18-May-2022 Source: DRF Luftrettung
The area of operation of the Munich station of the DRF Luftrettung includes not only the city but also surrounding districts and parts of the Bavarian Alps. For a few weeks now, the crew has also been able to be alerted to emergencies in higher-lying areas of the mountains. For this purpose, the pilots were also trained by Christoph München in mountain flying over 4,000 feet (equivalent to 1,219.2 meters). We spoke to station manager and pilot Sascha Netzer about this training.
Wildly jagged, rocky, towering: Descriptions of mountain landscapes often sound dangerous. A helicopter flight is certainly extraordinary, isn’t it?
Sascha Netzer: Right! In fact, mountain flying is a whole world of its own for me. Distances and altitudes are harder to judge, orientation is challenging and entirely different from flat areas. Flight and landing must be trained accordingly. Of course, every pilot at the DRF Luftrettung has the given minimum requirements and thus a wealth of experience. Nevertheless, these experiences are composed differently – especially when it comes to mountain flying. Since we have a very alpine environment here in Munich, the training for the higher altitudes was a matter close to our hearts. With the standardized program, we are now well prepared for emergency use in the mountains .
If a flight was previously not possible at higher altitudes in the Alps, did that mean no help for people in an emergency?
No, fortunately not. The respective mountain rescue service is of course on duty for people in need and continues to play the central role. Not every operation site can be reached by helicopter. The colleagues from the mountain rescue service are much more flexible on foot or, if possible, with a vehicle. In the past, neighboring air rescue organizations were sometimes called for support. For example the ARA air rescue service or the ÖAMTC air rescue service from Austria. The expansion of our range of operations now offers the control centers an additional option and improves the emergency medical care in the region.
What special features do you as a pilot have to consider when flying and landing in the mountains?
There are some! For example, when we look at the weather , completely different factors apply than over flat land. Optical illusions or the changed or reduced performance of the helicopter must also be taken into account. At night, the indispensable use of night vision goggles presents another challenge due to the restricted field of vision. So we are talking about a very demanding environment that requires a lot of practice.
That sounds complex. How exactly is the training structured for this?
Due to the various challenges in an alpine environment , it is all the more important to train and establish standardized procedures. To this end, all Munich pilots have completed a theoretical and practical part of the training over the past few months. First there was a three-hour theory unit. All the special features of mountain flying and the processes were refreshed and trained. Then there was a two-part practical unit: 1.5 hours of flight training during the day and three hours at night.
And what does practical flight training look like?
For the training, we formed teams of two who completed a standardized program together: navigating through the mountains; landing at a hut landing site and in suitable terrain; Supported lowering procedure with a skid on a slope, for example for the medical crew to get out or to pick up colleagues from the mountain rescue service. In this way, processes are internalized and the safety of the crew and patients is guaranteed.