October 15, 2012:
Air Zermatt has taken delivery of the first Bell 429 helicopter in Europe equipped for emergency medical missions. The Alpine rescue expert selected the type for its ability to operate at high altitudes and in extreme conditions.
Recently the fleet has comprised various Eurocopter types, but the company is no stranger to Bell models. It started operation with a JetRanger in 1968, and also used a 412 at the beginning of the 1990s, but this proved too big for its operation and was sold a few years later.
The 429 is the first Bell product Air Zermatt has flown in about 20 years. "The most important criteria for us is the performance," says flight operations post holder Daniel Aufdenblatten.
"Here, the 429 is significantly stronger than the EC135. We do rescue missions up to 15,000 feet, and in summertime, sometimes with conditions up to ISA+30, the EC gets very weak and we have to start unloading the medical equipment. "Also, the rotor system of the EC has certain disadvantages. In bumpy conditions, as it is often the case in the Alps, it can get quite uncomfortable for the patient. The mast moment limitation on the EC can be additional workload for the pilot especially in difficult visibility, such as white out conditions. We hope to get a good improvement here with the Bell 429."
For now, Air Zermatt will be keeping its crews current on both types, as all of the EC pilots have a lot of experience on it. "We are a small team of pilots, and like this we keep the planning more flexible," adds Aufdenblatten.
The EMS equipment is yet to be certified, this being expected in mid-October, so the 429 is not currently fully operational. "Air Zermatt's selection represents the culmination of efforts from a dedicated team at Air Zermatt and Bell Helicopter," says Danny Maldonado, executive vp of sales and marketing at Bell Helicopter.
"This is a significant milestone for the 429. It reflects our commitment to the European market and our dedication to providing the right products for our customers." Air Zermatt's selection of the Bell 429 was driven by its requirements for a reliable, fast and manoeuvrable helicopter capable of performing emergency missions at altitudes as high as 15,000 feet, says Bell.
A flight demonstration on the top of Matterhorn Mountain (14,690 feet), one of the highest peaks in the Alps, is said to have proved the Bell 429 could successfully complete the mission. The Bell 429 has conducted extensive flight demonstrations in every continent, except Antarctica, and has been certified in more than 40 countries.
| Useful contact details from the Handbook of Business Aviation in Europe