The operational possibilities open up 1960-1979
The rescue helicopters and the ambulance-jets used for repatriating patients from abroad are increasingly regarded as an effective means of rescue. Operations that previously were impossible or took days to carry out can now be performed within a matter of hours. While mountainous regions still remain the main scene of action, the rescue helicopter is used more and more to deal with road accidents. New rescue techniques are developed; the principle of bringing emergency aid to the patient as swiftly as possible takes root. Swiss Air-Rescue breaks away from the SLRG and is now finally an autonomous organisation.
19 March: With the assistance of Fritz Bühler as Technical Director, Swiss Air-Rescue completely breaks away from the SLRG and is reorganised. The Swiss Air-Rescue Association (SRFW) is founded.
The helicopter plays an increasingly important role in the sphere of air rescue. The Hiller 306 and Bell 47G2 models that were initially used are replaced with more modern machines with an improved flight performance.
In May, Swiss Air-Rescue carries out its very first repatriation flight. A patient is flown on board a Piaggio 166 fixed-wing aircraft from Châlons-sur-Marne (now known as Châlons-en-Champagne) in France back home to Switzerland.
1 March: The Swiss Federal Council passes a resolution appointing Swiss Air-Rescue as an auxiliary organisation of the Swiss Red Cross.
In September, Swiss Air-Rescue holds its first international helicopter symposium on the Eiger glacier. The rescue line and the horizontal net, used for rescuing injured people from inaccessible places where it is impossible for a helicopter to land, are presented to the delegates.
The running costs of carrying out rescue operations by helicopter gradually exceed Swiss Air-Rescue’s resources. After the Swiss Government rejects his application for support from public funds, Fritz Bühler appeals to the public for help. As a token of gratitude for a donation of CHF 20, Swiss Air-Rescue offers free assistance by air in cases of emergency. The appeal meets with a gratifying response; the patronage system, which has fundamentally remained unchanged to this day, is born.
6 August: A fatal accident occurs in the Urbachtal. A gamekeeper, who had offered to assist with a rescue operation, dies when he falls around 30 metres from the button seat on the end of the rescue line.
20 December: Swiss Air-Rescue puts into operation its first helicopter with turbo-jet propulsion, a Bell 206 A Jet Ranger with the registration number HB-XCU.
24 May: With a loan of CHF 400,000, Swiss Air-Rescue participates in the purchase of a Cessna 414 with a pressurised cabin. That same day, the machine, bearing the registration number HB-LFM, is despatched on its first repatriation mission, to Fréjus (France).
24 –27 September: During Swiss Air-Rescue’s second international helicopter symposium, held on the Kleine Scheidegg, for the first time in the history of air-rescue, mountain guides and paramedics suspended on the end of a hoist cable are set down from the hovering helicopter at five different sites on the north face of the Eiger.
On 4 June, Swiss Air-Rescue takes delivery of its first helicopter to be entirely financed by patrons’ contributions, an Alouette III SE 316 with the registration number HB-XDF. With the introduction of the Alouette III, which is to form the backbone of Rega’s helicopter fleet for many years, Swiss Air-Rescue achieves the real breakthrough of helicopter rescue in alpine regions.
12 September: Two German mountain climbers are lifted off the north face of the Eiger using the hoist cable mounted on the Alouette SA 315 “Lama” helicopter. This is the first direct rescue from this extremely challenging rock face.
15 May: A rescue helicopter, the so-called “Baby Helicopter”, is permanently stationed on the roof of the Zurich Children’s Hospital.
Swiss Air-Rescue purchases the world’s first civilian ambulance jet, a Learjet 24 D, to use for its repatriation flights. On 30 June, the HB-VCY is christened “Henri Dunant” at a ceremony in Berne.
In November, the first twin-engine ambulance helicopter is put into operation. The Bölkow 105 C is stationed on the roof of the Zurich Children’s Hospital.
After extensive negotiations, the Zurich Cantonal Council approves a trial phase for the use of the rescue helicopter to assist with road accidents.
20 February: Swiss Air-Rescue charters a Super Caravelle to repatriate Swiss nationals who have been injured in a bus accident in Assuan (Egypt).
5 March: After Bucharest (Rumania) is hit by a severe earthquake, Swiss Air-Rescue spontaneously offers its assistance. For the first time ever, a Western rescue organisation helps out in an Eastern bloc country.
30 April: Swiss Air-Rescue celebrates its 25th anniversary in Kloten. To mark the occasion, the new air-ambulance with the registration, HB-VEM, is christened “Albert Schweitzer”.
18 November: The first direct rescue of two mountaineers from the acclivity of the north face of the Eiger is successfully carried out, an operation that until then had been considered impossible.
30 January: A Swiss Air-Rescue air-ambulance lands in the Soviet Union for the first time. A Swiss patient is flown back to Switzerland from Yaroslavl.
27 May: A black day in the history of Swiss Air-Rescue. During a rescue demonstration in Berne, the belt attaching the vertical net to the helicopter breaks. With the net, five people fall from a height of seven metres; three of them die, two are seriously injured.
11/12 June: Propylene gas canisters explode at the camping site in Alfaques (Spain), turning the place into an inferno. For this mission, Swiss Air-Rescue charters a DC-9.
24 October: To mark the 150th anniversary of the birth of Henri Dunant, Swiss Air-Rescue’s new ambulance-jet, the HB-VFB, is christened “Henri Dunant” by ICRC President, Alexandre Hay, at Geneva-Cointrin Airport.
At their General Meeting in Zurich on 12 May, the active members of the Swiss Air-Rescue Association resolve with an overwhelming majority to set up a Swiss Air-Rescue Foundation. The foundation takes over the association’s assets and liabilities. From now on, patrons’ annual contributions, legacies and donations flow into this trust. Dr. med. h.c. Fritz Bühler is appointed Chairman of the Foundation Board.