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DRF hails hoist symposium a success
A symposium held by DRF Luftrettung built a bridge from government requirements and manufacturer developments to everyday mission practice with technical presentations. Fifteen talks were held over two days.
Manufacturers Airbus Helicopters, Vincorion and Collins Aerospace debuted their new hoists at the symposium.
Read this story in our October 2021 printed issue.

German aeromedical provider DRF Luftrettung has held its first international Helicopter Hoist Operation (HHO) symposium. The main conclusion from the event is that significant advances in hoist operation safety can be made when operators and manufacturers exchange their practical experiences. The 15 technical presentations and discussions held from 2-3 September 2021 at DRF Luftrettung's operation centre at Karlsruhe/Baden-Baden airport brought together roughly 70 experts, all technicians and trainers from Europe, North America and Australia. They made it clear that key aspects of HHO are connected to the contrasting demands of quality standards, government requirements and everyday mission complexity. This was emphasised with impressive presentations based on practical experience, for example rescuing at high alpine altitudes or in the Ahr Valley flood zone, as well as with a practical hoist demonstration by DRF Luftrettung.

“By holding the symposium, DRF Luftrettung has offered a platform for exchanging experience intensively. It is a platform that is so far one of a kind for Europe and it aims to further improve HHO safety,” says DRF CEO Krystian Pracz. “The dialogue that it initiates is something that is very important to us. For the benefit of all the people whose lives depend on that hoist cord during a mission, we wish to keep enhancing helicopter hoist operations hand in hand with everyone involved and build a bridge between theory and practice.”

Government requirements represent a key cornerstone of this bridge. The audience of specialists therefore showed great interest in hearing about the new master builder regulations for HHO in Europe, which the European authority presented for the first time. The regulations are binding for both manufacturers and operators and are considered pioneering for new hoist constructions in Europe.

Innovation and enhancement represent a further bridge between theory and practice. For example, they include the new hoist for the five-bladed H145. Manufacturers Airbus Helicopters, Vincorion and Collins Aerospace debuted their new hoists at the symposium. These hoists are potential candidates for approval and are planned to become available starting in January 2023. “DRF Luftrettung is also following this development with excitement, seeing as we were the first air rescue organisation in Europe to put the five-bladed H145 into service in early January,” Pracz explains.

The symposium also built a bridge from government requirements and manufacturer developments to everyday mission practice with technical presentations. One of them, held by Mountain Rescue South Tyrol, spoke about the stress factors that crews are confronted with during everyday missions. One of these factors, for example, is strong temperature differences, often up to 20 degrees between a helicopter station and a high-altitude alpine destination. Are the mission crews sufficiently equipped for this and other challenges? The presenter made an appeal to operators to check their gear with this in mind. He said that optimising equipment helps to lower stress levels.

The German state of Hesse's police air wing held a presentation about the recent flood catastrophe in the Ahr Valley. It showed that the hoist is often the only means to save people's lives. An emotional silence descended upon the lecture theatre when pilot Stefan Bustert spoke about the extent of the catastrophe and the dramatic rescue of families and children, about touching human stories and about the challenges of the missions. The crucial lesson that these missions gave him was that training and standardisation are heavily important.

DRF Luftrettung, which together with its subsidiaries operates eight helicopters with hoists in Germany, Austria and Liechtenstein, provided a practical insight into its own high standards with an on-site hoist demonstration. It covered everything from the approach to the mission site, the hoist operator's move from the cockpit to the cabin during flight, the mountain rescuer's abseil down and hoisting the mountain rescuer and rescue stretcher up to the helicopter.

“With all the different presentations and concluding hoist demonstration, we have successfully stimulated a vibrant exchange with practical relevance. Based on that and the exceedingly positive feedback from participants, we wish to maintain this format in the future,” Pracz concludes.

From 1 October, DRF Luftrettung will provide two H145 helicopters equipped with winches for nationwide use in disasters and special situations. With the aim of being able to help people in emergency situations unbureaucratically, this provision of helicopters and crews underlines the main concern of the non-profit air rescue organisation: to save people's lives.

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