Rega's vision of rescuing in all weathers
3 January: For the first time in its history, Swiss Air-Rescue suffers the loss of a crew member during an avalanche rescue mission. A Rega physician and six other helpers die in the course of the rescue work after an avalanche accident occurs in the Diemtigtal in the Bernese Oberland. While the casualties are being attended to on the avalanche cone, further masses of snow break away, burying the rescuers beneath them.
30-31 January: The first transatlantic flight takes place with the so-called «life box», a small heart-lung machine (ECMO) – a world premiere. Already during the flight, the patient's condition is successfully stabilised.
16-19 April: Parts of Swiss airspace are closed due to the clouds of ash from the Icelandic volcano, Eyjafjalla. Rega provisionally stations two ambulance-jets in Spain and Italy in order to be able to remain operational. Thanks to this precautionary measure, two children with severe burns can be flown from Bergen (Norway) to a special clinic in Boston (USA).
19-21 May: The Rega Symposium 2010 is a resounding success: 150 delegates from the field of air-rescue travel to Grindelwald from Europe, the USA, and even Australia. The congress topics deal with the future challenges facing the air-rescue sector. The event culminates in a flight demonstration of state-of-the-art rescue techniques performed against the imposing backdrop of the Eiger north face.
4 October: The Rega crew from the Lausanne helicopter base flies Swiss Air-Rescue’s 300,000th mission since it was founded in 1952.
1 February: Rega launches its own emergency app for the iPhone: iRega. Already on 5 February, a snowshoe trekker uses iRega to request emergency assistance for his injured companion – and the coordinates transferred enable the rescue team to land at the exact site of the accident in the Furka region.
2 March: Rega refers the ruling by the Federal Administrative Court that Rega patrons’ contributions should continue to be subject to VAT to the Federal Supreme Court. The entire amount of these contributions should, as before, be used to finance air-rescue services.
17 March: The first Rega ambulance jet bearing the new livery lands at Zurich Airport. The repainting of all three aircraft was the last measure in the major overhaul carried out after eight years of operation.
27 July: Thanks to satellite navigation, Rega can now also fly direct to the Inselspital University Hospital in Berne when visibility is poor. The Federal Office of Civil Aviation has approved Switzerland's first civilian GPS approach flight procedure for helicopters. As a result, patients benefit from improved safety in adverse weather conditions and high-lying fog.
16 March: For the first time in its history, Rega deploys its entire fleet of ambulance jets on the same mission. After the tragic coach crash in Canton Valais, Rega flies 14 children back home to Belgium. Further repatriation flights follow on 22 March.
27–29 April: On 27 April, Rega celebrates its 60th anniversary, and during the next two days it opens the doors of the Rega Centre at Zurich-Kloten Airport to the general public. Over 20,000 visitors flock to Swiss Air-Rescue’s headquarters. Further anniversary celebrations take place on 9 June at the helicopter base in Lausanne, on 23 June at the Berne base, on 7 July at the base in Dübendorf and on 18 August on Barfüsserplatz, in the centre of Basel.
27 September: Rega’s chief helicopter pilot, Heinz Leibundgut, receives the Aerosuisse Award. With this prize, the Swiss aviation and aerospace industry’s umbrella organisation pays tribute to his outstanding achievements in the field of helicopter flight safety and reliability.
3 December: Rega puts its new dispatch system into operation. The introduction of this new system represents a key milestone within the major REMICO (REga MIssion COntrol) project. During the holiday period, the system is fully put to the test for the first time.
8 February: Rega’s flight simulator for its Da Vinci mountain helicopters commences operation. Rega pilots are now able to complete a substantial part of their IFR training in the simulator. They can also practise emergency situations, something that is not possible to replicate in a real helicopter.
1 March: For the first time in Rega’s history, a helicopter rescue mission is performed entirely under instrument flight rules (IFR). The transfer of the patient from Lugano to Aarau in the Da Vinci helicopter goes off without a hitch.
21 April: Rega is continually investing in its infrastructure and dense network of helicopter bases. After a two-year construction period, the new base in Gordola, near Locarno, is inaugurated – and the inhabitants of Ticino join in the celebrations at the Open Day.
29 April: The modernised Operations Centre in the Rega Centre at Zurich Airport goes into operation. At its heart is a state-of-the-art integrated dispatch system. Rega’s rescue missions can now be largely digitalised and thus coordinated more efficiently than ever.
22 October: In Zernez, the last of Rega’s countrywide radio stations is equipped with brand new devices. The modernisation of the 42 stations is part of the major infrastructure project, REMICO, which, among other things, is aimed at upgrading Rega’s radio network.
1 November: Rega celebrates its 2.5 millionth patron, the seven-strong Kradolfer family from Erlen, Canton Thurgau. Never before have so many patronage cards been issued nor has the support of the Swiss population been so great.
21 November: One year after the first sod was turned, Rega celebrates the inauguration of its newest helicopter base at Zweisimmen Airport. The construction of a base in Zweisimmen underlines Rega’s commitment to serving peripheral regions and providing the best possible emergency medical assistance by air.
9 December: Rega and Air-Glaciers enter into a new contractual agreement governing the provision of air-rescue services in the Bernese Oberland. In future, Rega’s Operations Centre will coordinate all air rescue missions throughout the region.
11 March: After a minibus accident involving a group of Swiss tourists on Gran Canaria, Rega’s ambulance jets repatriate 11 seriously injured casualties in the course of six flights. One person is killed in the accident and 17 others injured. For this major operation, thatsame day, Rega stations a doctor and a flight coordinator on location to provide the best possible assistance.
10 May: More than 4,000 Rega fans take advantage of the Open Day at the helicopter base in Zweisimmen to look behind the scenes of the newly built base in the Simmen valley, which hadcommenced operations in November 2013. Besides Rega’s EC 145 and Da Vinci helicopters, a Super Puma and EC 635 are on show.
29 July: A tour bus carrying 17 Swiss tourists crashes near Trondheim. A number of passengers are injured, three of them fatally. The very same evening, a jet takes off for Norway.On board are two flight physicians, an intensive care nurse and a flight coordinator, whose task it is to look after the patients on location and organise their repatriation.
13 August: Four Rega rescue helicopters are in operation at the same accident site after a train derails near Tiefencastel (GR). Two are immediately dispatched to the accident site toevacuate the patients, some of them seriously injured, from the steep terrain using a rescue winch. The other two pick up the casualties at an intermediary landing site nearbyand fly them to hospital.
22 August: Rega repatriates a premature baby for the first time in its new own transport incubator.
2 November: Rega flies its 1,000th rescue mission in response to the alarm being raised directly via its emergency app. The automatic transmission of coordinates from the Operations Centre to the cockpit enables patients to be rescued more quickly than ever. To date, the Rega app has been downloaded over 900,000 times.
10 December: The last member of Rega's helicopter fleet, the Da Vinci «HB-ZRS», is equipped with an IFR compatible cockpit.
31 January: On the Vilan in Graubünden, seven ski tourers are buried under an avalanche. Involved in the rescue operation are three Rega helicopters, eight mountain rescuers from the Swiss Alpine Club SAC and an avalanche dog, as well as two additional helicopters. Three people are found dead; the other four are recovered suffering from serious injuries and are flown to hospital.
26 February: On its approach flight to the Erstfeld helicopter base, a Rega helicopter makes a hard landing. At the time of the incident, four Rega employees are on board; three of them are injured and are taken to hospital.
9 April: The decision relating to the future ambulance jet is made: Rega continues to place its trust in the tried-and-tested Challenger family manufactured by Bombardier. Three new Challenger 650 aircraft will go into operation in 2018. The new ambulance jet features state-of-the-art avionics systems and more powerful engines; also the cabin will be quieter than at present, which benefits both patients and crews.
11 May: The EC 145 helicopters at the four lowland bases are equipped with a so-called roll-in stretcher. Its retractable undercarriage allows patients to be transported more comfortably than ever before. It is compatible with the transport incubator and features the world’s first «pack rack» or stretcher bridge – a medical equipment unit for use in aircraft.
21 June: In order to improve its services to patrons, Rega introduces a new, modern patronage management software. One deficit in particular is rectified as a result: while previously only one patronage card could be issued per Family patronage, now all the family members will have their own card.
13 July: Rega tests an instrument flight route over the Julier Pass, from the Engadin to the Cantonal Hospital in Chur. Measurement devices in the helicopter record the exact position data at each point of the test flight to check the precision of the autopilot. In future, Rega aims to fly patients via this IFR route, which is part of the so-called Low Flight Network, even when visibility is poor.
30 September: The lasting fine weather results in a busy summer for Rega: between June and September, the crews at the 12 helicopter bases are called out on over 3,600 missions.
30 November: Rega installs its own meteorological station on top of the Inselspital in Berne. It is part of a network of measuring stations and webcams that in future will deliver precise, constantly updated flying weather data – a prerequisite for Rega pilots to be able to fly according to instrument flight rules.
1 December: Rega signs a contract with Italian manufacturer AgustaWestland for the purchase of three new all-weather helicopters of the type AW169-FIPS. These twin-engine rescue helicopters, which are fitted with an anti-icing system, will go into operation in 2021 and partially replace the current fleet. With the purchase of the AW169-FIPS helicopters, Rega is a major step closer to its vision of being able to perform air rescues in all weathers.
26 April: The last of six Rega weather stations is installed and put into operation at the airport in Bressaucourt, Canton Jura. It features, among other things, a ceilometer to measure the altitude of clouds and sensors that can detect the type of precipitation and visibility. The weather station is part of the new countrywide network of measuring stations and webcams that continually deliver current flight weather data to Rega pilots – a prerequisite for flying according to Instrument Flight Rules.
31 August: The Rega fleet welcomes a new member: an Airbus Helicopters H125 helicopter is flown from the works in the south of France to Switzerland. As from spring 2017, «HB-ZRJ» will be principally used to train up-and-coming Rega pilots in performing mountain and external load flights.
30 September: Over the summer months, not only are Rega’s helicopter crews constantly in the air, but more telephone calls than usual are received requesting assistance from abroad. Every day, up to two dozen people are provided with advice by Rega’s medical consultants. Between June and September, more than 500 seriously ill or injured travellers need to be flown home on board a Rega jet or scheduled aircraft.
29 October: Rega hosts the 2nd Central European Air Rescue Symposium in St. Gallen. The event focuses on specialist medical presentations relating to air rescue, such as «Surgical measures at the accident site» or «Blood products and laboratory analyses in the helicopter», as well as the exchange between experts about medical equipment and case studies.
9 December: In Meiringen, Rega signs a contract to purchase six new rescue helicopters of the type, Airbus Helicopters H145, the successor model of the EC 145. As from 2018, these spacious new helicopters will replace the EC 145 fleet currently stationed at Rega’s lowland bases.
14 December: The first of the three new Challenger 650 ambulance jets has fledged. It is flown as a «green aircraft» – with a fully functional cockpit and flyable, but without the cabin interior or livery – from the aircraft works of manufacturer Bombardier in Montreal to Peterborough, near Toronto, where it will be fitted with its new interior.
19 December: Rega transports its first patient on an instrument flight route of the Low Flight Network (LFN) over the Gotthard. This network of instrument flight routes is based on satellite navigation and enables helicopters to fly according to Instrument Flight Rules even when visibility is poor. Since December 2016, the main LFN routes, north-south and east-west, have been certified for rescue missions during the day. Thus Rega is one step closer to realising its vision of all-weather rescue.
7 March: Rega CEO Ernst Kohler officially opens the new hospital helipad in Interlaken. In order to further increase the safety of patients and crews, Rega is involved in measures to modernise hospital helipads in Switzerland – not only with advice and expertise, but also with funding. In addition to Interlaken, the hospitals in Frutigen (BE), Nyon (VD) and Thusis (GR) were able to put their new helicopter helipads – which were realised with the support of Rega – into operation in 2017.
1 June: Medical advances in a small format: Rega equips its rescue helicopters and ambulance jets with a newly designed video laryngoscope, which provides images to help secure a patient’s airway. Already in use in hospitals, Rega crews now have at their disposal a technically more advanced device that can also be employed outside the hospital in adverse weather. For example, even on rescue missions in bright sunlight or on glaciers, the image on the display is still clearly visible.
30 August: At the Lago di Lucendro on the Gotthard Pass, Rega puts its last weather camera into operation, thus bringing its several-year major project, «Thor», to a close on schedule. A good 60 measuring stations and weather cameras all over Switzerland now deliver constantly updated information directly into the rescue helicopter cockpit. This precise meteorological data is a prerequisite for flights performed under instrument flight rules (IFR) – and indispensable for all-weather air rescue.
18 September: Rega launches an appeal to the Swiss population to report the whereabouts of low-lying aerial obstacles. Cables or wires that are located less than 25 metres above ground level do not have to be registered at FOCA as aerial obstacles – and are therefore not marked on any maps or charts. These objects pose a significant risk for helicopter pilots: they can cause damage and in the worst case even result in the helicopter crashing. Rega is now recording these low-lying aerial obstacles in its own database.
23 December: FOCA grants Rega special authorisation to use key intersections of the Low Flight Network – a network of IFR flight routes based on satellite navigation – around the clock. These include the military airfields in Emmen and Meiringen, as well as the IFR approaches to the hospital helipad at the Inselspital in Berne. For Rega, this marks a further breakthrough towards realising its vision of all-weather rescue.
17 April: Coinciding with Rega’s Annual Media Conference, the new Rega Challenger 650 ambulance jet from Canadian manufacturer Bombardier lands at Zurich Airport and is greeted with a traditional water salute by the airport fire service. The jet with the registration number HB-JWA is the first of a total of three new ambulance jets that will join the Rega fleet by the end of 2018 in replacement of the CL-604 fleet.
27 May: Around 15,000 visitors make their way to the Rega Centre to attend the two Open Days. At Rega’s headquarters at Zurich Airport, they have the opportunity to look behind the scenes of Switzerland’s air rescue services and inspect Rega’s new Challenger 650 ambulance jet for the first time. Helicopter and jet pilots, paramedics, emergency physicians, mechanics, mission coordinators and other Rega staff are on hand to provide information and answer questions.
10 October: With the aid of the IR/EOS multi-sensor search system, Rega successfully locates a missing person on the Niesen mountain (BE) at night. The high-tech system is mounted on the Rega helicopter and operated by a specially trained person. A highly sensitive infrared camera, optical sensors, a computer workstation in the cabin and a connected search light make it possible to perform searches from the air efficiently and over large areas – during the day and at night.
23 October: Rega’s new Airbus Helicopters H145 rescue helicopter takes off on its first mission. The crew from the Rega base in Berne fly a seriously ill patient as an emergency case from the Spitalzentrum Biel to the Inselspital in Berne. With its spacious cabin, the new Rega helicopter is ideally suited to special intensive care patient transports, such as with a heart-lung machine.
2 November: To mark its 50,000th patron in the City of Berne, Rega presents its brand new H145 rescue helicopter to the general public and lands in the middle of the Bundesplatz. Afterwards, members of the public are able to inspect the new rescue helicopter from the Berne base for the first time and have the Berne crew explain to them what makes this aircraft so special.
14 February: Rega flies a patient connected to a mobile heart-lung machine from London to Kaohsiung in Taiwan on board its new ambulance jet. With a flying time of 14.5 hours, this is the longest flight ever made by an intensive care patient hooked up to a heart-lung machine. The successful mission was made possible by Rega’s close cooperation with the University Hospital Zurich and its efforts over many years to deploy high-tech medical equipment in its aircraft.
8 March: Rega’s longest serving ambulance jet, the Challenger CL-604 with the registration number HB-JRA, is transported by water from Alpnach across Lake Lucerne to the Swiss Museum of Transport. During its 16 years of service, it flew more than 4,400 patients from all over the world back home to Switzerland. Since mid-April, the ambulance jet has completed the permanent Rega exhibition at the museum. Here it can be viewed at close quarters and thus continues to be in the service of the Swiss population.
15 March: The Rega crew from the Zurich base present their new Airbus Helicopters H145 rescue helicopter to the general public in the main concourse of Zurich Main Station. Visitors have the opportunity to inspect the new Rega helicopter close up and gain fascinating insights into the world of Rega.
12 April: Rega presents a new device for searching for people in distress: the newly developed Rega drone autonomously scans large search areas and is equipped with various sensors, such as a thermal imaging camera. In future, it is to be used as an additional tool to help search for missing, injured or ill persons – for example, when poor visibility makes it impossible to use a helicopter.
28 April: For the first time, a Rega crew flies to the University Hospital Zurich (USZ) in poor visibility under so-called instrument flight rules. The patient needed to be transferred to the main hospital as quickly as possible for an urgent heart operation. Just a few weeks earlier, the Federal Office of Civil Aviation (FOCA) had approved Rega’s new approach procedures to the USZ and Winterthur Cantonal Hospital.
14 September: Numerous visitors look on as the new rescue helicopter prepares to land at the Olma exhibition site in St. Gallen. Since the beginning of June, the new Rega Airbus Helicopters H145 helicopter has been deployed at the St. Gallen base. Now the crew is presenting «their» new helicopter to the local population.
21 November: Rega is more firmly anchored in in the Swiss population than ever before and on this day welcomes its 3.5 millionth patron. It expresses its grateful thanks for patrons’ support by inviting the new patron – representing all Rega patrons – to the Rega Centre. It is only thanks to the solidarity of its patrons that Rega is able to provide the Swiss people with basic medical care by air around the clock.