Innovation, tradition and technology: REGA's model

Innovation, tradition and technology: REGA's model

Swiss Air Rescue Rega's experience will be on the spotlight at REMOTE International HEMS Meeting 2018: we talked with Heinz Leibundgut, Head of Helicopter Procedures and Training/NPFO

by Stefano Silvestre

A non-profit air rescue service that makes innovation and knowledge sharing its main strengths. Even before it became a world class HEMS foundation, Rega became an international model of approach to Air rescue missions. For over 60 years, Swiss Air Rescue Rega has been saving people in hostile environments and in often even in prohibitive weather conditions. It has always done the job with impressive figures (over 11,000 missions with helicopters performed in 2017), relying on a philosophy that boasts several imitation attempts worldwide: the constant search for perfection in a field that leaves no margin for error.

Thanks to a consolidated company system and the typical Swiss characteristics, both on the level of professional inclination and on the level of human propensity to rescue, Rega has been among the first companies in the world to experiment innovations that only years later would have been deployed by other international HEMS providers.

The added value of Rega's experience will be on the spotlight at REMOTE International HEMS Meeting 2018: we talked with Heinz Leibundgut, Rega's Head of Helicopter Procedures and Training/NPFO.

Captain, what are the secrets behind Rega’s tradition?

Over the years Rega has remained faithful to its very vocation, saving people. It is written in the deed of foundation: "The purpose of Rega is to help people in emergency situations and this, faithfully to the principles of the Red Cross, without any discrimination for solvency, social position, nationality, race, religion or political conviction." In order to achieve this goal, we need to be committed both from a human and professional point of view and we need a crystalline vision in terms of technological innovation at the service of those who will be rescued.

Rega is considered a pioneer in the application of new technologies at the service of helicopter rescue.

It is just one of the practical declinations of our approach to rescue missions. Rescuers must be put in a position to bring relief, to do so they need the best possible level of safety, the most advanced technology available and a standardized and professional training system. This is why in recent times we have been among the promoters of innovations such the PBN routes, NVG operations, nighttime high-altitude rescue ops and the creation of an IFR network for low-flying helicopters.

Rega has also invested in latest generation helicopters for its fleet.

The search for the best rescue vehicle possible is a prerogative of Rega since the first Agusta Bell 47J piloted in the '50s by Hermann Geiger for rescue operations in the Valais. Today we count on fleet that includes some of the most modern helicopters, such as the Airbus Helicopters H145 and, soon, the Leonardo AW169 equipped with the new FIPS anti-ice solution. Helicopters change but not the substance: if there is a means capable of increasing the level of relief that can play a role in the evolution of our network, it is necessary to evaluate its implementation.

Why did you choose to join REMOTE International HEMS Meeting 2018?

Because Rega is in favor of all the initiatives that have to do with innovation in our field of reference. We do not fear comparison with any different reality, since we strongly believe that competition is an unparalleled growth opportunity. REMOTE will be a decisive meeting point to get in touch with the skills of different HEMS realities and try to exchange knowledge. The benefits of such an experience are not only for Rega: it will be the thousands of patients who will be rescued every year by a helicopter on European soil.

The Italian Society of Anesthesia Analgesia Reanimation and Intensive Care (Siaarti) is working on the first HEMS Guidelines. What’s your opinion about this effort?

We look with great interest to this initiative that aims at standardizing the HEMS model in Italy, both on a practical and organizational level. The medical community and the helicopter industry must cooperate on a high level of synergy to produce significant changes, especially with regard to HEMS kit for helicopters, which are the first bastion of health intervention. To achieve these goals, we need to meet and discuss, we need the direct commitment of those who work every day on a HEMS helicopter.