Helicopter hoist rescue – high-precision teamwork
Whether a hoist rescue in the mountains, densely populated areas or over water, the DRF Luftrettung Group possesses decades of experience in this field and is committed to its ongoing development and quality assurance in it. DRF Luftrettung’s Nuremberg base has housed a helicopter with a hoist for over 20 years now. H145s with a hoist are also deployed from Bautzen (since early 2019) and Freiburg (since late 2019).
ARA Flugrettung, which is part of the DRF Luftrettung Group, has deployed rescue helicopters with hoists from its stations in Reutte and Fresach, Austria for more than 15 years. These hoists are essential for rescue missions on Alpine terrain. Another base with a hoist is located in Balzers (Liechtenstein), run by AP3 Luftrettung. Hoists also feature among the equipment at offshore bases in Sankt Peter Ording and Güttin, operated by Northern Helicopter, which are part of the DRF Luftrettung Group and ensure emergency medical care for wind turbines in the North and Baltic Seas.
Added value for people’s emergency medical care
Using a helicopter with a hoist makes good sense when ground-based rescue either is impossible or can only be done with significant time delays and heavy risk. For example, this is the case when a ground-based rescue service cannot get to a patient fast enough by vehicle or on foot due to the geographical conditions. Rescue hoists are also used if there is no appropriate place to land an aircraft near the mission destination and the hoist is the fastest way to get the emergency doctor to the patient. In many cases, using a hoist is the gentlest way to rescue accident victims. Terrain can often be steep, impassable or marshy, or difficult to reach because of heavy snow.
Using a rescue hoist requires an obstacle-free vertical corridor of at least 3 by 3 metres. Examples of missions in populated areas include accidents on the roofs of tall buildings or on chimneys, towers, radio masts or cranes. Special equipment is kept on board hoist helicopters (a belt, rescue stretcher, strop and rescue sling). The crew for a hoist rescue usually includes a pilot, hoist operator/paramedic and emergency doctor as well as a mountain/high-altitude rescuer (or a ‘helicopter rescue specialist’) who is brought on board additionally.
DRF Luftrettung is a member of Bavaria’s specialist advisory panel for mountain air rescue, the standardisation group for mountain air rescue and the mountain air rescue simulation system (ZSA) in Bad Tölz. ARA Flugrettung is also a member of the International Commission for Alpine Rescue (ICAR), which has a goal of continuously developing Alpine rescue and safety.
DRF Luftrettung held the first-ever International Helicopter Hoist Operation Symposium at its Operation Center at the Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden airport from 2 to 3 September 2021. Participants from Europe and overseas discussed topics related to hoist rescue, for example, new developments, rescue tips and techniques; and safety concerns. DRF Luftrettung’s symposium, which had a motto of ‘Safe.Hoist.Operation’, offered a platform for an intensive exchange of experiences that is so far unique for Europe. Its aim was to further increase safety in helicopter hoist operation.