The company began in 1947 as a unit of Hughes Aircraft, then was part of the Hughes Tool Company after 1955. It became the Hughes Helicopter Division, Summa Corporation in 1972, and was reformed as Hughes Helicopters, Inc. in 1981. However, throughout its history, the company was informally known as “Hughes Helicopters”. It was sold to McDonnell-Douglas in 1984, where it soon adopted its new parent company’s name. (See MD Helicopters for history of the company after this acquisition.)
The helicopters (civil)
The Hughes TH-55 Osage was a piston-powered light training helicopter produced for the United States Army. It was also produced as the Model 269 family of light utility helicopters, some of which were maketed as the Model 300. The Model 300C was produced and further developed by Schweizer after 1983.
The Schweizer 300 (formerly Hughes 300) family of light utility helicopters was originally produced by Hughes Helicopters, as a development of the Hughes 269. Now manufactured by Schweizer Aircraft, a recent subsidiary of Sikorsky Aircraft, the basic design has been in production for almost 50 years. The single, three-bladed main rotor and piston-powered Schweizer 300 is mostly used as a cost-effective platform for training and agriculture.
The MD Helicopters MD 500 series is an American family of light utility civilian and military helicopters. The MD 500 originated as the Hughes 500, a civilian version of the US Army’s OH-6A Cayuse/Loach. The series currently includes the MD 500E, MD 520N, and MD 530F.
Commercial version of the Model 369/OH-6A powered by an Allison 250C-18B rated at 317 shp (236 kW).
Improved commercial version powered by an Allison 250C-C20 rated at 400 shp (298 kW).
New commercial version from 1976 powered by an Alison 250-C20B rated at 420 shp (313 kW).
Executive version of the 500D with recontoured nose
NOTAR version of the 500E
Hot and high version of the 500E powered by an Allison 250-C30B rated at 650 shp (485 kW)
The helicopters (military)
The Hughes TH-55 Osage was a piston-powered light training helicopter produced for the United States Army. It was also produced as the Model 269 family of light utility helicopters, some of which were maketed as the Model 300.
The Hughes Helicopters OH-6 Cayuse (nicknamed Loach) is a single-engine light helicopter with a four-bladed main rotor used for personnel transport, escort and attack missions, and observation.
The AH-64 Apache is the United States Army’s principal attack helicopter, and is the successor to the AH-1 Cobra. The AH-64 is powered by two General Electric T700 turboshaft engines. The crew sits in tandem, with the pilot sitting behind and above the copilot-gunner in an armored crew compartment. The AH-64 is armed with a 30mm M230 chain gun and carries a mixture of AGM-114 Hellfire and Hydra 70 rockets on four hard points mounted on its stub-wing pylons.
Designed by Hughes Helicopters in response to the Army’s Advanced Attack Helicopter Program, it was built to endure front-line environments and to operate during the day or night and in adverse weather using avionics and electronics, such as the Target Acquisition and Designation System, Pilot Night Vision System (TADS/PNVS), passive infrared countermeasures, Global Positioning System (GPS), and the Integrated Helmet And Display Sight System (IHADSS). McDonnell Douglas purchased Hughes Helicopters and continued the development of the AH-64 resulting in the AH-64D Apache Longbow which is currently produced by Boeing Integrated Defense Systems.
The helicopters (experimental)
XH-17 “Sky Crane”
The XH-17 “Flying Crane” was the first helicopter project for the helicopter division of Hughes Aircraft. The XH-17, which had a two-bladed main rotor system with a diameter of 134 feet, was capable of flying at a gross weight of more than 50,000 pounds. The XH-17 was a heavy-lift rotorcraft that was designed to lift loads in excess of 15 metric tons. To speed construction, parts of the XH-17 were scavenged from other aircraft. The front wheels came from a B-25 Mitchell and the rear wheels from a C-54 Skymaster. The fuel tank was a bomb bay-mounted unit from a B-29 Superfortress. The cockpit was from a Waco CG-15 and the tail rotor from a Sikorsky H-19 was mounted on a tubular fuselage extension.
In the late 1940s, Hughes developed an interest in helicopters. In August 1947, helicopter manufacturer Kellett sold his design for the giant XH-17 Sky Crane to Hughes. Howard Hughes Jr. commissioned the development of the XH-17 Flying Crane research vehicle. In 1948 aviation pioneer Howard Hughes, Jr. began to turn the giant XH-17 Flying Crane into a flying reality. The giant helicopter was flight tested in Culver City, Calif. over a three-year period beginning in 1952. The XH-17 flew in 1953 flew at a gross weight in excess of 50,000 pounds. It still holds the record for flying with the world’s largest rotor system. Only one unit was built, since the behemoth was too cumbersome and inefficient to warrant further development.