|Hughes Model 269/300|
A market survey carried out in 1955 by the Hughes Tool Company, an American company active in many areas of the aeronautical industry, showed that the time was ripe for a low-cost lightweight two-seat helicopter. The Aircraft division began building the Model 269 in September 1955. This helicopter had a fully-glazed cockpit with side-by-side accommodation for two, an open-framework fuselage and a three-blade articulated rotor. The prototype flew in October 1956, but it was not until 1960 that Hughes decided to develop this machine further by producing an improved version, the Model 269A, to which many aerodynamic and structural refinements had been made. The aircraft also proved ideal for police work and other duties. About 20 a month were being produced by mid 1963 and by spring 1964, 314 had been built.
The Hughes 269A was more interesting than the earlier prototype from a structural point of view. It had a redesigned, more compact cockpit and a steel tube fuselage. The landing skids were curved upwards at the front, and two small wheels could be added to facilitate ground handling. There was a small, asymmetrical butterfly tail unit. The project was submitted to the US Army who ordered five, designated YHO-2-HU, for evaluation at Fort Rucker, and a number of recommendations by Army engineers were adopted by Hughes to improve the design and establish production. In summer 1964, the Army chose it as a primary trainer and ordered 20, designated TH-55A Osage. Two subsequent orders brought the total number of the Osage in 1965 to 396. In 1967, another order was received, bringing the total to 792. Deliveries ended in March 1969.
The various two-three seat versions of the 269 (later redesignated Model 300) were very successful abroad, notably the agricultural version, but they were also sold to air forces and operators in Algeria, Brazil, Colombia, Ghana, Haiti, India, Kenya, Nicaragua, Sierra Leone, Spain and Sweden. The final variant, the 300C which had a more powerful engine and a new main rotor, could carry 45 per cent more payload than the first models.
The Hughes 300 has been built under license by Kawasaki in Japan and by Breda-Nardi in Italy. In both countries, the parts were initially imported from the United States with full-scale production following later. In 1983 the US production rights were sold to the Schweizer Aircraft Company in New York.
G.Apostolo "The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Helicopters", 1984
In the mid-fifties, when helicopter technology reached a level sufficient to anticipate that small rotary-wing aircraft would soon enjoy the same degree of acceptance as light fixed-wing aircraft, numerous engineers and inventors, mostly in the United States, began to believe in the feasibility of 'placing a small helicopter in every garage.' Encouraged by this imagined but unsubstantiated market, they designed relatively inexpensive single- and two-seat helicopters to satisfy the hoped-for demand from private owners. For most manufacturers, however, these ill-guided efforts ended in bankruptcy or drained profit from other ventures. The major exception was Hughes which not only succeeded in putting its Model 269 into quantity production but also gained with it a firm foothold in the helicopter market. Even more remarkable is the fact that, more than a third of a century after the first flight of the Hughes 269, a derivative of this outstanding helicopter remains in production as the Schweizer Model 300C and that a turboshaft-powered derivative of this mid-fifties helicopter, the Schweizer Model 330, appears to have a promising future in the 'nineties.
As flight tests on the XH-17 were winding down, Hughes designers became interested in a small, three-bladed, tandem rotor helicopter designed by McCulloch Motor Corporation of Westchester, California. That helicopter, the MC-4 based on a design by 'Gish' Jovanovich, was never put into production but featured rotors of simplified design. Hughes, seeking to offer a low-cost helicopter to civil customers and intending to enter the 'flying Jeep' light observation helicopter competition which the US Army had announced in 1955, bought the rights to the McCulloch/Jovanovich rotor design.
Beginning work in September 1955, a team led by Project Engineer Fred C Strible modified the McCulloch/Jovanovich rotor for use in the single-rotor Model 269. Accommodating two people side-by-side, this lightweight design differed from most helicopters in that its 180hp Lycoming O-360-A flat-four engine was mounted horizontally, thus avoiding the need for modifications to the lubricating system. Power was transmitted from engine to transmission through eight belts eliminating a clutch and damping engine-to-transmission vibrations. Torque compensation was provided by a two-bladed tail rotor mounted on the port side of the truss tail boom assembly.
Completed within a year from the start of the project, the first Model 269 was registered N78P and was first flown by Gale Moore at the Hughes Airport in Culver City on 2 October, 1956. Both it and the second prototype (N79P) handled well and proved easier to fly than helicopters with fully-articulated rotors, thus encouraging Hughes to re-engineer the design for easier production and maintenance and to bring the second prototype to the Model 269A standard. The most obvious change was the substitution of a tubular tail boom for the truss unit of the Model 269, the relocation of the horizontal stabilizer farther aft, and the use of a cleaned-up and strengthened cockpit enclosure. Trials with the modified aircraft began in 1957 while work was already well-underway on five similarly-configured pre-production YHO-2-HUs for the Army. Evaluated in 1957 and 1958 by Army pilots at Fort Rucker, Alabama, and Air Force test flight teams at Edwards AFB, California, the five YHO-2s proved highly satisfactory and in its evaluation report the Army concluded that the small Hughes helicopter required less maintenance than contemporary observation helicopters, such as the Bell HO-13, and had outstanding manoeuvrability, simplicity, and economy of operation. Nevertheless, plans for its procurement or that of one of its competitors (the French-built Sud-Aviation YHO-1 Djinn and the Brantly YHO-3) had to be abandoned for budgetary reasons. Fortunately for Hughes, the Model 269A was given its FAA Type Approval in April 1959 and had a promising future in the commercial market. Full production was begun in July 1960 and the first production Model 269A was delivered in August 1961.
More than 3,000 of these piston-engined light helicopters have been produced, first by Hughes and then by Schweizer, in the following versions.
Model 269: Two two-seat prototypes (N78P and N79P) were built in 1956. The three-bladed main rotor and the two-bladed tail rotor were driven by a 180hp Lycoming O-360-A horizontally-opposed four-cylinder air-cooled engine which was mounted below the side-by-side seats. The first flight was made at Culver City on 2 October 1956.
Model 269A: To serve as prototype for this production version, Hughes modified the second Model 269 by replacing its truss tail boom with a one-piece aluminium tubular boom and introducing several minor modifications to improve handling and ease manufacture and maintenance. After five helicopters were built as YHO-2s for evaluation by the Army, the Model 269A was put into production during the summer of 1960. Customers could request the installation of dual controls and select the low-compression O-360-C2D (for use with 80/87 octane fuel), high-compression HO-360-B1B (for use with 91/96 octane fuel), or fuel-injected HIO-360-B1A versions of the Lycoming flat-four engine, all rated at 180hp for take-off. 95 litres of aviation gasoline were carried in a tank mounted externally aft of the cockpit and, if required, a 72-litre auxiliary tank could be added on the opposite side. Including the prototype and three pre-production aircraft, but excluding five YHO-2s and 792 TH-55As built for the US Army, Hughes produced 307 Model 269As.
YHO-2: Bearing the serials 58-1324 to 58-1328, five YHO-2s were evaluated by the US Army in the airborne command post and observation roles in 1957-58. However, as there were enough Bell HO-13s and Hiller H-23s in its inventory and funds were lacking, the Army was unable to have the HO-2 put into production.
TH-55A: This military version of the Model 269A, which was selected by the US Army in 1964 to become its standard training helicopter, retained the Lycoming HIO-360-B1A installation of the civil version but was fitted with military radio and instrumentation. An initial contract for 20 TH-55As was placed in 1964 and subsequent contracts under the Fiscal Year 1964 to 1967 budgets brought total Osage procurement to 792 (serials 64-18001/64-18020, 64-18025/64-18239, 65-18240/65-18263, 66-18264/66-18355, 67-15371/67-15445, 67-16686/ 67-17002, and 67-18356/67-18404). One TH-55A (67-16924) was experimentally fitted with an Allison 250-C18 turboshaft engine derated to 200shp while another was fitted with a 185hp Wankel RC 2-60 rotating-piston engine.
TH-55J: This designation identified 38 Model 269As which were assembled in Japan by Kawasaki Jukogyo KK for delivery to the Nihon Rikujyo Jieitai (Japanese Ground Self-Defence Force) and given the Japanese military serials 61301 to 61338.
Model 200 (or 269A-1): Offered in both Utility and Deluxe versions — the latter featuring more attractive exterior styling, upgraded interior furnishing, electrical and longitudinal cyclic trim, and other refinements — this version was developed under the 269A-1 designation, certificated in August 1963, and marketed as the Model 200. Forty-one Model 200s were produced for civil operators and foreign military customers. They incorporated various improvements dictated by operational experience but were essentially similar to Model 269As. Model 200s were powered by 180hp Lycoming HIO-360-B1A or HIO-360-B1B engines and had a main fuel tank with a capacity of 95 or 114 litres.
Model 280U: This was a utility version of the Model 300 incorporating an electric clutch and an electric trim system. Normally delivered in a stripped-down single-seat configuration, the Model 280U could be fitted with agricultural spraying equipment.
Model 300 (or 269B): Through a careful re-arrangement of the cabin, relocation of instruments and controls, and substitution of a contoured bench for the individual seats of earlier versions, Hughes was able to develop a three-seat variant without changing the exterior dimensions of its light helicopter. Initially designated Model 269B, the three-seater received its FAA Type Approval in December 1963 and was produced at the rate of one helicopter every working day beginning in 1964. Power was supplied by the 190hp Lycoming HIO-360-A1A engine. The Model 300 was the first version which could be fitted with floats made of polyurethane coated nylon fabric in place of the standard skids on oleo-pneumatic shock-absorbers. A total of 463 Model 300s, 28OUs, and 300 AGs was built by Hughes.
Model 300AG: This variant of the Model 300 was tailored for agricultural spraying with two 114-litre chemical tanks one on each side of the fuselage above the skids, and a 10.67m spray boom.
Model 300B: To reduce exterior noise level to that of a light aeroplane, Hughes developed a quiet tail rotor. This QTR was installed during production beginning with helicopters delivered in June 1967 and was offered as a retrofit kit for early production Model 269s and 300s. The Model 300B designation was given in some company documents to QTR-equipped three-seat helicopters.
Model 300C (or 269C): Powered by a 190hp Lycoming HIO-360-D1A engine driving a three-bladed rotor of increased diameter (8.18m versus 7.71m), the Model 269C was first flown on 6 March, 1969, received its FAA Type Approval on May 1970, and was put into production at Culver City. Production of the Model 300C was temporarily suspended during the summer of 1981 due to a decrease in demand but resumed in March 1982. However, after the manufacture of three prototypes and 1,162 production Model 300Cs and 300CQs, Hughes transferred the production of its light helicopter to Schweizer Aircraft of Elmira, New York, in November 1983. The first Schweizer-built Model 300Cs came off the new assembly line in June 1984 and Schweizer continued manufacturing Model 300Cs under licence even though McDonnell Douglas had acquired Hughes Helicopters in January 1984. Finally, in November 1986 Schweizer purchased all rights to the 269 and 300 series from MDHC. By the autumn of 1989, Schweizer had produced 250 Model 300Cs and TH-300Cs (the latter being a training version for foreign military customers) and demand for both models appeared to be stronger than at any time since the early 'seventies.
In 1969, Nardi Costruzioni Aeronautiche Spa in San Benedetto del Trento, Italy, had acquired limited licence rights from Hughes Helicopters to manufacture the Model 300 and subsequently these rights, extended to include the Model 300C, were transferred to BredaNardi. During the 'seventies and 'eighties, the Italian firm went on to build Model 300s and 300Cs for civil customers and for the Greek Army.
Model 300 Sky Knight: This version, which was developed and built by Hughes as the 300QC and is still built by Schweizer, was specially intended for urban police patrol activities. It differed from the Model 300C only in being fitted with sound deadening materials and a muffler to reduce emission of audible sound by 75%.
Model 330: First flown on 14 June, 1988, the Schweizer 330 is a development of the 300C with the piston engine replaced by an Allison 250-C20W turboshaft derated to 200shp. The cabin length and width have been increased respectively by 0.61m and 0.43m to provide accommodation for a pilot and three passengers (two sitting on a bench slightly aft and between the two front seats) in the utility configuration or for an instructor and one or two students (with flight controls at all three positions) in the training configuration. Moreover, the cockpit enclosure has been streamlined, modern instrumentation has been provided, the aft fuselage has been faired, and a stabilizer with end plates added ahead of the tail rotor. Schweizer has actively marketed the Model 330 to commercial customers, law enforcement agencies, and foreign civil and military operators, and in early 1990 was proposing it to the US Army for use at Fort Rucker as part of the Initial Entry Rotary Wing Integrated Training System. Thus, this turboshaft-powered version may well become the successor of its piston-engined TH-55 forebear. Moreover, in June 1989, Schweizer became a minority partner (35%) in Jordan Aerospace, a company which may undertake assembly and manufacture of Model 330s in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan.
When making its debut in the civil market with the Model 269A, Hughes lacked the necessary business infrastructure to compete effectively and had to organize a distributor network and develop a financing package to win customers for its light helicopter. Working aggressively to achieve this goal, the manufacturer assembled a network of over 100 dealers, which spanned six continents and offered the two-seat helicopter to retail customers on time purchase or lease basis, and saw its efforts rewarded when it captured a 39% share of the US commercial rotary-wing aircraft market less than two years after delivering the first 269A production model in August 1961. Encouraged by these results and the continued demand for its two-seater which was then selling for less than $23,000 — about half the cost of most other rotary-wing aircraft, Hughes optimistically predicted that it would soon sell 500 light helicopters annually. The market, however, was not that large. Although doing better than its competitors, in 22 years Hughes delivered only 2,900 light helicopters, including more than 800 to military customers, before transferring production to Schweizer in July 1983.
Hughes 269As, 200s, and 300s were used, and continue to be used by civil customers for a variety of purposes. Customers notably included magazine and newspaper publishers, radio and television stations, utility and oil companies, engineering and construction firms, farmers and ranchers, and helicopter charter and taxi operators. For the agricultural role, in which Model 269As were first used by fruit and produce farmers in the San Joaquin Valley in California and by cotton growers in North Carolina, Hughes went on to develop the specialized Models 280U, and 300 AG.
In worldwide service, Hughes piston-engined helicopters gained a strong reputation for sturdiness and achieved an excellent safety record in spite of their lightweight construction. Their reliability was further demonstrated in June 1964 when Hughes used an unmodified Model 300 to set a world endurance class record of 101.1 hours. With two pilots relaying each other at the controls, refuelling was accomplished while hovering close to the ground — two dozen eggs being lashed to the underside of the skids to detect any unauthorized landings. None of the eggs were broken and the Model 300 remained airborne for the equivalent of over 10,135km.
With the Model 300, Hughes became the first manufacturer to focus on the application of helicopters to law enforcement patrol work. Project Sky Knight, which was initiated in December 1966 in co-operation with the City of Lakewood and the Los Angeles Sheriffs Department, saw Model 300s fitted with a searchlight and police radio provide round-the-clock support for routine patrol duty during which they brought a 10% reduction in crime rates. As a result of this experiment, Model 300s and 300Cs subsequently sold to law enforcement agencies were provided with upgraded performance, crew protection, and communications capabilities. Furthermore, the Model 300CQ was specially developed to reduce community noise disturbance and to enable the scene of a crime to be approached unnoticed. During the last two decades, Model 300s, 300Cs, and 300CQs have been used extensively in the law enforcement role and those still in service at the beginning of the 'nineties are likely to be supplemented or replaced by Schweizer-developed Model 330s which, being powered by a turboshaft engine, will use cheaper and more readily available jet fuel.
In July 1964, the 269A was selected by the US Army as its new rotary-wing training aircraft. Designated TH-55A and officially named Osage, after the Indian tribe of the Missouri and Arkansas valley, the new trainer gained the unflattering nickname of 'sausage' soon after entering service at Fort Wolters, Texas, but was well liked by instructors and trainees. For the Army, it proved to be an effective choice because of its low initial cost and low cost of operation, and on account of the effective factory-direct logistic support programme provided by Hughes. Notably, the merits of this logistic support programme were brought out when the Army did not lose a single training day even after 47% of the TH-55A fleet was damaged by a tornado. Remaining based at Fort Wolters during the duration of the Southeast Asia War, TH-55As were used to train the thousands of helicopter pilots then needed by the Army not only for assignment to units flying combat and support operations in Vietnam but also to units in the United States, Panama, and the German Federal Republic. After the war ended, the Army transferred its primary rotary-wing training activities from Fort Wolters to Fort Rucker and the TH-55As made the move to Alabama in 1973. The Osages were finally phased out at Fort Rucker in 1987 and, pending selection of its Initial Entry Rotary Wing Integrated Training System for which the Schweizer 330 is a candidate, the Army has been forced to operate Bell UH-1s in the primary training role.
Abroad, Hughes piston-engined helicopters have been operated and, in numerous instances, continue to be operated by the air arms of the following nations: Algeria (269As with Al Quwwat al Jawwiya al Jaza'eriya); Brazil (269As and 269A-ls with the 1° Esquadrao de Helicopteros de Instrucao, Forca Aeronaval da Marinha do Brasil, at Sao Pedro da Aldeia); Colombia (ex-USA TH-55As and 300Cs with the Escuela de Helicopteros, Fuerza Aerea Colombiana, at BAM Luis F Pinto); Costa Rica (269Cs with the Section Aerea, Ministerio de la Seguridad Publica); El Salvador (Schweizer-built 300Cs with the Fuerza Aerea Salvadorena); Greece (BredaNardi-built 300Cs with the Helliniki Aeroporia Stratou); Haiti (300Cs with the Corps d'Aviation d'Haiti); India (269Cs with INAS 562, Indian Naval Aviation, at Cochin); Indonesia (Schweizer-built 300Cs with the Tentara Nasional Indonesia-Angkatan Darat); Iraq (300Cs sold for civil duties but believed taken over by Al Quwwat al Jawwiya al ‘Iraqiya for use in the military training role); Japan (Kawasaki-assembled TH-55Js with the Koki Gakko, Nihon Rikujyo Jieitai/Japanese Ground Self-Defence Force, at Akeno, Kasumigaura, and Iwanuma); Nigeria (unconfirmed transfer of ex-USA TH-55As); North Korea (300C acquired covertly through a West German dealer); Sierra Leone (ex-Swedish 300Cs with the Air Wing of the Republic of Sierra Leone Military Forces); Spain (269A-ls, designated HE.20s in Spanish service, with Escuadron 782, Ejercito del Aire Espanol, at Granada-Armilla); Sweden (269As and 300Cs, respectively designated Hkp 5As and Hkp 5Bs in Swedish service, with the Armeflygkar); Thailand (ex-USA TH-55As and Schweizer-built TH-300Cs); and Turkey (Schweizer-built TH-300Cs with the Tiirk Kara Kuvvetleri at Güverncinlik).
Rene J. Francillon "McDonnell Douglas Aircraft since 1920: Volume II", 1997
Design and development of the Hughes Model 269 two-seat helicopter began in September 1955, and the first of two prototypes was flown during October 1956. A simple fuselage structure carried on two skids accommodated the crew, housed the power-plant, mounted the rotor pylon and three-bladed main rotor, plus a light alloy tubular tailboom to carry the two-bladed tail rotor. Five Model 269A pre-production helicopters were acquired by the US Army for evaluation in command and observation roles under the designation YHO-2HU. Production of the Model 269A for civil use began in October 1961, and subsequent developments of the type are listed below.
Sole manufacturing rights to the Series 300 were acquired from Hughes by the Schweizer Aircraft Corporation of Elmira, New York, in July 1983 and the whole Model 300C programme bought from McDonnell Douglas Helicopters in November 1986. Schweizer flew first Series 300C in June 1984 and by the end of 1991 the company was to have delivered around 450 new machines in addition to 2,800 built by Hughes. Current production models are the TH-300C military trainer and 300C Sky Knight police helicopter.
Hughes Model 200 Utility: a refined version of the original 269A with a 134kW Avco Lycoming HIO-360-B1A engine; derived from this design under the Hughes engineering designation Model 269A-1 was the US Army's TH-55A Osage light helicopter primary trainer, of which 792 were built; this last version was also built by Kawasaki in Japan as the TH-55J for the JGSDF
Hughes Model 200 Deluxe: generally similar to the Model 200 Utility, but with engineering refinements and high quality interior furnishing
Hughes Model 300: three-seat version derived from the Model 269B engineering design; a quiet tail rotor was introduced in 1967 and was available retrospectively for earlier versions
Hughes Model 300C: developed version of Model, 300 with Avco Lycoming HIO-360-D1A engine; also built under licence in Italy by Breda Nardi as the NH-300C
Hughes Model 300CQ: a version of the Model 300C incorporating noise-reducing modifications; it is some 75% quieter than earlier versions, which can be modified to CQ standard Sky Knight: police patrol version of the Model 300C with special equipment
D.Donald "The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft", 1997
- Schweizer Aircraft bought the entire Model 300 programme in 1986; its 500th 300C was delivered in 1994.
- In 1996 a Model 300C training helicopter was priced at $187,500.
- Iraq acquired 30 Model 300Cs for cropdusting, but used them for pilot training.
- In 1996 12 nations operated military Model 269s, including Indonesia, North Korea, Pakistan, Paraguay and Honduras.
- Kawasaki assembled 38 TH-55As as TH-55JS for the JGSDF.
- Schweizer builds a turbine development of the Model 300 - the Model 330.