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Annual Media Conference 2014

"We want to rescue people no matter what the weather!"


In future, Swiss Air-Rescue Rega aims to rescue more people in distress than ever before. Therefore it has launched a series of measures to enable its rescue helicopters to also be able to fly in fog and snow. On doing so, Rega is writing a new chapter in the history of air rescue in the mountains. At today's Annual Media Conference, Rega also looks back on a successful 2013 business year.

Every year, Rega is forced to deny around 600 patients urgently needed medical assistance by air because of poor visibility. "This has got to change," says Rega CEO Ernst Kohler. "It’s simply not acceptable that a baby requiring emergency medical care has to be driven by ambulance from the Engadin to Zurich simply because it's snowing!"

In a first step to address this problem, Rega is currently training its helicopter pilots to fly under instrument flight rules (IFR). This allows them to operate the helicopter not by sight, but solely with the assistance of the on-board instruments, and thus potentially to save more lives. Rega pilots now complete a substantial part of their training for the AgustaWestland Da Vinci rescue helicopter on a flight simulator, without any fuel or noise emissions. Next on the agenda is to equip all the AgustaWestland Da Vinci helicopters with IFR-compatible cockpits by the end of 2014.

"In future, we want to be able to rescue people anywhere in Switzerland no matter what the weather," explains CEO Ernst Kohler. IFR approach flights are currently only possible in a few places. In the coming years, Rega plans to make its vision reality in collaboration with the Swiss Air Force and the air navigation service, Skyguide. It is also currently looking at the possibility of purchasing a fleet of all-weather helicopters. They must be equipped with a de-icing system, but should also not be too heavy, so that they can continue to land on hospital helipads or at accident sites without any problem. 

Modernisation of the technical infrastructure

Rega is continually investing in its infrastructure in order to be able to provide people in emergency situations with the best possible assistance. Last year, it opened two brand new helicopter bases in Locarno and Zweisimmen, thus underscoring its commitment to providing medical emergency assistance countrywide, including in peripheral regions. Rega’s new Operations Centre at Zurich Airport and its modernised radio network of 42 stations were also put into operation in 2013. In addition, Rega intends to replace its three Challenger CL-604 ambulance jets and its fleet of EC 145 lowland helicopters within the next four to eight years.

More patrons and stable mission figures

Rega looks back on a successful 2013, which was characterised by a rise in patron numbers and stable mission figures. During the year under review, Rega organised a total of 13,793 rescue missions (-1.2 percent). This marginal decline in comparison with 2012 lies within the scope of the fluctuations that are to be expected. Generally speaking, the mission numbers reflect the weather conditions, as well as the leisure habits and travel activities of the Swiss population and foreign tourists in Switzerland. Rega is proud that during the past year an additional 59,000 new patronages were registered; this figure is equivalent to the population of the town of Lugano and corresponds to a net growth of 2.4 percent.

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