evacuation missions during the Korean conflict, and the test firing of a bazooka from a Model 47 helicopter — one of the first anti-tank armed helicopter concepts. When the need for a specialized armed helicopter became apparent to military leaders in Vietnam, Mr. Weichsel built a series of design mockups for a sleek, tandem-seat, gunship using Huey components. On a visit to Vietnam, he discussed the concept with General William C. Westmoreland and within a year the Bell AH-1 Cobra was in combat supporting allied forces. During Weichsel's tenure, the Bell Huey series production exceeded 10,000 aircraft. In recognition of his contributions to helicopter applications in Vietnam, he was awarded a Congressional citation. In subsequent years, he guided the development of the Bell 214B, 222, the 206L LongRanger, the 412 and the 214ST. At the same time, he and his staff set new standards for customer support that have endured to this day. He retired on December 31, 1984 after a 34-year career. Mr. Weichsel was elected an Honorary Fellow of AHS International and served on its Board of Directors and was an Associate Fellow of AIAA.
AHS Update: Vertiflite Summer 2007