MD Helicopters celebrates OH-6’s 50th year milestone
July 19, 2013, Mesa, Az. - MD Helicopters Inc. (MDHI) paid tribute to the 50-year first flight milestone of the iconic OH-6 helicopter. The first Hughes OH-6 Cayuse light-observation helicopter (LOH) prototype completed its inaugural flight Feb. 27, 1963, beginning a rich heritage as the most heralded and versatile scout helicopter in the world.
By Carey Fredericks
Hughes Tool Company's Aircraft Division first introduced the OH-6A as the Model 369 for the U.S. Army's 1963 LOH competition. Based on Technical Specification 153, the project identified the need for a small, versatile and easily transportable helicopter, capable of operating in restrictive locations. The Army chose the OH-6A scout helicopter to fill that role, and it later became known as the "Little Bird" in comparison to the larger aircraft in the task force.
"It is our honor to pay tribute to the launch of the legendary Hughes OH-6 Loach," said Lynn Tilton, CEO of MDHI. "This iconic helicopter has earned its place in aviation history, giving rise to a fleet of the world's most accomplished light scout helicopters and giving birth to five decades of steadfast support of our nation's military. The legacy of the 'OH-6' will only strengthen as we bring to market the powerful MD 540F in the months ahead."
The Hughes OH-6 Cayuse (nicknamed "Loach," after the LOH acronym) was introduced as a single-engine light helicopter with a four-bladed main rotor used for observation, personnel transport, escort and attack missions. The Model 369 was also developed as a civilian helicopter, the Hughes Model 500. MD Helicopters traces its roots back to 1955 when Hughes Tool Company, Aircraft Division first started development of light helicopters. Current variants to the 500 fleet include the MD 600N, MD 520N, MD 500E, MD 530F and MD 540F.
The OH-6A Cayuse entered service in September 1966 and established 23 world records for speed, distance and altitude. The Cayuse was Hughes' longest-running helicopter program, and during the Vietnamconflict, as many as 100 OH-6As were built a month. The OH-6D was an improved version with more advanced electronics and heavier armament. The OH-6 was also exported as the Model 500 Defender. It served in Granada and Panama during the 1980s, as well as in the Gulf wars, Somalia and the Balkans. In 2011, MDHI announced the award of a $186 million Department of the Army Rotary Wing Primary Training Aircraft (RWPTA) Contract. The award could reach as many as fifty-four (54) aircraft, primarily MD 500E, MD 530F and MD540F models. The significant operational capabilities of these aircraft enable exceptional high and hot performance, and greater versatility. Both models are known for superior speed, agility, low direct operating costs and ability to operate with ease in confined spaces.