The air rescue service also wants to get involved in the mountain canton in the future. Air Zermatt and Air-Glaciers don’t like that.
It’s all about this: The Swiss Air Rescue Service (Rega) intends to offer rescue services from the air in Valais in the future. She has officially submitted an application dossier to the canton. This puts Rega in competition with Air Zermatt and Air-Glaciers. For decades, helicopter rescue in Valais has been firmly in the hands of the two companies that merged two years ago. But the cantonal government had to re-advertise the rescue from the air at the behest of the federal court.
Hence the new posting: The small helicopter company Héli-Alpes from Sion wanted to participate in the Valais rescue operation with its helicopter. But the canton rejected the offer on the grounds that there were already enough helicopters available. Héli-Alpes then went to the Federal Supreme Court, which ruled that the Valais cantonal government had to re-advertise the rescue flights, which prompted Rega to apply. The decision from Sion on how air rescue in the mountain canton should be organized in the future is expected by the end of the year.
Maybe it also has something to do with Valais homeland security – you want to have your own helicopter company in your own canton.
There are these concerns: According to Rega, it wants to operate a single helicopter base in Valais, in Sion. In the Upper Valais, there is therefore a fear that in emergencies it could take too long for patients to reach a hospital with Rega. “From Sion, a helicopter flight to Saas Fee takes at least 25 minutes,” says SRF’s Valais correspondent, Ruth Seeholzer. In the case of a heart attack, it would be much too long, the fear in Upper Valais.
Rega vs. Air Zermatt/Air Glaciers
Rega is already responsible for air rescue in most regions of Switzerland. It has a total of 18 rescue helicopters stationed at 13 helicopter bases throughout Switzerland. It transports around 12,000 patients every year.
Air Zermatt and Air-Glaciers together have more than 20 helicopters, which they also use for tourist flights. You operate several helicopter bases in Valais, Air Glaciers also has two in the Bernese Oberland. Since December 2021, Rega has also been present in Valais. A rescue helicopter is stationed in Sion in cooperation with the small company Héli-Alpes.
What the competition says: Air Zermatt and Air-Glaciers are not very happy about Rega’s application. They emphasize that their pilots are very familiar with the Valais localities and that the requirements for air rescue in the mountains are much higher than in the lowlands or in the foothills of the Alps. For example, a helicopter pilot at Air Zermatt must have completed at least 2000 flight hours and transported a so-called underload (load hanging from a rope) at least 20,000 times before he is allowed to fly rescue missions. For its part, Rega is said to also transport underloads, and they are already carrying out rescue flights in the mountains.
Therefore, the question arouses tempers: The people of Valais practically lived together with their two helicopter companies, Air Zermatt and Air-Glaciers, says SRF correspondent Seeholzer. Their machines are visible every day, and private individuals are often dependent on helicopters, for example to fly material to an alpine hut or to transport a sick cow down from the alp. “Air Zermatt and Air-Glaciers are seen here as friends and helpers,” says Seeholzer. In addition: “Maybe it also has something to do with Valais homeland security – you want to have your own helicopter company in your own canton.”