iPhoneIcon_Big-33A quick non-medical post, but it involves helicopters! There are loads of good Helicopter Emergency Medical Services (HEMS) around. One of the most famous is Rega, a Swiss based HEMS. And they did a spectacular job back in the 80s. As many of the spectacular things done by helicopter services back then, it was also dangerous, and would never have been done today.

While waiting to return after a retrieval mission to Adelaide in Australia a few years ago, I was sitting in the private jet lounge, browsing some plane magazines, and stumbled across this spectacular rescue: On the 28th of September in 1980, there was an airshow on at Yverdon airfield. A skydiver jumps out from a Pilatus Turbo Porter airplane, but his parachute gets caught in the plane’s tail wheel. The skydiver is stuck – being hauled after the Pilatus plane – and unable to free himself. And the plane is unable to land, as it would kill the parachutist. Rega to the rescue!


Rega’s helicopter crew plans a daring rescue: They plan to free the parachutist while the plane is still in the air. They fly out with a rescuer hanging from a static line under the rescue helicopter. They time the speed and keep the exact direction of the Pilatus aircraft, managing to get the rescuer in contact with the skydiver, enabling the rescuer to cut the skydiver free from his parachute, falling from the aircraft and releasing his backup chute – landing safely on the ground.

It’s mentioned several places, including Rega’s history pages. I haven’t been able to track down a good, detailed description or any pictures of this event – a typical pre-2000 problem when there were no smart phones or social media to share every event from super rescues to your own boring lunch.

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  1. nfkb says:

    usually skydivers have an emergency knife to cut the lines and then open the reserve parachute

    this emergency was quite common in paratrooper who all practice static line

  2. Pirana says:

    Seeing the year, hard to say what style of gear; but, with the tension on the release system caused by the load of being towed by the main, the cutaway system may not have been operable. As far as the hook knife – only about half of the skydivers I know wear one on their gear.

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