The air-rescue in Switzerland started in 1946 and have been through long developments until today. First with adventurous pilots on light aircrafts, followed by parachutists with avalanche dogs and later by helicopter pilots. Swiss Air-Rescue organizes itself under the umbrella of the Swiss rescue association, the Schweizerisch Lebensrettungsgesellschaft (SLRG) whichis one member among others of the Swiss Red Cross acting as federation.

The Rega (acronym of Rettungsflugwacht – Air-Rescue Guards) is the most famous among other rescue provider in Switzerland. It was founded on 27th April 1952, it’s a foundation turning only on the supports of its patrons since the swiss government rejected it financing by public funds in 1960. They offer air-medical assistance in Switzerland and all over the world.

It operates a fleet of helicopters and ambulance jets and totalizes 17142 rescue operations in 2018. The helicopters fleet is composed by 11 Augusta Westland Da Vinci and 7 the Airbus H145, one 1 Airbus H125 is used for training. They operate through 15 strategically spread bases in Switzerland in order to intervene within 15 minutes anywhere in the country.

Today we had the chance to visit the base 15 located in Geneva airport. This base is particular, because it’s a partnership between Geneva University Hospitals (HUG) and the Rega. The Air rescue in the canton of Geneva started in 1971, when the Geneva State Council resolved to procure its own helicopter to assist with civil defense and police operations. Since 1987 the Geneva civil protection authority signed a collaboration agreement with Rega and Geneva University Hospitals (HUG).

Rega EC135 T2+ Geneve

The radio call sign is “Rega 15” and its missions are coordinated either by Rega’s Operations Centre 1414 or the Geneva 144 emergency call centre (CASU). Since 2002 one yellow flashy EC135 T2+ registered as “HB-ZEN” operates from this base. The color is similar to local ambulances and it’s “ZEN” registration reminds us that regardless the circumstances, it’s better to remain still and calm.

Whether it’s an accident, illness, search flight or transport of premature babies: the scope of operations performed by the partner base in Geneva is broad. The yellow helicopter flies about for 400 missions every year. The crew is composed by the pilot, the paramedic and the emergency flight physician ( i.e bearing the medical responsibility for the patient). Each one has its own role on board.

In addition, the Geneva crew regularly works together with various operational partners – such as the Geneva Fire Service (SIS), Swiss Alpine Rescue (ARS), the French emergency medical service (SAMU), the International Rescue Society of the Lake of Geneva (SISL) and Geneva Airport Security Services (SSA). In summer 2016 it was questioned in order to do some savings of CHF 500,000 on health costs whether it would be wise for the HUG to transfer fully the operational costs to the Rega in Lausanne.

Since the helicopter is really appreciated by the locals and bears really a strategic asset, the question was quickly buried. The Rega is changing this year part of it’s fleet for brand new Airbus H145 but so far it’s not question for replacement in Geneva who will continue to operate the EC135.

Article and images: Deyan Raleff

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