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Air-rescue is professionalised
1980-2009

The patient is transferred from the Challenger air-ambulance HB-IKT to the BO 105 helicopter HB-XXK

Swiss Air-Rescue’s ever growing number of patrons enable the densest air-rescue network in the world to be gradually built up and operated. State-of-the-art helicopters and air-ambulances, specially designed to perform missions both in Switzerland and all over the globe, are procured Training is standardised and professionalised. Despite this, Rega – as Swiss Air-Rescue is now known – does not let up: it continually strives to ensure maximum safety during missions and at the same time to provide the patient with the best possible medical care. Nowadays, Rega is regarded as a highly valuable, credible and professional rescue organisation.

1980

Dr. med. h.c. Fritz Bühler at the christening ceremony of a helicopter in Chur 23 August: The Chairman of Swiss Air-Rescue’s Foundation Board, Dr. med. h.c. Fritz Bühler, passes away totally unexpectedly at the age of 72.

 

28 September: What is arguably Rega’s most spectacular rescue operation takes place high above Yverdon airfield. As a parachutist leaves the Pilatus Turbo Porter aircraft, his parachute becomes entangled in the tail wheel. The crew of a Swiss Air-Rescue helicopter achieve the “impossible” by freeing the parachutist while the plane is still in the air. On 20 January 1981 in Los Angeles (USA), pilot Andreas Haefele, hoist operator Adolf Rüfenacht and parachute instructor Pierre Jomini are named “Crew of the Year” in recognition of this astounding feat.

1981

At its meeting of delegates on 13 June, the Swiss Red Cross (SRC) votes in favour of accepting Rega as a corporate member.

21 October: The Swiss Disaster Relief Unit, the Swiss Army Rescue Troops, the Swiss Disaster Dog Association and Swiss Air-Rescue resolve to jointly provide immediate emergency aid in the event of earthquakes. This “Swiss Rescue Chain” is tested in an exercise in Wangen an der Aare.

1982

Challenger CL-600 meets Bölkow BO 105 20 May: The brand new Rega air-ambulance, a Canadair Challenger CL 600, arrives at Zurich-Kloten Airport. This new aircraft has a considerably greater range and is more spacious than the jets Rega has operated to date.

13 December: The Swiss Rescue Chain, formed in 1981, goes into operation for the first time to assist in an earthquake disaster in North Yemen.

1983

13 March: Using the rescue hoists of two Rega helicopters, 80 passengers are evacuated from the four-person cable-car cabins that have come to a standstill on the Scuol/Motta Naluns cableway in the Lower Engadin.

30 October: The Swiss Rescue Chain is called out after the Erzurum region in Turkey suffers a violent earthquake. A physician from the Swiss Disaster Relief Unit, a Rega operation coordinator and two disaster dog teams are despatched to Eastern Turkey on behalf of the Disaster Relief Unit.

1984

Christening of the Challenger CL-600 HB-VFW in honour of Fritz Bühler 7 March: The new Rega jet Challenger CL-600 HB-VFW is christened “Fritz Bühler” in honour of the great pioneer of Swiss Air-Rescue.

1 November: Rega moves its offices and Operations Centre to Mainaustrasse 21 in Zurich.

1985

The new St. Gallen helicopter base 8 June: Rega’s St. Gallen helicopter base in Gossau is officially inaugurated.

20 June: Rega charters a large-size helicopter, a Super Puma, to transport nine disaster dog teams to Stava (Italy), where a dam has been damaged.

23 August: Rega issues its one millionth patronage card.

10 September: Federal Councillor Dr. Leon Schlumpf officially opens the International Air-Rescue Congress Airmed 85, an event organised by Rega, at the Swiss Federal College of Technology in Zurich.

1986

5 June: The Mexican government presents the “Brigada de Rescate de Suiza” (Rega) with a special award as a token of gratitude for its emergency assistance after the earthquake in Mexico City in September 1985.

17 September: The Foundation Board decides to replace the two Learjet air-ambulances with two BAe 125-800B aircraft.

1987

Rega is the first non-military organisation in the world to equip all of its helicopter bases with night-vision goggles.

Two new ambulance jets replace the pair of Lear-35 aircraft. The larger cabin and longer range improve the services for patients.

1988

The Alouette HB-XGU after it has crashed into Lake Biel 2 June: During a rescue demonstration on Lake Biel, ground resonance causes the Alouette HB-XGU to go out of control and crash. Two people are injured, the machine is a write-off.

 

1990

14 July During a rescue mission in the Vaud Alps, a strong gust of wind blows the Alouette HB-XHY against the side of the mountain as it is landing. The machine is totally destroyed; fortunately, however, nobody is hurt.

13 August: The Bölkow 105 XGY helicopter crashes in the Knonaueramt region during a training flight. One person is injured, the machine is totally destroyed.

1991

Inauguration of the new Uri helicopter base 14 August: The new Uri helicopter base, a purpose-built construction with a distinct architectural style, is officially inaugurated during a small ceremony in Erstfeld.

20 October: The new Rega base at Berne-Belp Airport is completed and inaugurated.

1992

Taking delivery of the Agusta A 109 K2 in Untervaz 14/15 August: During its Open Day, the crew of the Untervaz helicopter base puts the first of the fifteen new Agusta A-109-K2 helicopters, bearing the registration number HB-XWB, into operation.

19 August: Rega carries out its 100,000th repatriation mission; on this occasion it transports a seriously injured motorist from Tunis to Geneva on behalf of the Swiss Touring Club.

1993

16 February: During a ferry-flight from the Gsteigwiler base to Kloten, the Agusta A-109 XWE crashes into Lake Zug near Buonas, killing the pilot.

5 July: The Foundation Board decides to build a Rega Center at Zurich-Kloten Airport.

8 September: During an attempt to recover an injured cow on the Bargis Alp above Flims, the Alouette HB-XRC crashes from a low altitude, injuring the pilot.

16 September: The Alouette HB-XFF is totally destroyed during an unsuccessful landing manoeuvre high above Niederriet on Lake Brienz. All three passengers remain uninjured.

1994

On 20 March, Fredy Wissel passes away in St. Moritz, aged almost 90 years. During his lifetime, Wissel had taken part in hundreds of rescue operations and supply flights and had received numerous awards for his services.

1995

14 November: Anne Ormond-Ronca, representing the Swiss Red Cross, is the first woman to be appointed to Rega’s Foundation Board.

1996

11 June: For the first time in its 44-year history, Rega carries out a mission that takes it all the way round the world. The flight with additional crew members on board (two captains, two co-pilots, a doctor and a flight nurse) takes 43 hours. The Canadair Challenger CL 601 transports three patients; on its journey back to Switzerland it stops over in Muscat, Bangkok, Khabarovsk, Anchorage, Reading, Faro and Valencia.

1997

The new Rega Centre at Zurich Airport 9 May: Rega moves its head office from Mainaustrasse in the city of Zurich to the Rega Center at Zurich Airport.

The four-digit emergency number, 1414, is adopted for calling out the air-rescue services in Switzerland.

31 July: During a rescue operation carried out by the Lausanne helicopter base in Veyges, near Leysin, canton Vaud, both the physician and the patient are killed when the rescue hoist cable breaks.

1998

15 July: During a mission near Lodrino, canton Ticino, the helicopter HB-XWE comes into contact with a cable, and crashes. The pilot dies the following day as a result of his injuries.

15 August: The new Graubünden base in Untervaz is officially opened. Rega is a tenant of Air Grischa.

11 November: The Chairman of the Foundation Board, Peter J. Bär, dies of a heart attack. He had been closely involved with Rega for some 30 years and had served as Chairman of the Foundation Board since 3 December 1980. He is succeeded by Vice-Chairman, Kurt Bolliger.

1999

3 September: The Lausanne helicopter base celebrates its 20th anniversary.

2000

Two awards are made to Rega helicopter pilots by Helicopter Association International (HAI): Toni Lötscher (Bernese Oberland) is presented with the Trimble Award, while Enzo Carlino (Ticino) receives an award in recognition of his 10,000 accident-free flying hours.

1 June: Dr. Hannes Goetz is appointed Chairman of the Foundation Board.

14 December: Kurt Bolliger resigns from Rega’s Foundation Board after 16 years of service – eight as Vice-Chairman and almost two as Chairman.

2001

17 June: The Foundation Board decides to purchase three new Challenger CL-604 ambulance-jets to replace the current aircraft as from 2002.

24 June: The Foundation Board decides to purchase five EC 145 helicopters to replace the four Agusta A 109 K2 machines at the lowland bases in Zurich, Berne, Basel and Lausanne.

2002

1 January: Rega takes over as control centre of SAR (Search and Rescue) from the Federal Office for Civil Aviation.

13 February: The Swiss Post Office issues Switzerland’s first hologram stamp, designed by graphic artist, Raphaël Schenker, to mark Rega’s 50th anniversary.

31 March: The Chairman of the Foundation Board, Hannes Goetz, resigns. On 1 April, Foundation Board member, Albert Keller, is appointed in his place.

27 April: Rega celebrates its 50th anniversary at the Rega Center at Zurich Airport with a special ceremony attended by Federal Councillor, Ruth Dreifuss. In the course of the year, Open Days are held at all the Rega bases, which are attended by a total of 72,000 visitors.

From 17–20 September, as part of its anniversary celebrations, Rega hosts the international congress, Airmed 2002, in Interlaken.

18 October: Rega’s new Basel base at the EuroAirport Basel-Mulhouse-Freiburg is officially inaugurated.

15 November: Two of the three new Challenger CL 604 ambulance-jets arrive in Zurich-Kloten.

2003

The new Eurocopter EC 145 at the Basel helicopter base 12 March: The first of the five new EC 145 rescue helicopters is stationed at the Basel base.

10 May: After 31 years of being “provisionally” stationed on the roof of the Zurich Children’s Hospital, Rega’s Zurich base moves into its new quarters at Dübendorf Airport.

2004

A Rega air-ambulance in action in Phuket after the tsunami disaster 26 December: The tsunami in South-East Asia presents Rega with one of the greatest challenges in its history. Rega teams fly to Thailand and Sri Lanka in order to establish contact with the hospitals and to prepare patients to be transported back to Switzerland. All three Rega air-ambulances are in operation. Rega’s Operations Centre also arranges for patients to be repatriated on board charter, military and scheduled aircraft. Within the space of a week, more than 60 patients are flown back to Switzerland, attended to by 16 medical teams.

2005

8 May: The major repatriation operation mounted in response to the tsunami disaster brings with it invaluable experiences; an emergency concept developed as result of this catastrophe has the chance to prove itself shortly afterwards. After a coach accident in Turkey, a Boeing 757-200 operated by the charter airline, Belair, is transformed overnight into a “flying hospital”. Just two days after the accident, 35 patients are flown back to Switzerland under the medical supervision of five doctors and four flight nurses.

The Agusta A 109 K2 rescuing a digger operator from the River Reuss 22 August: After Switzerland suffers severe storms, Rega crews are among the first rescuers in the affected areas. By the time the Swiss Army and commercial enterprises start implementing their evacuation operations, Rega, in collaboration with the local rescue organisations, has succeeded in transporting more than 200 persons from the flooded and cut-off areas.

In the second half of 2005, the Swiss Alpine Rescue (SAR) Foundation is set up by the two partners, the Swiss Alpine Club (SAC) and Rega. From now on, the SAR is responsible for overland rescues of people requiring emergency assistance in the Swiss Alps, with the SAC and Rega working very closely together.

2006

12 May: The Rega helicopter base in St. Gallen celebrates its 25th anniversary.

19 October: The intensive yet successful evaluation phase for Rega’s new mountain helicopter comes to a close with the signing of a contract to purchase 11 AgustaWestland Da Vinci helicopters. They are to be put into operation at Rega’s mountain bases.

19 November: Rega celebrates its 250,000th mission: the crew from the Rega base in Erstfeld flies a premature baby from Engelberg (canton Obwalden) to the Children’s Hospital in Lucerne.

2007

Rega's 2 millionth patron: the overjoyed family The number of Rega patrons reaches a new record level: with two million patronages, Rega achieves yet another a milestone in its 55-year history.

Rega is held in high esteem by the Swiss population: a study carried out by the market research institute, IHA-GfK, in summer 2007 reveals that Rega is the most popular Swiss brand. Rega has the best corporate image from among 100 Swiss companies.

2008

The new helicopter base in Wilderswil, in the Bernese Oberland For reasons of space and safety, Rega’s Bernese Oberland crew move from Gsteigwiler into their new base located on the site of the firm, Ruag, in Wilderswil.

3 September: Rega is presented with the Swiss Logistics Public Award 2008. This prize is given by the GS1, the competence centre for standards, logistics, and supply and demand management, in recognition of Rega’s outstanding achievements in the fields of logistics and organisation.

2 December: An out-of-the-ordinary mission for the Rega crew at the Berne helicopter base: By the River Aare, a forestry worker falls and injures his back. After a Rega physician is lowered to the patient, together they are flown to the Inselspital in Berne, still suspended at the end of the rescue line. For the three-minute flight to the hospital, this method was more practical than the usual procedure of making an interim landing to load the patient into the helicopter.

2009

The 'life box' heart–lung machine in the Rega rescue helicopter 4 February: For the first time, Rega transports a seriously ill patient attached to a so-called “life box“, a heart-lung machine, in a rescue helicopter.

 

The new mountain helicopter, the AgustaWestland Da Vinci, arrives at the Rega Centre 11 June: After the new rescue helicopter, the AgustaWestland Da Vinci, is presented to the public at the manufacturing plant in Vergiate, Italy in March 2009, the first of a total of 11 new helicopters, the HB-ZRZ, is delivered to the Rega Center. The hand-over of the new helicopters to each of the helicopter bases takes place in a special ceremony, with Open Days organised for the general public.

27 October: For the first time, a “life box” is used on board an air-ambulance: during the night of 26 October, Rega, supported by a team of heart surgeons from the Heart and Neurological Centre in Kreuzlingen on Lake Constance, transfers a seriously-ill patient from Croatia to Cologne (Germany).

29 October: The first patient flight and at the same time the first rescue hoist operation with the Da Vinci rescue helicopter: using the horizontal net, the crew from the St. Gallen helicopter base rescue an injured person from steep terrain between Schwägalp and the Säntis mountain.

The Eurocopter EC 145 in front of the new helicopter base in Lausanne 6 November: After days spent renovating and moving premises, the day has finally arrived: the crew from the Lausanne helicopter base take off in the Eurocopter EC 145 HB-ZRB on their first mission from their new building. The “temporary” arrangement that had lasted for 30 years had at last come to an end.

6 December: Rega’s partner base in Zweisimmen is transformed into a fully-fledged Rega helicopter base. Already on the previous day, the Agusta A 109 K2, with the registration HB-XWB, had carried out a mission as “Rega 14”.

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