Between 2024 and 2026, Rega plans to modernise its entire helicopter fleet. In future, 21 rescue helicopters in the five-blade configuration of the Airbus H145 will come to the aid of people in an emergency. These will replace not only the lowland fleet, but also the 11 AgustaWestland Da Vinci mountain helicopters currently in operation. Over the next two years, Rega will therefore have to retrain two-thirds of its cockpit crew members on the new helicopter type. However, a large part of this retraining can now take place at Lufthansa Aviation Training (LAT) in Opfikon (Canton Zurich) thanks to the acquisition of an own helicopter simulator for the Airbus H145. Until now, the crews have had to travel to northern Germany for H145 simulator training.
One simulator for several helicopter types
The new helicopter simulator is a so-called full flight simulator of the highest certification category, which functions with a “roll-on/roll-off” system. This enables replica cockpits of different helicopter types to be used on the same platform. Besides the H145, Rega has procured two other cockpits: an Airbus H125 module in collaboration with Swiss Helicopter AG and a second one for the helicopter type, Leonardo AW169. LAT will operate the simulators and also offer free capacities to third parties.
Highly trained cockpit crews are fundamental for performing rescue flights safely and successfully. In the simulator, Rega’s cockpit crews – that is, pilots and paramedics – have the opportunity to efficiently train standard situations and emergency procedures that would hardly, if at all, be possible to practise in real life. Moreover, on doing so, they neither generate noise nor pollute the environment. The helicopter crews spend a total of around 1,000 hours per year in the simulator.
More flexibility for jet crews
Not just the helicopter crews, but also the pilots of the three ambulance jets train regularly in a flight simulator. Rega’s 28 jet pilots are required to complete their legally prescribed training in the simulator twice a year. Previously, the crews did their training in Montreal, Canada, where the nearest simulator for the aircraft type deployed by Rega – the Bombardier Challenger 650 – was located.
By investing in an own Challenger 650 simulator, these training exercises can now be carried out in the immediate vicinity of Zurich Airport in a hangar at LAT. As a result, the cockpit crews are more quickly available for repatriation missions after a training session. This simplifies the duty planning for the jet crew members and increases their availability for the benefit of the patients. In addition, it eliminates the flight and accommodation costs of transatlantic trips.