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Rega – Swiss Air-Rescue

Breakthrough of helicopter rescue in high mountains

1970

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.

1971

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.

1972

15 May: A rescue helicopter, the so-called «Baby Helicopter», is permanently stationed on the roof of the Zurich Children’s Hospital.

 

1973

Swiss Air-Rescue purchases the world’s first civilian ambulance jet, a Learjet 24D, 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.

1975

After extensive negotiations, the Zurich Cantonal Council approves a trial phase for the use of the rescue helicopter to assist with road accidents.

 

1977

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.

1978

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.

1979

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.