MD Helicopters

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MD Helicopters, Inc.
PredecessorHughes Helicopters Edit this on Wikidata
HeadquartersMesa, Arizona, U.S.
OwnerPatriarch Partners, LLC

MD Helicopters, Inc. (formerly McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Systems) is an American aerospace manufacturer. It produces light utility helicopters for commercial and military use. The company was a subsidiary of Hughes Aircraft until 1984, when McDonnell Douglas acquired it and renamed it McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Systems. It later became MD Helicopters in the late 1990s when McDonnell Douglas merged with Boeing.


Schweizer 300CB, which began as the Hughes Model 269 in the 1950s.

The company began in 1947 as a unit of Hughes Aircraft, then was part of the Hughes Tool Company after 1955.[1] It became the helicopter division of Hughes' Summa Corporation in 1972,[2] and was finally reformed as Hughes Helicopters, Inc. in 1981. However, throughout its history, the company was informally known as Hughes Helicopters.[citation needed] The company was sold to McDonnell Douglas in 1984.

Hughes Helicopters produced three major designs during its 37-year history. The Model 269/300 was Hughes' first successful helicopter design.[3] Built in 1956, and entering production in 1957, it would eventually become part of the Army inventory as a primary trainer, designated TH-55 Osage. In 1983, the company licensed Schweizer Aircraft to produce the Model 300C. Schweizer was eventually purchased by Sikorsky Aircraft, which is itself now a division of Lockheed Martin.

In May 1965, the company won the contract for a new observation helicopter for the U.S. Army, and produced the OH-6 Cayuse (Hughes Model 369).[4] The OH-6 was later developed into the civilian Model 500, variants of which remain in production to this day.

In 1975, the company won the contract for the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter.[5] By December 1981, six AH-64A prototypes had been built and the Army had awarded a production contract to the company.[6] Production would reach more than 1,100 by 2005.

In January 1984, Hughes Helicopters, Inc. was sold to McDonnell Douglas by Summa Corporation. McDonnell Douglas paid $470 million for the company and made it a subsidiary with the name McDonnell Douglas Helicopter Systems in August 1984.[7] In 1986, McDonnell Douglas sold all the rights to the Model 300C to Schweizer Aircraft.

An AH-64A

On August 1, 1997, McDonnell Douglas merged with Boeing,[8] but Boeing's plans to sell the civilian helicopter line to Bell Helicopter in 1998 were thwarted by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC).[9]

In 1999, Boeing completed the sale of the civilian line of helicopters to MD Helicopter Holdings Inc., an indirect subsidiary of the Dutch company, RDM Holding Inc. The line included the MD 500 and variants as well as the family of derivative NOTAR aircraft that originated with Hughes Helicopters Inc. Boeing maintained the AH-64 line of helicopters and rights to the NOTAR system.[10][11]

After suffering dismal commercial performance, the company was purchased in 2005 by Patriarch Partners, LLC, an investment fund.[12] The company was recapitalized as an independent company, MD Helicopters, Inc.[13] MD Helicopters is based in Mesa, Arizona.[14] Lynn Tilton, the Chief Executive Officer and sole principal of Patriarch Partners, was CEO of MD Helocopters until she relinquished control in March 2020 following bankruptcy court rulings related to Patriarch holdings[15]


MD 902 (German police)

(Under both McDonnell Douglas and MD Helicopters)

(Under McDonnell Douglas only)

See also[edit]

Comparable major helicopter manufacturers:


  1. ^ Rumerman, Judy. "The Hughes Companies". U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission.
  2. ^ "The Hughes Tool Co. ... Looking at Rotors". Post-War Developments: 1946-1956. Boeing. Archived from the original on 2011-03-09.
  3. ^ "Hughes Model 269A (TH55) Osage". Archived from the original on 2008-12-21. Retrieved 2006-12-07.
  4. ^ "The Boeing Logbook: 1964-1970". Boeing. Archived from the original on 2011-05-24.
  5. ^ "The Boeing Logbook: 1971-1976". Boeing. Archived from the original on 2008-12-30.
  6. ^ "The Boeing Logbook: 1977-1982". Boeing. Archived from the original on 2012-03-06.
  7. ^ Richardson, Doug and Lindsay Peacock. Combat Aircraft AH-64, pp. 14–15. London: Salamander Books, 1992. ISBN 0-86101-675-0.
  8. ^ The Boeing Logbook: 1997-2001 Archived 2013-01-02 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ Frawley, Gerard: The International Directory of Civil Aircraft, 2003-2004, p. 155. Aerospace Publications Pty Ltd, 2003. ISBN 1-875671-58-7
  10. ^ Boeing Announces Sale of its Light Helicopter Product Lines Archived 2007-12-28 at the Wayback Machine, Boeing, 1999-02-19.
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2008-02-13. Retrieved 2008-02-07.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link). Boeing News Release
  12. ^ "OH-6 Cayuse/Hughes 500 Helicopter". Boeing. Archived from the original on 2006-11-28.
  13. ^ "Interesting News from MD Helicopters". Archived from the original on 2007-02-25.
  14. ^ "Company Background Information". MD Helicopters. Archived from the original on February 25, 2007. Retrieved 2007-02-25.
  15. ^ Tilton Out at MD Helicopters

External links[edit]