Primarily active in: Switzerland
Swiss-born Francois-Xavier Bagnoud was focused. He loved helicopters and, despite his few years, he knew who he was and what he wanted to do with his life. To him, engineering was a science, and he was fully committed to his work. But flying was his passion.
Weichsel should know, When he was vice president for engineering for Bell Helicopter in the early-1980s, he tried to lure the young Swiss student to Bell to design helicopters. After all, in 1982 and while still a student at the University of Michigan, Francois-Xavier had written and published a book on helicopter aeronautics for young pilots "Théorie de l’hélicoptère pour les pilotes privés".
At Professor Thomas Adamson's urging, he had joined the American Helicopter Society and created the student chapter on campus. But Francois Xavier, who had received offers similar to Bell's from many of the world's leading helicopter manufacturers, chose a different path and joined his father, Bruno Bagnoud, to become a rescue pilot in the Swiss Alps. In Europe, he would be near his home and his mother, Countess Albina du Boisrouvray, who had always supported his interest in flying.
Following graduation, he launched into advanced helicopter training with the same commitment he had demonstrated while earning his engineering degree. He received his professional pilot's license in 1983. Less than a year later, he gained night and instrument ratings, becoming the youngest professional instrument-rated pilot in all of Europe. He applied these talents to his rescue work in Sion, Switzerland, home of Air Glacier. In ensuing years, he performed more than 300 helicopter rescue missions, many in night-time and under instrument conditions. At the same time, he assisted European aviation authorities in developing instrument procedures for helicopters.
It ended, unfortunately, in January 1986. Francois died in a helicopter accident in Mali while flying medical support for the Paris-Dakar Rally. At the time, he was just 24 years old. He left a lifetime of achievements, however, and for his family, his fellow students and pilots, many happy memories.