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History of Air Zermatt Part 1

Since 1968, Air Zermatt has been the epitome of speed and reliability. Whether it is a matter of bringing speedy help to people who have had accidents in the Valais Alps or carrying out transportation or sightseeing flights, Zermatt relies a lot on Air Zermatt.


Air Zermatt started in 1968 but it wasn’t an easy start. Before they had helicopters, there were no road network or ambulances. The railway had an ambulance at that time but it was converted over the years into a freight truck. The last train came at eight o’clock in the evening and the first came at six. For emergencies during the night, since there was no train during that time, they had to order a train specially. But in order for the train to come, the patient had to wait two or three hours which is too long for the patient. Plus, Zermatt only had 2 doctors at that time with poor equipment. So at that time, if a visitor broke a leg while skiing, the two doctors whom were not a surgeon hat to take care of it and operate on the patient if the situation demanded it. To make Air Zermatt possible, they first had to have a necessary landing point granted for a helicopter. But people of Zermatt were afraid of noise and pollution. The opponents then started a petition which two-third of majority signed. Then they called a public meeting and it was then voted on in a meeting of the whole community. Even though people agreed, they still had problems with the construction of the heliport. To create a heliport, they had to have an approval by the Swiss authorities. Therefore, they were stationed in Tasch in the first winter and operated from there. The heliport was finally built in 1968 and an initiative committee was formed which comprised the former managing directors of the spa Constant Cachin, Daniel Lauber and Ulrich Imboden. They formed the public limited company.


The first equipment on Air Zermatt was simple. They had ordered a helicopter, Agusta Bell 206 A, one year in advance which came in 1968 after Easter. Once they had the helicopter, they employed a pilot, then came the mechanic. The business officially started in 1969 when Aloutte III, the first helicopter in Switzerland with a rescue winch arrived. This helicopter was far more suitable for rescue purposes. Air Zermatt not wanting any financial risks in the beginning, bought a smaller, cheaper helicopter. Back then it costed half a million Swiss francs, which is about 400 thousand in US dollars and it had to be guaranteed personally. Once they had all the equipment, the Air Zermatt opened officially. In the beginning, they have shown that it is possible to carry out direct rescue missions on the north face of the Eiger. The miners back then weren’t happy but Air Zermatt dropped off mountain guides at five points and fetched them out again. That was the extreme rescue in the beginning. In general, they did a lot of development work and at the time air rescue was still in its infancy. Since the Rettungsflugwacht or REGA (air rescue service did not have helicopter back then, Air Zermatt flew to Graubunden, Biz Bernia, Tessin to the Bernese Oberland, Freiburg, basically everywhere. Even though they were flying all over the place, the rescue equipment was still very primitive. Crevasse rescue was carried out with a compressor and hammer drill, because in the past all the people who fell into the crevasse and became stuck were only retrieved deceased. After only a quarter of an hour, they no longer could be reached because they had melted into the ice.