Rega – Swiss Air-Rescue

Werner Marty, helicopter pilot and head of the Rega base in Lausanne

As a professional pilot, Werner Marty used to sit in the cockpit of long­haul aircraft – until he found it too monotonous. Now, as a Rega helicopter pilot, he helps people in distress and is also head of the Rega base in French­speaking Switzerland.

Werner Marty developed a passion for flying at a very early age: “When I was eight years old, a Lama helicopter transported the pylons for a new ski lift to our village. It flew backward and forward so adeptly, and I didn’t let it out of my sight,” he recalls. After a while, the pilot called him over and let him ride in the helicopter. “That evening I went home and announced: ‘Papa, I’m going to be a helicopter pilot!’”  

Today, the 51-year-old – who comes from Guttet above Leuk, in Canton Valais – is indeed a “full-blooded pilot”, as he describes it, and doing exactly what he always dreamed of doing. “I’m happy as soon as I’m hovering with the helicopter 20 centimetres above the ground,” enthuses Werner Marty. “On top of that, by doing what I love best, I’m helping other people. What could be better that that?” When in 2000 he sat at the controls of a Rega rescue helicopter for the first time, he was already a military pilot on the Swiss Air Force Super Puma, and also had a number of years of experience as a professional pilot with Air Zermatt and with scheduled aircraft operated by Swissair. “But in the cockpit of an MD-80 or an MD-11, it was simply a bit too boring. Apart from that, my wife was at home looking after our small daughter and I was miles away on the other side of the world and not around to give her a hand.”

So before the birth of his son, he started work at Rega as a helicopter pilot. Since then, he has never got bored. On his duty days as a pilot of an EC 145 helicopter at the Lausanne base, Werner Marty never knows in advance what kind of mission is awaiting him and his two crew colleagues in the next minutes. In addition, for the last 10 years he has been the base manager in charge of a team of four pilots, paramedics and emergency flight physicians. As a result, the bilingual Valais native also has to deal with administrative and management tasks between missions. “It is this mix that makes my work at Rega so interesting,” he says. Werner Marty feels himself to be very privileged: “With this job and my wonderful family who fully support me, I am the luckiest man alive.” Sometimes he almost has a guilty conscience as a result: “In the course of my work, I also see that not everyone is as fortunate as I am.”

Ariane Lendenmann